The 1990s were an important period for many. There was a transformation in the world and pop culture as the Internet shifted everything. Television had to adapt to the rise of cable and the end of traditional viewing habits, while movies became more blockbuster and wild.
Looking back, you can see slews of shows that fans would see as iconic, from Saved By the Bell to Power Rangers to The X-Files to Seinfeld and more. Meanwhile, movie stars would emerge, many still huge deals today. Tabloids picked up the pace to keep with this new trend, using the Internet to spread stories and a lot of stars soon in the limelight for the wrong reason. It’s also led to some of these people sadly exposed as being nowhere near as nice as they seemed on screen. True, in some cases, the jerk behavior didn’t truly take over until later, but the number of actors from this time who turned into absolute scumbags is amazing.
At the same time, there are slews of folks who are truly nice people no matter what. They avoided the pitfalls of fame with drugs and other issues and resisted letting it go to their heads. They are able to be revered and have successful careers today because of how well-liked they are and by being truly nice people.
For every once-hot ‘90s star who has become a wreck, there’s another who shines well today. Looking back, it's notable how the stars of that decade have evolved, and with them, culture itself. Here are 8 stars from that decade sadly known as huge jerks, and 8 who are sweethearts to remind you of how amazing that era was.
16 JERK: Teri Hatcher
It’s remarkable seeing all the various ladies on Seinfeld who would go on to achieve huge fame. One episode has Jerry worrying that his newest flame has had work done on her chest. This leads to a breakup with her getting the classic exit line “They’re real and they’re spectacular.” Teri Hatcher used that appearance to land the role of Lois Lane on Lois & Clark. Her take on the character was loved for its spunk and humor but her sexy appearance helped. The image of Hatcher in nothing but a Superman cape was the first “break the Internet” download and that appeal helped the show be a hit.
But reports came out that Hatcher was a bit of a diva and thus, when the show ended, her career stalled to the point of doing Radio Shack commercials. In 2004, she revived her career with Desperate Housewives, once more seen as a sexy star. But reports grew of huge friction on set with Hatcher clashing with her cast mates and wanting to be the main star of the show. It got to the point where the other actresses were cutting Hatcher out of everything; from parties to a parting gift to the crew. Hatcher still works (she just did a good stint on Supergirl) but that rep as a huge diva is a super-anchor around her.
15 SWEETHEART: Beverley Mitchell
Pop is a network most don’t even know exists. It is getting buzz for its unique take on comedies where stars play themselves (like the great talk show satire Nightcap). Hollywood Darlings has three actresses who were well known in the 90s as best friends: Jodie Sweetin (Stephanie from Full House), Christine Lakin (Al from Step By Step) and Beverley Mitchell. Mitchell was a child actress when in 1996, she read for the part of Mary Camden for 7th Heaven. She wasn’t right for it but did land the part of Lucy, the sister who’s about five years younger despite the fact that Mitchell is over a year older than Jessica Biel. Mitchell did great growing up in the role as the show was a huge hit for 11 seasons. Since then, Mitchell has grown up to have a family and known for a great humor. Darlings plays on that, with her complaining about how everyone knows her as “too nice” yet her attempts to act up backfire because she can’t go through with being bad.
14 JERK: Shannen Doherty
True, recent events have you seeing her in a new light. However, it should not be forgotten that for years, Shannen Doherty had the reputation of being one of the biggest “rhymes with witch” women in Hollywood. She became an overnight star with Beverly Hills 90210, her role as Brenda making the show a hit and boosting her to success. However, reports abounded of Doherty clashing with cast mates and producers alike, acting horrible and arrogant and not helped by acting up in public. It got to be too much as she was written out of the series.
She bounced around Hollywood with that bad attitude before returning to TV with the hit Charmed. But, once more, Doherty was acting like a diva, getting into fights on set and was basically fired after the third season with her character killed off. Since then, Doherty’s rep has followed her with run-ins with the law and other issues that certify her as a jerk. She is getting sympathy with her battle with breast cancer, but most still hold her as a key example of a lady who let her fame go to her head.
13 SWEETHEART: Mayim Bialik
Blossom was always very different from other sitcoms of the ‘90s. It tackled adult themes of growing up, alcoholism and more, while under its jokes was a tension showing an imperfect family. From the start, Mayim Bialik was great in the lead role, not a knockout but still attractive and that made her relatable to viewers. It helped the show be a hit with Bialik talking about how she wanted to be a role model. She thus avoided drugs or other issues and was even willing to say goodbye to Hollywood to pursue a science degree.
In 2010, she returned to the limelight as Amy on The Big Bang Theory, which has made her a star once more. Bialik is known for her wonderful humor, always great hanging out with her cast mates and involved in a lot of charities. She’s proud of her past with the show, even reuniting with the cast for an Entertainment Weekly article and everyone talks of her in warm turns. So the sun does shine whenever this lovely lady is around.
