The Ad Council Public Service Announcement"Frequent Phone Hours", which aired in 1998, dates itself to a period when people spent free time talking to friends on the telephone, as the ad rewards a user for talking on the phone with free gifts. If the PSA were to be recreated today, it would probably be about people getting rewards for using social media or the Internet, which have replaced telephones as a primary method of long-time communication.note At the time this PSA was made, computers were just starting to become popular, and weren't as commonplace as they are today.
Anime and Manga
Ghost in the Shell started publication right before the Soviet Union dissolved - and as such, the Soviets are a major superpower in this futuristic cyberpunk comic taking place in the 2020s.
The Birdy the Mighty OVAs have noticeably '90s fashion, most noticeable the protagonist's mullet.
It's pretty easy to date the original Digimon Adventure to the late 90s/early noughties, particularly in the OVA Our War Game since the monitors were big and bulky and the fact that Tai's mother can't use the phone because Tai and Izzy are connecting the computer to the internet. Izzy's laptop and the fashion sense of the Digidestined in the series proper also date the series to the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was even lampshaded by the early moments of Digimon Adventure tri., set during a Time Skip six years after the events of the series (and first airing in 2015). The English dub of Digimon: The Movie has the same problems Our War Game had, but also adds a soundtrack entirely of One-Hit Wonder artists (or ones frequently mistaken for such by general audiences) from genres that largely didn't make it out of the 1990s intact, as well as some late 90s cultural references. Averted in the original, which explicitly states the series to take to place in 1999, with the "02" in the sequel series Digimon Adventure 02 referring to the year 2002.
Dragon Ball GT had the very minor antagonists the Para Brothers. They were named after and referencing the Para Para, a kind of dance which had its big boom between the late 90s and the early 2000s, and now is mostly forgotten even among die-hard Japanophiles.
As a general rule, CG effects. The first anime to make use of CGI at all was the 1983 movie Golgo 13: The Professional (and only then because it was a newly developed technology and because they felt like it), but the technique didn't really start being widely used until the mid-90s, as a shortcut. However, anime was still being produced with traditional cels-n-paint at the time, so the CG tended to be really obvious, especially in lower-budget shows.
Minor examples from Akira Toriyama's Go Go Ackman, published between 1993 and '94. The titular demon is seen playing with a Super Famicon (SNES for Americans), and the go-go girl hired by his rival to defeat him is dressed in the "bodycon" fashion (form-fitting short dress, fans to be waved around) made popular by Tokyo's famous Juliana's club, which operated from 1991 to 1994.
Gunsmith Cats: The series clearly happens in The '90s, not only cause the fashions and hairstyles... but also because the action takes place in Chicago, and the entire animation team visited the city to scout locations and take reference photographs. And their attention to detail was so accurate that many Chicago fans of the series can identify the specific time-period the anime was made by certain key features, most notably the construction scaffolding that surrounded the Field Museum of Natural History during that building's renovation.
The 1999 Hunter × Hunter anime features some dated technology which pin it as a product of the late 90s or early 2000s. The Truer to the Text 2011 version updated the technology.
Nana is obviously set in the late 1990s or early 2000s. One of the Nana's crushes works at a video store. The fashion is also very '90s.
Neon Genesis Evangelion: The JSSDF soldiers that raid NERV in End of Evangelion all carry H&K G11 rifles, which would have been considered futuristic... in 1997. The G11 program fell apart in 1990 and the rights repurposed by 2004 with only a few functioning rifles ever being built and is considered and abject and expensive failure instead of the future of military arms. Plus, the series is set in a fictional vision of 2015 - notice the lack of smartphones.note Though given that the series backstory has a massive global catastrophe killing off a significant portion of the human race in 2000, this may fall more under Alternate History.
Though the anime takes place in an unknown time in an alternate universe, the Original Series (Kanto and Johto) manages to do this. Ash's baggy attire and hat are quite 1990s and much of the technology seems like how people in the 90s thought futuristic stuff would look. As the series went on the phones and such modernized. Also, in the dub, there's this line about the Macarena and another dub edit in a later episode that references Pogs.
Pokémon: The First Movie features a lot of late 90s pop songs in its English dub, only one of which is even remotely related to the plot at all ("If Only Tears Could Bring You Back" for the famousscene where Pikachu cries over Ash when he's seemingly killed trying to intervene in Mewtwo and Mew's death match).
A good chunk of the problems in Macross 7 revolve around Nekki Basura disappearing without warning anyone where he was going... something that would not be a problem after the '90s, due to cell phones becoming very widespread.
Ranma ½, or, at least its Animated Adaptation (airing between 1989 and 1992), isn't hit as hard by this as most other series, but if you're paying close enough attention, it may become apparent. Whatever technology you see isn't contemporary (one minor character even still has an Super Nintendo Entertainment System), and while dates aren't explicitly mentioned, the occasional on-screen calendar may reveal the episode is set on or around its airdate. One character even makes reference to the Olympics being held in Barcelona, "next year".
The original Sailor Moon anime is embarrassingly 90s at times, such as showing Ami's seminar using floppy disks, Usagi's inability to use computers (which wasn't uncommon for a 14 year old at the time but is unlikely in a modern world where everyone uses them), and Mamoru's legendary wardrobe of Impossibly Tacky Clothes. The English dub by DiC takes it to extremes in terms of its usage of very '90s video editing effects and slang (especially during the added Sailor Says segments). The new dub from Viz Media lampshades this, with some of the characters making snarky remarks about the fashion, particularly Mamoru's, to the point where it has become a Running Gag.
Tokyo Babylon (released in 1990) has become this as seen in the clothing styles and the technology used. Word of God mentioned that had the manga been released two decades later where smartphones and the internet are commonly used, then most of the cases would be easily solved in a hitch.
X1999: As the title suggested, the world was about to end in 1999...except it didn't. Word of God declared that the story is set in an Alternate History since they failed foresee the rise of cellphones, which is justified that the manga started around 1992. The Tokyo Tower, which is a prominent landmark for the story, has in reality since been overshadowed by the Tokyo Sky Tree tower which was completed around 2012, eight years after the manga went into a hiatus.
Cardcaptor Sakura lacks the Tokyo Skytree Tower (started being built in 2008, finished in 2012).
The You're Under Arrest! manga began in the 1980s, but the anime began in the 1990s and it shows. The lack of modern day technology is noticeable as they're police officers, as is the very 90s fashion.
The short lived children's comic Cosmic came into (and ended its) existence at roughly the turn of the century. The main "Captain Cosmic" strip managed to avoid this (being a parody of the Space Opera genre) aside from a few references (Wrigley's "juicy fruit" flavored chewing gum being a subtle one). But the back up strip, "Taliska's Travels in Time", used then-contemporary references as a source of gags; for example, one issue had them find a monastery of monks in Ancient China singing the lyrics to Aqua's "Barbie Girl", with the explanation being they could see into the future - they also namechecked the Spice Girls for good measure.
Johnny Turbo, a three issue series used to advertise the TurboGrafx-16 (AKA PC Engine) in the US. The first two center entirely around "FEKA" trying to trick kids into buying their CD add-on. Johnny himself is based of the console's actual marketing manager at the time. Beyond the topical subject of the Sega CD, Johnny's clothing has all the trappings - a jump suit with lots of pockets, an "atomic" logo on the belt, a ray gun, LOTS of belts and pouches, and the most damning of all was a sideways baseball cap.
The first arc of Wild CATS has Dan Quayle (or, rather, a Daemonite impersonating him) as a big mover-and-shaker in the plot, references to his infamous misspelling of "potato" included. A few issues later, a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo features the recently remarried Jean Grey and Scott Summers — yeah, this was 1992, alright.
Since WildStorm moved from Image to DC in 1999, everything involving Image characters in the Wildstorm books is automatically dated between 1992 (when Image started in the first place) and then.
Jesse is constantly railing against "politically correct" language and culture, which was a buzzword of the 1990s.
Arseface tried to kill himself over Kurt Cobain's suicide, which happened in 1994.
The Twin Towers feature prominently in Cassidy's ode to New York City.
Jesse chews out a Frenchman for the nation's atomic testing. France's last atomic test was in 1996.
The turn of the millennium is a plot point, as the villains plan to set off World War III by then if it hasn't already happened so they can take over, and Cassidy states that he's "as old as the century."
Jesse's story to Cassidy of seeing a Bill Hicks show a "couple of months" before Hicks's death means that Jesse stumbled into one of Hicks's last shows, which could've been no later than December of 1993; Hicks stopped touring in early January 1994 and was dead less than two months later.
The series features glowing endorsements of vigilante justice at several points, most prominently in the climax of the "Salvation" arc, in which Jesse not only summarily executes the already defeated Arc Villain, but then goes on to intentionally goad a remorseful ex-Nazi (who had helped Jesse take down the aforementioned baddie) into killing himself due to feeling that only death would be sufficient penance for the guy's past actions. This clearly dates the series to before the mid-late 2010s saw a large number of high-profile vigilante incidents occurring in the US, committed by both law enforcement and civilians, prompting nationwide horror and massive pushes for criminal justice reform.
The series' Central Theme in and of itself, that religion is always detrimental to society and turns people into violent, bigoted morons, marks it as a product of the '90s and early '00s when the New Atheist movement was on top of the world. Just a decade later both reactionary atheists and progressive religious people would attain far more prominence in the public eye, while the New Atheists declined after a number of incidents took sizable chunks out of their credibility, such as Richard Dawkins' inflammatory comments about Muslim women.
On a meta note, in the letters sections of each issue, Garth Ennis offered his original scripts to fans who wrote in a letter identifying a quote or reference. Sometimes a quote would go unidentified for an entire issue. If readers had access to the Internet, they could simply look up the answer.
Transmetropolitan: The series was obviously conceived and mostly written in the late 1990s:
The technology presented has plenty of zeerust, being written just on the cusp of the Internet and cellphones coming to dominate the exchange of information.
The political satire is based almost exclusively on domestic events and issues. The series was predominantly written during a period in American history of unusual peace that gave the nation a chance to focus inward. Before the series ended, the attacks of 9/11 happened, causing the political landscape of the nation to swing sharply toward international war and foreign policy.
Spider's character-defining political cynicism and frank discourse in the face of stuffy politicians was written to be shocking to audiences in the 1990s, but it has lost a lot of its impact in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. Spider gives politicians mocking nicknames, but Trump did this himself to his political opponents while on the campaign trail. Spider's scatological jokes became less jarring when major party primary candidates started making insinuations about their relative penis sizes during debates. When Spider declares victory after pushing Callahan into making a public promise to work for change, it comes across as naive now that many politicians make such disposable public statements daily via Twitter.
JLA: Year One is a case of a deliberate period piece that ends up being one for the wrong decade. It's written to invoke the classic 60s JLA comics, being a retelling of their early days... but the token girl of the team is Black Canary, not Wonder Woman. This dates the comic to a rather odd era for Wonder Woman as a character (from about the mid-80s to the early 2000s), where some post-Crisis kerfuffling meant that she apparently debuted long after the League had formed, despite having traditionally been part of its starting lineup, hence the need for a Suspiciously Similar Substitute.
The initial Big Bang Comics miniseries published by Caliber Comics runs into an interesting case of this. The series itself is nominally a Retraux tribute to Golden and Silver Age DC, but issue 4 of the miniseries was meant to take place in the then-Modern Age, at the height of The Dark Age of Comic Books, with all the gritty storytelling, graphic violence, and exaggerated anatomy associated with the era. With that time in the industry long past, it could easily be read as a pastiche of the Dark Age nowadays. Incidentally, the ongoing that followed the mini would be published by Image Comics, who's contemporary catalogue helped define the overall perception of 90s comics, though they would wind up Growing the Beard in the coming millennium.
The goofy Marvel ads for "Combo Man", produced as a collaboration with the Combo snack food, featured a character whose costume (and, apparently, powers) was a mashup of fourteen different Marvel characters, with a contest at the time challenging readers to identify all of them. Most of his components are pretty easy for a casual reader to suss out, being genuine A-listers like Spider-Man, Magneto, or The Incredible Hulk. However, two of them tend to throw people: he has parts from Daredevil, but it's a black-with-red-stripes armored outfit that Matt only wore between 1993 and 1995, and more pivotally, his thighs are from Century. Century was a member of the superhero team Force Works, a now-little-remembered spinoff of West Coast Avengers, that at the time was being heavily pushed (and Century, as the newest creation and the "edgy badass loner" of the group, got pushed particularly hard). The book ran for only 22 issues before being cancelled in 1996, and Century promptly and completely fell off the radar: he's only made two speaking appearances since, and both were extremely minor and in the same storyline. Sure enough, the Combo Man ads ran primarily in late 1995 and early 1996, the only time in history where Marvel would ever consider armored Daredevil and Century to be just as recognizable and advertiser-friendly as Magneto and the Hulk.
One of the earliest stories in X-Force, published 1991, features an extended sequence set in the World Trade Center and culminates in one of the Twin Towers (just one, mind you) being destroyed by a supervillain. The same incident is shown in Cable: Blood and Metal #1, looking remarkably similar to the real-life destruction of the towers in the 2001 terrorist attack.
HERZ: Although written in 2001, this story has a very '90s view of the world before the War on Terror. The UN has become all but a world-unifying government, unlike what has happened in the real world where its power and influence have diminished. Christian fundamentalists are depicted as a threat, whereas Islamic fundamentalists don't even rate a mention.
The first film, thanks to a combination of Fashion Dissonance (especially the flannel shirts and boys' hair that's parted in the middle) and the very '90s-sounding Fake Band "Powerline" that features heavily in the story, is loaded with the culture of the 1990s. Pauly Shore plays a cartoon animal version of himself, and the trailers overemphasize his presence in the film.
The sequel, An Extremely Goofy Movie, was released in 2000. It's likewise dated by its focus on extreme sports. In order for the plot about Goofy and Sylvia being very nostalgic over the 1970s to work, the movie needed to take place before the 2010s, or both would have been too young.
Since the disbanding of Mystery Inc., Scooby and Shaggy have started working airport security, but it's really a con to sneak what they deem contraband food so they can eat it, with part of the act being Scooby barking loudly at the food they find so Shaggy can sneak off with it. This would not fly in a post-9/11 world, especially given how an airport dog barking is a major cause for alarm. Indeed, Scooby and Shaggy are shown to have gotten very fat from all the contraband they've eaten (well, fat for a cartoon character), suggesting they get away with this often.
