11 Movie Stars From The ‘90s Who Are All But Forgotten Today

·14 min read

Hello everyone! I’m Mike, and I’m a young Gen Xer — although I’m not sure any of us Gen Xers actually qualify as young at this point.

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Being a young Gen Xer™ means that I was a teenager in the ‘90s, which is now (checks notes), like, 30 years ago. Which is fine. Totally fine. Like I said, it's fine.

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IT'S FINE!

Because the ‘90s are now so long ago, it’s understandable when Gen Zers are unfamiliar with the movies, music, or stars I love from the decade. BUT IT'S STILL WEIRD! To me, the '90s don't seem all that long ago, so it's hard to wrap my head around the idea that people and things that were BIG DEALS back then are now almost universally unknown by young people.

Movie poster for "Speed."

For example, it blew my mind recently when I mentioned Speed to at least a dozen Gen Zers and none of them had ever heard of it. They knew who Keanu and Sandy were, of course, but this freaking massive hit starring both of them? Totally off their radar!

20th Century Fox

So, I decided to make a list of actors who were bonafide big deals to us teenagers in the '90s, but who — I'm betting — almost all Gen Zers will have never heard of! Here they are:

1.Pauly Shore

Pauly Shore
Jeff Kravitz / Getty Images

No, Gen Zers, I'm not messing with you — this guy WAS a star in the '90s! Pauly not only was an MTV VJ (hard to explain now but a big deal back in the day), but he starred in a string of hit comedy movies! Just to be clear, these were star vehicles for this man...like, his name was literally over the title and everything! Hand to God, people in the '90s would say things like, “Hey, we should go see that Pauly Shore movie this weekend!” Yes, it happened!

Pauly Shore, Brendan Fraser and Sean Astin in "Encino Man"

Biggest '90s movies: Encino Man, Son in Law, In the Army Now

How Gen Zers might know him these days: As a standup comedian presently touring the country.

If you travelled back in time to hang out with ‘90s teens: They'd annoy you by saying Pauly's catchphrase "Hey, BU-DDY!”

Archive Photos / Getty Images

2.Tia Carrere

Closeup of Tia Carrere
Lynn Goldsmith / Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

It's OK, fellow olds, you can say it: "Man, I haven't thought about her in, like, 20 years!" But there was a stretch in the '90s when people were doing a whooole lot of thinking about Carrere after she played Cassandra in the smash hit Wayne's World. She was funny, charming, and sang her character's songs in the film (and on the soundtrack, which every self-respecting '90s teen had). And, to quote Garth when talking about her character: "If she were a president, she would be Baberham Lincoln." Carrere went on to star in a bunch of other big '90s films like True Lies and Lilo & Stitch, and top-lined her own TV series Relic Hunter. We're not worthy!

Tia Carrere and Arnold Schwarzenegger in "True Lies"

Biggest '90s movies: Wayne's World 1 & 2, Rising Sun, True Lies, Lilo & Stitch

How Gen Zers might know her these days: Maybe on RuPaul's 2020 Netflix show AJ and the Queen, which Carrere co-starred in before it was cancelled after 10 episodes?

If you travelled back in time to hang out with ‘90s teens: The endless Wayne's World quotes would drive you up the wall. It'd be enough to send you racing back to the time machine. Schwing!

Ronald Siemoneit / Sygma via Getty Images

3.Richard Grieco

Richard Grieco
Aaron Rapoport / Getty Images

Gen Zers, I promise you I'm not making these people up. Let's see, how to explain this guy...you know those 21 Jump Street movies with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum? Well, they're based on a TV show from the '80s and '90s starring Johnny Depp and this guy...who was given his own spin-off TV show Booker, plus starring roles in very '90s movies like Mobsters (which co-starred #8 and #11 on this list). How big of a deal was Grieco (for a minute)? He was named NATO/ShoWest's 1991 Male Star of Tomorrow and accepted his award alongside their Female Star of the Year...Julia Roberts.

Julia Roberts and Richard Grieco

Biggest '90s movies: If Looks Could Kill, Mobsters, A Night at the Roxbury

How Gen Zers might know him these days: I mean, I guess it's possible they're into abstract emotionalism painting, which he focuses on now.

If you travelled back in time to hang out with ‘90s teens: You'd probably have to listen to long, earnest conversations about how Grieco never should have left 21 Jump Street.

Ron Galella, Ltd. / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

4.Moira Kelly

Closeup of Moira Kelly
Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Listen, Gen Zers...you're what? 19? 20? There is literally no reason why you should know who this woman is in 2022. But trust me when I say that 30 or so years ago, she was famous! Some people back then called her a "poor man's Winona Ryder," but hey — that wasn't cool! I mean, the disrespect! Kelly was the lead in the classic ice-skating romance The Cutting Edge, she starred opposite Robert Downey Jr. in Chaplin, and — AND! — she was the freaking voice of Nala in The Lion King! I could go on...and you know what? I will! She was also in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me!

