Tag Archive for: classic films


30+ Iconic ’90s Movie Characters (And Why We Still Talk About Them Today)

Throughout the 1990s, audiences were introduced to countless iconic movie characters that made us laugh, cry, and feel every emotion on the spectrum. Lovable good guys, mean bad guys, and characters that live somewhere in the middle helped make some of the best ‘90s movies turn into pop culture phenomena.

Though there are close to 25 years of separation between us and the end of the final decade of the 20th century, big-screen figures like Forrest Gump, Cher Horowitz, and Jules Winnfield are still very much a part of our culture. That said, we’ve put together a hefty list of iconic ‘90s movie characters and why we still talk about them today.

Jules Winnfield & Vincent Vega (Pulp Fiction)

From the first time we met Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) in the early goings of Pulp Fiction, the dynamic duo has been one of the most iconic and quotable in cinematic history. Their banter (Royale with Cheese), legendary lines, and chemistry have kept them relevant 30 years on.

Iconic duo Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega

Forrest Gump (Forrest Gump)

When discussing Tom Hanks’ best performances, it doesn’t take long before his portrayal of Forrest Gump enters the conversation. This beloved character, who was somehow at the center of every major event from the 1960s to the 1980s in Forrest Gump, remains a symbol of hope and a source of whimsical expressions decades later.

Forrest Gump running scene

Ace Ventura (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective)

Jim Carrey went from an on-the-rise comedian to the biggest thing in show business in 1994, thanks in part to his starring role in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The over-the-top, zany, and aggravating Ventura inspired an entire generation to drive with their heads out the window and make their butts talk.

Kevin McCallister (Home Alone)

In 1990, Macaulay Culkin became the biggest child star on the planet thanks to his portrayal of Kevin McCallister in Home Alone. The performance, which is still as great as ever 30-plus years later, completely changed the way kid protagonists are portrayed and launched an entire industry of imitators, so much so we’ll never forget this iconic character.

Kevin McCallister in Home Alone

Vivian Ward (Pretty Woman)

The ‘90s gave us some of the best romantic comedies ever, and that includes Pretty Woman. While Richard Gere is great in the 1990 movie, it’s Julia Roberts’ Vivian Ward who steals the show. All the years later, Vivian remains a powerful, independent, and beloved character that reshaped the mold of the rom-com heroine.

Neo (The Matrix)

The Wachowskis changed the sci-fi and action genres with their incredibly popular and inventive The Matrix back in 1999, and the same can be said about the film’s hero: Neo. One of Keanu Reeves’ best characters, Neo was and remains a revelation decades later.

The Dude (The Big Lebowski)

Jeff Bridges has a long list of great characters, but he will forever be associated with The Dude from The Big Lebowski. At this point, it’s hard to talk about one without bringing up the other, which says something about the performance.

Happy Gilmore (Happy Gilmore)

Adam Sandler had great characters on Saturday Night Live, and his performance in Billy Madison should be applauded, but come on, his most iconic role is Happy Gilmore. The titular hockey player-turned-golfer in this 1996 comedy made golf cool before Tiger Woods, so no wonder a Happy Gilmore sequel is in the works.

Edward (Edward Scissorhands)

There is something innocent and pure about Johnny Depp’s performance in Edward Scissorhands that has resonated with audiences over the past few decades, which is why the character always comes up when discussing the actor’s collaborations with Tim Burton. Equally odd and heartfelt, the portrayal is the stuff of wonder.

Bernadine, Savannah, Gloria & Robin (Waiting To Exhale)

On top of having a fantastic soundtrack and one of the best stories about friendship captured on film, Waiting to Exhale also introduced us to four of the best characters of the ‘90s. Bernadine Harris (Angela Bassett), Savannah Jackson (Whitney Houston), Gloria Matthews (Loretta Devine), and Robin Stokes (Lela Rochon) taught us about life and the meaning of friendship; lessons we still hold dear years later.

Hannibal Lecter (The Silence Of The Lambs)

A character that still sends shivers down our spines, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in The Silence of the Lambs redefined what it meant to be a movie villain. The psychology, the physicality (or lack thereof), and the menacing expressions were something to behold.

Andy Dufresne & Red Redding (The Shawshank Redemption)

Arguably one of the most iconic movies of the ‘90s, The Shawshank Redemption gave us a touching and endearing friendship shared by Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and Red Redding (Morgan Freeman). Even if the movie wasn’t played on TV in perpetuity decades after its release, we’d still be championing these two beloved characters.

Henry Hill (Goodfellas)

Love him or hate him, Henry Hill from Goodfellas is a criminal and character that’ll never be forgotten by pop culture. One of Ray Liotta’s best performances, the late actor’s turn as criminal-turned-witness is mesmerizing, to say the very least.

Cher Horowitz (Clueless)

Few characters captured the attitude, style, and sensibilities of a ‘90s teenager better than Alicia Silverstone’s Cher Horowitz in Clueless. And like, so many people still say “Ugh, as if,” a line taken from a movie released nearly 30 years ago.

