The Good, The Bad & The Hilariously Awful Moments In '90s Pop Culture

Editor's note: This story was originally published August 28, 2015.
Alright, internet we get it: If it’s about the '90s, you’re in. So, a few of us got to thinking. Considering that we've been inundated with the decade’s best and brightest via everything from essays to listicles to YouTube rabbit holes, we figured it would be cinch to name 30 things that shaped the 10 years we can’t stop talking about.

But obviously, narrowing down the contenders was a struggle. Brainstorming, email threads, and pure frustration (honestly, good luck getting the Budweiser commercials out of your head) gave way to even more brainstorming, email threads, and pure frustration. Finally, we separated the defining aspects from the fleeting. We whittled it down until we were left with 30 things from the final decade of the 20th century that we've sort of forgotten...and when we remember them, we shudder, cringe, giggle, shake our heads...or all of the above.

Behold, that very list. It's pretty much guaranteed that you’ll think we left something off. That'll be all the more reason to make another list down the road — and begin this whole process again.

Advertisement
1 of 30
Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
1. “Not!”
Nothing broke the spirit of an enemy like agreeing with them about something — and then taking said agreement back in the ultimate act of (public) betrayal. But hey, if you did it to us, we didn’t care and it never hurt our feelings — so there. (Not.)
2 of 30
2. The Budweiser Frogs
Nearly 20 years later, and we still can’t look at frogs the same way.
Advertisement
3 of 30
3. Y2K Hysteria
On the precipice of the new millennium, a paranoia broke out over the future of our society/planet/existence. Why? Because according to experts, the world’s computers weren’t programmed for the turn of the century, since years were being documented only by the last two digits. This meant that computers would assume — upon hitting 2000 — that the year was 00. And because computers and technology didn’t exist in the year 00, everything would implode and we were all going to die.

So, everybody bought a lot of bottled water.
4 of 30
4. The Blair Witch Project
Before YouTube, there were “found footage” movies. The first? The Blair Witch Project, a movie about a bunch of young people who get lost in the woods, get “so scared right now,” and finally meet their maker in the form of a witch we never actually see. I still don’t really understand this movie — but I know it’s one of many reasons I avoid camping.
5 of 30
5. The Macarena
One dance, one legacy, one way to ruin a wedding.
6 of 30
6. Budweiser’s “Wassap” Campaign
Maybe you were drinking beer at this point, maybe you weren't. But regardless of your then-stance on mediocre alcoholic beverages, you and your friends spent at least a few months answering (and then getting in trouble for answering) the landline like this.
7 of 30
7. Fiona Apple’s VMAs Speech
Upon winning the Best New Artist Moonman at the VMAs, Fiona Apple scrapped the traditional formula and went with a reality check: “The world is bullshit.” (She wasn’t wrong.)
Advertisement
8 of 30
8. “Zig-a-zig-ah!”
Half of us spent the greater portion of middle school repeating this slogan, coined by the decade’s spokeswomen for digestible Girl Power. Not that we knew what it meant. (Even the Spice Girls themselves said it could mean anything.) Meanwhile, the other half of us were afraid it meant something bad, so we just avoided saying it altogether.
9 of 30
9. Austin Powers
The reason why many of us still say “behave” with a British accent — or follow up an enthusiastic “yeah!” with an even more enthusiastic “baby!”
10 of 30
10. Titanic & “My Heart Will Go On”
Come for the Leonardo DiCaprio/Kate Winslet dynamic for all time, stay for the song that spent two weeks at No. 1 and defined every school dance imaginable.
11 of 30
11. “Whatever”
Watching Clueless then, did any of us really think Amber’s off-the-cuff “whatever” would define the teenage masses for years? Probably not — but only because we were so focused on Cher’s valid point that there really is no RSVP on the Statue of Liberty.
12 of 30
12. “Dude, You’re Getting A Dell!”
Sadly, if said in 2015, this would sound more like a threat.
Advertisement
13 of 30
13. Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?
Enter a TV series that celebrated geography, academia, a capella, spy rings, and kids who are way, way, way smarter than the majority of us are even now. (Hands up if they still intimidate you — and if you still can’t answer any of the show’s questions.)
14 of 30
14. Crystal Pepsi
The “But...why?” heard across America.
15 of 30
15. The Snapple Lady
In 1993, this woman was in charge of your (beverage) destiny. Please raise your hands in the Mockingjay salute.
16 of 30
16. Pogs
In the glorious spring of 1995, we spent recess playing with overpriced bottle caps we flipped over using metal discs. (And then, if you went to my school, they got banned when people started getting in fights — because honestly, how dare any of you even try to pass off a washer as a slammer when we’re playing for Poisons?)
17 of 30
Photo: BEIMAGES.
17. Butterfly Clips
You know what was cooler than one butterfly clip? A million butterfly clips — preferably worn without any rhyme or reason.
Advertisement
18 of 30
18. Furbies
For anyone whose parents wouldn’t allow a pet, but would allow the equivalent of an extra from the movie Gremlins.
19 of 30
19. Yo-Yo Ball
Early-onset nostalgia for children who grew up waxing poetic about vinyl while using typewriters instead of computers. (Or: the cause of too many visits to the school nurse.)
20 of 30
Photo: Courtsey of Orbitz Soda
20. Orbitz
Behold! The “fetch” of the mid-1990s: It was never going to happen.
21 of 30
Photo: Courtesy of dELiA*s
21. DELiA*s
Passive as we may be acting about the company’s recent struggles, our tween and teen years were defined by the glory of the dELiA*s catalog, as well as the hope that with the purchase of an ankle-length skirt or platform flip-flop, we too might be as cool as the models wearing them.
22 of 30
Photo: Couresy of La Demoiselle.
22. Body Glitter
With the recent popularity of glitter eye makeup on such runways as Rodarte and Carolina Herrera, some of us are holding out for a body glitter comeback — if only because this time we promise not to get it on the furniture, Mom.
Advertisement
23 of 30
23. Jonathan Taylor Thomas, a.k.a. JTT
Last we heard, he’d made a cameo on Last Man Standing (former TV dad Tim Allen’s show). But before that? He was reportedly last seen in...our hearts.
24 of 30
24. “Talk To The Hand”
Arnold Schwarzenegger may not have realized that he was setting in motion the greatest comeback of the last several decades, but his swift reply in Terminator 3 set the stage for the next-greatest comeback of recent years: block and report for spam.
25 of 30
Image: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
25. “Eat My Shorts!” & “Cowabunga, Dude!”
Because it wouldn’t be a '90s list without Bart Simpson, the animated little brother our lives would be empty without.
26 of 30
26. Tamagotchis
Like Furbies, but digital and less likely to stage a coup in your home.
27 of 30
27. Beverly Hills, 90210
And with only a few guitar chords, flashbacks of debating the cuteness of Dylan versus the cuteness of Brandon come flooding back.
Advertisement
28 of 30
28. Rosanne Sings The National Anthem
The comedian finished her off-key performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a 1990 San Diego Padres game by grabbing her crotch and spitting.
29 of 30
29. Michael Jackson & Lisa Marie Presley's VMA kiss
Not only were they still married, they proved it with a kiss.
30 of 30
30. Hammer Pants
The pants that were too legit to quit.
Advertisement

More from Pop Culture

Watch

R29 Original Series