The 1990's was a magical time to be alive. Bill Clinton was feeling up interns in the White House, the American economy was booming (for the most part), the age of screens was rapidly advancing with the popularity of personal computers, and of course, the internet was gradually sneaking into our lives.
On the show business front, the '90s brought some of the greatest films and TV shows we will ever know. The music scene, on the other hand, produced some iconic gems and some awful turds that should never have been produced. Looking to TV, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Seinfeld, Friends, and Full House rank among the best sitcoms of the day, and for the most part, they haven't been outdone yet. The '90s were also the glory days of The Simpsons, before the creative minds of that show ran out of ideas.
The film industry brought us Titanic, Jurassic Park, The Matrix, and of course, the undisputed greatest film of the decade, The Big Lebowski. Saving Private Ryan, The Shawshank Redemption, and Schindler's List were up there too. Notice that many of these iconic films were new ideas and brilliant stories, rather than the mishmash of expensive, plot-challenged sequels to which we've become accustomed to today.
Like we said, music was a hit-and-miss. The same decade that brought us Sir Mix A Lot, some of the best work by The Offspring, the glorious beginning of Daft Punk, and bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, and the advent of Britney Spears' career, The Backstreet Boys, and N'Sync.
Of course, with all these pop culture icons, both the bad and the good, the 1990's was rife with stunning women we'll never forget. While some have remained in the spotlight, others faded away into relative obscurity. In much the same way, while plenty of them remained gorgeous and in some cases got even hotter, some look like they have lived hard, taken untold amounts of drugs and refused to sleep for ages since the '90s. Here are eight '90s stars who look stunning to this day and seven who are looking rough.
15 Improved: Beyonce
For many singer/songwriters, having a major breakthrough with a musical trio like Destiny's Child would be enough and would likely be the highlight of their career. The group, featuring Beyonce, Kelly Rowland, and Michelle Williams, were together from 1990 until 2006 and became one of the highest-selling musical acts of the 1990's. Despite the breakup of the trio, they all remained friends and have supported each other in their solo work. Of the three of them, however, Beyonce is doing the best without any shadow of a doubt.
She married Jay-Z, and the two of them have a combined net worth of around $1.2 billion. Her solo career has been wildly successful, and aside from her musical work, she has started numerous entrepreneurial enterprises, contributed to many charitable campaigns, and endorsed more products than we can count. The woman is absurdly successful, and as if her musical success, businesses, and marriage to one of the biggest names in rap weren't enough, she's also gotten better-looking since the '90s.
14 Looking Rough: Teri Hatcher
Once an NFL cheerleader, who became a massive star through the '80s and '90s, Teri Hatcher is looking like she's been through a lot these days. Back in the '90s, she was an icon and has played Lois Lane on Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, arguably her most significant role of the decade. In 2004, she was named to be the lead role of Susan Mayer on Desperate Housewives. She still looked good while on that show, but since it ended in 2012, she's been looking rough. She announced a few years ago that for much of her later career, she had undergone procedures involving both botox and fillers, but had made the decision to go surgery-free. Now in her early 50's, she doesn't look terrible, but she does look like she's put on a few years since the end of Desperate Housewives.
13 Improved: Jennifer Lopez
If you asked most men back in the late '90s who the hottest woman in the world is, there was a good chance that they would say Jennifer Lopez. If you asked those same fans what could be improved about her, they likely would have said nothing at all and that she was perfect. Well, the last couple of decades have treated this smoldering Latina goddess, and somehow, she looks better than she did back in the '90s.
We'd praise her as a triple threat, as she's known in show business as a singer/dancer/actress, but having seen of her acting, it is truly atrocious. Between that awful flick, Gigli, and her cameo appearance on How I Met Your Mother, there must be people in comas who can act better than JLo. Then again, for our purposes, she got more beautiful since the late 1990's and that's what matters.
12 Looking Rough: Meg Ryan
For many of us, especially young men who like action movies, our first glimpse of Meg Ryan was in 1986's Top Gun, the epic tale of an F-14 pilot and his bromance with his flight officer. In that movie, she was the wife and then widow of Goose, Maverick's (Tom Cruise) flight officer and best friend. From there, she earned great success in the late 1980's and throughout the 1990's. During that period and even into the early 2000's, if there was a big-budget romantic comedy produced, chances are the leading lady was Meg Ryan. While never one of the most conventionally beautiful in the business, she's a gifted actress and generally looked pretty good. While some of the women on this list are looking rough from too much plastic surgery or absurd drug abuse, time just doesn't seem to be treating her very well.
