classic 90s tv shows

The 90s introduced us to some really cool and now iconic TV shows. We’ve narrowed it down to the best 31.

Recently I turned the grand old age of 31… yikes (happy birthday to me). It got me thinking about how lucky I was to have grown up in the 90s era. The wonderful world of double denim, scrunchies, Walkmans, Gameboys, VCRs, and even Tamagotchis. Of course, you can’t forget the 90s music, with the likes of Spice Girls, Nirvana, and the battle of the boy bands – N’Sync and Backstreet Boys. Oh and pop singers like Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears.

To me though, the most important thing about the 90s were the seriously wicked TV shows, ranging from the coolest cartoons, to hit sitcoms, and even teenage dramas.

Which brings us to here. Naturally, I apologise if your favourite classic 90s TV shows didn’t make the cut, and you can angry tweet me later. But for now, let’s get stuck into some good ol’ fashioned nostalgia.

1. Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Anthony Head, James Marsters.

In every generation, a slayer is born. This cult classic that challenged TV norms is about Buffy Summers, a 16-year-old who recently moved with her mum to Sunnydale. Which also happens to be the home of the Hellmouth.

Buffy is destined to fight all evil that lurks in Sunnydale. Instead of doing this alone she saves the world one day at a time with her friends and her Watcher. Not only is Buffy dealing with hiding her secret from others, including her mother, but she is also just like any other teenager, dealing with all the same issues any other girl dealt with in school: balancing family life, dealing with boys – even falling in love with a vampire or two.

From the success of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, there was a spin-off series that followed the vampire with the soul called Angel, which lasted five seasons.

Buffy is still as popular today as it was 20 years ago because of its originality. Not only that, the characters were relatable – who honestly didn’t want to be Buffy? It also had witty dialogue, creepy monsters and interesting plot lines. I can’t tell you how many times I have re-watched this classic 90s TV series.

2. Friends (1994-2004)

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer.

Friends, as you may well know, was a popular comedy series set in Manhattan, that followed the lives of six friends: Rachel, Monica, Joey (probably my favourite character), Chandler, Ross and Phoebe.

Over the course of the series, you get to experience the characters’ drama, relationships, laughter and tears.

It’s such a joy to watch and always guaranteed to make you chuckle even now when you watch the re-runs on television.

Our favourite Friends Source: NBC

3. Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001)

Starring: Lucy Lawless, Renee O’Connor, Ted Raimi, Kevin Smith.

Xena: Warrior Princess is an adventure series about ancient gods and mythical creatures where a courageous female warrior battles the evil. Xena only started to fight for the good side once she started to regret her past of turmoil and torture.

She is joined by her friend Gabrielle to help people while Xena personally is seeking revenge on who killed her family.

This series was fun to watch with plenty of girl power action. It had a great storyline with a strong female heroine. Xena even had a cool weapon, a chakram, and even a cool noise she did too. Though importantly she also empowered the people around her to learn that you can change your past.

4. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-1997)

Starring: Terri Hatcher, Dean Cain, Lane Smith.

The very handsome Dean Cain starred as Clark Kent/Superman, with the stunning Terri Hatcher playing Lois Lane. This great 90s TV series follows the fun adventures of Clark Kent, a clumsy and shy guy, who works with the beautiful Lois Lane at The Daily Planet. Clark Kent though has a hidden disguise and is a real-life superhero, a brave and strong Superman.

With many other movies and series based on Superman, this particular 90s TV series is still a fan favourite in the franchise. Not only is this because the two leading actors have such great chemistry, but it also offered a different view on the life of Clark Kent, not just as him as Superman.

The series also had plenty of action, laughs, and love.

Lois and Clark The Perfect Superhero couple. Source: Warner Bros

5. The X-Files (1993-2002 rebooted 2016)

Starring: Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny, Mitch Pileggi.

The Truth is Out There!

