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Top 10 Most 90s TV Shows Of All Time

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Jason C. McLean
Sometimes a television series can look dated in a good way. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 most ‘90s TV shows ever. For this list, we’re focusing on live action shows produced during and set in the 1990s which, by embodying the style, culture and ethos of the era, have become emblematic of the decade. Animated series, like The Simpsons – iconic as they may be – will not be considered.
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Sometimes a television series can look dated in a good way. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 most ‘90s TV shows ever.

For this list, we’re focusing on live action shows produced during and set in the 1990s which, by embodying the style, culture and ethos of the era, have become emblematic of the decade. Animated series, like The Simpsons – iconic as they may be – will not be considered.

#10: “Saved by the Bell” (1989-93)


‘90s clothing, ‘90s hairstyles: this teen comedy had it all, even ‘90s cellphones. Well, one very noticeable ‘90s brick phone at least. But since a high school student with a cellphone was basically unheard of at the time… we all noticed. The characters felt like an updated version of the Archie cast, but proved quite memorable in their own right. We got to watch Zack, Kelly, Slater, Jessie, Lisa and –of course – Screech grow up, have fun, fall in love, help each other out and deal with issues like bullying and drugs. They covered the classic issues in an open, to the point and undeniably ‘90s way.

#9: “The X-Files” (1993-2002; 2016-)


The ‘90s, for many, was a decade of questioning the official narrative and treating conspiracy theories as legitimate possibilities. On the silver screen, there was Oliver Stone’s JFK - on TV, we got The X-Files. In the series, FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigate the paranormal while trying to unravel a massive government conspiracy that involves shadowy men - one of whom is quite the chain smoker – working with extraterrestrials to prevent the truth, which IS out there, from coming to light. The original run ended in 2002, but it was followed by two movies and a revival in 2016, proving that 90s-style conspiracies, when done correctly, are utterly timeless.

#8: “Family Matters” (1989-98)


The ‘80s brought us Revenge of the Nerds, but in the ‘90s, there was one particular nerd people absolutely fell in love with - Steve Urkel. The Winslows’ neighbor wasn’t initially intended as part of the core Family Matters cast, let alone a series star, but sure enough, in true Urkel fashion, he fell into the spotlight. Slated to make a one-off appearance on the weekly sitcom, Urkel proved such a hit that he stuck around to bother the Winslows and entertain viewers for the rest of the series. His catchphrase “Did I do that?” would become a regular occurrence on the show, and an ingrained part of ‘90s culture.

#7: “Home Improvement” (1991-99)


Home repair shows were a prominent feature of the early ‘90s TV landscape, so this family sitcom where the father was a celebrity fix-it man was Taylor-made for success. Much of the show’s comedy spun from the fact that Tim Allen’s Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, someone who saw himself as a man’s man, was also quite accident-prone, with repairs frequently going awry. The backdrop for his antics was ‘90s suburban family life, complete with next-door neighbor / unofficial life coach Wilson, who Tim only spoke to through a fence in the backyard. With a lovable family and memorable supporting cast (including heartthrob of the era Jonathan Taylor-Thomas), it was a true ‘90s classic.

#6: “Twin Peaks” (1990-91)


Viewers were treated to cinematic television the likes of which they’d never seen before when film director David Lynch introduced us to a small, made-up Washington State town called Twin Peaks. This series was always stylish, often funny, sometimes terrifying and every now and then… downright bizarre. The central mystery of “who killed Laura Palmer?” was to the early ‘90s what “who shot JR?” was to the early ‘80s. Even though the mystery was solved and the show ended after just two seasons, it spawned a movie, a devoted cult following and a revival series 26 years after the original run – just one year off of what Laura Palmer told Agent Cooper back in the ‘90s.

#5: “Beverly Hills, 90210” (1990-2000)


Being young and rich in the ‘90s wasn’t always easy, at least... not on TV. The students at West Beverly High seemingly had more than their fair share of ‘90s teenage problems despite living in a posh zip code and driving really nice cars. This primetime soap was aimed at teens, making it one of the first of its kind. Its run spanned the whole decade and fully embraced the then-current hair and clothing styles as well as the cultural trends and musical tastes of ‘90s youth. This landmark show was firmly planted in a place, a time and in the hearts of a generation of viewers.

#4: “Seinfeld” (1989-98)


‘90s culture was very self-aware and filled with popular references to everyday occurrences. This was thanks, in large part, to one show, a ground-breaking observational sitcom following the lives of four people living in New York City. Ethically dubious yet endearing, eccentric though arguably rather ordinary - they were utterly captivating characters. Over the years, Seinfeld popularized concepts like shrinkage, low talkers, restaurants so good they could exclude customers with impunity and of course, double dippers, among others. It also introduced the world to the alternative holiday Festivus, which some people celebrate to this day. Not bad for a show that proudly claims to be about nothing.

#3: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003)


Subverting stereotypical gender tropes may be common in TV today, but in the ‘90s, it was seriously refreshing. In this Joss Whedon series, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy is a young blonde female but she is most definitely NOT the victim. Instead, she is the butt-kicking heroine fighting vampires and other such forces of evil in Sunnydale, California. At the same time, she is trying to live her life as a high school student, keep friendships and find love, all of which become hopelessly intermeshed with her duties as a vampire slayer. This show is emotional, funny and in true ‘90s fashion, overflowing with quirky charm. It’s even got a musical episode!

#2: “Friends” (1994-2004)


Nothing could be more stereotypically ‘90s than a group of friends spending their time hanging around a coffee shop and in their apartments talking about their jobs, money woes, romantic pursuits and interpersonal issues. And that’s exactly what this sitcom delivered week after week. Friends was a huge hit and launched the careers of Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry and pretty much the entire primary cast, to varying degrees of success. Regardless of what they’ve gone on to do since however, we will always remember them for the simple fact that, in the ‘90s, they were friends that we never got tired of seeing.


Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“Full House” (1987-95)
“Baywatch” (1989-2001)
“Blossom” (1990-95)

#1: “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1990-96)


If you played an episode, any episode, of this legendary sitcom for someone who had never heard of it, they would know right away that it was a ‘90s show. From the iconic opening Will Smith rap to the constant references to and guest appearances by the stars of the day to the clothing and hairstyles, the ‘90s are in this show’s DNA. It can be hilarious at times and downright serious and touching at others, but the one constant is that these characters and their stories are firmly rooted in the decade they live in. When we feel like doing a little time traveling… there’s no better guide than the Fresh Prince.


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