12 JERK: Meg Ryan
In 1989, Meg Ryan became an overnight star with her work in When Harry Met Sally… Her famous “diner scene” was sensational and turned her into an A-list figure in Hollywood. Throughout the 1990s, Ryan was the go-to queen of romantic comedy hits. Sleepless in Seattle, French Kiss, You’ve Got Mail, City of Angels, Ryan was a fantastic actress. However, reports grew a lot of her having an attitude on set and often acting up a few times, including brushing off fans and the press. But the big one was in 2000 when Ryan cheated on husband Dennis Quaid with Russell Crowe on the set of Proof of Life. It ruined her rep as no one was going to buy her as “America’s Sweetheart” when she was a known cheater and her career hit a major sinking. Not helping were her looks getting worse and some bad choices in movies. Today, Ryan keeps a lower profile but rumors abound that on the set of The Women, she was throwing her weight around and was not well-liked on set. So for all the talk of her as a sweetheart, Ryan didn’t live up to that in real life.
11 SWEETHEART: Melissa Joan Hart
It’s rare to have not one but two iconic TV roles fans know you from in one decade. As the ‘90s started, Melissa Joan Hart started in Clarissa Says It All, an offbeat but very popular Nick comedy. Her nice style and humor carried the show as she handled growing up. Two years after Clarissa ended, Hart was cast in the title role of Sabrina The Teenage Witch. Her terrific humor made the show a smash hit lasting seven seasons as fans enjoyed seeing her using her magical abilities on the world.
Hart also made a few movies, but showed she grew up nicely with a famously steamy Maxim spread. She later returned to TV in Melissa & Joey to show off she was just as fun. The woman even ran a candy store called SweetHearts. She’s known for her good Christian values and that carries to a fun attitude, not judgmental but strong in her beliefs. Over twenty years later and Hart still casts a spell thanks to being such a good person, both off-screen and on.
10 JERK: Wesley Snipes
Wesley Snipes had been rising up in the late 1980s but the ‘90s had him explode to stardom. Critics went wild for his role as a ruthless drug lord in New Jack City and then Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever. He showed his action chops in Passenger 57 and then his comedic ones in White Men Can’t Jump among slews of other credits. With his cool drive and great charisma, Snipes was easily the biggest African-American star of that period. It all built up to his starring role in Blade, the first successful Marvel movie. However, Snipes wasn’t exactly the friendliest person off camera, with talk on his ego and clashing with other actors coming out. Reports included how he just smoked weed in his trailer for one of the Blade films and tried to throttle director David Goyer. Of course, there’s his infamous run-in with the IRS that got him jail time and not exactly winning fans with interviews since. While Snipes was a huge star in that decade, he’s not exactly a friendly guy these days.
9 SWEETHEART: Tiffani Thiessen
For so many guys growing up in the ‘90s, Kelly Kapowski was their first crush. Played perfectly by Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, she was a cheerleader, waitress and the obvious love of Zach Morris on Saved By the Bell. It was no wonder she was loveable with her spunk, attitude and incredible beauty on full display. After saying goodbye to the role with a college spin-off, Thiessen changed type for a hotter part on Beverly Hills 90210. Thiessen played a hot cop on the cult show Fastlane and was a great part of the series White Collar. She’s known for being “Kelly” off camera as well with a fun attitude, caring for her kids and a charming person in interviews. She’s moved on as a cook, appearing on shows to promote healthy eating and willing to talk to fans about her past roles. Still looking drop-dead gorgeous, Thiessen shows that even a childhood sweetheart can grow up nicely.
8 JERK: Dustin Diamond
Some actors find themselves trapped by a role and unable to ever escape it. Such a fate was Dustin Diamond who landed himself a big part as the nerdy Screech on Saved By the Bell. He kept it up through the series, a college-set spin-off and a second series. Fans loved his nutty antics but behind the scenes, Diamond had issues. He was cited for drug use and some other bad habits, rubbed folks the wrong way and was rumored to have an abusive attitude in relationships. This is a man who openly brags about having sex with 2000 women, not exactly the type of thing to endear you to people. He also wrote a tell-all book on the show, citing numerous cases of his co-stars being jerks that they have all taken issue with. There’s also Diamond arrested for drug possession, released, then arrested again for parole violation. The man is a far way off from that famous role and shows how some past parts can be a bigger prison for an actor than jail is although that doesn’t excuse their jerk behavior.
7 SWEETHEART: Jaleel White
In its first season, Family Matters was a cookie-cutter sitcom about a black family in Chicago. But it all changed when daughter went on a date with uber-nerd Steve Urkel. Jaleel White was cast and the audiences loved his performance. So Urkel was a regular and a huge hit to boost the show. True, it got out of control with Urkel’s nutty science experiments and it became a living cartoon but still a huge hit. White himself handled it well, not only avoiding the antics of partying but speaking out against drugs and alcohol. White has kept up his career with various shows, including the current Me, Myself & I and doesn’t bad-mouth his past role as that’s what made him famous. White works with charities and always takes time for fans (although he can’t quite pull off the Urkel voice today) to show he is a nice guy despite the heat Urkel sometimes gets.
