'90s Icons You've Forgotten (But Shouldn't Have)

Your childhood is calling.

forgotten 90s icons jonathan taylor thomas
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The 1990s were an awesome time for TV and movies, specifically those marketed at teens and young adults. If you happened to appear in a show that hit it big, you immediately became a star known to everyone with a working TV and access to magazines. That led to some pretty iconic '90s icons who really "made it" in Hollywood, like Jennifer Aniston and Leonardo DiCaprio, but equally it gave us some stars that we don't hear much from anymore.

It's gonna be repeated throughout this piece, but it's worth noting right up top: A lot of young actors, including child stars, didn't have a "normal" upbringing when they became famous early. So it makes sense that they quit the business or retired to do something else. And show business can be rough—so it's understandable when actors want to take a break or lose the love of acting. A number of these actors also continued to work and still can be found on our screens today. You just may not have realized it!

Marla Sokoloff

forgotten 90s icons Marla Sokoloff

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Stephanie's frenemy on Full House (who also appears in Fuller House) actually almost played Topanga on Boy Meets World. (She also played Joey's sister on Friends!) These days, she's a mom of three. She still acts on smaller projects, and in 2022 she directed Rosé All Day.

Pauly Shore

forgotten 90s icons Pauly shore

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Believe it or not, Shore was a '90s comedy legend, from Encino Man to A Goofy Movie and Son in Law. (He was also an on-camera VJ during a time when MTV was being watched by every single teen in America.) He's continued to act, and he's also a filmmaker (including Pauly Shore Is Dead, about his decreasing popularity. He's got a sense of humor!).

Fairuza Balk

forgotten 90s icons Fairuza Balk

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With a name like Fairuza, Balk seemed destined for stardom—she was the best part of The Craft, and also had parts in American History X and Almost Famous. She's also released music and done visual art since 2010 and has starred in Ray Donovan and Paradise City. She's still in the industry, in other words.

Barry Watson

forgotten 90s icons Barry Watson

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There are a ton of '90s heartthrobs on this list (and, if you didn't live through it, you might not understand how obsessed teen girls were with male celebrities). Watson is one of these, from his role on 7th Heaven to Teaching Miss Tingle. He's continued to act, including on Samantha Who? and The Loudest Voice.

Jenna von Oÿ

forgotten 90s icons Jenna von Oy

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Dorothy "Six" LeMeure from Blossom and Stevie from The Parkers and Stacey from A Goofy Movie: von Oÿ had a prolific career in the '90s. She launched a music career in the 2000s and has continued to do some acting as well as some impressive writing. Fun fact! She came out as gay in 2023.

Moira Kelly

forgotte 90s icons moira kelly

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Kelly's list of acting credits from this era is long and impressive: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, One Tree Hill, The West Wing, and (a role I didn't realize until just now) Nala in the original Lion King! She continued to act, including on the TV show Citadel and My Southern Family Christmas.

Mike Vitar

forgotten 90s icons mike vitar

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"You're killing me, Smalls!" Benny the Jet from The Sandlot and Luis from the three Mighty Duck movies retired from acting in 1997. Not much is known about him beyond that, other than that he has done work as an EMT and firefighter and that he has not shown up to film reunions.

Skeet Ulrich

forgotten 90s icons Skeet ulrich

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If you happened to watch Scream (2022) and Scream VI (2023), you'll know that Skeet Ulrich is back in the Scream franchise reprising his role as the murderous Billy Loomis. (Spoiler alert for the original Scream, and I guess the other movies, lol.) How, you ask? He comes back as a de-aged ghost!

Tatyana Ali

forgotten 90s icons Tatyana Ali

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The erstwhile Ashley Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a sensation in the '90s; She also parlayed that fame into a role on The Young and the Restless in the 2000s and 2010s. In 2023, she released holiday music and starred in Giving Hope: The Ni’Cola Mitchell Story.

Jason Behr

forgotten 90s icons Jason Behr

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This might be the first of a couple times you say, "Oh yea, that guy!!" for people on this list. The first season of Roswell made Behr immediately recognizable and in hindsight became a fan fave. He married fellow actor Katherine Dee Strickland in 2006; He's acted since, including as Zor-El in Supergirl.