The technology also dates the film to the '90s. Fred drops the camera he's been filming the zombies with in quicksand, dooming them to have no footage and proof of the zombies. These days, digital filming technology means that whatever they filmed would be easily backed up on a computer and hard drives as opposed to having to develop tapes.
The villains' plan also depends on their victims having no way to call for help on a remote island in the Louisiana bayou. These days, mobile phones and hot spots would mean people trapped on the island could easily call for help and not have to depend on the limited technology available on Moonscar Island. The passage of time is briefly touched upon and acknowledged when the villains admit that they had to hire a ferryman to begin running ships to the island in the modern era, and he willingly joined up with their mass-murdering scheme in exchange for immortality.
Airborne, which was made at the height of the inline skating craze. Plus, it feels like a commercial from the '90s.
Airheads really captures the music scene of the early '90s. Prominent references are made to, among other things, Beavis And Butthead, Rodney King, Bea Arthur, and MTV being primarily associated with music. Classic '90s toys like Stretch Armstrong and a Game Gear are seen. The plot revolves around a band trying to "make it" by getting airplay on a terrestrial radio station, something that is no longer the biggest driver in music success. In addition, a key item in the film is a demo reel recorded to a cassette tape in the possession of someone who can't be easily located because she doesn't have a cell phone.
The first movie was made in 1999, and it shows through right from the opening scene, in which Jim uses grainy, scrambled cable channels and print magazines as masturbation aids. The characters could also be forgiven for thinking that Czechoslovakia was still one country, as the "Velvet Divorce" between the Czech Republic and Slovakia had only happened six years prior. The big one, though, is the scene of Jim's Home Porn MovieGone Horribly Wrong. Not only was this a time when streaming video and internet memes were still cute novelties, it was also a time before 'revenge porn' became a major concern. Today, Stifler (and possibly Jim as well, for being a part of it) likely would've faced legal reprimand or even jail time for filming Nadia naked without her consent. Nadia and Jim's actors Shannon Elizabeth and Jason Biggs have bothsaid that the scene would have gone down very differently had the film been made in 2019 (if it hadn't been simply shot down during production), especially since Nadia, and not Jim or Stifler, is the only character who faces any punishment for it.
The second and third films likewise bled into the early '00s, especially with their soundtracks.
The fourth film, 2012's American Reunion, lampshades this during the scene where Jim returns to his childhood bedroom for the first time in years. The computer is an old brick with a bulky, plug-in webcam, and his Porn Stash sits hidden under an old issue of Consumer Reports hyping the Y2K problem.
The lack of cellphones in the first two films also date them quite a lot. Lampshaded in the fourth film.
Tim Burton's Batman films present a mixed bag. The first movie (which is actually from 1989, not the '90s, but enough hairsplitting) has held up pretty well, in large part due to the 1940s style in the production design and more (heck, one scene shows a character reading a newspaper dated 1947). The "smooth funk" songs by Prince on the soundtrack, though, do not help. Nor do some magazine covers we see: a 1980s-font cover of Time and a very '70s/'80s-looking cover of Vogue. And the Hell-Bent for Leather fashion sense of The Joker's gang looks cheesy today, partly because leather jackets have become not only socially acceptable, but so commonplace that they're hardly noticed anymore.
Batman Returns: The script mentions murderer Ted Bundy, who had been executed just a few years earlier, Alfred suggests that Bruce Wayne switch the TV channel to Love Connection, and in a crowd scene the camera briefly passes over a young man wearing a jacket with a picture of Gogo Dodo from Tiny Toon Adventures, as if the filmmakers were daring us, "Betcha can't catch us trying to date this film!"
Bio-Dome. The entire setup is based on the Biosphere 2 experiment on environmental sustainability, while the two main characters are Totally Radical '90s slacker stereotypes.
The Blair Witch Project is technically a period piece (released in 1999, set in 1994) - but Josh's long hair and overall fashion sense immediately scream 90s. Three film students hiking in the woods have no cell phones or GPS (and it's a plot point that one of them throwing away the map is what dooms them). Then there's the overall premise - where it's meant to be a student film, and the cameras are mid-90s technology; even home technology would go to HD by the time of the mid-2010s. And the opening titles declare that their video tapes were found in the woods. There's also this with the tie-in mythology; a Burkittsville resident is interviewed and talks about remembering the fictional serial killer Rustin Parr who, according to the materials, was convicted in the 1940s (and the man looks middle aged, meaning he wasn't that young in the 40s).
Everything said below about the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series applies doubly to the original 1992 movie, which also showcases the leftovers of The '80s hanging over into the following decade. Notably, Buffy fits far more into the classic '80s Valley Girl archetype than she did on the TV show, with both her fashion sense and her airheadedness highlighted in a way that they weren't on the show. Watching the film side-by-side with the pilot episode of the TV show allows one to see some of the ways in which American pop culture evolved from 1992 to 1997, from the fashion to the music to the slang.
The Cable Guy: Cable television is portrayed as the singular way in which the masses consume media. Even though the Cable Guy trumpets the "information superhighway," we never see anyone using the internet. When a TV station goes down, leaving everyone without televisions to watch, books are portrayed as the only alternative. As far as tastes and media, Ren & Stimpy blares from television sets, Grunge makes up much of the soundtrack, and the Cable Guy's movie and TV references are all at least several decades old at this point.
There are portions of Can't Hardly Wait that may have not worked had it been made a decade or so later. For instance, Amanda could've theoretically, simply looked Preston up on Facebook and figured out who he was. Meanwhile, the subplot involving Denise and Kenny being Locked in the Bathroom could've been solved much sooner had they just called somebody on their cell phones for help. Speaking of which, Preston is seen using a Bell Atlantic phone booth. Bell Atlantic would change its name to Verizon Communications in June 2000. The movie also implies that being interested in computers like in William's case automatically makes you (at least in Mike's point of view), nerdy and uncool.
CB 4 is very much a product of the early '90s regarding technology, stereotypes, and music.
The unwieldy car phone that Natalie's expensive BMW has dates from an era where having your phone with you was still a great novelty.
One of Natalie's attempts to drive off Jack was to use the car's cigarette lighter to burn him. Car cigarette lighters were beginning to fall out of favor in the mid-'90s, though the 12-volt outlets they left behind are still used in today's cars (alongside USB).
Clueless is a mix of this and intentionalPeriod Piece. Yes, the Grunge and Hip-Hop fashions and ubiquitous cell phones establish it as a '90s film, but much of the music is from The '80s, and Cher Horowitz would likely feel right at home in a movie like Valley Girl. One of the more subtle notes that pins this to the '90s is the character of Christian, who is gay and whose tendency to dress stylishly is cited as clear proof of his sexuality. This firmly places the movie in a period before the metrosexual ideal took off.
Cool as Ice, like the later Spice World, could only have been made when Vanilla Ice was at his most popular. Today, the film is so early '90s it's painful.
The Craft: as Chris Stuckmann puts it "the 1990s are bleeding out of the screen" with the soundtrack and '90s Hair on some characters (Sarah's feathered bangs, Mitt's curtains and Nancy's grunge hair stick out). The TV sets are all analog, the girls learn about witchcraft from books rather than the internet, and there's a distinct lack of cell phones. A plot point in the third act is Sarah being fooled that her parents died in a plane crash - which hinges on her not being able to call them or look the 'accident' up on the internet.
The Crow: While the source material was published in 1989, the film's entire aesthetic is very much a product of the industrial-gothic boom of the early-to-mid 1990s.
Demolition Man's premise of a future society where everything bad you say and do is banned is a pretty clear product of the early '90s backlash to the concept of political correctness.
Deep Impact is firmly welded to the late 1990s. Beyond very specific (and clunky) computer technology and featuring the World Trade Center being destroyed, most of the plot cannot occur with mid-2000s or better technology. Two of the first and most critical points: a codiscovery scene involving mailed hard copies and erratic email (and not being reproduced by anyone else) and the government managing to keep sole knowledge of the existence and trajectory of the comet for over a year. In 2013, a comet possibly threatening Mars became a prompt Internet celebrity within days of its first discovery.
Die Hard 2 primarily takes place at an airport, and the relaxed security would appear astounding to modern audiences. John smokes a cigarette at an airport cafe, and a passenger onboard an aircraft casually reveals a stun gun in her purse. After John gets in a gunfight and kills a terrorist in the luggage area, the police refuse to close down the airport or seal off the area.
Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead has a riot of gaudy neon and spandex that constitutes the "fashion" show during the movie's climax. Other things that point to the film's age include the 17-year-old protagonist and everyone in her office smoking like chimneys indoors throughout the movie, a workplace that relied on fax machines and paper spreadsheets, as well as using a cashbox for expenses and cashing employee personal checks. There's also the apathy the Crandell siblings display towards their mother and the eponymous babysitter - movie parents in the late '80s and early '90s were often depicted as incompetent bunglers and/or overly strict, requiring avoidance at all costs.
Escape from L.A.. Just as its predecessor, Escape from New York, was this to the early '80s when New York City and other old East Coast/Midwestern cities were seen as trapped in an intractable downward spiral, so is this film to the late '90s, when Los Angeles' public image had taken a beating in the wake of the Rodney King riots, the Rampart scandal, and the rise of Gangsta Rap. The President Evil of the dystopian near-future United States is a Christian theocrat based on Jerry Falwell (right down to them sharing the same hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia), reflecting public concern over the power of the Christian Right at the time. The villain Cuervo Jones is a member of the Shining Path, a Peruvian communist revolutionary group that, in the film, has taken over all of Latin America and is poised to invade the US; in real life, the Shining Path was already being rolled up by the Peruvian military by 1996, and is largely disorganized today. There's even a joke made at the expense of Euro Disney Resort, with one character claiming that it drove Disney into bankruptcy. On the other hand, the fact that one of the minor characters is a woman who was dumped onto the Los Angeles prison island for being a Muslim proved eerily prescient, given how The War on Terror stoked anti-Muslim attitudes throughout the US and Europe.
Executive Decision has been cemented as a "pre-9/11 film" by said real-life terror attack (in addition to being oddly prescient of it). Throughout the film, the President is agonizing over whether to make the titular Executive Decision to have the hijacked plane shot down, which he's sure would cause a lot of backlash. In the post-9/11 world, this would have made for a much shorter movie.
The 1998 teen horror film The Faculty wears the year of its release on its sleeve in a number of ways.
You have the obligatory pop culture references, for starters. When Casey is describing to Stokely his theory about the Alien Invasion, he name-drops contemporary invasion films like Independence Day and Men in Black, speculating that Roland Emmerich might be an alien infiltrator. One scene also has the High-School Hustler Zeke selling videotapes that he claims contain full-frontal nude scenes of Neve Campbell and Jennifer Love Hewitt. This scene is dated not only by the actresses he mentions (both were teen stars at the timenote Though it could also be a Shout-Out to Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, two other Kevin Williamson-penned horror films which starred Campbell and Hewitt, respectively.), but also by the idea of going to such lengths to get porn. The first websites devoted to cataloging celebrity nude scenes came online in 1999, meaning that, just one year later, the two horny teenage boys who were buying those tapes could have hopped on their computers and not only found such scenes far more easily (and likely for free), but realized that Zeke was lying to them about Hewitt and Campbell having done nude scenesnote At the time, at least. Hewitt has still "kept it PG-13" (to quote another Williamson film), but Campbell has done nude scenes in multiple films since., shutting down that part of Zeke's business.
Likewise, when Casey's parents ground him, they seize the porn magazines he has under his mattress and the modem hooked up to his computer. These days, they'd ignore his mattress and just take his whole computer, as it would have both in-built WiFi and all of his porn.
The goth girl Stokely pretending to be a lesbian to avoid the attention of her peers also wouldn't work in an age with a higher tolerance for LGBT people.
But nothing dates the film more than the scene where Zeke pulls a gun on the principal, suspecting that she's infected with the alien Puppeteer Parasite, and then blows her brains out. This scene is a full-bore indicator that the film was released just four months before the Columbine massacre, after which there would've been no way in hell that the film could've dared gotten away with depicting such a thing, let alone portraying the guy with the gun as the hero.
Fight Club has several things that date it, including technology (no one seems to have a cell phone, Project Mayhem plays pranks on stores selling CRT monitors and VHS tapes) and attitudes about airport security (the narrator is surprised and confused when his luggage is held because of a perceived security risk). Tyler's speech about how his generation has "no great war and no great depression" also firmly places it in a time of relative peace and economic prosperity. Most importantly, though, its themes were in large part an exploration of a popular meme in The '90s, the idea that "traditional" masculinity was in collapse as a result of the ever-growing penetration of technology and the modern world. The film (and the book it was based on) was largely a deconstruction of those ideas, and of the men's movement that emerged out of them.
The 1999 romantic comedy Forces of Nature is an interesting example, in where it's firmly dated by it's entire aesthetic and production techniques. The cinematography, camera angles, coloring, color washing of scenes, editing and style of direction all firmly date this movie to the late 1990s. There are plenty of scenes that feel like they're right out of a particularly moody/dramatic period TV commercial. Additionally, the main character uses an Apple Power Book laptop throughout the film, a product line that's long been discontinued, as well as how the opening plane crash is handled by the authorities. Watching the two main characters run around a Big Kmart store in a lengthy scene seals the deal.note The presence of a Kmart will date any film to the late 1990s at the latest given how hard they've tanked since 2000. In the 1990s Kmart had close to 3,000 stores nationwide and was one of the leading big box retail giants alongside Wal-Mart and Target. As of 2020 Kmart only operates 40 stores in 12 states.
The 1998 Godzilla film, in which Godzilla is born from French nuclear testing in the South Pacific, an issue that had raised controversy with environmental groups in the mid '90s and which is largely forgotten today. That's without mentioning the abundant Product Placement from very '90s businesses like Blockbuster Video and Josta energy drink, the parodies of Siskel & Ebert in response to their negative reviews of the director's previousfilms, the Puff Daddy song on the soundtrack, and the overall presentation of an attack on New York prior to the attacks at its World Trade Center in 2001 (Godzilla's rampage is said to be the worst tragedy to afflict New York since the World Trade Center bombing... the one in 1993, that is).