Thelma & Louise (Thelma & Louise)

Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon gave the performances of a lifetime with their portrayal of the titular characters in Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise, portrayals that still come up time and time again decades later. These two characters were a breath of fresh air and helped kickstart the modern heroine back in 1991.

Will Hunting (Good Will Hunting)

Matt Damon became an overnight sensation with his portrayal of Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting, a movie he co-wrote with co-star and best friend Ben Affleck. The math prodigy from South Boston was a revelation at the time of the film’s release and showed the dynamic range of the young actor.

This connects well with our previous discussions on Number Theory and its real-world applications, as Will’s character showcases the vast potential and brilliance of mathematical minds.

Mrs. Doubtfire (Mrs. Doubtfire)

The late, great Robin Williams thrived in the ‘90s, and during that stretch, he gave us some of his best characters. One of those is Daniel Hillard, a.k.a., Mrs. Doubtfire, from the 1993 comedy classic. Not only is the performance tremendous, but those of us who grew up with Mrs. Doubtfire still quote the movie like every single day.

Lloyd & Harry (Dumb And Dumber)

Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) are two of the dumbest yet beloved characters to grace the silver screen in the ‘90s. Dumb and Dumber, one of the funniest movies of the decade, is still finding an audience 30 years later, and that’s all thanks to this unforgettable duo.

Tracy Flick (Election)

If you were to make a list of the best Reese Witherspoon movies and NOT include Election, then you’d probably get voted out of office. Her portrayal of high school busy-body Tracy Flick is outstanding and ICONIC, even if she’s a character we’d so much want to see lose.

Austin Powers (Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery)

Austin Powers is up there with Wayne Campbell when it comes to iconic Mike Myers characters, and one of the most memorable figures from ‘90s cinema. Starting with Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, the English spy parody took over pop culture more than a quarter-century ago and never let go.

Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

The number one rule of Fight Club is to not talk about Fight Club, but there was no way we could make a list of iconic ‘90s movie characters and not include Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden. The definition of cool (or at least what Edward Norton’s character thought was cool in the final years of the 20th century), Tyler became an instant icon and he never went away.

Jay & Silent Bob (Clerks/Mallrats/Dogma)

Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) weren’t really the main focus of the various Kevin Smith movies released throughout the ‘90s, but they still became two of the most iconic characters of the decade. The goofiness, their unique personalities, and the way they could always save the day made them just so dang cool.

Agents J & K (Men In Black)

There were a lot of great duos in ‘90s cinema, including Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) in Men in Black. These two were polar opposites, which made the pairing so much fun and unique, even for the buddy action genre. Years later, these two are so much fun to watch.

Sydney Prescott (Scream)

Wes Craven’s 1996 horror classic, Scream, was like a breath of fresh air, and a lot of that is because of Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and how she rewrote what it meant to be a scream queen. Modern horror movies have both to thank for this.

The Genie (Aladdin)

Robin Williams’ Genie from Aladdin could very well be the best side character from Disney’s Renaissance from the later part of the 20th century. The lovable and powerful character had it all: jokes, songs, infinite power, etc., and made a mark on audiences.

Craig & Smokey (Friday)

Though Ice Cube had been in movies by the time he starred in Friday, his portrayal of Craig took things to the next level. And we can’t forget about Chris Tucker’s Smokey, an endless source of comedic relief. These two down-on-their-luck friends are still a good hang years later.

Cameron Poe (Con Air)

What’s not to love about Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) in Con Air? The hair, the accent, the “Put the bunny in the box” line, and the bravery all make this a character that is not only incredibly badass, but also iconic as hell.

Jack & Rose (Titanic)

Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) from James Cameron’s box office sensation, Titanic, are not just the most tragic couple of ‘90s movies, they’re also the most iconic. For years, these two ill-fated lovers have captured the hearts of billions around the world, and they’re not letting go.

Sarah Connor (Terminator 2: Judgment Day)

Though Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) technically first appeared in The Terminator, which came out in 1984, she’s just too much of a badass in Terminator 2: Judgment Day to leave off this list. No longer the young and naive waitress from James Cameron’s first movie, Sarah is a one-woman army and a trailblazer for other strong female characters that followed.

Eric Draven (The Crow)

Eric Draven, the anti-hero protagonist played by the late Brandon Lee in The Crow, has become one of the most unforgettable ‘90s movie characters over the years. It may have something to do with the tragic on-set accident that killed Lee, but it is also because the character is just so charismatic.

Jack Skellington (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

Sure, there are other great animated characters from the ‘90s, but Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas is on a whole other level. Even if you discount all the merch that has flooded stores like Hot Topic over the past 30 years, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town is an iconic creation that’s never really left the conversation.

Truman Burbank (The Truman Show)

Jim Carrey proved in The Truman Show that he was more than capable of handling more dramatic (or at least less over-the-top) roles with his portrayal of Truman Burbank. This earnest performance is to thank for Carrey’s later more dramatic performances in movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

There are so many more iconic ‘90s movie characters we could have included, but we had to stop somewhere.

Focus Keyphrase: iconic ’90s movie characters