The X-files is a unique sci-fi series that was very popular in the 90s. It follows two special FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who are in search of the truth. The pair are working on some secret files called the X-files. These cases lead them to investigate the paranormal, including alien conspiracies. Mulder is a true believer in the unexplained, while Scully is a sceptic to the theories.

Each episode focuses on a different case. The episodes also go deeper into why Mulder is a believer and encourages you to also question the unknown and make you think if the truth is out there.

The X-files also brought out two successful movies and recently was re-booted to the happiness of many fans!

6. Daria (1997-2001)

Starring: Tracey Grandstaff, Wendy Hoops, Julian Rebolledo.

Daria, as the title suggests, is about a teenager called Daria. Daria is an intelligent, cool, witty, but an unpopular teenager at school.

The series is about her life at school with her best friend Jane, the highs and lows of growing up, and her family. It magnifies her view of the people around her, and let’s just say she isn’t afraid to say what she is thinking. Not only does she point out other peoples’ flaws, she is also aware of her own.

This series was totally hip and cool to watch and you could even identify with her.

Daria Source MTV

7. Round the Twist (1989-2001)

Starring: Matthew Waters, Mark Mitchell, Ebonnie Masini.

For any Aussie kid coming home from school in the 90s, the ABC had many great shows on offer. But without a doubt, one of the coolest shows – and a show that is still very fun to watch today – is Round the Twist.

Based on the books of Paul Jennings, this classic 90s TV show is about the Twist family: the dad Tony, and his 3 children, Pete, Linda and Bronson. They move to a small seaside town, and end up living in a haunted lighthouse where some very strange things start to happen.

8. Rugrats (1990-2006)

Starring: Elizabeth Daily, Cheryl Chase, Christina Cavanaugh.

Rugrats is a Nickelodeon favourite. It stars our favourite nappy-wearing hero Tommy Pickles, and chronicles the adventures he has with his friends Chuckie, Lil, Phil – and of course his cousin Angelica.

We get to hear them talk, but their parents and Grandpa Lou had no idea the mischief they were up to, which always made it amusing to watch. The success of the show also brought out The Rugrats Movie. 

Rugrats. Source Nickelodeon

9. The Simpsons (1989 – Current)

Starring: Dan Casellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Julie Kavner.

The Simpsons is one of the longest-running shows from the 90s and is still on our screens today. It is also still very popular because even if the family doesn’t age, the topics the episodes go into detail about like US politics, are still relevant and not outdated.

The series is hilarious, sometimes quite rude, has some crazy but loveable characters, and even has some special guest actors and actresses appear on the series as themselves.

This animated series follows the life of our favourite dysfunctional family, The Simpsons, who live in Springfield. Homer works at the Nuclear Power Plant, Marge is a homemaker, Bart is a 10-year-old troublemaker, Lisa is an 8-year-old genius while Maggie is a baby. As viewers, we get to see the adventures and mishaps the family gets up to.

10. Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995-1999)

Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Michael Hurst, Kevin Smith.

The hunkiest Hercules on TV was played by Kevin Sorbo. Hercules: The Legendary Journeys was about mythical creatures and Greek Gods and balancing good and evil. The series follows Hercules who himself is half God, with his pal Iolaus, who go on different journeys saving people from the evil. Hercules faces challenges and tests on the way, just like in the actual Greek myth. Both Hercules and Iolaus even cross paths with Xena and Gabrielle.

This series was popular because Hercules was a hero who didn’t wear a cape. He was strong, athletic, and always made sure good would win. There were some pretty cool fight scenes for that time as well.

The Handsome Kevin Sorbo as Hercules. Source: MCA Television and IMDB

11. Dawsons Creek (1998-2003)

Starring: Katie Holmes, James Van Der Beek, Michelle Williams, Joshua Jackson.

Dawsons Creek was a popular teenager drama show, that also started off some very well-known names for their Hollywood careers.

The series follows the lives of four teenagers: Dawson, Pacey, Joey and Jen. They live in a small town called Capeside. The series shows their struggles growing up and how they help each other along the way.

