Teen stars dominated the ‘90s TV, movie and musical circuits, and became a huge part of everyday life. You just had to have all of your favorites on your walls; you just had to write ‘Mrs. [insert hunky teen star here]’ with loads of hearts on your notebooks, and you just had to pretend that your favorite star was also your boyfriend… he just didn’t know it yet. But have you ever wondered where they ranked? Take a look at the 40 greatest ‘90s teen stars…
40. Jonathan Taylor Thomas
You might not recognize the face, but you’ll definitely remember the voice – because Jonathan Taylor Thomas voiced everyone’s weird childhood crush…Simba. (Or was that just us?) Thomas’s high point in his career was during his teen years and starred in The Bradys, Home Improvement, and In Living Color. We have to admit, he peaked a bit too early, and we haven’t really seen him since. But he’s still our Simba.
39. Jessica Alba
We’ve wanted to be Jessica Alba ever since we saw Honey – how could someone be that beautiful?! But before her time dancing on Missy Elliot’s music video, Alba was a huge teen star. She first debuted into the world of Hollywood at the age of thirteen when she starred in Camp Nowhere and the Nickelodeon show, The Secret World of Alex Mack. She then went on to score a recurring role for two years on Dark Angel. Is there anything she can’t do?
38. Seann William Scott
If you didn’t grow up watching Seann William Scott on your TV screen or in the movie theater, did you really grow up in the ‘90s? Scott was a bit late to the game in terms of teen stars but had his first major film debut at the age of 20. He then went on to star as Steve Stifler in the American Pie saga (which of course, we all watched even though our parents told us not to), Dude, Where’s My Car? Road Trip and Final Destination in the early ‘00s.
37. Britney Spears
Ooops, she did it again. Britney is one of the biggest pop stars of all time and started her career pretty early on. She became singing and acting as a child, and went from strength to strength – I mean, you know you’ve made it when you perform on stage with a giant snake. As a teen, Britney released her hit singles, ‘Baby One More Time’ and ‘Oops! I Did It Again’ in the ‘90s, and even appeared alongside JT in The Mickey Mouse Club. But we just want her to Gimme More…
36. Danielle Fishel
At the age of 10, Fishel was discovered at her local community theater – and the rest is history. She then went on to provide voice-overs in commercials and even appeared in two episodes of the hit ‘90s show, Full House. At 12-years-old when the average girl would be playing with her Barbie and Cabbage Patch Dolls, Fishel had already landed her biggest break in her career – the role of Topanga Lawrence-Matthews. And we absolutely loved her.
35. Natalie Portman
We have the biggest girl crush on Natalie Portman. She began performing at the age of 4-years-old and was even offered a modeling contract at the age of 10 – but she turned it down to focus on her acting career instead. (Oh, of course, as you do). Her first movie debut was in 1993, in Luc Besson’s, Leon: The Professional. She then went on to star in Heat, Mars Attacks! And in the Broadway version of The Diary of Anne Frank – but her biggest teen role was her portrayal of Padme in the Star Wars prequel.
34. James Franco
We absolutely love James Franco – and all of the Franco brothers in general (how can so much talent come from one family?!) After studying acting with Robert Carnegie, Franco landed his first acting job as a teen in a Pizza Hut advert, alongside Elvis Presley. Not a bad starter, ey? Then, at 19-years-old he landed the role which made him famous, in Freaks and Geeks. Even though the season only ran for one season, it is known as a cult classic, and Franco was then in high demand.
33. Mandy Moore
Mandy Moore started singing, dancing and acting from a young age, which spurred her on to become famous. She signed her first recording contract at just fourteen years old and started recording her debut. Well, there’s worse things to be doing at fourteen. She then went on to tour with N*SYNC (SO JEALOUS) and even expanded into the world of professional acting.
32. Mario Lopez
We liked watching anything that Mario Lopez was in. Those dimples, though. Lopez got his big break at just 11-years-old when he starred in the ABC series, a.k.a Pablo. The show didn’t last very long, but it was all Lopez needed. He then went on to star in Kids Incorporated, The Golden Girls and Saved By The Bell. He was one of our favorites…
31. Justin Timberlake
We loved Justin Timberlake just as much as we still love him today. And that’s a heck-load. He sings he dances, he acts, and he’s extremely handsome. What’s not to love. And it seems he’s had these envious talents since a young age, because at the age of ten, JT landed his first (major) role in The Mickey Mouse Club alongside the likes of Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling, and JC Chasez. And then, of course, he became a member of N*SYNC. *cue intense girly screaming and hyperventilating*
30. Christina Aguilera
Christina Aguilera was always known as the little girl with the big voice and won her first talent show at the young, tender age of eight years old, and even appeared on Star Search. Her appearance on this show spurred on her career, and she then went on to star on The Mickey Mouse Club. Like all fourteen year olds, she recorded her first single, and even went on to sing ‘Reflection’ for Disney’s Mulan… all before she was twenty-years-old.