Hackers: the music and tech-talk all date the film, as well as the idea that hackers are a strange and exotic community of brilliant hipsters rather than dime-a-dozen assholes.
Higher Learning, John Singleton's 1995 follow-up to Boyz n the Hood and Poetic Justice. Even if you can ignore the hairstyles of the male characters, which by themselves date this film, there is also the heavily closeted lesbian relationship - not to mention the (literally) black-and-white racial politics and general exaggeration and cartoonishness, which will have "poor man'sSpike Lee" spilling from your mouth within seconds.
Home Alone: Modern viewers who don't know when it was made may be confused by the lack of cell phones. Doesn't mean much in this case though, since the film already operates under Murphy's Law in order to bypass all of the many other ways the family could get in contact with Kevin, and even then can only justify it by having everyone hold an Idiot Ball. Another issue is that the McAllisters would not have had enough time to make their flight with the type of airport security that became common after 9/11. Kevin also has a scene in the second film enjoying the view of New York from atop the Twin Towers.
Human Traffic was created with this purpose in mind, filled with the mindset of the late '90s British counterculture and the "Cool Britannia"/New Labour honeymoon years.
The Jackal (1997) is the poster child of that time Hollywood struggled to keep the Spy Fiction genre alive after the fall of the USSR. First, unlike source material, which was a deliberate period piece set in early '60s France, the film takes place in modern-day America and Russia. It begins with a montage summing up the history of Russia from Nicholas II to the fall of Communism and the rise of the film's villains, The Mafiya, in the 1990s. A joint American-Russian police operation (which itself dates the film to the Clinton-Yeltsin honeymoon when it seemed like the US and Russia would be allies) results in the death of a mobster's brother, who retaliates by hiring an assassin to kill a First Lady of the US that looks just like 1990s Hillary Clinton, during a public act with security so light it can only be before 2001.
There's a Running Gag that Ordell insists that Melanie answer the house phone even though every call is for him. Nowadays, this argument wouldn't occur because everyone would call Ordell's cell phone directly.
Jackie is shown to be old-school and a little cash-strapped because she hasn't updated her musical collection from records to compact disks. Max asks why she hasn't jumped into the CD revolution. Nowadays, even CDs are old-fashioned, while someone still having an extensive collection of records would peg them as being extremely passionate about their quality compared to more modern storage formats rather than simply stuck in the past. Max himself buys a cassette tape of the Delfonics and listens to it in his car. You can't even buy cars with cassette players anymore.
Jumanji actually had this lampshaded by its own sequel, Welcome to the Jungle, released twenty-two years later in 2017. The idea of a cursed board game causing havoc to those who play it dates the film to before video games fully displaced board games as the group "play" activity of choice among kids, a point raised in the prologue to the sequel when Alex decides to pass on playing it in favor of his video games — causing the board game to transform into a video game cartridge instead.
Last Action Hero, being made in 1993, naturally reflects the transition of pop culture between the 1980s and 1990s, mixing the first signs of the "new" Times Square with the disappearing movie palaces and grittiness of 42nd Street, as well as an acknowledgment that the popularity of the classic 80s style of action films was already waning, not to mention the blending of Danny's grunge-inspired clothes with the elegant suits worn at the premiere. There's also the many pop-culture references to cinema culture of the time, some of which would probably require annotations today—the gag about a digital Humphrey Bogart sounds like a complete non sequitur nowadays, but was based on a real controversy.
The Matrix: the world inside of the Matrix is set at what the machines considered the peak of human civilization, that is, the year 1999, and it certainly looks very, very '90s. The computers are all boxy, the monitors CRT, and the mobile phone that Morpheus first calls Neo on is big, blocky, and has an antenna. The club that Neo meets Trinity is dripping with an Industrial Metal-meets-rave-culture aesthetic, and the credits song is by Rage Against the Machine.
Jim masks the smoke from the self-destructing film by lighting up a cigarette, something you can't do on commercial flights anymore.
Planes have futuristic movie screens mounted on swivel arms. Attendants distribute cassettes of movies to watch. Jim uses a hardwired remote control to play the movie. Modern screens on planes are embedded into the back of headrests.
Computer hardware is all of the '90s era, including bulky laptops, floppy disks and CRT screens.
The script was written before people had much understanding of basic internet concepts:
Ethan logs into Usenet to do research, something almost no one uses anymore.
Ethan connects to the Internet by typing "internet access" into a text box.
Ethan searches for his contact named "Max" by trying to go to "Max.com," which doesn't exist.
Knowing that his Max might be associated with the Biblical verse Job 3:14, Ethan sends an email to the address "Max@Job 3:14", which is obviously not a viable email address on top of being a blind guess. Rather than send it from an email address of his own, Ethan is able to simply type "Job" into a "Message From:" text box.
Mystery Men, a parody of superheroes released in 1999, is very much a product of its time. The film features a few period-specific jokes and references, and its overall aesthetic, with the abundance of hair dye and goggles, mark it as a product of the 90s. Moreover, its outlook of superheroes obviously came before the superhero boom of the late 2000s made superhero films be seen as legitimate entertainment for the mainstream and not just something for the "fanboys". As this retrospective article puts it:
If Mystery Men has value today, its as a time capsule, for a period when expensive movies had no idea what to do with funny people and when satirical superhero movies didnt really have much to satirize.
The blues club Frank visits in 2½ has photos of the greatest disasters in history, such as the Hindenburg crash, the Titanic sinking and... Michael Dukakis. Unless you were politically active back in 1988, you wouldn't even recognise who he was, let alone know about his failure.
In Frank's rousing speech at the end, he says he wishes for a world where "the Democrats will put somebody up there worth voting for!" George Bush and and his wife start to applaud before realising what he said. Hilarious in Hindsight to anyone who knows how badly he lost to Clinton the year after the film was released.
A quick gag in 33⅓: all the Oscar nominees for Best Picture were financial successes except one, so when Frank finds the bomb in the Best Picture envelope, he screams out "it's the bomb", and the producers of the film that bombed come up to collect their award. Since then, the divide between box-office success and Oscar Bait has only gotten wider. note (Not to mention being a Shout-Out to Marisa Tomei's surprise 1993 win for Best Supporting Actress , which Urban Legend holds was an error on the part of the presenter Jack Palance).
The Net (1995) is a New Media Are Evil tale about the Internet, which is treated as a mysterious and dangerous new world. Nineties-era technology is also treated as alarmingly powerful. One scene is dedicated to showing our heroine working on a laptop at the beach, which is presented as a novel concept. You can be at the office anywhere, now!
The entire plot of Never Been Kissed may become extremely flimsy had it been made in the age of social media. While pretending to be a teen, Josie could always say her parents wouldnt let her have social media until she turned 16 or something to work around that. She could theoretically scrub her accounts and change her hair color to confuse anyone who might see her image online.
Office Space has a great deal of technology still in use in the late 1990s (CRT monitors, floppy disks, as well as the use of Traveler's checks to transfer money) that immediately date the setting, and a soundtrack largely consisting of '90s rap. The main character specifically mentions that he's working on fixing the Millennium Bug in his company's software. The cast's general lack of appreciation for their stable jobs also betrays the 1990s strong economic climate. However, the themes of dealing with the "cube farm" mentality of offices, meaningless paperwork, and antiquated technology all still ring true today.
The Opposite of Sex shows that it's from the 90s when a main character Bill is forced to take a sabbatical from his job after Jason claims they had an affair - outing him as gay. The movie is also obviously from a time when gays were still being scapegoated for the AIDS crisis; Tom died of AIDS and Dede shows a lot of ignorance about the disease that only existed then. Overall, the movie is very much the product of a time when society was still very intolerant to homosexuals.
The film takes place at a bustling newspaper with no hint that online news would eat the heart out of print journalism in only a few years' time.
The editor Bernie White is allowed to smoke in his office, where he calls all of the head writers for their daily scrum, with only a single hypochondriac complaining. In modern times, offices are smoke-free environments for just about everyone.
White, the editor, complains that his newspaper has too many opinion columnists, which is either unintentionally dated or prescient. Newspapers and online news sites have increasingly relied onto flashy and partisan opinion pieces to attract readers, which has degraded the overall quality of hard news.
Before arriving in for work, Alicia calls Henry from a car phone, and he uses the excuse that her signal is breaking up to hang up on her, chuckling, "I love car phones!" afterwards. Later, Alicia does not run Henry's story because she couldn't reach him for two hours. In modern times, she could have just called his cell phone. She's shot while trying to make a call at a bar payphone. The only cell phone we do see is bulky and looks like a walkie-talkie.
The Peacemaker: Russia is a mess that can't keep track of its nuclear arsenal. The baddie lost his family in the Bosnian War. His objective is to stage the deadliest terrorist attack ever on New York City. Everyone misses the Cold War.
Prayer Of The Rollerboys is about a dystopian world where a gang of rollerbladers dominate the streets. It was released in 1990, during the inline skating fad.
The Professional: the cartoons that Mathilda watches are very dated. Leon's round sunglasses were also a notable fad of the 90s.
In his first scene, Vincent is driven around Los Angeles marveling about how Europeans can buy weed legally and order a beer in a movie theater. Both of these are now easy to do in Los Angeles.
Vincent objects to a milkshake costing $5, which is now a fairly reasonable price for a sit-down restaurant.
The Rage: Carrie 2 brings the story of the original film into 1998, and just as that film wears its '70s-ness on its sleeve, so does this film with its roots in the '90s. The new version of Carrie, Rachel Lang, is a very '90s goth chick, while her best friend Lisa has pictures of Hole and Marilyn Manson lining her locker. Lisa's suicide, the inciting incident for the plot, is motivated by a group of sleazy, leering Jerk Jock villains based on the Spur Posse, a notorious tabloid story from 1993. Perhaps most notably, Rachel's climatic Roaring Rampage of Revenge is portrayed with a lot more sympathy for Rachel and a lot less sympathy for her victims than Carrie's rampage at the prom in the original story, a stark reflection of a pre-Columbine environment in which stories about outcast loners taking violent revenge on their bullies were not met with nearly so many raised eyebrows. The film came out less than a month and a half before Columbine, such that at least one critic has noted that the film narrowly missed having its release canceled indefinitely due to its subject matter.
Reality Bites is an ode to the members of Generation X that were graduating college in the mid-'90s. The main characters are a group of well-educated twentysomethings having difficulty navigating their lives due to them having faced little actual adversity growing up. This movie also has the characters run into many controversial social issues that are have significantly progressed since the time of filming, such as homophobia. Moreover, the film's hipster characters, who rail against suburban middle-class normality because they have nothing else to rail against, come across as much less sympathetic after the War on Terror would give people in their age group something to complain about and the Great Recession would ensure them the adversity they lack.
The 1999 teen comedy classic Road Trip had the main character sending the wrong VHS tape to his long-distance girlfriend, with whom he only can communicate via mail (for he doesn't have the money to make long-distance calls, much less to afford a cellphone), so he and his friends must do the titular trip from Ithaca, NY to Austin, TX to prevent her from seeing it. By the mid-2000s, people in long-distance relationships could easily keep in touch via videochats, let alone social media in the 2010s.
The Scream films, particularly the original trilogy. The series' reference points for the horror genre were the slashers of the late '70s and the '80s, with the main characters frequently referencing, discussing, and making fun of films like Halloween (which Randy shows at his party), Friday the 13th, Prom Night, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. These films and others like them were seen as dated, cliched, and trite even at the time (which was the whole reason why it parodied them, in fact), but they were still what most people viewed as "modern" horror movies. Today, the slasher genre is seen as distinctly retro, having been displaced by the rise of Found Footage Films, Torture Porn, and supernatural horror. The "rules" for horror movies that the film laid out (such as Death by Sex, The Scourge of God, and Black Dude Dies First) were mostly lifted from '80s slashers, and they are rarely seen in horror nowadays, ironically because this film did such a good job lampshading and deconstructing them. Specific examples include:
Scream (1996): Billy is marked as a suspect — correctly, as it turns out — because he is found to have... a Cell Phone on him. In 1996, cell phones were still luxury items that were only owned by rich kids and businessmen, making it easier to narrow down a killer whose M.O. was to make Harassing Phone Calls before offing his victims, but nowadays, it would be more suspicious if he didn't have a cell phone on him (so that he couldn't be tracked). The film's pop culture references likewise nail it down to the mid-late '90s. One of the girls in the Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults brings up the '90s talk show host Ricki Lake when discussing her theory about how Sidney is the killer, Sidney jokes that she'd like to be played by Meg Ryan in the film adaptation of her life but would probably get Tori Spelling instead (which actually happens in the second film), and the killer's Motive Rant name-drops Sharon Stone as a sex symbol, complete with a mimed-out reference to her leg-uncrossing scene in Basic Instinct, while mentioning that Hannibal Lecter never got an explanation for why he ate people (which later changed with the prequelHannibal Rising). Also, a pivotal scene takes place in a video rental store (now an endangered species), and during that scene, when Stu asks Randy what his motivation would be if he were the killer, Randy's reply of "It's the millennium. Motives are incidental." references the hype over the coming of Y2K. In an interview in 2016, Matthew Lillard (who played Stu) stated that writer Kevin Williamson was deliberately going for this, and wanted the film to reflect the time period and zeitgeist in which it was made as opposed to giving it a more "timeless" feel:
"Right before Scream, there was a real push to make movies 'evergreen', meaning dont date them and stay away from popular references so that if I turn it on in twenty years, I could think it was today. One of the things that [screenwriter] Kevin [Williamson] did was to throw out this idea of 'let it be forevermore', and let's fucking tag it for right now and lean into the moment of right now."
Scream 2 references this trope. The rise of caller ID (attributable, in part, to the first film's success) means that Sidney is able to easily identify a prank caller posing as Ghostface and tell him off. The killer's Motive Rant also satirizes the era's Moral Guardians and the controversy over violence in the media, which was already brewing at the time even before the Columbine massacre, and name-drops Bob Dole, the Christian Coalition, and various members of O.J. Simpson's legal team, such that even the other killer, Mrs. Loomis, explicitly refers to this motive as a product of the '90s. And speaking of Columbine...