Brendan Fraser and Moira Kelly

Biggest '90s movies: The Cutting Edge, The Lion King, With Honors

How Gen Zers might know her these days: She's continued to act on TV (in fact, millennials might recognize her as Lucas Scott's mom on One Tree Hill), and last year appeared in the Amazon Prime Video teen drama Panic. It was cancelled after just seven episodes, but it was a teen drama! So maybe they saw it?

If you travelled back in time to hang out with ‘90s teens: You'd meet kids who would lay down their lives in defense of The Cutting Edge, and kids who swore it was a snooze-fest. If you do find yourself back in the '90s, stand back during these convos. ... They can get ugly.

Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

5.Sinbad

Closeup of Sinbad
Harry Langdon / Getty Images

Yep, the dude above wearing the delightfully '90s vest had one name (like Beyoncé) and was one of the decades' biggest names in comedy. He starred in high-profile Hollywood comedies like Jingle All the Way (yes, that Christmas movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger), had a series of popular HBO comedy specials, hosted Vibe's late night talk show, and even had his own sitcom titled — wait for it —The Sinbad Show! Gen Zers may be like, "I don't know who this man is. I mean, he could be walking down the street, I wouldn't know a thing. Sorry to this man." But you have to admit...having a show with your name in the title is only for big shots. And my man Sinbad was a big shot!

Sinbad and Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Jingle All the Way"

Biggest '90s movies: Houseguest, Jingle All the Way, First Kid

How Gen Zers might know him these days: Wikipedia tells me he starred in a poorly-reviewed sitcom named Rel that was cancelled after one season in 2019, so, uh, maybe that? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

If you travelled back in time to hang out with ‘90s teens: They'd either quote jokes from Sinbad's standup specials or talk about his cameo in Good Burger. Of course, if you end up talking to my buddy Fish who was an extra in Houseguest when he was a teenager, he'd definitely tell you about that. "Yeah, I met Sinbad..."

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6.Sarah Polley

Closeup of Sarah Polley
Michael Stuparyk / Toronto Star via Getty Images

Remember her, fellow olds? She started as a child star in the super popular CBC show Road to Avonlea, then became an indie film darling thanks to The Sweet Hereafter, her impressive acting talent, and her on-screen persona, which — how can I describe it? — was kind of like effortlessly cool in an introverted way? But what Polley was REALLY famous for was Doug Liman's cult classic Go, which was sort of like a Tarantino film but, you know, not made by Tarantino. (Side note: There were SO many wannabe Tarantino films in the '90s. Soooo many. Most sucked, but Go was good! At least I think it was...I haven't seen it in a quarter century!)

Katie Holmes and Sarah Polley in "Go"

Biggest '90s movies: Go, The Sweet Hereafter, and Dawn of the Dead (ok, that last one was from 2004, but it was her BIG hit, so...)

How Gen Zers might know her these days: They probably don't, but since she's transitioned into writing/directing, they might know her movies. Her next directorial effort, the upcoming Women Talking, stars Frances McDormand.

If you travelled back in time to hang out with ‘90s teens: You'd meet a LOT of teens who thought saying she was their celebrity crush made them unique and cool.

Columbia Tristar / Getty Images

7.Billy Baldwin

Closeup of William Baldwin
Eric Robert / Sygma via Getty Images

Gen Zers probably know Billy's older brother Alec (at least as the guy who played Trump on SNL and has, like, six kids with that yoga lady), but in the ‘90s, there was a moment when everyone thought Billy was going be the bigger star. (There are actually two more Baldwin brothers from the ‘90s, Daniel and Stephen, but that’s getting into REALLY forgotten actor territory.) Anyway, Billy was considered the most attractive Baldwin — at least by teenagers who considered Alec an old person — and was part of an “it couple” with his wife Chynna Phillips from the group Wilson Phillips (whose big hit “Hold On” was featured in Bridesmaids). As a result, Billy was cast as the lead in a bunch of big budget movies, but except for Backdraft, most of them underperformed at the box office. Them's the breaks, Billy!

Chynna Phillips and William Baldwin

Biggest '90s movies: Flatliners, Backdraft, and Fair Game (the one and only movie starring supermodel Cindy Crawford...it bombed)

How Gen Zers might know him these days: I don't know, maybe they mistakenly think he's Hailey Bieber's dad? (That's Stephen.) He's also done some TV in recent years, including a few episodes of the TV series adaptation of The Purge.

If you travelled back in time to hang out with ‘90s teens: You'd definitely hear some people discussing who the best Baldwin brother was. If you do travel back in time, try saying, "I'm Team Daniel all the way!" That was always good for a laugh.

