Top 20 TV Shows That Defined the 1990s According To Rotten Tomatoes

The 1990s were an important time for TV, with a wide range of shows that captivated audiences and set the stage for modern TV storytelling. As we look back at the decade’s TV landscape, these shows became cultural touchstones, influenced pop culture, and left a lasting impression on viewers.

1. Friends 

Friends 90s TV shows
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Could it BE any more obvious? This famous sitcom gave life to Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe, six friends who lived in Manhattan. The show captured the spirit of friendship, love, and funny camaraderie. Friends have become a cultural phenomenon that people still love to this day. Its humor is easy to relate to, and its catchphrases are easy to remember.

2. Seinfeld 

Seinfeld finale
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Television.

Seinfeld changed how people thought about sitcoms by being a show about nothing but the strange lives of comic Jerry Seinfeld and his quirky group of friends. The show made a unique mark on comedy with its insightful humor, meta-commentary, and memorable characters. 

3. The X-Files 

The X-Files
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Television.

The TV show The X-Files was about FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully as they looked into strange things and government plots that couldn’t be explained. The show’s mix of science fiction, horror, and suspense made people curious about the unknown and gave rise to a group of devoted fans.

4. ER 

ER 90s TV shows
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Television.

Before there was Grey’s Anatomy and Scrubs, there was ER. Following the lives and travails of the emergency department physicians and nurses at Chicago’s County General Hospital, ER provided a fascinating depiction of the fast-paced world of emergency medicine. The show set a new bar for medical dramas because it had intense medical cases, a large cast, and a realistic look at hospital life.

5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Television.

The show Buffy the Vampire Slayer had supernatural elements and drama about coming of age. It followed Buffy Summers as she went to high school and fulfilled her fate as a vampire slayer. The show handled difficult topics and mixed action, horror, and comedy, which made it a cult favorite and a pioneer for female-led genre shows.

6. Beverly Hills, 90210 

Beverly Hills 90210 90s TV Shows
Image Credit: Paramount.

The show Beverly Hills, 90210 took viewers into the glamorous lives of a group of kids in an affluent part of Beverly Hills. The show looked at the problems of growing up, friendships, relationships, and critical social topics. It became a landmark for the teen drama genre. I was obsessed all the way to the end! I was always on team Brandon for Kelly.

7. The Simpsons 

The Simpsons
Image Credit: Fox Broadcasting.

The Simpsons changed the way animated TV shows were made by presenting the dysfunctional but likable Simpson family and the strange people who lived in Springfield. With its satirical humor, sharp social commentary, and unmatched ability to make fun of popular culture, the show became a mainstay of both animation and comedy.

8. Frasier 

Frasier 90s tv shows
Image Credit: NBC.

Frasier was a spinoff of Cheers, and Kelsey Grammer played Dr. Frasier Crane, a therapist who moved to Seattle. The show had clever humor, witty banter, and deep character development, which made it a favorite of both critics and viewers. It is still praised for its clever writing.

9. Married… with Children 

Married With Children
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures Television.

Married… with Children turned the typical sitcom format on its head by showing the crazy lives of the Bundy family, who were not very good at being a family. The irreverent humor, crazy situations, and performances by Ed O’Neill and Katey Sagal, among others, made the show a controversial but important sitcom of the time.

10. Everybody Loves Raymond 

Everybody Loves Raymond
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Studios.

Everybody Loves Raymond was a funny look at how the Barone family worked, with Ray Romano as the title character Raymond. With its realistic family events, funny interactions, and memorable side characters, the show gave a new look at home life and family relationships.

11. The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air 

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air 90s TV shows
Image Credit: NBC Studios.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was groundbreaking and a still a syndicated favorite today. This TV show introduced people to the charming Will Smith, who moved from Philadelphia to Bel-Air to live with his rich relatives. With a lot of energy and a mix of humor, heart, and social analysis, the show talked about race, class, and family relationships.

12. Home Improvement 

Home Improvement
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios.

The sitcom Home Improvement provided an entertaining look at the life of home improvement show host Tim “The Toolman” Taylor (Tim Allen), his family, and the show itself. The show was a popular sitcom because it had a good mix of family humor, Tim’s hilarious blunders, and their neighbor Wilson peeking over the fence to teach life lessons. 

13. Roseanne

Image Credit: Carsey-Werner Distribution.