Scream 3 has a number of thinly-veiled references to the massacre, with the producer of the Film Within a FilmStab 3 being told to tone down the film's bloodshed due to pressure from Moral Guardians over violence in the media. (In real life, Scream 3had to be heavily rewritten after Columbine for the same reason.) Also, the opening victim is the host of a very '90s "trash TV" talk show, one kill revolves around a fax machine (particularly the victim having to light his lighter to read it after Ghostface cuts the power; phone lines carry electricity and still work during a power failure), and the names of most of Stab 3's stars are references to '90s actors — Jennifer Jolie is named after Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie (which became Hilarious in Hindsight after the entire "Brangelina" saga years later), Tom Prinze is named after Freddy Prinze, Jr., Angelina Tyler is named after Liv Tyler and Angelina Jolie, and Tyson Fox is named after Matthew Fox (then best known for Party of Five as opposed to Lost).
Scream 4 commented heavily on how dated the series had become by 2011. For more info on that, see 2010s Film.
S.F.W., a 1994 satire of the grunge era and the tabloid press. The protagonist Cliff Spab is an archetypal '90s slacker who is one of five people taken hostage in a convenience store by a group of terrorists who demand that the media air the videos they record of the siege, and becomes a celebrity as his witty, flippant statements win him a large following of people who watch the hostage situation on TV. Cliff's sudden rise to fame, and especially his reaction to it, is patterned on that of Kurt Cobain, who had killed himself five months before the film's premiere. Notably, the director screened a rough cut of the film for Cobain, and wanted to include Nirvana's "All Apologies" on the soundtrack (which is otherwise stuffed with early '90s alternative rock hits), but Cobain's suicide caused him to miss out on getting the rights.
She's All That features mention of The Real World, and a gratuitous cameo from Sarah Michelle Gellar at the height of her popularity. Usher likewise appears As Himself at the prom, and there's a sequence where characters spontaneously start rapping. Also the review quote on the poster — "Hip, smart and hilarious!" — dates it.
Showgirls came out in 1995, and is a time capsule of the final days of "old" Las Vegas. The premise of an anti-heroine finding stardom in a showgirl revue at the Stardust Hotel and Casino was completely dated well before the resort was imploded in 2007; also, during the late 90s and the Turn of the Millennium, such revues were marginalized/put out of business by the more elaborate, ambitious, and classier productions of Siegfried and Roy, Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group, and other attractions aimed at families and younger audiences. No hotel newer than the Luxor (opened 1993) appears, and characters drive on downtown's Fremont Street (by the time the film hit theaters, it became a pedestrian-only thoroughfare).
Slacker perfectly defines the alternative culture of the early '90s, including the lingering effects of the late '80s.
The scene in Soul Food where one character brings home a computer is likely the most glaring example in the film. He gets excited over the computer having "[a] color monitor, cd-rom, internet, fax, [and] e-mail", all of which would become mundane ten years later but were big deals in the late 1990s.
So I Married an Axe Murderer screams 90s. I mean, it stars Anthony La Paglia, Steven Wright and Debi Mazar and has Spin Doctors and Soul Asylum on the soundtrack, what more do you want?
Space Jam is so '90s it hurts. In more than twenty years since the film came out, no NBA athlete has enjoyed a cultural position like Michael Jordan did. The Looney Tunes cartoons, while old even when the film was released, were still relevant enough in the culture of the time that any child could recognize them. By the 2010s, the Looney Tunes (and classic animation characters in general) have been overshadowed by newer cartoons, and even the biggest NBA stars of the modern day like LeBron James haven't enjoyed the pedestal that Jordan had. For comparison, the sequel heavily downplays the presence of both James and the Looney Tunes in favor of a general Massive Multiplayer Crossover of the entire Warner Bros. backlog.
Most of Spike Lee's early work was a commentary on the racial politics of the '90s, especially in New York. Do the Right Thing features references to New York Mayor Ed Koch and the Tawana Brawley controversy, Jungle Fever has characters debating Mayor David Dinkins, and Bamboozled takes shots at Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Quentin Tarantino alongside more general satire of hip-hop culture as it existed in the late '90s.
10 Things I Hate About You would qualify only for the clothes and casual use of the word 'retarded', but Kat is a huge fan of Jared Leto and other characters reference The Real World and Dawson's Creek. The original script had many references to the Washington Riot Grrl music scene that was big at the time, but the film does still name drop bands like the Raincoats and Bikini Kill. Letters to Cleo feature prominently - one year before they disbanded in 2000. The Wild Teen Party comes about when invites are distributed via flyers instead of the internet, and Bianca and Cameron have to search Kat's room to find out what her interests are; in the days of social media, a look at any of her profiles could give them that info.
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar heavily features the 90s drag culture. In particular, Noxie's descriptions of different types of trans people are consistent with 90s attitudes, but emphases have shifted in the 20+ years since then. There's also a big plot point when Vida ditches their road map early in the trip after being blown off by her mother, and Chi-Chi wonders how they'll get to LA without it. And when the car breaks down, they have no idea where they are. Had the movie come out twenty years later, they would have had smartphones with Google Maps.
Urban Legend. The Final Girl Natalie and her roommate, the goth chick Tosh (whose taste in fashion and music alone peg her to the age of Nu Metal), argue more than once over Tosh's internet use preventing Natalie from using the phone, which was a very real problem in the days of dial-up internet connections before broadband and cell phones took off. (Both the telephone and the internet ran through the same phone line, and only one of them could be used at a time. Before broadband, some wealthier, more tech-savvy households actually had separate lines for phone and internet to avoid this problem.) The opening victim Michelle also drives a then-new Ford Expedition with a tape deck (a technology whose replacement is now obsolete) that the camera focuses on in one shot. Finally, it's telling that, in a Slasher Movie where the killer uses Urban Legends as inspiration and in which such are frequently discussed by the main characters, there's absolutely no mention of creepypasta or other modern, internet-born legends, nor is there mention of Snopes, MythBusters, or other sources devoted to debunking them.
Vegas Vacation is a time capsule of that regrettable time in the history of Las Vegas when, in an attempt to keep up with competition from Atlantic City on the East Coast and Native American casinos across the country, the city attempted to rebrand itself as a family vacation destination, with a wide variety of new resorts bearing theme-park style rides and theming (the MGM Grand had an entire short-lived Amusement Park). The year after Vegas Vacation came out in 1997 and parodied the "new" Vegas, the opening of the more adult-oriented, high-class Bellagio resort heralded the start of a backlash that saw most of these casinos de-themed and oriented back towards their bread-and-butter industry of gambling.
SID 6.7's baggy suits and round tea-shade sunglasses were both fashion trends of The '90s.
In spite of featuring virtual reality worlds, true AI and super-powered androids made of living glass, the future still uses 90s-era computer graphics and big CRT televisions.
The film's portrayal of the UFC, aside from being completely inaccurate to any time period, is obviously based on where they were in the late 90s, before the promotion and the sport itself had really solidified.
Volcano: The film's portrayal of racial tensions in post-Rodney King Los Angeles, particularly the ending scene where the ash makes it impossible to tell the color of anybody's skin, mark it as a product of a period throughout most of the '90s when racial issues were at the forefront of national discussion.
Les Visiteurs: The late 20th century characters use cathode ray tubes televisions, VHS cassettes, Polaroid instant cameras...
The film's premise is based on cable access shows that have been completely supplanted by YouTube and other online media.
The Product Placement scene parodies ad campaigns of its time. The Nuprin brand of ibuprofen stopped being sold in America shortly after the film released. Wayne also quotes Pepsi's then-current slogan, "The choice of a new generation," which had already been replaced by the time the film released.
The show's first sponsor is a local arcade. It was only a few years after the film's release that arcades started dying out due to rising competition with home consoles and PC gaming.
The film portrays the rock scene of the early 90s being dominated by hard rock and metal, before grunge music wiped the slate clean. The film also highlights rock acts that were already faded by the time of the film's release, such as Motorhead, Alice Cooper and Queen, obviously due to author appeal.
Michael, then Joel and Molok, take a Concorde plane to go to France — flights with that turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner were discontinued in 2003 because of high maintenance costs, a tragic crash in 2000 and the general downturn in commercial aviation after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Speaking of which, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center can be seen in one of the New York City shots.
Michael's very boxy multitask device would love to look as sleek as a modern tablet computer or cellphone, though modern cellphones don't allow the user to become a technopath yet.
Minor detail: Michael's PR chief mentions there are 36 McDonald's restaurants in Paris (in 1996). There are 66 of them as of the early 2020s.
When Bond returns to London, he presents a cigar to Miss Moneypenny, who replies that she knows where to put it. This could be seen as a reference to the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinski affair, which allegedly featured a cigar being used in foreplay;
The boat chase down the River Thames does not feature the London Eye (which had already been raised to its current position by the time the film was released) and passes a then-under construction Portcullis House (it was finished in 2001);
Bond watches a report on the conclusion of Elektra Kings kidnapping presented by Martyn Lewis — as in the above example, Lewis had retired and the BBC had changed the appearance of their news broadcasts by the films release;
Elektra King surveys her oil empire using Windows 2000 (and a beta version at that); and
At the end, R switches off a screen showing a heat-sensitive image of Bond and Christmas Jones in flagrante delecto, pretending its an early occurrence of the Millennium Bug.
You've Got Mail. The title alone immediately dates it to that period when America Online was America's largest ISP. It also centers around the booming expansion of big-box chain bookstores, with Meg Ryan's character running an independent bookstore that risks being put out of business by the corporate giant. Today, the situation is flipped: those large bookstore chains are in freefall thanks mostly to the internet, while independent bookstores are thriving again.
What do you call a constipated German? "Far-from-poopin'" ("Fahrvergnügen" was an advertising slogan for Volkswagen, loosely meaning "The joy of driving").
What did Jeffrey Dahmer say to Lorena Bobbittnote A woman who made headlines in 1993 when she cut off her husband's penis? "You gonna eat that?"
Did you hear Jeffrey Dahmer escaped? He was sighted heading to Waco with a 55-gallon drum of barbecue sauce.
On a related note, the Waco siege, in which a Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas entered a 51-day siege with the FBI and the ATF that ended with the place burning down after the FBI tried to stage an assault, also provoked a few of these.
Augusto Pinochet is eating in a French restaurant when he finds a hair in his soup. He complains to the maitre, who calls for the waiter: "Garçon! Garçon!". Pinochet replies: "Okay, stop! I'll eat it".
Bill Clinton steps off of Air Force One with a pig under each arm. The young marine at the door says "What's with the pigs, Mr. President?" Bill says "These aren't just 'pigs', these are Arkansas Razorbacks. I got one for Hillary, and one for Chelsea!" The marine says "Good trade, sir!"
How does the White House's doorbell sound? CLEEN-TONNN!
Bill and Hillary are driving through rural Arkansas, they pass by a used car dealership."That's funny," Hillary says. "That dealer has the same name as an ex-boyfriend of mine." "Just think," Bill says, "if you'd married him today you'd be the wife of a used car dealer." Hillary looks at him for a moment. "No." She says. "If I'd married him today I'd be the wife of the President of the United States."
Although he first gained notoriety in the late '80s, the '90s marked the peak era of "Kevorkian jokes", which were essentially a modernization of the old "well, now I've seen everything" jokes of yore. (Less humorous variants with characters often remarking to "keep Kevorkian over there away from me" or "if X ever happens to me/if I ever end up like that, call Kevorkian" were even more common.)
"Daddy, why doesn't this magnet pick up your floppy disks?" (The joke being that floppy disks, as a type of Magnetic Disk, would be destroyed by magnets. As of 2016, magnetic portable storage devices have been almost completely phased out in favor of flash-based devices like USB drives, which are immune to this sort of erasure.note at least for private users. Many institutions collecting vast amounts of data, like NASA or CERN use magnetic drives for archivation since it still has a better longevity. While magnetic hard disks are still prevalent on many desktop and laptop computers, they too are slowly being phased out in favor of solid-state drives).
A school aide approaches her IT guy. She says, "The classroom's computer isn't working anymore." "What was going on when you first noticed this?" the IT guy asks. "Well, I was deleting some folders left there from other departments, and when I deleted one from the Spanish department, I started having problems," she says. The IT guy scrunches his face in confusion, and says, "The Spanish department? Do you remember what was the folder was called?" The aide smiles and says, "I remember that it was a number in Spanish. DOS."
The 1991 novel Ring by Koji Suzuki, along with its Japanese, South Korean, and American film adaptations (released in 1998, 1999, and 2002 respectively). The story revolves around a cursed videotape that causes those who watch it to die in seven days, a premise that marks it as being from a time before the rise of DVD, Blu-Ray, and online video. Parodies of The Ring made in more recent years typically joke about how either the movie would be over in five minutes because nobody has a VCR, or conversely, how Sadako/Samara would wipe out half the world once the video is uploaded on YouTube.
Several Animorphs books come across like this, due to the author's fondness for real contemporary pop culture references (sometimes to things that wouldn't exist at the time the book is supposed to be set, like a reference to The Phantom Menace in the probably-1998-set The Prophecy), as well as some situations that would be greatly changed by advancing technology (especially cell phones). Probably the most blatant example was The Warning, with a plot that heavily involves the internet as it existed during the mid-nineties.
Also plenty of scenes that, uh, evoke a sensibility pre-dating the 9/11 attacks. (several planes get crashed into buildings. Also — hilariously — when they travel to the future, the only recognizable building still standing in Manhattan is the World Trade Center. Whoops.)
The Animorphs series was being rewritten, apparently replacing jokes and references from the 1990s with more modern ones. However, it's possible that 90s technology like the lack of cameraphones or Facebook made it harder for the current generation to connect. The rewrites stopped at 7, with 8 being axed after preorders were taken.
The society it takes place in is also very much a relic of the '90s. The plot of "The Deception" is built around the assumption that the United States has no serious military or economic rivals and the whole series depends on the cast being able to vanish for long stretches of time with little to no explanation to the adults in their lives. Less pressingly, it is unlikely that modern early to mid-teenagers would be spending most of their free time hanging around a mall, as many of the books show them doing.
Connie Willis's Bellwether—written in the mid-90s, its narrator is a sociologist researching fads, so the book is a perfect time capsule of fashions in everything. Remember hair wraps? Sunflowers on everything? The spread of Seattle-style coffee houses? Notably, e-mail is treated more as a gimmick than anything, and the narrator speculates about the way that attitudes to smoking will change in future... and gets it wrong (so far!).