11 Improved: Rachael Leigh Cook
While she was never one of the biggest names in show business, this gorgeous brunette had significant roles in several movies in the late 1990's. Rachael Leigh Cook is probably best known for playing Laney Boggs, the nerdy girl who is secretly shockingly beautiful in She's All That, or for her work as the titular character in 2001's Josie and the Pussycats. Since the late 1990's, her work has been occasional, including parts on Robot Chicken, some video game work, and plenty of other roles in more shows than we care to list. We also fondly remember her as the young lady who smashed an egg and destroyed a kitchen with a frying pan in the 1997 "This is your brain on drugs" public service announcement. More recently, she appeared in a remake of that commercial, criticizing drug policy in the United States. We can tell it's twenty years later, but she still looks beautiful and is a very youthful 37.
10 Looking Rough: Kate Moss
After being discovered back in 1988, British supermodel Kate Moss spent much of the '90s and early 2000's becoming one of the biggest names in her line of work. She was the skinniest of the skinny when all models were expected to look like they were taking heroin. Who thought this was attractive? Who knows? If you still don't know who this is, the show Family Guy made fun of her ages ago, implying that she would be swept away by a stiff breeze or fall through a crack in the floor.
We can't say for certain, but we have to imagine that her tiny figure being everywhere throughout the '90s may have been responsible for more than a few cases of eating disorders. But regardless, she had a rough time throughout the 2000's, and it involved some allegations of cocaine addiction. And while she was cleared of any formal charges, that only means she didn't do these drugs, and based on what she looks like, she may have done quite a bit of blow.
9 Improved: Tyra Banks
This is a very difficult case to make, as Tyra Banks was one of the most beautiful women in the world back in the 1990's. But we think she hasn't aged a day since then. Her success and huge name in the modeling world allowed her to enter acting, and she has had both cameos and roles in about a dozen movies and over twenty television shows. Her knowledge of the modeling world allowed her to start the incredibly successful America's Next Top Model along with her own show. Outside of these ventures, she has her own cosmetics line along with a series of books (both non-fiction and fiction) that reflect on her experiences as a supermodel. Despite being in her forties now, Tyra Banks still looks like a young woman and has clearly done a lot to take care of herself over the last couple of decades.
8 Looking Rough: Tara Reid
In the late 1990's, there were few women as desirable as Tara Reid. The blond-haired, blue-eyed gal was the spitting image of the archetypal "girl next door." The biggest films to feature her in her prime were, of course, The Big Lebowski, in which she played the titular character's permanently horny trophy wife, and American Pie, as Vicky. Her popularity continued into the 2000's, with plenty of TV roles and more film parts including National Lampoon's Van Wilder, along with a few rom-coms and a couple more in the American Pie series. Unfortunately, it was during this period that she started partying and got plastic surgery that didn't go very well. Whether it's just alcohol or the dreaded nose-beers (cocaine), too much partying will cause you to age like none other. In much the same way, botched breast augmentation and a case of "who knows what happened to her stomach" made her a real sight a few years ago.
7 Improved: Alyson Hannigan
Our last entry, Tara Reid, is likely the member of the cast of the original American Pie who looks the worst, while Alyson Hannigan may be the one who went from kind of awkward in that movie to really becoming beautiful through the 2000's. She rose to fame in the '90s mainly through TV, with several small roles before scoring the part of Willow on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Her character, Michelle, in American Pie was annoying for the first half of the movie. But once we found out how freaky she was, everyone's opinion changed.
Fast forward to 2005, Hannigan took the role of Lily Aldrin on How I Met Your Mother, where she stayed until the show's finale in 2014. While redheads are rare, alluring, and usually just as fun as blondes but with more attitude, Alyson playing Lily looked gorgeous with darker hair.