Roseanne showed how the working-class Conner family honestly dealt with the ups and downs of regular life. With its easy-to-understand humor, focus on real problems, and irreverent performance by Roseanne Barr, the show struck a chord with audiences and showed how American families work.

14. Ally McBeal 

Ally McBeal 90s television
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Ally McBeal, played by Calista Flockhart, was a young lawyer who worked at a Boston law company. Ally McBeal followed her work and personal life. The show gave a unique look at modern life through its mix of court drama, weird fantasy scenes, and explorations of current relationships. The characters are eccentric, and the soundtrack is great. 

15. Saturday Night Live 

Saturday Night Live 90s TV
Image Credit: NBC Studios.

Saturday Night Live started in the 1970s, but it was still a popular show in the 1990s because it had a mix of topical jokes, impersonations of famous people, and musical acts. The sketch comedy show improved, influencing how people laughed for the rest of the decade and beyond.

The 90s SNL included comics Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Chris Rock, Phil Hartman, Adam Sandler, Norm Macdonald, Molly Shannon, David Spade, and the legendary Chris Farley. 

16. Full House 

Full House
Image Credit: Lorimar Television.

Do you remember tuning into TGIF for your Tanner family hug?! In Full House, widowed dad Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) got help from his brother-in-law and best friend to raise his three girls. The show was both heartwarming and funny at times. People of all ages could relate to the show’s mix of family values, humor, and moving moments. 

17. Baywatch 

Image Credit: NBC.

Baywatch took place on the sandy beaches of Los Angeles and showed how lifeguards protected beachgoers and dealt with their own problems. With its famous slow-motion running scenes and mix of action, drama, and romance, the show became a worldwide hit and a pop culture icon of the 1990s.

18. South Park 

South Park
Image Credit: Comedy Central.

With its irreverent humor and satirical take on current events and social problems, South Park pushed the limits of animated comedy. The show, which Trey Parker and Matt Stone made, used childlike figures to make sharp social comments. This made it both controversial and culturally important.

19. Will & Grace 

Will & Grace
Image Credit: NBC Studios.

The way Will & Grace showed the friendship between gay lawyer Will Truman and his straight best friend Grace Adler was groundbreaking. The show’s mix of humor, heart, and portrayal of LGBTQ+ people broke down stereotypes and gave a new look at relationships and city life.

20. Star Trek: The Next Generation 

Star Trek the Next Generation
Image Credit: Paramount Domestic Television.

Star Trek: The Next Generation breathed new life into the classic science fiction franchise by introducing a new cast of characters, including Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart)se. The show carried on the Star Trek tradition of exploration, moral dilemmas, and interstellar diplomacy, and it became a beloved part of the Star Trek world.

26 Once Hilarious Comedy Films That You’re Not Allowed To Laugh at Today

Revenge of the Nerds
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Although comedy movies have always been a source of amusement and laughter, society’s expectations and sensibilities have changed over time. What was previously seen as hilarious and acceptable may be viewed as improper or offensive today. Let’s look at some once brilliant comedy movies that are unlikely to be produced or laughed at in the current cultural climate (unless you grew up watching them).

25 Fan Voted Greatest Television Episodes of All Time, Do You Agree?

The Twilight Zone
Image Credit: United Paramount Network.

With thousands upon thousands of television episodes over the decades, it is difficult to narrow down the best. However, one entertainment forum tried to do just that. Do you agree with their picks?

15 of the Worst Series Finales of Your Favorite Shows on Television

How I Met Your Mother
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Television.

Have you ever been disappointed with a TV series finale? You’re not alone. After someone asked a popular online entertainment forum what the worst series finales are, here is what they had to say. Do you agree?

15 Beloved Fictional Characters Who Are Terrible and Have No Business Being Glorified

Indiana Jones
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Are there any fictional characters people love and revere that you can’t stand? I think you can rip apart just about any cast on a sitcom. I’m looking at you How I Met Your MotherSeinfeld, and The Big Bang Theory. After someone asked an online forum for examples of terrible fictional characters that people love, here are their most interesting responses.

10 Magnificent Performances That Tricked Us Into Loving Terrible Movies

Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures.

Ready for some controversy? First, let me preface that I do NOT agree with several of the films listed on this list. Recently, an online film forum member asked about amazing performances in terrible films. Again, don’t hate the reporter. These are not my picks.

Source: Rotten Tomatoes.