Dawsons Creek was an entertaining show to watch, and one that always left me discussing the latest episode with friends the next day in school.

12. Sex and The City (1998-2004)

Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cartrell.

I will admit that I didn’t start watching this series until I went to university because it actually was always on at the same time as Buffy and you couldn’t record multiple shows like you can today (First World problems).

Sex and The City was set in New York and explored the highs and lows of relationships and friendships of four friends, Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda. This series was fun to watch, especially with your gal pals, and also enjoyable as you could personally agree with the mishaps in relationships and friendships the girls were experiencing.

From the success of the series, it produced two movies – both as good as the show.

The Girls on a night out- Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte. Source HBO

13. Charmed (1998-2006)

Starring: Holly Maree Combs.

Three Halliwell sisters, Prue, Piper and Phoebe, discover their ancestry and find out they are witches. Each sister has her own magical power. Prue has telekinesis, Piper can freeze time and Phoebe with the ability to see the future. When they combine their powers they are the Charmed ones and can defeat evil forces.

Throughout the season they develop stronger powers and even gain a half-sister Paige who also has powers of her own: she can orb to any place she wants.

Charmed was popular because not only did it explore the possibilities of having a superpower and magical abilities, it still made to light the importance of family. It also had the sisters deal with everyday life with balancing work, family, and even relationships with the special touch of magic.

14. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)

Starring: Will Smith, James Avery, Tatyana Ali.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is where we all know the famous Will Smith from. This hit series follows Will, who was sent to go and live with his Aunt and Uncle in a Bel-Air mansion from Philadelphia. There are plenty of laughs, dancing, cool fashion, a very catchy theme song and even touching moments of being a part of a family.

Will Smith in his famous role- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Source NBC

15. Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (1996-2003)

Starring: Melissa Joan Hart, Caroline Rhea, Nick Bakay, Beth Broderick

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch was a bewitching comedy series following the life of teenager Sabrina Spellman, living with her two Aunts Zelda and Helda as she discovers her true identity… a witch. Her two aunts help her with her witch training along with a talking black cat Salem. Sabrina has to balance life as a witch and still attend school.

The series was always charming to watch as even though Sabrina made a fair few blunders with her powers, she was just like any other teenager learning from her mistakes.

16. Pokemon (1997 – Current)

Starring: Veronica Taylor, Ikue Otani, Rodger Parsons.

Got to catch them all.

Pokemon is about a boy named Ash and his adventures with Pikachu, wanting to become the Pokemon Master. Ash must collect as many Pokemon as possible and train them. Who is your favourite?

Within the show, there are many different creatures, each crafted with a deftness that makes you eager to learn all about them.

Pokemon, from its creativity, has become a massive franchise. Not only does it have apps (surely you played Pokemon Go), but it also has a collectable card game, movies, DVDs, merchandise. Let’s just say it’s a money machine.

Pokemon is still as popular today as it was when it started in the 1990s.

Got to catch them all. Source: 9now

17. Catdog (1998-2005)

Starring: Jim Cummings, Tom Kenny.

We all know cats and dogs don’t really get along. But what if a cat and a dog had to share one body? Well, that is exactly what this Nickelodeon series is about. At one end of the body is a cat head, and at the other is a dog head and they are joined together. The two have to learn to live with each other.

Dog is, of course, silly, while Cat is smart. So this leads to a very funny animated series that has you laughing at the personality of each animal. Which one to do you prefer?

18. Hey Arnold (1994-2004)

Starring: Francesca Maria Smith, Jamil Walker Smith, Dan Castellaneta.

Hey Arnold is about a young boy named Arnold who lives with his cool grandparents. The series follows his adventures around the neighbourhood with his best friend Gerald – total friendship goals right there.

Arnold is the cool kid on the block type, who you just want to be friends with and join in on a ball game, or even hang out in his epic bedroom.

You really didn’t miss this favourite Nickelodeon show each afternoon.

Hey Arnold! Source Nickelodeon.