6 Looking Rough: Courteney Cox
At the outset of Friends, Courteney Cox was the most famous of all the main actors. Throughout the '90s, she was one of the hottest women on TV and in movies. She and Matthew Perry had great chemistry as Chandler and Monica while on Friends, and we can't mention this woman without discussing the funniest movie of the 1990's (debatable, but nobody can deny it was brilliant)—Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
More recently, she starred on the show Cougar Town in which she, as the lead character, played a recently divorced woman who had started dating younger men. It was a decent show that played for a run of six seasons and showcased the fact that her looks were rapidly headed downhill. She mentioned a couple of years ago that she has had a bit much in the way of plastic surgery and regrets it.
5 Improved: Gwen Stefani
The 1990's was a great decade for music overall. The largely-repulsive pop anthems of the '80s were out and new sounds were in for popular music, including grunge, new streams of alternative rock and punk, and of course, whatever style No Doubt was. The musical style of the band really did seem like it changed from song to song. During her time with this unique group, Gwen Stefani looked good. But much like the group's sound, it was a unique form of "good" that definitely alienated some people. The whole "punk" look doesn't work for everyone. While there is some disagreement over whether her music with No Doubt was better than her solo work, depending on who you talk to, it is pretty clear that her looks have improved since the 1990's and part of that are her fashion choices, which have stayed interesting and distinct, but opted for more of a "successful woman" look, rather than the rebellious punk rocker look she had in the '90s.
4 Looking Rough: Alicia Silverstone
The early 1990's brought Alicia Silverstone onto the world's radar screen, with a small part in The Wonder Years and a series of roles in various films. By the mid-90's, she would become a household name after playing Cher Horowitz in Clueless, before being Batgirl in 1997's Batman and Robin. While she looked amazing back in the '90s and played the perfect blonde valley girl protagonist in Clueless, these days, she's looking okay but has clearly lost her youth.
These days, she's still acting, but more remarkable than the current state of her career is that she has become quite the activist. She's an animal rights activist and has done work with PETA, along with writing her own book about vegan nutrition. She wrote another book on parenting, which is anti-tampon, anti-vaccination, anti-meat and dairy, and anti-diaper. Do with this information what you will. (Just laugh, and if you ever meet her, smile and nod).
3 Improved: Jennifer Aniston
We didn't want to list her as number one simply because she is probably the '90s woman most men think of when they hear the phrase "got better with age." Throughout the early '90s, she had small roles in unremarkable movies including 1993's Leprechaun. But by 1994, she earned her spot on Friends as Rachel Green, who many of us will always remember her as.
She looked great on that show, and her character went from a spoiled, slightly annoying rich girl to a beloved character. In much the same way, Jennifer Aniston herself went from a little-known actress to one of the gems of show business. Since the end of the show in 2004, she has also maintained a youthful glow and looks stunning even as she gets closer to age fifty. In our humble opinion, Brad Pitt made the wrong choice.
2 Looking Rough: Pamela Anderson
This may make you feel old, but Pamela Anderson is now fifty years of age. Let that sink in. Alright, moving on. Younger readers might not know much about her, as she hasn't been a prominent celebrity for over a decade (more?) and has become more of a punchline these days. The Canadian model-turned-actress got her start in Playboy back in 1989. No matter what else she did, her biggest claim to fame remains her career with that glorious publication, as she holds the record for most cover appearances. She got her first boob job shortly after her first time posing for Hugh Hefner. She got a few more since then, along with several other enhancements, most notably some recent ones to her face. We don't want to be unkind to this icon, who was once the fantasy of every man on Earth, but she is not gracefully letting go of her youth and looks like a completely different person even compared to five or ten years ago.
1 Improved: Reese Witherspoon
While most of her biggest roles came in the 2000's, it was in the '90s when Reese Witherspoon started to steal our hearts. Arguably, her largest part in the 1990's was in Pleasantville, but her acting record from that decade includes many more. From there, it has all gone uphill for her, landing starring roles throughout the 2000's, including the cute but not laugh-out-loud funny Legally Blonde, Sweet Home Alabama, and Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash biopic, in which she played June Carter, Cash's second wife.
For much of her career, she would be best described as "cute." She was a bubbly blonde who was usually cast in roles that required a lot of smiling. But in the past several years, she has become even better-looking, and the picture above is a prime example of that. She looks almost intimidatingly good. For the last couple of years, she has been acting less and focusing more on her other interests, including philanthropic causes. Whatever she's doing, it is keeping her youthful into her forties.