29. Jennie Garth
Jennie Garth debuted onto our screens as a thirteen-year-old on the TV sitcom, Growing Pains. Five years after the show finished, she then landed her most prominent role for her teenage and adult years – as Kelly Taylor in Beverly Hill, 90210. She later went on to reprise her role in the 90210 spin-offs in the late ‘00s as a guidance counselor at the school she attended earlier in her life.
28. Alyssa Milano
Alyssa Milano was the ultimate teen star. She started off her career on the stage, before transitioning onto the screen. Her first movie debut was in the coming-of-age movie, Old Enough, before landing herself a major role on ABC’s Who’s The Boss? Remember that show? Brilliant. After her time on the show, she then starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando. You know you’ve made it when you get to act alongside Arnie.
27. Ashton Kutcher
Kutcher was just on the cusp of his teenage years when he landed his first acting job – you could say he was an adult, but we wanted him on the list sooooo. Kutcher started off as a professional model, before landing his role on That ‘70s Show as Michael Kelso. (One of our favorite characters, EVER). This role skyrocketed Kutcher’s name into the stratosphere, and he is now an extremely popular actor in the professional world.
26. Mark Wahlberg
Mark Wahlberg is known for having a troubled childhood (perhaps a bit of an understatement). Nevertheless, he was a big figure in the ‘90s, and as a teenager. At just 13-years-old, Wahlberg and his brother were the original members of the boy band, New Kids on the Block – and then quit after three months. But he then joined forces with fellow rappers to create Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch… and they proved hugely popular.
25. Freddie Prinze, Jr.
Before his 20th birthday, Freddie Prinze Jr. had a resume that most actors would be jealous of. He had starred on Family Matters, To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, and I Know What You Did Last Summer. The latter proved his most famous role to date, apart from his role on Scooby-Doo, because, well, we’re obsessed with those movies…
24. Katie Holmes
We all know Katie Holmes as being the actor, model, filmmaker, mother and ex-wife to Tom Cruise (we’re still not over their divorce). At 19-years-old, Holmes was cast in everyone’s favorite ‘90s TV show, Dawson’s Creek. She landed the role of Joey Potter, the best friend of Dawson, the title character. The show did extremely well, and naturally, so did Katie.
23. Jared Leto
Jared Leto was brought up surrounded by the arts – his mother was part of the hippie movement, so it was hard for him to ignore performing. Leto moved to Los Angeles in ‘92, to pursue a career in movie directing, but quickly realized that his passion was in acting. His first role was in My So-Called Life, and he then went on to star in Cool and the Crazy and How to Make and American Quilt.
22. Seth Green
There are not many people who can say that they starred in two movies when they were 10-years-old – but Seth Green can. During that year, he starred in the movies, The Hotel New Hampshire, and Billions For Boris. During his teenage years he appeared on Can’t Buy Me Love, My Stepmother is an Alien, and of course, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We miss Buffy. And we miss Oz.
21. Mila Kunis
After Mila Kunis had moved from the Ukraine to the US, she was enrolled into acting classes, and her career went from there. She landed her first role in a Barbie commercial, before landing herself a spot on the Lisa Frank commercial. (So ‘90s, it hurts). At just fifteen years old, Kunis landed her breakout role in That ‘70s Show alongside her now-husband, and fellow teen star, Ashton Kutcher. And they are the ultimate relationship goals.
20. Alyson Hannigan
We all know Alyson Hannigan as Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But this wasn’t her first role. Hannigan and her mother moved to L.A when she was eleven to pursue her acting career, and landed her first role at fourteen in the movie; My Stepmother Is an Alien. In 1989, she then landed a recurring role on the TV series, Free-Spirit.
19. Neve Campbell
Like many teen stars, Neve Campbell started off her acting career in a commercial. She starred in a 1991 Coca-Cola commercial and gained attention from casting agents. The Canadian’s first major role was in the series, Catwalk, which aired primarily in Canada. During her teen years, she was named ‘television’s most believable teenager.’ Well done, Neve.
18. Will Smith
We all know Will Smith as the star of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, iRobot and The Pursuit of Happyness, but few us of remember his days as an MC. Before he landed his role on Fresh Prince TV show, Smith was part of the MC duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, and even won a Grammy Award in 1988, at just twenty years old.
17. Kirsten Dunst
Kirsten Dunst was first signed to an agency at just three-years-old! While we struggled to walk and talk, Dunst appeared as a child fashion model in TV commercials. She landed her first movie role at the age of six, but her breakthrough came in her teenage years. She starred in Interview with the Bonfire, Little Women, Jumanji (best movie ever) and she even voiced the young Anastasia. So you could say her life just got better and better as she got older…
16. Luke Perry
Okay, so Perry wasn’t technically a teen star when he landed his first breakthrough role. But he was only a young 24-years-old and starred in a teen drama, so we’ll make this one count. During this time, Perry landed a role on Beverly Hills, 90210 as Dylan McKay – the rebellious heartthrob that we all had a crush on. So at least he played a teenager…
15. Melissa Joan Hart
We all know Melissa Joan Hart during her teenage years as Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. Because she was super cool, and we all really wanted to be like her. But before this, she had used her teen talents in the show, Clarissa Explains It All, which landed her the role on Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. She’s so lucky, why can’t we be magical?
14. Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon had one of the best debut roles of any teen star. At fifteen years old, Witherspoon landed herself a leading role in the movie, The Man in the Moon, and was nominated for a Young Artist Award. For her first role! After that, she starred in the TV show, Wildflower and A Far off Place. And of course, later on, she plays our favorite character ever…Elle Woods.
13. Claire Danes
Claire Danes was destined for greatness. She signed with her first agency at 12-years-old and landed her first role on the TV show, Dudley. She then went to play cameos in shows like Law & Order and Lifestories: Families in Crisis, before her recurring role in My So-Called Life – for which she won a Golden Globe. But our best and most favorite role of hers was as Juliet in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Absolutely incredible.
12. Christina Applegate
Before she was a teenager, Christina Applegate had already starred in over ten movies and TV shows. During her teenage years, Applegate landed the role of Kelly Bundy on the popular sitcom, Married…with Children. She seemed to get a reputation for playing the stereotypical, rebellious teenager…which is far from what she’s like now.
11. Mark-Paul Gosselaar
When he was just fifteen, Mark-Paul Gosselaar landed his first major role in Saved By The Bell, alongside Mario Lopez. He even went to star in the many SBTB spin-off shows and movies. Later on, he appeared in the movies; She Cried No and Dead Man on Campus. Just like Lopez, we had a crush on him, too…
10. Neil Patrick Harris
Nowadays, we know Neil Patrick Harris for his role in How I Met Your Mother, and the new Netflix series, A Series of Unfortunate Events. As a teenager, Harris was discovered at a drama camp and went on to star in Clara’s Heart, alongside Whoopi Goldberg – and earned him a Golden Globe nomination. Not bad for your first movie.
9. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
If you think Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his adorable baby-face are cute now, just wait until you see him as a child/teenager. During his teenage years, Gordon-Levitt made a name for himself from his role in 3rd Rock from the Sun, which he starred in for six seasons. And you probably saw him in your teen magazines, like, a lot.
8. Tiffani Thiessen
Thiessen was another Saved By The Bell alum. She starred on the show until it ended in 1993, and then went on to guest star on shows like Married…with Children, Step by Step, Hawaiian Style and Charles in Charge. As if this wasn’t enough, she then went on to star in the ‘90s classic, Beverly Hills, 90210. Anything else you’d like to add to the list, Tiffani?
7. Christina Ricci
Ricci started off her acting career at the age of ten, when she starred in the movie, Mermaids. A year later, she played her first role as Wednesday Addams and summed up every ‘90s kid in one character. And of course, she reprised her role in the Addams Family sequel. During her teenage years, she also appeared in Caspar.
6. Jessica Biel
Jessica Biel started off in the limelight from a young age. She sang, she danced and she models. Oh, and she was, and still is, an amazing actress. At fourteen, Biel landed herself a role which spurred on her career – as Mary Camden in 7th Heaven. Since then, she has gone from strength to strength.
5. Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore is notorious for having a troubled past, but she really came into her own during her teenage years – in terms of her acting ability. She starred in Poison Ivy, Scream, Boys on the Side and the Wedding Singer. Of course, after her 20’s she became the star of some of our favorite movies like 50 First Dates, Charlie’s Angels and Never Been Kissed. We love you, Drew.
4. Jennifer Love Hewitt
During her time as a child actress, Jennifer Love Hewitt starred in over 20 commercials, before acting in movies and TV shows as a teen. She was first noticed during her time on Party of Five and landed a huge role alongside Freddie Prinze Jr. in I Know What You Did Last Summer.
3. Sarah Michelle Gellar
We always knew Buffy would make be near the top of the class. How couldn’t she be? She was one sassy son-of-a-gun. Gellar’s first acting debut came within the TV-movie, An Invasion of Privacy, before she went on to star in Swans Crossing, All My Children, and eventually, Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
2. Alicia Silverstone
Silverstone is one of our faves. During the ‘90s, she starred in countless movies and TV shows – most notably, Clueless. Which we still can’t get enough of. Her first role came from the movie, The Crush, and won two MTV Awards for this role. Of course, only the best actress could play our pretty-in-plaid Cher.
1. Leonardo Di Caprio
Of course, Leo just has to be number one. Leonardo DiCaprio first started acting at the age of 5-years-old, before he was cut from production for being too disruptive. That’s our Leo. Despite this, he carried on working on commercials before he landed his debut role in Critters 3. During his teenage years, he went on to star in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, alongside Johnny Depp, before his career spiraled upwards. I mean, he starred in Titanic. Do we need to say anything else?