Rachael Leigh Cook

forgotten 90s icons Rachael Leigh Cook

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To be clear: Rachael Leigh Cook has continued to act, including in some very fun Hallmark movies. But she was a '90s on-screen darling thanks to She's All That (fun fact: She also had a role in the remake, He's All That) as well as the cult classic Josie and the Pussycats.

Billy Baldwin

forgotten 90s icons Billy Baldwin

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One of the Baldwin brothers (brother to Alec!), Billy had his biggest hits in the '90s (Backdraft, Flatliners); He also did early work as a Calvin Klein model. He's continued to act in smaller projects (including Northern Rescue). He has three children with singer Chynna Phillips.

Thora Birch

forgotten 90s icons Thora Birch

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Child stars have it tough! The actor who appeared in Clear and Present Danger, American Beauty, and Ghost World later said she found the expectations of her transition from child to adult actor "distasteful." Birch has acted more recently, included in The Last Black Man in San Francisco.

Tahj Mowry

forgotten 90s icons Tahj Mowry

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The brother of Tia and Tamera Mowry had his own show (Smart Guy) and a similar role on Kim Possible. He stopped acting for a time in favor of school and football, later turning to singing and acting in smaller roles. In 2023 he began starring in Disney+'s The Muppets Mayhem.

Devon Sawa

forgotten 90s icons Devon sawa

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Teenage girls absolutely raved over Devon Sawa in the '90s (remember his role in Casper?? Because I sure do!). He also starred in films like Now and Then and Final Destination; He then sought to get away from his heartthrob status. He's returned to acting, including horror films and TV like Chucky.

Rider Strong

forgotten 90s icons Rider strong

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Fun fact about Rider Strong, who was a part of the hit show Boy Meets World: "I did not want to be associated with the show, which is crazy to me now," he told Business Insider. In a fun twist, now he co-hosts the Boy Meets World rewatch podcast (and he's voiced Brick in Kim Possible, too).

Andrea Barber

forgotten 90s icons Andrea Barber

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In hindsight, I actually love Kimmy from Full House (people thought she was annoying at the time, but...she's actually kind of adorable?). After the show ended, she retired from acting, but did return as Kimmy in Fuller House and acted in Nickelodeon's That Girl Lay Lay as the principal.

Nate Richert

forgotten 90s icons Nate Richert

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Harvey Kinkle was a huge part of the success of Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Everyone loved Nate Richert and Melissa Joan Hart together and were rooting for them throughout the will-they-won't-they dynamic of the series. He since got into music and has talked about doing carpentry and improv (as well as reunion appearances for that show).

Fiona Apple

forgotten 90s icons Fiona apple

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Fiona Apple has absolutely continued to make music, so she hasn't disappeared—but her '90s fame, including "Criminal," was the stuff of legend (recently, it was featured in the Jennifer Lopez film Hustlers and was introduced to new audiences!). Check out her latest stuff if you like her.

Macy Gray

forgotten 90s icons Macy gray

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"I try to say goodbye and I choke—try to walk away and I stumble." Macy Gray's extremely singable "I Try" is still a classic, although her subsequent musical work was never quite as popular. Gray has appeared on Dancing With the Stars and The Masked Singer in Australia; In the 2020s, she's had multiple film projects.

Andrew Keegan

forgotten 90s icons Andrew Keegan

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If you love 10 Things I Hate About You (iconic, classic, would watch right now), you're familiar with Andrew Keegan—who plays the extremely unlikeable Joey with the exact right level of douchiness. He took a break from acting but since returned to it in the 2020s, both TV and film.

Larisa Oleynik

forgotten 90s icons larisa oleynik

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We probably know Larisa Oleynik best from 10 Things I Hate About You, but she first starred in Nickelodeon's The Secret World of Alex Mack (which, if you're unfamiliar, she's very good in). While her roles might not be as splashy, she has continued to act since then, including a small role on Mad Men.

Bridget Fonda

forgotten 90s icons Bridget Fonda

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This '90s queen (who comes from a famous acting family—Jane Fonda is her aunt!) appeared in The Godfather Part III, Single White Female, and Jackie Brown. After marrying Danny Elfman and having a child, she stopped appearing in public. (In the '00s, she was in a car accident and broke one of her vertebrae, which may have influenced the decision.)