Kypros / Getty Images

8.Lara Flynn Boyle

Closeup of Lara Flynn Boyle
Cbs Photo Archive / Getty Images

Now I know what you Gen Zers are thinking, but no, the above photo is not an AI-generated image of a "'90s woman in classroom." It's a real photo of a real '90s star! Most teenagers in the '90s watched David Lynch’s delightfully strange cultural phenomenon Twin Peaks, and Boyle was one of its breakout stars. She then popped up in big films like Wayne’s World and Baby’s Day Out, plus movies like Threesome (which you didn't tell your parents you were seeing) and The Temp (which was basically the same movie as Beyoncé’s Obsessed but came out years earlier). Oh! And then she spent six years on TV's The Practice, earning an Emmy nomination! A '90s talent!

Lara Flynn Boyle laying in the grass with two costars.

Biggest '90s movies: Wayne's World, Baby's Day Out, and Happiness

How Gen Zers might know her these days: Gee, I don't know. Maybe they saw the 2020 movie Death in Texas?

If you travelled back in time to hang out with ‘90s teens: You'd have to listen to some awkward kid talk about crushing on her (ok, that's assuming you got stuck talking to me around 1993).

Archive Photos / Getty Images

9.Campbell Scott

closeup of Campbell Scott
Eric Robert / Sygma via Getty Images

I PROMISE the above isn't an AI-generated image either! This guy here — the son of acclaimed thespians (thespians, not actors!) George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst — was the romantic lead opposite Julia Roberts in the highly-anticipated Dying Young, her first romantic movie after Pretty Woman. That was a very, very big deal — we took all things Julia Roberts incredibly seriously in the '90s. (Dying Young, by the way, had a score by Kenny G, which was VERY '90s.) Scott was also the lead in Cameron Crowe’s grunge-tastic twenty-something ensemble comedy Singles (which co-starred members of Pearl Jam...also VERY '90s). Good actor? Hell yes! Would you like the odds of a 19-year-old being able to name check him after looking at his photo? Oh God no!

Campbell Scott in the '90s

Biggest '90s movies: Dying Young, Singles, Big Night

How Gen Zers might know him these days: Our man just popped up in Jurassic World Dominion!

If you travelled back in time to hang out with ‘90s teens: They’d definitely complain that Dying Young was NOT what they were expecting from a Julia Roberts movie (too depressing!) but agree Scott was excellent.

Ron Galella, Ltd. / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

10.Bridget Fonda

Closeup of Bridget Fonda
Donaldson Collection / Getty Images

OK, Gen Zers, you may not recognize this woman, but I'm going to assume (and hopefully not make an "ass" out of "u" and "me") that you know about the famous Fonda acting clan. Bridget was the youngest of the family's stars, and while she never reached Julia Roberts/Sandra Bullock levels of '90s fame, she was, like, among the actors they went to after those two passed on a project. And with good reason! Fonda was a deceptively talented actor! She may have been famous from birth, but she excelled at convincingly playing regular people: the shy and insecure Janet in Singles, for example, or the good-hearted waitress in It Could Happen to You. All told, she was in 27 high-profile movies in the '90s, and if you lived through the '90s, you enjoyed a bunch of them.

Eric Stoltz and Bridget Fonda

Biggest '90s movies: Single White Female, Point of No Return, Jackie Brown

How Gen Zers might know her these days: They wouldn't — Fonda retired from acting in 2002 after a serious car accident that hurt her back, and now focuses on her family.

If you travelled back in time to hang out with ‘90s teens: You'd definitely hear one say about a clingy friend, "She's totally going single white female on me."

New York Daily News Archive / NY Daily News via Getty Images

11.Christian Slater

Closeup of Christian Slater
Nancy R. Schiff / Getty Images

Oh man, this one is going to take a little explaining! Slater was a big freaking deal with young people because of his cool persona and good looks (he was a major teen idol), but older people rolled their eyes over him because they thought he was doing a Jack Nicholson impression 24/7! And truthfully, with his slicked back hair, acting style, and voice (especially his voice), it DID seem like he was doing a Nicholson impression (and he was for a time until he developed his own style). Love him or hate him, Slater's filmography is absolutely stacked with legit '90s classics (Pump Up the Volume, True Romance) and "LOL that's so '90s" classics (Young Guns II, Kuffs).

Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette

Biggest '90s movies: Broken Arrow, Interview with the Vampire, Heathers (I know, Heathers was '89, but shit I can't not mention Heathers!)

How Gen Zers might know him these days: Slater's career may have reached its apex in the '90s, but he's maintained a respectable post-'90s acting career — with Mr. Robot being an especially high point. So maybe Mr. Robot?

If you travelled back in time to hang out with ‘90s teens: You'd be stuck listening to kids all do their terrible Christian Slater impressions.

Jim Smeal / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

If you're a Gen Zer who knew who these actors were before you read this, well, good on you! And if you're an older person angry these stars could be forgotten, try not to sweat it. Our memories are going to hell, and we'll soon forget them, too!