19. Goosebumps (1995-1998)

Starring: R.L. Stine, Kathryn Short, Cody Jones.

I think you would also agree that you absolutely loved these books and you also probably still have some to this day. It was honestly so cool that they brought to life a few of the stories from the books that you would have read.

If you read the stories, you know it was a horror – and probably one of the first that you experience as a kid too.

If you want to re-live the spooky tales, it is now on Netflix!

20. X-Men: The Animated Series (1992-1997)

Starring: George Buza, Norm Spencer, Cathal. J. Dodd.

The X-Men TV Series was the first in the franchise to be brought to our screens based on the Marvel comics. This popular cartoon was colourful, different, and had a variety of mutant characters who not only had their abilities, but also had personality and even fears themselves.

X-Men: The Animated Series follows people with special abilities known as mutants, who attend a special school that Professor Xavier set up in order for people like him to control their abilities. Within the school, a special ops team called X-Men is formed. Not only are they trying to fight for acceptance in the modern world, but they are also fighting other mutants that plan to utilise their powers for evil.

classic 90s tv shows
X-Men: Better when animated? Source: Fox.

21. Sliders (1995-2000)

Starring: Jerry O’Connell, Cleavant Derricks, Sabrina Lloyd, John Rhys-Davis.

Imagine being able to travel to different parallel universe realms, but the only catch is you’re not doing this for fun, you are trying to find your way home to the right realm?

Sliders is about just that. Quinn creates a machine that ends up being a portal to other realms. Quinn, along with some not so willing friends, end up having to search for their way home. They have to learn to survive where they land while making it to the next realm before the portal closes.

This series was popular because it was a different kind of fantasy show. It was entertaining, comical, and very creative. With the different realms, you had no clue what was going to happen in the next episode.

22. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987-1996)

Starring: Cam Clarke, Townsend Coleman, Renea Jacobs, Barry Gordon.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was about four turtles who were turned into humanoids by a weird ooze. They were taught kick-ass karate skills by Splinter. The turtles fight together against threats to their town.

Our loveable and brave turtle protagonists are named after famous artists, but instead of art they do cool ninja stuff (which some would say is better). They are also all massive fans of pizza, and we can all relate to that one.

The success of TMNT not only resulted in games, comics and merchandise, but there was a modern movie released in 2014.

The Ninja Turtles who love pizza! Source IMDB

23. Dinosaurs (1991-1994)

Starring: Stuart Pankin, Jessica Walter, John Kennedy.

Dinosaurs was about a family of dinosaurs living in the modern day world. You got to follow the family on their adventures, the highlight of which being the young baby who always tormented his father with the saying “Not the Momma!”

This series was great and very funny to watch, and quite fresh in its madness and creativity.

24. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993-1999)

Starring: Richard Steven Horvitz, David Yost, Ed Neil, Barbara Goodson.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is a martial arts action TV series. The five teenagers have been carefully recruited by Zordon. They’re all given fighting abilities to fight the evil witch Rita Repulsa and her crazy monsters to keep their town safe.

This series was popular because it took normal everyday people and turned them into fighting heroes. Who wouldn’t love that!?

classic 90s tv shows
Which one was your favourite? Source: Shout! Factory – Saban Brands

25. Will and Grace (1998-2006 Rebooted 2017)

Starring: Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally, Sean Hayes.

This 90s comedy series is one of my favourites. Will and Grace is a hilarious sitcom that follows the lives of four friends, Will, Grace, Karen and Jack. Will, a lawyer, and Grace, an interior designer, are best friends who just so happen to live with each other. Jack is Will’s friend who is trying to make it big in the acting world. Karen is Grace’s secretary but never really does her job.

The quick wit and humour from the friends has you laughing about their mishaps with work, friendships, relationships and life in general.

26. The Powerpuff Girls (1998-2005)

Starring: Cathy Cavadini, Tom Kenny, Elizabeth Daily, Tara Strong.