Michael Crichton's 1994 novel Disclosure has a plot that features the main character trying to clear his name when accused of sexual harassment by a female coworker; while he is innocent and she is the real instigator of the harassment, with a history of harassing male coworkers that the company has been covering up due to her value, he is told in the beginning that his case is paper thin due to the idea of a female sexually harassing a male being completely unheard of, and that in sexual harassment cases everybody automatically takes the female's side, especially if it delves into "he-says she-says" territory. These days, the idea that women are just as capable of sexual harassment as men has near-universal acceptance (at least in the western world) and companies' sexual harassment policies follow the idea that harassment can happen between any two people, even people of the same gender, and give individual harassment cases much more equal merit. Add in that the company in question is a pre-internet high technology company that is developing a Virtual Reality machine (as, of all things, a database interface), is scrambling to iron out production defects on a new CD-ROM drive, and the fact that the point of the drive is to use it to access things like disc-based encyclopedias (which would be supplanted by online databases like Wikipedia), all place this novel firmly in the mid-1990s.
Rising Sun: A whole book about 1990s apprehension that Japan Takes Over the World, before the Japanese recession eased those concerns. The protagonist's daughter listens to the latest MC Hammer hit. The plot centers around discovering a large Japanese corporation has digitally edited video footage by placing a photo image over a 3D model. Nowadays, any 3D software can do texture mapping, and there are a plethora of free image editing tools available to the public. However, the in-universe realism of the end result is utterly ridiculous - even today, it's usually fairly easy to tell just by looking that digital editing has been done to a video, especially when being scrutinized as much as evidence in a murder would be.
A major character drives around in an SUV. The other POV characters are unfamiliar with the concept of an SUV and describe it as if the reader has never seen one before, occasionally calling it a "Jeepy-type vehicle." The book was published in 1992, a few years before SUVs exploded in popularity.
The group stops off to buy supplies at the Grant Boys, a landmark gun and outdoor supply store in Costa Mesa, California. It closed down in 2016, though the building is still there.
The early Stephanie Plum books were written in, and take place in, The '90s, and almost feel like throwbacks to The '80s. The title character doesn't get a cellphone until book 3 or so.
Good Omens was published in 1990 and shows its age occasionally. Crowley is considered hyper-modern by angelic and demonic standards, which is exemplified by the fact that he "drives a car with a telephone in it." In a mixed example, Crowley considers the Velvet Underground to be modern music, though they had already been broken up for over a decade by the time the book published. Interestingly, Crowley considers it a coup to disrupt the mobile phone network in the original book, which would have been a much smaller accomplishment than in modern times.
The Face on the Milk Carton falls into this for several reasons. The first being the premise, which is that Janie sees her face listed as missing on a milk carton. Much of the rest of the book is her trying to find the truth, which would've taken mere hours if she could just Google herself. Additionally, it's unlikely nowadays that a missing white girl wouldn't have been a media sensation.
Speak was published in 1999 and there are a few things that give the era away. There is no mention of social media or cyberbullying, and during the chapter when Melinda is sick and watches TV while staying home, she mentions Oprah, Sally Jesse Raphael and Jerry Springer's talk shows.
The Arsenio Hall Show is certainly a product of the first half of The '90s, from the guests to the politics to the music to Arsenio's hair and fashion sense. The Rosie O'Donnell Show similarly reflects the second half of the decade.
Britcom As Time Goes By focused a lot on the generational gap, so this was bound to happen. Scenes set in Jean's secretarial agency now are notable for the lack of computers on the desks, and partway through the show's run the agency's numbers take a hit in the switch to computers over "girls with notebooks" (although they're never in serious danger of closing). The changes of the younger generation are generally represented by Alastair, who is marked as being wacky and trendy by things like his use of a cellphone and enjoyment of sushi.
Barney & Friends, despite being a product of the 90s, rarely suffered from this trope. However, it can be said that anti-Barney humor became more and more dated as the show began to fall into obscurity.
The early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer don't so much scream "1990s" as they beat you with a sledgehammer labeled "1990s." The effect gradually fades as the seasons progress, though. The same is also true of Spin-OffAngel, on an accelerated scale.
"If the apocalypse comes, beep me."
Blue's Clues has a song about the planets that mentions Pluto, which was still seen as a full-fledged planet instead of a "dwarf planet" in the '90s.
Bugs, as a techno-espionage series from 1995-1999, can't avoid dating itself with the technological references, such as a desktop boasting a whopping 100GB of hard drive space and other specifications that were an order of magnitude better than its time's, but now below average.
Clarissa Explains It All is this for the early '90s, particularly in the fashions, but also the fact that nobody has a cell phone or has ever even heard of one.
A Different World, although it started in the late '80s, seems dated to the 90s now. The show had a large amount of Very Special Episodes about then-current issues such as the HIV epidemic and the Rodney King verdict.
Dinosaurs is very much a product of the '90s, from the Jim Henson Company's work on bringing the characters to life, to its veiled references to the social issues of the day (the first Gulf War, drugs, environmentalism, etc.). It basically was to the 90s what The Flintstones was to the 60s.
The very first scene of the very first episode of Farscape firmly places it in the late 90s, as it features the hero John flying a solo shuttle test for a NASA expy... back when the American space shuttle program was still running. Although the show after that point is mostly set in an alien sci fi world, John's Pop-Cultured Badass tendencies provide reminders of the show's turn-of-the-2000s time period. References are made to Bill Clinton, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, O.J. Simpson, Baywatch, and 90s tech like cassettes and videos.
Father Ted. In addition to technology (like a party line in "A Christmassy Ted"), Irelands string of wins in the Eurovision Song Contest and references to at-the-time current Catholic Church scandals, it'd be basically impossible to make a sitcom about corrupt and dysfunctional priests which portrayed them mostly as harmless grotesques rather than outright sinister after the news of the Church covering up decades' worth of child abuse broke in the '00s. Creator Graham Linehan has gone on record as saying that the series' innocence is disturbing from a modern perspective.
Fist of Fun has a few points that date it to the 1990s; the Simon Quinlank Hobbies sketch where his hobby is to destroy all computers so that "nerds" will have to stop surfing the internet and go back to real hobbies. And the spoof Events Listings (full of nonsense events on in the next week) at the end spoofed real end credit listings designed to be paused on a VHS tape.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, especially the early seasons, which had frequent references to early-1990s politics-related things such as Desert Storm and Dan Quayle, and celebrity scandals such as Zsa Zsa Gabor's slapping of a police officer and evangelist Jimmy Swaggart's arrest for solicitation.
Special note must go to Will Smith's wardrobe, especially in the earlier seasons. It was considered eccentric even for the time, but in an unquestionably 90s way, what with the flamboyant (often neon) color schemes and being generally two sizes too big.
Captured the burgeoning coffee shop scene of that era as well as gentrification of New York's brownstones under Giuliani.
Many, many shots of the World Trade Center towers in the establishing montages. These were all removed after 9/11.
In several episodes characters go all the way to the departure gates to watch someone's flight take off or greet them on arriving. By the series finale, which aired in 2004, security is much tighter as Ross and Phoebe have to buy tickets in order to catch up to Rachel who's already at the gate.
Season 1, especially, has some very dated haircuts and fashions. Just witness Chandler's neon flannel shirt in "TOW The Dozen Lasagnas" or Joey's post-grunge haircut in "The Pilot."
In Season 2's "TOW Five Steaks And An Eggplant", the gang loses their minds with excitement over a Hootie & the Blowfish concert. Hootie was probably the biggest band in the country when the episode aired; their debut album Cracked Rear View, released one year prior, had sold more than ten million copies in the US by then (it would go on to sell sixteen million). It's easy to see why the writers assumed they would have more staying power than they did.
Frontline is a satire of nineties current affairs shows in Australia. As well as the range of nineties shows, TV stars and events the show mentions or replicates (including Ripped from the Headlines versions of the Cangai Siege and the Paxtons "dole bludgers" stories), the nature of the Show Within a Show wouldn't have worked in later decades, since all respect for the shows they were satirising (Today Tonight and A Current Affair) had evaporated by the 2000s, and the politics and bigotry expressed in the show is tame compared to the unapologetically right-wing content on Sky News.
Full House: As mentioned under The '80s, it bridged that decade and The '90s and is a great example of just how long it took for Eighties style to die out (It took until 1995-96, although nobody wanted to associate with 80s culture in 1989). One great example is the 1993 episode "The House Meet the Mouse" where the Tanner family visits Disney World. The most current movie at the time was Aladdin in 1992, and later attractions such as Animal Kingdom (opened in 1998, five years later since the episode premiered) are not mentioned. Later in the episode, Danny and Vicky are in a restaurant where the former is about the propose the latter, until they got a call from the restaurant's owner that Michelle is missing. While losing a child is still a great concern, but with cell phones being more affordable nowadays and even some kids around Michelle's age carry them, the problem could be resolved quicker by simply calling her.
The Channel 4 sitcom/miniseries The Gravy Train was first broadcast in the summer of 1990. It features a West German Beleaguered Bureaucrat at the European Economic Community, with a British superior, who has to wriggle out of some shady trade deals with communist Bulgaria before Margaret Thatcher finds out. Need more be said?
This Hour Has 22 Minutes, by virtue of being a topical political satire show, gets this in spades. The series started when Kim Campbell became Canada's first female Prime Minister in 1993, and was heavily prevalent on minor scandals and political drama that can seem incomprehensible to modern audiences. So much so, in fact, that it hasn't received any DVD releases after season 2 due to low sales.
The original British version of House of Cards, whilst an excellent political drama, is firmly fixed to the early 1990s in its outlook. The original House of Cards four-parter is based around the idea of replacing Margaret Thatcher (who resigned around the time the series was broadcast) and is full of the preoccupations (not to mention fashions) of the late '80s/early '90s, including shoulder pads, sleazy tabloid journalism and cocaine. It's also dated by the assumption that a man as old as Francis Urquart was likely to become Prime Minister since it was still an era when PMs were expected to be well over fifty (John Major, in his late '40s when he became PM, attracted comments about how "young" he was to hold such an office, though his grey hair made him look like he was over 50, though the next PM Tony Blair was 44 when he took office in 1997). The second series, To Play the King, broadcast in 1993, is also something of a period piece thanks to the music (2 Unlimited) and politics (one character is a gay royal aide who's terrified of coming out, presumably because it would end his career; mass homelessness is portrayed as a new and shocking thing). The news about the PM's brother being involved in an insider trading scandal (which Francis frames them for) is treated as an enormous scandal that forces the PM to resign. By the standards of the late 2010s and early 2020s, where British politicians became notorious for quite blatant corruption often involving family members or Party donors, this scandal seems fairly minor.
The 1997 Made-for-TV MovieDetention: The Siege at Johnson High (also known as Hostage High and Target for Rage in home video releases), in addition to being Based on a True Story, is a noticeably pre-Columbine portrayal of a school shooting, and not just in its very grunge-era fashion sense and soundtrack. In particular, it's a film where the school shooter starts taking hostages, some of whom develop a rapport with him while others joke about their predicament, with the hostage negotiator being one of the protagonists. While this is Truth in Television for the real shooting the film was based on, later school shooters, starting with the Columbine killers, would be notorious for not taking hostages and instead opting to Kill 'Em All, with no chance at negotiation. Many real police procedures for dealing with mass shooters, in fact, had to be heavily rewritten after the Columbine massacre, where the police set up a perimeter around the school but didn't go in until it was already over, because they thought they were dealing with a hostage situation where they could negotiate with the killers. As such, the flow of how the shooting progresses can come across as very unusual for somebody raised in the modern environment of mass shootings.
The 1990 BBC special Hyperland was actually perhaps a few years ahead of its time, as it was all about the possibilities of hypertext and easy computer access to information databases, two founding concepts of what would come to be known as the internet. This is putting aside the fact that the co-presenters were Doctor Who alumni Douglas Adams and Tom Baker, who are now nowhere even close to how well-known they were in the late '80s and very early '90s.
In Living Color! is this, since it's a topical sketch comedy show with a particular focus on African-American celebrities and topics. All the skits in the 1992-93 season premiere deal with the previous summer's riots in Los Angeles in the wake of the Rodney King verdict, for instance.
Then-recent pop cultural references sneak into Kids Say the Darndest Things, planting the series in the mid-to-late '90s. The most egregious example is when Bill Cosby spends several minutes interrogating a child about the lyrics "Despite all my rage / I am still just a rat in a cage", which the kid had just sung to him. Not to mention the idea that a parent would be comfortable with their kid being near Bill Cosby without supervision is almost ghoulish nowadays.
While Mr. Bean has mostly held up quite well over the decades, "Goodnight Mr. Bean" features the title character using a handgun to shoot out the light in his bedroom instead of simply flicking the light switch. The show ended just months before the Dunblane Massacre, which resulted in the UK's already strict gun laws becoming even more rigid, outlawing private ownership of most handguns like that depicted in the episode.
Mr. Show: Many sketches parody "slacker" culture of the 1990s. One sketch includes people trading bizarre VHS cassette tapes, a precursor to viral internet videos. One of the show's iconic sketches and characters, Ronnie Dobbs, parodies COPS, which was much more relevant 20+ years ago.
Murphy Brown, particularly for the early '90s. It's also a good example of how long the 1980s took to fade out, something that is particularly apparent when looking at the fashionable female presenters. Murphy Brown might go the extra mile of being an intentional period piece, as the newsroom setting almost guaranteed that a large chunk of the show's material would be ruthlessly topical about politics and entertainment. This has been to the show's detriment; with a large chunk of the show's material falling flat without context, the show has struggled to gain a foothold in syndication or in DVD sales (the first season's sales were so low, the remainder are unlikely to ever see the light of day). Notably, ever since Dan Quayle became little more than a political footnote, the show's infamous tirade against him is completely deflated. It also suffered by being aimed primarily at children of the '60s and '70s; not only is the series drenched in protest-era Baby Boomer nostalgia, the token senior anchor is treated as an old fuddy-duddy, and the sole Generation Xer in the cast is a complete moron.
My So-Called Life is a time capsule for teen angst in the '90s, particularly for the way it handles issues like gay acceptance and bullying.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 has jokes that reference events and pop culture of the 1990s. This includes references to Zsa Zsa Gabor's arrest, the Rodney King beating, and Gallagher. Many of its references were intentionally obscure and dated when they were made and have become even more obscure 20+ years later.
