Top 10 Defining Moments of 1990s America

Script written by Billy Keeley. During this decade, the United States moved into a new era of domestic progress and evolving technology, but foreign conflicts and terrorism foreshadowed troubles on the horizon. For this list, we’ve chosen moments that we felt best represent this essential decade in American history. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 defining moments in 1990s America. Special thanks to our users David Juarez for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Billy Keeley.

During this decade, the United States moved into a new era of domestic progress and evolving technology, but foreign conflicts and terrorism foreshadowed troubles on the horizon. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 defining moments in 1990s America.

For this list, we’ve chosen moments that we felt best represent this essential decade in American history.

#10: The O.J. Simpson Trial
1994-95


Americans were glued to their TV sets when football star O.J. Simpson went to trial for the murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. Cameras provided a constant view of the courtroom, making celebrities out of everyone involved. DNA issues and questions of racism eventually led to a not guilty verdict. However, public opinion of his innocence widely varied with race, and showed a racial divide still alive in ‘90s America.

#9: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
1993-94


Long frowned upon in the U.S. military, gays and lesbians were finally given an inroads into legally serving their country with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. A compromise of sorts between each side of the debate, it allowed homosexuals in the service, permitted they did not speak of their orientation. In return, superiors were prohibited from questioning their sexuality. Problems remained, but this was a launching pad for change to come.

#8: Rodney King Riots
April 29, 1992 - May 4, 1992


Police brutality became a visible problem when motorist Rodney King was severely beaten by LAPD officers after leading police on a high-speed chase. The incident was taped and attracted massive media attention. When most of the primarily Caucasian officers were found not guilty in the assault on King, an African-American man, tensions boiled over. L.A. erupted into violence, murder, and looting for six days, a rare glimpse of unsuppressed rage in modern America.

#7: North American Free Trade Agreement
1993-94


Signed into law in 1993, the North American Free Trade Agreement was successful in creating an effective free trade zone between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. NAFTA initially caused worries of negative environmental impact and a loss of jobs. Fortunately, President Bill Clinton signed additional agreements safeguarding against such problems, and the resulting years saw a major boom in economic benefits for all three countries, which slowly increased over time.

#6: Oklahoma City Bombing
April 19, 1995


Early on a Wednesday morning in 1995, a thundering explosion shook America into the era of terrorism. Frustrated with the federal government and its questionable actions in recent sieges, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols decided to attack Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Using a truck loaded with explosives, the pair destroyed a massive amount of the building and took 168 innocent lives, including many children, in one of America’s deadliest domestic terrorist acts.

#5: A Balanced Budget and Economic Stability
1990s


Leading into the ‘90s, the country struggled amidst a recession and painful federal deficit. Try as he might, President George H.W. Bush had to rely on taxes to try to set this straight, but lost public support along the way. President Clinton came into office committed to solving this. His budget plans finally produced a budget surplus in 1998, and the economy thrived as technology exploded with the popularity of the Internet.

#4: Monica Lewinsky Scandal
1998


For all his achievements, President Clinton had his fair share of embarrassments. Long dogged by allegations of infidelity, his reputation took a hit when his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky became public in 1998. Clinton strongly denied the allegations, but mounting evidence led him to finally concede his involvement. This led to an impeachment trial on perjury and obstruction of justice charges, where he was acquitted thanks to strong support from Democrats.

#3: Columbine High School Massacre
April 20, 1999


A nationwide fear of school shootings was born when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people at Columbine High School and then took their own lives. Investigations revealed an intricately planned massacre that could have been even deadlier if their bombs hadn’t failed. The killers’ extensive arsenal influenced a continued push for more gun control, while anti-depressants, bullying, video games, and metal music were all examined as possible motivations for the shooting.

#2: Operation Desert Storm
January 17, 1991 - February 28, 1991


The United States continued its role as a peacekeeper when Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait. Threatening Iraq leader Saddam Hussein with an attack if he failed to leave the near-defenseless country, President Bush was forced to declare war in January, kicking off the Gulf War. American soldiers took advantage of superior weapons like the Patriot missile to bomb the opposition and force a retreat. Kuwait had been liberated, but Hussein remained a major enemy for years to come.

Honorable Mentions

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- Grunge and Gangsta Rap Alter Music (1990s)
- The Hubble Space Telescope Enters Orbit (1990)
- The Y2K Panic (1999)

#1: The Rise of the Internet
1990s

Developing for decades, the Internet came to true global fruition in the ‘90s. The World Wide Web was introduced in 1991, and browsers soon followed, making web browsing truly possible. The Internet quickly became commercialized: internet service providers popped up everywhere, and prominent sites like Amazon.com were born. Unlimited information was affordable, available at the click of a button, and people were connected everywhere. America, and the world, was forever changed.

Do you agree with our list? What are your defining moments for 1990s America? For more informative top 10s, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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