The Powerpuff Girls are mini superheroes. They were created by Professor Utonium who accidentally added an extra ingredient in his quest to make the perfect little girls. Thus, Blossom, Buttercup and Bubbles were born. The three girls are able to fly and have super strength to fight the evil lurking in their town Townsville.

This series was popular on the Cartoon Network, especially among girls because the characters weren’t just seen as little girls but superheroes. It was a funny series, that did have action as they girls defeat the villains but there was also a sense o the importance of having that sister bond.

classic 90s tv shows
Sugar and Spice and all things nice. Source: Cartoon Network

27. Aaahh!!! Real Monsters (1994-1997)

Starring: Charlie Alder, Christine Cavanaugh, David Eccles.

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters (incredible name, I know) is about three little monsters, Ickis, Oblina and Krumm, who are currently in monster school. They are learning how to be scary monsters to properly frighten humans. Their assignments don’t always go according to plan and they end up in a lot more trouble than they intended.

28. Rocko’s Modern Life (1993-1996)

Starring: Carlos Alazraqui, Tom Kenny, Charlie Adler.

Rocko’s Modern Life is about the adventures of Rocko, a wallaby who moves from Australia to the land of dreams, America. The transition has a lot of challenges for Rocko, including a crazy next door neighbour Ed Bighead. Rocko doesn’t face the obstacles alone. He has the help of his best friend Heffer, his trusty companion Spunky, and also another friend Filbert.

In terms of classic 90s TV shows, this series is a favourite. It is actually quite edgy with its content, especially if you watch it now as an adult. It has interesting characters and is quite funny, especially with Rocko trying to understand the American ways of life.

classic 90s tv shows
The crazy life of Rocko. Source: IMDB, Nickelodeon

29. Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1990-1996)

Starring: David Coburn, Whoopi Goldberg, Joey Dedio, LeVar Burton.

This was one of my favourite cartoons in the 90s. I actually wish they brought it back because it is still very relevant today with regards to saving the planet.

Captain Planet and the Planeteers was about how Gaia, who is like Mother Earth, chose five teenagers to help fight against the evil that wants to wreck havoc to the environment. Each teenager is given a special ring that has a special power. They are Earth, Fire, Wind, Water and Heart. When they each combine their power they get Captain Planet, who has the power to save the planet from disaster. At the end of each episode, the Planeteers demonstrate ways to help the Earth.

30. Seinfeld (1989-1998)

Starring: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, Jason Alexander.

Seinfeld is a hit classic. The series is set in New York and is about Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian. It follows the events and conservations of Jerry with his friends, George, Elaine, and Kramer. Each of the characters’ personalities combine to make a witty show, where Jerry uses everyday life as the inspiration for his comic act.

classic 90s tv shows
The cast of the hilarious sitcom. Source NBC, Castle Rock Entertainment

31. Art Attack  (1990-2007)

Starring: Neil Buchanan.

No afternoon was complete without watching an episode of Art Attack. The host Neil Buchanan educated us with some incredible art projects that we could try recreating by using items we would find around the home.

One of the coolest things towards the end of each episode was his massive art projects -just like in the video below. Neil would venture outside somewhere, and end up making a large piece of artwork with items he would find lying around.

There are so many classic 90s TV shows that I wish I could have put on this list. My shortlist also included series like A*Mazing, Gladiators, Doug, The Sopranos, Sailor Moon, 7th Heaven, The Angry Beavers, Star Trek, Ren and Stimpy, Stargate SG1, The Angry Beavers, Saved by the Bell, Dexters Laboratory, Frasier, Full House, Walker Texas Ranger… the list goes on. The 90s definitely weren’t short on top telly, and I bet you could think of a few more names too!

I hope this list of classic 90s TV shows bought back some childhood memories, and maybe incentive to re-binge and old favourite.

Read our Top 15: Best Australian Movies Of All Time.

Considers herself a Film and Television enthusiast. She loves to attend pop culture events. She is also very passionate about writing including her own blog and travelling to the unknown.