Rick Moranis

forgotten 90s icons Rick moranis

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The prototypical '90s funny man had an amazing run of hits, including Ghostbusters (and the sequel!), Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and (my personal favorite) Spaceballs. Tragically, his wife passed away from cancer, and he stopped working in Hollywood to be a single dad. (In the late 2010s and 2020s, he's made forays into the industry again.)

Mara Wilson

forgotten 90s icons mara wilson

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If you loved Mrs. Doubtfire and Matilda, you loved the sweet innocence of Mara Wilson (she basically had every 90s kid's dream job). Wilson took a break from acting and is actually a phenomenal writer who has spoken eloquently about, among other things, the difficulties of being a child star.

Macaulay Culkin

forgotten 90s icons Macaulay Culkin

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Culkin was the child star of the '90s. His most notable hits included My Girl, Home Alone (plus the sequel!), The Good Son, and Richie Rich. He retired from acting but has since has come back to the industry as well as done musical work. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2023!

Shane West

forgotten 90s icons Shane west

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Technically Shane West probably falls under "'00s forgotten icons," since his most famous film, A Walk to Remember, came out in 2002. But his career began in earnest in the '90s, including with Once and Again and The Cider House Rules—and a guest spot on Buffy, naturally. He may be more under the radar now, but he still acts!


forgotten 90s icons monica

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If you heard and loved "The Boy Is Mine," you're familiar with the duet between Monica and Brandy. After the massive success of that single and her third album, she never quite hit those heights again, although she did act, including on Felicity, and did reality TV and worked on The Voice.

Emilio Estevez

forgotten 90s icons Emilio estevez

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Estevez comes from a famous acting family (Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen) and had a real heyday in the 1980s—but he still had major roles in the '90s, including with Mission: Impossible and The Mighty Ducks movies. Since then, he's written and directed several films, and did appear in the 2021 series The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers.


forgotten 90s icons sinbad

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The Coneheads and Jingle All the Way actor (who was also a viral comedian) even had his own sitcom in the '90s. He hasn't worked as much since then—partially due to a stroke in 2020 as well as filing for bankruptcy—but did appear as himself in season 4 of Atlanta and has done voice work and music.


forgotten 90s icons brandy

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A highly prolific singer (see also: "The Boy Is Mine") and actor (the titular lead on Moesha), Brandy has continued to work as a singer, public figure, and actor (including on TV with Queens and on Broadway with Chicago). But she spent time away from public life after Moesha, including dealing with the aftermath of a fatal car crash.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas

forgotten 90s icons jonathan taylor thomas

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The teen heartthrob to end all heartthrobs, JTT (as he was affectionately called) had massive early success on TV (Home Improvement) and movies (voicing Simba in the original Lion King). He quit his TV show to focus on school, but he did venture back on screen in 2013 and has directed.

Katherine J. Igoe
Contributing Editor

Katherine’s a contributing syndications editor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle. In her role, she writes stories that are syndicated by MSN and other outlets. She’s been a full-time freelancer for over a decade and has had roles with Cosmopolitan (where she covered lifestyle, culture, and fashion SEO content) and Bustle (where she was their movies and culture writer). She has bylines in New York TimesParentsInStyle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Her work has also been syndicated by ELLEHarper’s BazaarSeventeenGood Housekeeping, and Women’s Health, among others. In addition to her stories reaching millions of readers, content she's written and edited has qualified for a Bell Ringer Award and received a Communicator Award. 

Katherine has a BA in English and art history from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art (with a focus on marketing/communications). She covers a wide breadth of topics: she's written about how to find the very best petite jeanshow sustainable travel has found its footing on Instagram, and what it's like to be a professional advice-giver in the modern world. Her personal essays have run the gamut from learning to dress as a queer woman to navigating food allergies as a mom. She also has deep knowledge of SEO/EATT, affiliate revenue, commerce, and social media; she regularly edits the work of other writers. She speaks at writing-related events and podcasts about freelancing and journalism, mentors students and other new writers, and consults on coursework. Currently, Katherine lives in Boston with her husband and two kids, and you can follow her on Instagram. If you're wondering about her last name, it’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.