The Nanny, the clothes and fashion are obvious enough, but they also made a lot of topical references to scandals such as the John Wayne Bobbitt story, the OJ Simpson trial, and the Menendez brothers that made it clear the show started in 1993.
The Noddy Shop episode "The Human Touch" is not only about how computers were new technology, but spoofs PC games where toy accessories could interact with them in the form of the toy robot Disrupto.
Pop Up Video, pre-revival, smacks of mid-to-late '90s special effects and commentary. Not only that, but several of the blurbs and trivia were rendered out of date by 2000.
Saved by the Bell is a terrific example of how 1980s pop culture "hung over" into the early-to-mid '90s. Zack's "brick" cellphone is a prime example In the early '90s, the idea of a high-school kid with his own cellphone bordered on ridiculous, and the joke was that he was such a hustler that he could invest in an executive-level business tool. Now it's the size of the thing that's funny.
Seinfeld. An unfortunate byproduct of its desire to mine humor from the small details of regular life is that it marks itself rather unavoidably as being of its time:
"The Bubble Boy" has Jerry and Elaine getting lost when the car they are following to their destination goes through a light turning red that they have to stop at. Modern viewers can be excused for having no idea why this would be a problem at all; GPS would solve this problem, as would cell phones. Jerry and crew having neither immediately marks the show as mid-90s.
The finale featured a bit where Elaine is reprimanded by Jerry for calling someone to ask about their health on a cell phone (rather than calling on their home phone). With the ubiquity of cell phones in the new millennium—to the point where more and more people don't even have a home phone and only have a landline at all for Internet access—it seems almost laughably outdated to suggest that calling someone on a cell phone rather than a home phone would be seen as rude.
In general, the widespread use of cellphone technology a few decades after many of these episodes were aired would have made the plots of a few episodes easily resolvable. For instance, the episode "The Boyfriend, Part 1" has part of its plot revolve around George attempting to scam the unemployment office by giving them Jerry's phone number and claiming that to be his new employer. Jerry goes along with it, but the scheme gets derailed when Kramer answers the phone in complete ignorance of the scam while Jerry is out. If this were done on a show set when cell phones were nearly ubiquitous, it'd be easy to question why George wouldn't have given the unemployment office Jerry's cell phone number instead. In addition, this particular plot might have just fallen apart from the start in the age of widespread use of internet search engines, if a savvy unemployment office employee bothered to look up George's fake company and find that "Vandelay Industries" doesn't exist.
"The Puerto Rican Day Parade" heavily features a guy with a laser pointer as a plot point. Laser pointers are treated as a novelty object, and a plotline hinges on a movie theater patron trolling the audience by pointing one at the screen, which was a brief fad in the 90s.
Any episodes involving airports due to the fact that the characters are always shown as waiting right outside arrival gates. As well as the fact that it, like any other show set in New York City, is bound to feature a shot of the Twin Towers.
When Elaine starts dating a man who shaves his head, Jerry reacts to his appearance and later quips to Elaine, "Is he from the future?" Fittingly, shaved heads would become much more mainstream after a few years.
Elaine's subplot in "The Contest" has John F. Kennedy Jr. joining her aerobics class, a few years before the plane crash that killed him and his wife. It's especially uncomfortable when she dreamily says, "Elaine Benes Kennedy Jr."
Spaced perfectly captured the lives of the PlayStation generation of kidults and late Nineties "Swingin' Britain".
Step by Step. This one ran from 1991 till 1998, so it gives you examples of the fashions, music, and other trends from across pretty much the whole decade.
The Street, a short-lived drama about the lives of high-powered Wall Street executives, had this in spades:
The decentralization of Wall Street is played up as something that's incredibly bizarre to the main character, as he expresses confusion when two brokers point out how they can trade stocks from the comfort of their luxury boat.
Technology Marches On is in frequent effect. Characters are seen hyping the latest technology. The firm's chief broker pulls out a Palm Pilot and taps away at it while an employee looks at the device admiringly in the pilot, while the design of the office and tickers heavily evoke 90s-era tech. Meanwhile, a VHS tape (in a large clamshell case, no less) is used as the impetus for Mitchell to break up with his girlfriend in another episode.
Mitchell in one episode identifies an exotic dancer because he "saw (her) at XenaCon a few months back". There are also references to popular films of the era like Gattaca.
Similar effects happened in a rival show, TNT's Bull (no relation to the CBS drama): One family is looking for capital for their kids' business, a search engine that's "more powerful than Ask.com, Lycos, or Yahoo." No mention of Google (which was in its fledgling stages at the time), and also set just as the dot-com bubble burst.
VR Troopers: Its premise is 'virtual reality can create anything,' but even beyond that, at one point the characters bemoan the fact that they cannot contact one another at any time, being dependent on pay phones and landlines, resulting in a specific piece of tech being created for them, the VR-VTs. The complete lack of cell phones place the show blatantly in the early nineties.
Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?, which was at the height of its popularity in the early '90s, would definitely suffer from this if it were aired in reruns; that being the era of The Great Politics Mess-Up, Lynne Thigpen (The Chief) had to include a message at the end of each episode stating "All geographic information was accurate as of the date this program was recorded," with the record date displayed quite prominently on-screen (a rare thing). But the theme song itself prominently mentions "Czechoslovakia", which would cease to be a country in 1993 and force the writers to quickly change the show's lyrics. Worst of all, though, was the '80s Hair on quite a few of the contestants; even dressing everyone in pseudo-1940s detective wear couldn't keep all that hair from spilling out behind the fedoras. The poor producers were hit so hard with this, it might help to explain why the follow-up show, Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego, switched its focus from Geography to History, a topic that is usually a little more stable.
The series frequently showcased new technology; cell phones, computers, e-mail, the internet, and various other items are seen in every episode of the original nine-season run. Unfortunately, Season 1 was in 1993. They were very good about updating their technology — Season 8 episodes (2001) see flat-screen Apple computers — but just the sheer size and appearance of the technology in the early and mid seasons is enough to date it horribly. The show often portrayed new technologies as a source of mystery, awe, and potential horror, which can cause unintentional laughter in people who've grown up with those technologies and are all too aware of their limitations.
There is also the values of the show. It was made in a post-Cold War environment where the big buzzword was the "new world order", Bush Senior's term to describe the new, American-dominated state of global affairs where market capitalism and liberal internationalism reigned supreme — and coincidentally, also a term used by conspiracy theorists to describe the Evil Plan of the conspiracy. The militia movement and their pet conspiracy theories were at their peak during this era, especially after President Bill Clinton was caught with his pants down. It's been argued that the real death blows for the show (beyond Seasonal Rot) were the 9/11 attacks and The War on Terror removing that environment from the mainstream, consigning it to the radical fringes of society and making it somewhat disrespectful to openly support it for the next decade or so. It's not a coincidence that the show's 2016 revival came just as conspiracy theory culture had returned to prominence.
While Bear in the Big Blue House mostly doesn't fall under this trope, the educational subject of the episode "Let's Get Interactive!" was how to use a computer, being that the episode premiered when computers were new technology and kids would usually have trouble understanding how to work one, as opposed to kids today, who have no trouble using computers or electronic devices of any kind because of how technology has advanced over the past two decades.
"Skypager" by A Tribe Called Quest qualifies for anyone who came of age in the late '90s/early 2000s, when cell phones displaced pagers.
The music video for "All the Small Things" is a parody of popular teen pop and Boy Band music videos from 1998 and 1999. Many of the visual jokes don't make sense for those unfamiliar with the specific videos being parodied.
The song "What's My Age Again?" has a line where the singer makes a Prank Call to his girlfriend's mother from a pay phone, claiming that her husband has been arrested because "the state looks down on sodomy". This dates the song not only to a time before the obsolescence of pay phones and the ubiquity of caller ID made prank calls impossible to get away with, but to a time before the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 declared anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional. (The Values Dissonance, at least, is tempered by the fact that the singer is portrayed as an immature jerkass, still thinking it's cool to make prank calls and sit on his ass watching TV all day despite the fact that he's a grown adult, which results in his girlfriend dumping him.)
"Meanwhile Back at the Ranch" by The Clark Family Experience, despite being released in 2000, mentions Y2K in the second verse.
The video for Hanson's "MMMbop" features glimpses of a '90s desktop PC and "whale" Chevy Caprice taxi as well as a payphone and clips of the guys rollerblading.
The Incubus song "A Certain Shade Of Green" has a chorus which now appears like one of these, thanks mostly to the line, "Are you gonna stand around 'til 2012 AD?"
John Hiatt's "Shredding the Document" (from the album Walk On released in 1995) has the line "The twentieth century's closing," as well as references to Larry King and Oprah Winfrey ('90s talk show hosts).
Kid Rock's "Cowboy" has him rap about using a Map to the Stars to find the home of Heidi Fleiss, the "Hollywood Madam" who gained notoriety in the mid-'90s after her high-class prostitution ring was busted and turned out to have a large number of wealthy and famous clients, from Hollywood A-listers (Charlie Sheen confessed to being a frequent visitor) to politicians.
Megadeth's "Foreclosure of a Dream" and Ministry's "N.W.O." both sample speeches from then-current president George H.W. Bush.
Michael Jackson's video for "Black or White", made in 1991, was initially notorious for its crotch-grabbing coda, but nowadays is almost as notorious for all the then-awesome, now-lame (or mundane) elements that were its big selling points:
Macaulay Culkin as a kid rocking out to a guest guitar solo by Slash, and George Wendt as his disapproving dad.
Culkin lip-syncing to the song's rap bridge while multi-racial kids in pastel "street" gear dance around him and Jackson on a brownstone stoop.
Big and small sequences built around CGI morphing effects just months after Terminator 2: Judgment Day introduced them to the masses.
Bruce Springsteen's "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)" was a jab at the then-emerging medium of cable television, which he playfully dismissed. Back in 1992, one could be forgiven for viewing cable as a wasteland of old movies, reruns of old shows, and other assorted filler with only a few stations worth a damn. Nowadays, with cable TV productions winning acclaim and competing toe-to-toe with the broadcast networks, it's not so easy. (To say nothing of the actual figure of 57 channels, which was a lot then but is now considered a bare-bones cable package.) Even the Boss himself now views the song as quaint.
Travis Tritt's 1991 single "Here's a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)" dates itself from its very title. By the end of the decade, payphones were often 35 cents, and some got as high as 50 cents before cell phones became omnipresent enough to mostly kill them off.
The Wilkinsons' 1998 hit "26 Cents", in which the title refers to "a penny for your thoughts, a quarter for the call, and all of your mama's love", which falls victim to the inflation in price, and subsequent obsolescence, of payphones.
Reba McEntire's "Why Haven't I Heard From You" is another one that suffers from the evolution of the telephone: It lists all the then-current technology about her phones... all pay phones or land lines, of course.
"It's All About the Pentiums" was made to be humorous in the first place, but unsurprisingly has become a period piece of 1990s computing. Technology Marches On, and the things the singer brags about are now quaint memories: Pentiumsnote Pentium processors are still used as a middle-range processor, just hardly worth bragging about, T1 lines, Y2K, floppy diskettes, modems, Sarah Michelle Gellar being a Teen Idol and geek heartthrob, a "32-bit-world", and mentioning a newsgroup called "alt.total-loser". On the bright side, even twenty years later having 100 GB of memory and a 40-inch monitor are still very impressive, and the technology-based insults manage to hit even harder than before simply because the stuff referenced is even more outdated now than it was in 1999.
"I Can't Watch This" from the 1992 album "Off the Deep End" references topical shows that went on past 1992, except Twin Peaks, which ended in 1991.
A strange example of this happens in the song "Virus Alert", released in 2006. The song says that one of the bad things the virus will do will be investing cash into EuroDisney. Not only did the bad press for the park wear off by that time, it wasn't even using that name anymore, as its name changed to Disneyland Paris in 1994.
Bloodhound Gang's 1999 single "The Bad Touch": The hook "You and me baby ain't nothin' but mammals, so let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel" is grounded in a time when Discovery Channel was known for science shows (including, but not limited to, nature documentaries) rather thandocu dramas. There's also references to Siskel & Ebert, Home Improvement, and The X-Files that all place it firmly in the 90s. The Siskel And Ebert reference was already dated by the time the song was released as a single - Gene Siskel had died a few months earlier, though the show continued under different names without him. On the other hand, the X-Files reference sort of became relevant again with the 2016 revival miniseries note arguably, it still works even without the show being on air - if you and your partner were watching reruns or streaming old episodes via your TV, you could still "do it doggie style" in order to both face the screen.
New Radicals album "Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too" was one when released. Though successful in 1999, it was recorded between 1995 and 1998 and released late in 1998. It has several examples:
In 'Jehovah Made This Whole Joint For You' he describes a girl in her early 20s, who dresses in 90s goth fashion (black lipstick) and listens to obscure bands (which she is annoyed other non-conformists listen to), whilst insisting about the ozone layer despite knowing nothing about it, and who tried to jump over the Berlin Wall as a baby. This combination of events could only have happened in the 90s, before the internet became widespread.
The poem printed in the booklet 'Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too' is basically a stream of consciousness rambling of Gregg's frustration at many political events in the 90s. Notably, these are not the lyrics for the actual song itself, which consists of frequently unintelligible, slurred ramblings.
In 'Flowers' he says 'It's '97, why aren't things wild'.
Ice Cube's song "It Was A Good Day" includes details that put its exact date as Jan 22, 1992. The rapper replied "Nice try" when asked, so it's possible he didn't even mean a specific date.
"The Most Unwanted Song" dates itself to its 1997 release by using the phrase "The Information Superhighway", a term for the Internet that was used in the early days of the Internet's mainstream popularity (and had fallen out of favor around the turn of the decade). Additionally, its sister song, "The Most Wanted Song", is very clearly based on late-90s music trends (given that this was the point) and sounds uncannily like Celine Dion.
Randy Travis's 1991 hit "Point of Light" was written as a tie-in to George H. W. Bush's "Thousand points of light" campaign to support volunteerism. Its praise of volunteers as "Reaching out to feed the hungry/Reaching out to save the land/Reaching out to help their fellow man" smacks of early 90s zeitgeist.