6 JERK: Macaulay Culkin
In 1990, Home Alone was the surprise of Hollywood. A small family picture with no stars exploded with audiences, the film ended up at the top of the box office for 12 straight weeks, grossing over $400 million (which back then, was an unheard of amount for a comedy). It made an instant star out of Macaulay Culkin who was soon pulling in millions for his films. My Girl, The Good Son, Richie Rich and more followed as Culkin was on top of the world. But as he aged, things cooled around him as he basically retired from acting at 14. Afterward, he was notable for some rather arrogant interviews and legal issues involving drug arrests that made him a tabloid darling. Stories abound that even as a kid, Culkin seemed above it all, refusing to hang out with cast members or even greet fans. He may have gotten rich off his kid fame but Culkin sure didn’t make friends for real growing up.
5 SWEETHEART: Amy Jo Johnson
There have been slews of women in the Power Rangers franchise. But to many, the first remains the best. Amy Jo Johnson was perfect as Kimberly, the Pink Ranger and her mix of fun humor and beauty helped the show become a smash hit. Johnson herself has been hailed by her cast mates for her great charm and helping out well. That’s carried in her career with shows like Felicity and the Canadian cop hit Flashpoint. Johnson seemed to resist her Rangers fame but has come to embrace it in recent years. That includes a bit where she rewarded fans for helping with a Kickstarter fund by donning her Pink Ranger outfit to perform in public. She even did a cameo in this year’s Power Rangers movie with the cast talking about how great she was on set. Johnson actually had a rough life with her father dying and being raised in a cult, but she’s proven that’s just made her more heartfelt to others and her true power is in how nice she can be.
4 JERK: Mike Myers
Brandon Tartikoff loved to tell the story of how, after Wayne’s World became a hit, he met with Mike Myers to talk about doing a sequel. He asked who he thought should direct and Myers responded “Federico Fellini”. It took Tartikoff a minute to realize Myers was dead serious, he honestly believed he was in the league to work with the legendary director. Myers had been rising up on Saturday Night Live, but World elevated him to a box office name that he would later use for his Austin Powers movies. With his great comic timing and love of wild situations, Myers was a hit at the box office. However, stories abound of the man being a raging egotist on sets and demanding his own way. He famously refused to do a movie that he had written because he felt it wasn’t good enough, causing a huge lawsuit. On one SNL episode, Alec Baldwin said Myers “would suck out your soul and complain about the taste,” and while it was done in humor, many think it’s accurate as a reason Myers has been silent over the last decade is that many in Hollywood won’t want to work with him.
3 SWEETHEART: Danielle Fishel
Topanga Lawrence was only meant to be a minor character in Boy Meets World. A nutty classmate of Cory’s, she came in with a New Age way to herself and his reluctant partner on an assignment. But from the start, Danielle Fishel had a special quality that won over viewers majorly. Soon, she became a regular part of the cast as she and Cory had one of the best relationships on TV and a core of the show. It culminated with them married and fans loved seeing them head off in the finale for a good life.
Since then, Fishel has been busy with humanitarian work and other projects like hosting the fun show The Dish to mock pop culture. She returned to her iconic role as a grown Topanga in Girl Meets World for more fun times. Having grown up nicely, Fishel is involved in various charity works and comes off wonderfully charming in person and truly caring. Unlike so many stars of her time, no scandals follow her and Fishel still remains one of our favorite heartthrobs grown up.
2 JERK: Steven Seagal
He’d been rising up for a bit but in 1990, Steven Seagal became a major star with Hard to Kill. With his cool demeanor, slicked hair and martial arts skills, Seagal was soon a huge star. He hit his height with 1992’s Under Siege, one of the best action movies of that decade. But things started to get harder with reports of Seagal a total nightmare on sets, an egotist who threw his weight around. 1994’s On Deadly Ground was ravaged for its literal preaching on the environment and Seagal soon acted like he was a savior of some sort. His career plummeted as he had the odd hit now and then (Half Past Dead) but soon stuck in direct-to-video work only. It’s kept up with Seagal continuing to rant on politics, gun control and now he's embroiled in accusations of mistreating women. That includes a taped rant slamming female reporters and showing that, for all his on-screen action, Seagal’s biggest fight is convincing people he’s not a horrible person.
1 SWEETHEART: Mara Wilson
In the 1990s, Mara Wilson was the go-to cute little girl for various movies. Mrs. Doubtfire, Miracle on 34th Street, Matilda, she was a great actress, cute as a button but with wisdom beyond her years. Wilson credits having parents who kept her grounded and making sure she had a life beyond just Hollywood. Perhaps that’s why, instead of moving onto more mature projects, Wilson basically said goodbye to Hollywood. Since then, she’s become notable for various online videos and taking part in a lot of charities. Wilson has also written about the struggles of child actresses with a famous op/ed detailing why so many of them turn into messes. Wilson is known for a great sense of humor and smart on everything from her career to LGBT issues and not above poking fun at her resume of films. She openly gives thanks she got out when she did to avoid such problems and that attitude is a key reason fans still love her.