The Cranberries released the album To The Faithful Departed in 1996. It features the anti-paparazzi song "Free To Decide" which is firmly pegged to the approximate year by these lines:
You must have nothing more with your time to do. There's a war in Russia and Sarajevo too.
Although the real dating comes from the fact that it doesn't mention their role in the death of Princess Di.
"Alright Guy" by Todd Snider, released in 1994, has several '90s references. Among them are "that new book with pictures of Madonna naked" (referencing her 1992 book Sex), "It ain't like I'm going on TV and tearing pictures of the Pope" (referring to Sinéad O'Connor's 1992 appearance on Saturday Night Live, where she tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II), and a reference to "Stupid Human Tricks" (a then-recurring segment on The Late Show with David Letterman, which began in 1993). Notably, when Gary Allan covered the song in 2001, he changed the former two lines to make them sound less dated (although the "Pope" line could be seen as a form of bowdlerisation, as he also changed the line before it to skirt a marijuana reference).
Alabama's Green Aesop song from 1990, "Pass It On Down", reeks of early '90s environmentalism: "So let's leave some blue up above us / Let's leave some green on the ground / It's only ours to borrow, let's save some for tomorrow / Leave it and pass it on down".
"How to Rob" by 50 Cent takes shot after shot at various rappers and singers who were big names in 1999. Almost twenty years later, it's a given that listeners might not get all the references right away.
"I Watched It All (On My Radio)", a 1990 song by Lionel Cartwright, shows nostalgia for many tropes of AM and early FM radio that were popular during the narrator's childhood (presumably the 1960s and 1970s) but were already beginning to fade in popularity. This includes airplay of acts that were already considered legacy artists by 1990 (e.g. The Beatles), broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry, and late night sign-offs featuring a sermonette and the national anthem. Those who grew up on 24-hour FM radio conglomerates like iHeartRadio or satellite services like SiriusXM may not be familiar with a lot of the song's content.
The Destiny's Child song "Bug A Boo" is painfully late '90s. Take its lyrics, "You make me wanna throw my pager out the window / Tell MCI to cut the phone calls / Have AOL make my email stop" - pagers died out a few years later when cell phones became ubiquitous, MCI was acquired by Verizon and ceased using the name, and AOL became a niche ISP after broadband caught on. It's also telling the song makes no mention of texting, which had just started to catch on.
In "Wanna Be a Baller" by Lil' Troy, Yungstar says that he switched from a Motorola beeper to a PrimeCo phone. PrimeCo was sold to Sprint in 1999, the same year the song was released.
Fat Les Vindaloo was released in 1998 to tie in with The World Cup, which was held in France that year. The song features the line, Me and me mum and me dad and me gran, were off to Waterloo, no doubt to catch a Eurostar train to Paris. In 2007, Eurostars London terminal station would be moved to St Pancras.
Tupac Shakurs Changes features the line, We aint ready, to see a black President. We were in 2008.
The 1995 No Fear is one giant Extreme Sport Excuse Plot with the cabinet painted in flames to make everything that much more extreme. The brand itself had its heyday exactly in this decade.
This Windows 95 video guide, from start to finish. The fashion (still reeling from the late 80s, plastic glasses and flannel shirts included), the '90s sitcom humor, the gamer caricature "Joystick Johnny" (who's used to hype 3D Pinball: Space Cadet, one of Windows 95's pack-in games), the Wayne & Garth ripoffs, the idea of CDs as advanced technology ("it's digital!"), the fact that it features Friends stars Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry... When The Atlanticdiscovered it, they called it "the most '90s thing that could ever exist".
In a similar vein, this concept video by Microsoft, while managing to predict such things as social media and the popularity of cell phones amongst youths, still manages to be dated, thanks to the somewhat blobby tech and UI design as well as references to a Fatboy Slim concert and Scream15.
The last event in the Chrononauts timeline is the Columbine Massacre, rather than the September 11, 2001 attacks or anything later (although there was an expansion in 2009, which ends with the 2008 presidential election), and it treats the Oklahoma City bombing as a major event, even though it fell out of public consciousness as the War on Terror began.
A Day in the Park with Barney at Universal Studios Florida harkens back to a time when Barney & Friends was one of the biggest merchandising successes and was loved by kids yet loathed by most teens & adults, yet the attraction is still there despite Barney having fallen into obscurity over the years.
The 1991 LaserDiscChoices and Decisions: Taking Charge of Your Life is full of reminders that it was made in the '90s. So many of the backgrounds and clothes have bright colors and abstract designs. Right from the start, the two people on screen mention that they star in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Growing Pains. Later, we see someone working at a photo development place, which aren't as popular since digital cameras (and later smartphones) take pictures digitally. When a bunch of flags show up to represent world travel, the flags of the USSR and Zaire appear; the former dissolved in 1991 and the latters flag was replaced after the government was overthrown in 1997. Later, the Parody Commercials include a CD subscription club (which have since been discredited as scams) and "the cellular utility belt" (which includes many things smartphones replaced, including a small Sony Watchman portable TV).
Old Harry's Game. Probably 95% or more of Andy Hamilton's Hell-set sitcom is a mixture of character comedy, philosophy, history and pure fantasy, all of which are essentially timeless, but it's the other 5% which is liable to leave audiences scratching their heads today. Even those who lived in Britain during the 1990s/2000s may find themselves struggling to recall what the once-topical gags referred to. Fortunately the rest of the show still stands up without having to get all the references.
The centerpiece of Jeff Foxworthy's 1995 album Games Rednecks Play is a skit about the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996. This includes several applications of Foxworthy's usual redneck tropes to Olympic games, such as "The river they're doing the kayaking on is the same river they filmed Deliverance at."
The musical RENT debuted in 1996. Its premise of disaffected Gen-X'ers facing AIDS, the onset of the Internet, and choosing between conventional careers or pursuing their art place it firmly in the '90s. Cyber cafes were obsolete by end of the 2000s as personal computers and home internet became more affordable, HIV treatments have improved to the point that few HIV-positive people in the developed world even progress to the point of AIDS, and the modern-day economy makes it laughable to see so many able-bodied adults refuse steady work so they can be artists. For these reasons, when The Movie came out in 2005, it was made an actual period piece, explicitly set in 1989/1990. However, it still bombed in the box office, owing perhaps to its dated attitudes that didn't connect with audiences outside the musical's cult following.
Eric Bogosian's subUrbia, so much is that Bogosian wrote a new version of the play set during the War on Terror and the Iraq War.
The Call of Cthulhu scenario book The Stars Are Right has this on the scenario Fractal Gods, it is set in the 90s and it shows. The titular "Fractal Gods" is a fanzine that sends CDs with fractal-based screensavers, one of which is infected by a virus coded by a Yog-Sothoth cultist. A free PDF later tried to "update" the scenarios from The Stars Are Right and the CDs and screensavers become a Youtube channel, however, somehow a Youtube video can inject a virus into a computer.
Unknown Armies was originally released in 1998, and rather heavily reflects that. The most notable aspect is the Videomancer adept class, a class based entirely on watching television and tightly bound to the TV schedule. It's a concept that could only exist in a pre-Netflix world.
The old World of Darkness games drew heavily on the Nineties' anti-establishment mood and relative mainstreaming of goth culture — essentially, on the same zeitgeist that gave us The X-Files and The Craft. As a result, some parts of the setting date it to that period:
Though Sonic the Hedgehog started the trend, the games are not an example of this trope. It was the marketing and his characterization in adaptations that made him Totally Radical. Mohawk & Headphone Jack's mascot is a glaring example, being defined by his green mohawk and his portable CD player.
The Euro-pop soundtrack of Sonic R, however, falls straight into this territory.
Amy Rose's classic design outfit - a green puff sleeve shirt with an orange tutu - is firmly rooted in early 90s fashion, and was a likely reason for her redesign from Sonic Adventure onward.
Action 52 is this by having a game based on Operation Desert Storm, firmly setting it in 1991.
Beetle Adventure Racing was a charming little arcade-style racer from 1999 that, as its name suggests, was built entirely around the car then known as the Volkswagen New Beetle (it dropped the "New" upon a redesign in 2011), which earned a massive amount of hype in the late '90s for its retraux styling evoking VW's most famous vehicle. It's a game that could really only have been made around that point in time when the New Beetle was one of the hottest cars on the road.
Comix Zone, due to the comic book aesthetic, the protagonist's fashion sense, and the grunge soundtrack.
The Cruis'n series of arcade racing games by Eugene Jarvis date themselves to the Bill Clinton years by ending with the player, after completing the racing tournament, being invited to party with Clinton in a hot tub with bikini babes.
Dance Dance Revolution was initially released to promote Toshiba-EMI's Dancemania album series; hence why many early games have Dancemania songs and why the first few games have ads for Dancemania albums in their Attract Modes. Ever wanted to hear dance music that was popular in the 90s? Just find yourself a DDR cabinet running an old version of the game, or at least their respective PS1 and Dreamcast ports.
Fallout 2 takes place in a post-apocalyptic 23rd century, but features plenty of pop culture and political references that date it to the 1990s.
One sidequest in New Reno involves boxing an ear-biting boxer known as the Masticator, a parody of Mike Tyson. The prostitute NPCs also randomly reference The Spice Girls.
Vice President Daniel Bird is basically Dan Quayle, right down to the nonsensical quotes.
The Hubologists are a jab at Scientology. While this in and of itself wouldn't be enough to date it (many works past and present have made fun of Scientology), two prominent Hubologists, Juan Cruz and Vikki Goldman, are parodies of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, who were a couple at the time and both outspoken about their faith (Nicole has long since left both Tom and Scientology).
While Fighter's History may appear to be timeless at first glance, both Ryoko and Jean's endings reference the Atlanta Olympic Games, dating the game to 1996 at the latest.
Final Fantasy VII was made at the exact point in video game history where 3D became expected, but before it was considered acceptable to have realistically proportioned characters on the field in an RPG. The FMV cutscenes were gorgeous at the time but now look clunky and unreal enough that it's not uncommon to see them incorporated into the '90s-parodying vaporwave aesthetic. On top of that, while by no means as painful as many examples due to riffing off stuff that remained interesting after falling out of fashion, the game oozes a mid-'90s cool aesthetic with its cyberpunk elements, fetishised motorbikes, spiky blond hair, and the '90s anime style of the characters' faces. The dialogue of certain characters is also peppered with 'cool' '90s slang, with Barret (Jive Turkey), Yuffie ("GROSS-NESS!") and Cloud being the worst offenders. Thematically, Cloud's particular flavour of apathetic coolness hiding nerdy insecurity and broken corporate aspirations screams Generation X. It's hard to imagine a Millennial Cloud being so abrasively disaffected, or doing so much snowboarding, or viewing the fact that everyone in the city is crammed into awful slum housing as a new development.
Cloud: I'm not hard-up enough to take money from guys like you. But I'll rap with you for a while.
Hacx dates from the time in the '90s when hackers were a new and exotic concept, romanticizing its protagonist as an outlaw of the digital frontier, complete with a muscular physique that he built up while in prison. It also features out-of-place CG, CRT monitors with every computer, and cyberspace levels that evoke GeoCities websites in their graphic design.
The computer game Madeline European Adventures has Madeline traveling across Europe while exchanging currencies. Three years after the game was released, the French franc and the Italian lira were replaced by the Euro.
The clothing styles (especially for the heroes) and technology levels in Pokémon Red and Blue and Pokémon Gold and Silver really date it in the late '90s, though the remakes look more modern. The latter narrowly avoided this even more by removing the skateboard element they were planning to have. In particular, Red and Blue occupy a unique place as these games take place before the general Earth Drift that the franchise experienced. These games take place in a version of Japan circa 1995-1996, complete with the kind of technology that would be available at the time, such as the Super Nintendo and the Columbia Space Shuttle (which was destroyed in 2003).
Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri may be a Science Fiction game about space colonization set in the 22nd century and beyond, but its rooting in hard science of a sort rarely found in such games, then or now, means that some of the concepts presented have since been subject to Science Marches On (for instance, the Human Genome Project wound up being completed in 2003, making its status as a Secret Project, even an early-game one, harder to swallow given that they're supposed to be starting out with a mid-21st century scientific base). Furthermore, all of the factions, at least in the base game, are exaggerated caricatures of Clinton-era American politics — the UN Peacekeeping Forces, Gaia's Stepdaughters, the Human Hive, and the University of Planet each represent a contemporary right-wing boogeyman (the bureaucraticUnited Nations, radical environmentalism, communism, and science run amok, respectively), while the Spartan Federation, the Lord's Believers, and Morgan Industries likewise each represent a bête noire of '90s liberals (gun-toting militia groups, Christian fundamentalism, and big business run amok, respectively), with the insults the leaders sling at each other in the diplomacy screens most indicative of this. Even in the expansion, Alien Crossfire, where the factions were more esoteric, the Data Angels have a very '90s Post-Cyberpunk feel to them, with their radically democratic/anarchist hacker society and fervent belief that Information Wants to Be Free.
SimHealth was a very in-depth, wonky simulation of health care reform made by Maxis (of SimCity fame) and the Markle Foundation that was designed to help people explore solutions to the debate over how to fix America's health care system. If you think the Affordable Care Act or its proposed alternatives will be discussed, you'd be wrong: it's about the debate that was being had in the early-mid '90s, when Hillary Rodham Clinton first made her name in the political arena with the reform proposal she formulated, which President Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans were furiously arguing over.
In The Simpsons: Virtual Springfield, the references extend to Season 8 of the show, and there are references to AOL, Barney & Friends, Bill Gates, The Bridges of Madison County, Courtney Love, Doogie Howser, M.D., Doom, and Wired, there is a game titled Dance Fever '97 and a book titled "How to Get Rich Writing CD-Rom Games", and there are VCRs, VHS tapes, televisions with dials, and corded push-button phones with dial sounds.
The first two SSX games (especially Tricky), despite technically being released at the Turn of the Millennium, are very '90s with their fashions and sense of style. Later games managed to avert this, since they toned down the craziness of the first two games in favor of a comparably minimalist sense of style.
In Street Fighter II, Zangief's nationality is the USSR, which dissolved nine months after the game was released. Later updates and ports continued to refer to the Soviet Union, cementing the game in 1991. It took until Street Fighter IV, released seventeen years later in 2008note Zangief does not appear in the Street Fighter III games, and the Alpha series chronologically takes place before II., for Zangief's nationality to be changed to the Russian Federation with the tricolor flag to match.
In Tekken 2, Paul's stage, New York City, features the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center as a very prominent scenery in the background. The game was released in 1995.
Working Designs routinely inserted pop culture references into its localizations, including references to real people. Some have aged better than others. Most infamous is probably the Sega CD version of Lunar: Eternal Blue, which included a reference to Bill Clinton being president... Even though the game doesn't even take place on Earth.
Through the entire Civilization series, the games compare the player's final score to real historical leaders, with the lowest score being Dan Quayle, the American Vice President from 1989 to 1993 who became unfortunately known for his poorly formulated and ridiculous remarks. The Take That! was apparent to American players when the first game was released in 1991, but as the time passed and the former Vice President faded in obscurity, him being the benchmark of the poorest player's performance only remained as a tribute to tradition.
Sabrina Online wears its 90s origins pretty proudly, with early strips making reference to another Sabrina and nods to then current Transformers lines, not to mention the title character's Amiga fanaticism and dated tech. An infamous later series of strips from 2010 involves Imageboards and a canine Trollface. On the other hand, Amiga computers do still have a dedicated fanbase of retro enthusiasts and demosceners and the Warner Bros.-esque style is of high-enough quality that it's barely a concern a decade on.
The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" parody "Internet Killed the Video Star," by "The Broadband," can't help but be dated, with the the animated video referencing 90s iBooks and AOL CDs.
The Filmmaker's Exam was posted in the late '90s as something aspiring filmmakers should take. The way the exam works is that it asks the filmmaker various questions about their planned movie, and the exam is failed if the filmmaker answers "yes" to any question. However, some of these questions have since been rendered obsolete by successful movies that bucked them. Other questions, meanwhile, are references to specific, notorious box office bombs from the '80s and '90s, as well as actors and filmmakers who were seen made fun of at the time.
The website for Janus Capital Group. Not only is the web page design primitive, but the site indulges in stereotypical '90s Totally Radical-tude, featuring lots of scenes of and references to "extreme" mountain biking — on the website for an investment firm. Even Jordan Belfort would've found it tacky.
JenniCAM. Remember when broadcasting your everyday life over a webcam was a novelty?
This website about bad web design across sites like Geocities and Angelfire at the time is very much a time capsule of mid-late 90s web design, with all the cliches: the looping MIDI music and GIFs, the overuse of the Times New Roman font, the frames around the webpage, and the badly contrasting colors. There's even a reference to Y2K! Suprisingly, the site is still updated, as it mentions HTML5 rather than the old '90s markup.
Arthur is better at this than other series, however early seasons look fairly late '90s, early 2000s with things like how Arthur's cousin Molly dresses in grunge, everyone has boxy computer monitors, and the fact it had a Backstreet Boys episode and the U.S President is based specifically on Bill Clinton.
The show also had an episode about the chicken pox that mentioned it being a normal illness; nowadays, it's not as common thanks to vaccines.
Another episode had the kids' parents becoming concerned about the violence in a Power Rangers-like TV show. This was an actual concern at the time, but by today's standards seems laughable.
The CGI of Beast Wars, despite still being expressive, fluid, and state-of-the-art for it's day, has not aged terribly well, thus dating it to the 90s. Nonetheless, it's CGI has been deemed more impressive than later entries in the Transformers franchise such as the Unicron Trilogy and the Prime Wars trilogy.
Birdz. Camera Fiend Eddie Storkowitz's constant use of film cameras instantly dates the show, as digital cameras began to take over in the 2000s. Also, in one episode, he has to explain to his friends what e-mail is while using a boxy, beige late-90s computer. Also, an episode has Punny Name takes on Will Smith and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In "Caillou Rides an Airplane", Caillou is given the chance to go into the cockpit to see how it works, which is something not allowed today after the September 11th, 2001 terror attacks.
Another episode had Caillou learning about how a computer works, and finding some things confusing about it, such as thinking the mouse is an animal, shows him not being able to draw well with the mouse and thinking he broke the computer when he actually shut it off. Nowadays children even younger than Caillou are capable of utilizing not only desktop computers, but also touchscreen devices.
The show also had a chicken pox episode made a year before the vaccine for the disease became commonplace.
Celebrity Deathmatch. From promoting Anna Kournikova and Elizabeth Hurley as the internet's top two pinups, to billing the long-separated Bruce Willis/Demi Moore and Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman as two of Hollywood's biggest power couples, to featuring a fight between Bill Clinton and Kenneth Starr to finally settle the Lewinsky scandal, it is impossible for Celebrity Deathmatch to escape the turn-of-the-New-Millennium time period in which it aired. The show's pop culture reference-based humor is extremely dated and many of the celebrities featured are now far past their fame. To millennials who don't have a decent understanding of late '90s pop culture, this show is a hard watch.
The Critic is a good encapsulation of the early-mid '90s.
Most of the bad movies that Jay Sherman reviews parody real movies that came out over 1991-94. Furthermore, its portrayal of film criticism is a parody of how it existed in The '90s when it was still dominated by newspaper and magazine writers (most famously Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, who had their own syndicated film review show until Siskel's death in 1999), before the internet revolutionized it and produced a slew of blogs and web shows devoted to film coverage.
New York City is portrayed as merely a dump, not The Big Rotten Apple like in Midnight Cowboy or Taxi Driver, with Manhattan actually shown to have some artistic merit. There's even an episode about Jay taking it upon himself to "clean up" New York (which Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was actually in the process of doing at the time), only for his efforts to come to naught when he is thrown a ticker-tape parade for his community service and the streets just get covered with trash again.
Bill Clinton jokes are made, but not Bill Clinton sex jokes, just Bill Clinton fat hillbilly jokes. There are other jokes about now-obscure figures like Dan Quayle, Malcolm Forbes, and Admiral James Stockdale. Jay uses a cordless phone, but no one uses a computer. And Margo dates a Grunge artist in one episode.
Daria is this for the late '90s and the very early 2000s, to the point of having a page on the fandom's wiki about it. Like many other 90s media about teens and early twentysomethings, a large part of the characterization of Daria and her friends is an obsession with being "alternative" rather than the shallow, conformist and boring mainstream. This could only exist in the 90s and the very early 00s, during a period of comparative peace and prosperity that left the youth in a state of aimless ennui with nothing to complain about (besides which, either Daria's parents or school would have a problem nowadays with her flattened emotional affect and pressure her to begin regular psychological counseling, aiming to diagnose her with some kind of personality disorder. While Jake and Helen could conceivably continue to be workaholics, they would also start being more attentive to Daria & Quinn, due to the decrease of latchkey kids and increase of parental involvement in childrens' lives). All this quickly fell out of fashion after the 9/11/2001 attacks, apart from the fact that by then, the line between "alternative" and "mainstream" had been erased for some time. The dated nature of the show is also very apparent in original runs of the show, where the incidental music is composed of popular songs from the era. The DVD release uses new, generic incidental music to avoid prohibitive licensing costs.
Doug, especially the original Nickelodeon version. Most of the clothing and technology are very '90s.
Duckman made numerous references to 90s pop culture and featured multiple contemporary celebrity appearances. It also featured early internet references and once referred to MSN as The Microsoft Network.
You can tell Extreme Ghostbusters was made in the 90s by looking at the title. In the 90s, anything marketed towards young people had to be "extreme".
Freakazoid! references the V-Chip, among other bits of '90s pop culture ephemera. Furthermore, its setup of its protagonist being a teenage nerd who got sucked into the internet and turned into its living embodiment, while highly prescient of the rise of online "lol random" meme culture, still marks it as a product of a time of great optimism towards the emergence of the new medium of the internet. Today, with trolling having taken on far more negative connotations than just online pranksters, the show's portrayal of such can seem naive.
Garfield and Friends, aside from being created in 1988 at the tail end of the massive popularity boom of Garfield merchandise, screams Nineties in its animation style and its content. Jon is looking to replace his record player, and any time he explains what a record is, people assume he means "compact discs". (Funnily enough, CDs are now the dying format and vinyl is experiencing a surge in popularity.) Also, a lot of the stuff that Garfield watches and/or gripes about on TV, like the abundance of Trash TV daytime talk shows (all but dead in the US), game shows (which have gone through several ups and downs in popularity) and "Late Night Creature Feature" showings of old B-Movies (which disappeared around the same time with the rise of FOX, The WB, and UPN, who snapped up a lot of the independent stations who used to air movies like that). There was also an segment that had Jon be a participant on a spoof of American Gladiators, which was extremely popular at the time.
The U.S. Acres segment also had these sometimes, like a scene in which Roy spoofs various 90s movies to impress his agent Bernie, an episode in which Orson teaches Booker and Sheldon how to use a computer when they were new, Roy mentioning Ren & Stimpy, which was popular at the time, during a phone call and Aloysius talking about animation cels being used to animate cartoons, when most modern cartoons are animated on computers.
Hey Arnold! shows cassette-tape systems and boomboxes whenever there's in-universe music. Famously, Helga's father runs Big Bob's Beeper Emporium, having built his successful business on technology that couldn't be more nineties. Additionally, one episode has Gerald telling Arnold that he'll call him later, saying that he'll ring twice note (ring, hang up after one ring, immediately re-call, a Truth in Television technique for phones without caller IDs) to let Arnold know it's Gerald calling. Caller IDs are standard for phones nowadays. The Jungle Moviemoves the time period to the 2010s, with smartphones and wifi being commonplace (and as such, the Patakis are now near-destitute).
The Henry and June Show took it even further. The entire pilot/TV special was filled to the brim with references to pop culture in the nineties, such as grunge music, Beanie Babies, Hanson, the Olsen Twins, and James Van Der Beek. Almost every joke revolved around nineties references, aging it rather badly.
While the Life With Loopy segments tended to be a bit more timeless (on the rare occasion that the shorts had pop culture references, they tended to be older references for the parents), the clothing and hair on some of the kid characters placed it right in the mid-90s, as well as pretty much all of the technology shown. One example would include Larry waving around a cassette tape while holding a boombox in the first minute of the first episode.
The Magic School Bus is very mid-1990s. The hair, clothing, stereotypical 90s diverse cast, and most of all the outdated facts stand out. There's also the fact the kids are missing technology prominent in 2000s and especially 2010s education.
My Little Pony Tales is clearly a reflection of early 1990s culture. The series featured "Jazzercise" in "Just For Kicks", a styled cassette player in "Stand By Me", rapping in "Shop Talk" and an obvious parody of MTV with PTV.
Half of the jokes in Ned's Newt revolve around the titular shapeshifter turning into nineties-era cultural references that, by the time of 2010s, probably go over the heads of most viewers (such as a joke about Cutthroat Island).
The first two seasons of ReBoot are this on a somewhat superficial level - they were very, very obviously animated in the mid-1990s.
Early episodes of Recess, though this was downplayed after the first season. A rare example from the third season (1999) has Gretchen mention posting information on a newsgroup. Nowadays, this would either be Facebook or Twitter, as newsgroups have much fewer users than in the '90s. There's also the issue of the premise itself — by the time the series began, many schools started to cut down or downright eliminate recess time for "efficiency" reasons, a process that was mostly complete by 2010 (although by the later half of that decade, there's been a growing movement of educators and families pushing for more recess time for students' health).
The Ren & Stimpy Show is pretty much a product of the first half of the 1990s, as demonstrated by its use of Vulgar Humor which would have been totally unacceptable for mainstream animation just a few years earlier. On the other hand, its numerous 1950s and early 60s pop culture influences reflect the "boomer nostalgia" of the 1980s, a fad that was already losing popularity during the show's heyday.
When the adults watch a movie on video, they say "that bald guy liked it, but the fat guy didn't".
Another episode in the first season had the children's fathers get together to watch a football game. Stu and Grandpa were quite noticeably wearing Houston Oilers shirts, who moved and changed their identity to the Tennessee Titans eight years after the episode aired.
The episode "Chicken Pops", where the kids all catch chickenpox and worry that they'll turn into chickens, aired during the last period of time when chickenpox was considered a "normal" childhood disease rather than a preventable one. The chickenpox vaccine (which was developed in 1984, and licensed for use in the United States in 1995) wasn't widely known or available in 1997, but it's now typically administered during infancy—as long as families can afford it.
Tiny Toon Adventures is laden with contemporary early 90s pop culture references, very much in keeping with the tradition set by Looney Tunes (a good example is Roseanne Barr singing the national anthem back in 1990 to the appearance of then-President George HW Bush). Whether Tiny Toons ' humor manages to still work as well without the context of the reference like Looney Tunes accomplished is a matter of debate. Other Warner Bros. cartoons of the period also made many pop culture references, such as Pinky and the Brain's penchant for lampooning political figures of the time or some Animaniacs episodes ("Baloney and Kids" was a episode-long Barney & Friends pastiche and also made two jokes about the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan fiasco of 1994), but generally a stronger attempt was made to also lampoon figures and events of the past as well: notice that Yakko is basically Groucho Marx, Wakko is a cross between his brother Harpo (when silent) and Ringo Starr (when speaking), and the Brain is 80% Orson Welles and 20% Vincent Price (by Maurice LaMarche's own admission), all of whose careers were extensively parodied accordingly, sometimes in jokes even the parents of the kids watching wouldn't get.
Yakko's World was dated even when it first aired; the song's writers must have been using, at latest, a map from 1989, since it mentions Czechoslovakia, doesn't mention states that broke away from "Russia" or Yugoslavia, and refers to Cambodia as "Kampuchea". "Both Yemens" even reunified five months before both Germanys did, and yet only the latter is mentioned as "now in one piece". There are also the changes since then, like Zaire becoming the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997 or the aforementioned Yugoslavia becoming Serbia and Montenegro in 2003.
Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? is undeniably 90s. From the style, to the references, and everything in between. In case that's not enough, the World Trade Center towers are in the opening title sequence. It is an edutainment show from the 90s and is thus instantly dated by facts that are no longer accurate. Even ignoring that, Zach wears baggy clothes and is a skateboarder, and floppy disks are still widely used.
Yo Yogi!, with its references to 90s culture. Everyone dresses like the "hip" crowd, with baseball caps and sunglasses. Also, one character is named "Manilla Ice".