As Long As You Love Me: Our Favorite ’90s Heartthrobs

One thing truly defines a decade — and I’m not talking about the current events, politics, fashion or even music. I’m talking about the heartthrobs that grace the covers of Tiger Beat magazine and decorate the walls of teenage girls’ hormone-filled bedrooms. Their names, encased in bubbly hearts, adorn the margins of middle- and high-school notebooks. These teen idols of yore paved the way for Justin Bieber and Robert Pattinson.

The ‘90s provided today’s college grads with the hotties who would fill our adolescent minds with our first dirty thoughts and lustful desires. So, in the spirit of ‘90s Week, let’s take a look back at some of these boys and see what became of them.

Joshua Jackson. This stud first appeared on our radar in 1992 as hockey superstar Charlie Conway in The Mighty Ducks, but Jackson reached his peak as Dawson Leery’s sarcastic, emotionally damaged, wise-beyond-his-years best friend Pacey Witter on Dawson’s Creek. Joshua rocked the hell out of the beloved frosted tips hairstyle and in the early 2000s, he starred in several unknown films and has made a comeback as Peter Bishop on the hit TV series Fringe.

Hanson. This trio MmmBopped their way into teen hearts and magazines in 1997 with their (only?) hit song. Hanson was great because you got all three of the brothers, with their luscious, long blonde hair, for the price of one, and there was a brother to suit teenage girls of every age. Believe it or not, the Hanson boys are still struggling to stay relevant. They toured with Hellogoodbye in 2009 and on their own in 2010 to promote their most recent album.

Jared Leto. Two words, ladies: Jordan Catalano. Leto rose to fame as Angela Chase’s on-and-off boyfriend on the short-lived cult ‘90s favorite My So-Called Life. Those big blue eyes, the flannel shirts, the bad boy persona. Dyslexia was never so sexy until the show’s writers revealed that Jordan Catalano had it. Jared’s acting career continued long after his rise to fame amongst teenage girls, and he’s had memorable roles in critically acclaimed films like Requiem for a Dream. Most recently, he can be found wearing more eyeliner than a 16-year-old at a My Chemical Romance concert and being a douchebag in the rock band 30 Seconds to Mars.

Devon Sawa. Ok, I’m going to come clean about something very important: I was guilty of pausing the movie Now and Then about a hundred times to try to catch a glimpse of Devon’s penis in the scene in which he’s running around wearing just a towel. Please tell me I’m not alone here! When Devon’s character fell in love with Becky “Icebox” O’Shea in Little Giants, it gave hope to tomboys everywhere. And who could forget his famous “Can I keep you?” line from Casper? These days, Devon’s best known for the Final Destination movies, but he’ll always have a bowl cut and a slightly-cracking voice in our hearts.

Rider Strong. Why is it always the bad boys who are so appealing? As Corey Matthews’ best friend Shawn Hunter on Boy Meets World, Rider gave us a glimpse of the inevitable hot mess of a guy that we would each make the mistake of dating someday. But he looked good, so that’s all that really mattered. In 2002, he made his way to the big screen for Eli Roth‘s cringe-worthy indie horror film Cabin Fever. In 2008, he co-created a television ad in support of Barack Obama that ran on MTV and Comedy Central.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Better known as JTT, he’s the first celebrity I fondly remember carefully pasting to the back of my bedroom door. Who could resist him as the smart-mouthed middle child on Home Improvement? I’m almost positive the only reason it was “cool” enough for us to go see The Lion King in movie theaters is because JTT happened to be the voice of Simba. JTT hit his acting peak when he was a teenager and has since been more or less out of the picture — the biggest news about him in the past several years revolved around rumors about him being gay, which he humorously and graciously denied.

Justin Timberlake. Can you even name the other guys from N*SYNC? With JT leading everyone’s favorite boy band, it was like his bandmates didn’t even exist. And how many hearts did he break when he started dating his female pop counterpart, Britney Spears? But I have to give him props because he’s come a long way since his boy band beginning. Justin’s a fan favorite on Saturday Night Live, co-starred in one of the best movies of 2010 and even exposed Janet Jackson’s boob in front of millions of viewers during the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Mark Wahlberg. The actor formerly known as Marky Mark was worshipped for his perfect physique when it was put on display for a Calvin Klein advertisement in Times Square in 2002. His band, Mark Wahlberg and the Funky Bunch, is responsible for the 1991 hit single “Good Vibrations,” and his acting career followed not long after his modeling and rapping gigs. It’s hard to believe how far he’s come since the ‘90s, and even more impressive that he’s managed to maintain a perfect six-pack the whole way through. Mark was nominated for an Academy Award in 2006 for his performance in The Departed and recently portrayed boxer Mickey Ward in 2010′s The Fighter.

Leonardo DiCaprio. I like to save the best for last, and Leo is my personal favorite. Although he starred in many great films in the early ‘90s, Leo first appeared on the radar of every teenage girl  in America with his role as Romeo in the 1996  Romeo + Juliet. And just when we thought we couldn’t possibly love this intense, blonde-haired, blue-eyed stud any more, he swept us off our feet as the romantic Jack Dawson in Titanic the following year. But Leo didn’t want to be known as “another piece of cute meat,” and after Titanic, he was much more selective about his roles. He has since become acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese‘s new muse, working with him on films like The Departed, Gangs of New York, The Aviator and Shutter Island. Like a fine wine, Leo just gets better with age.

OK, now it’s your turn. Who would you add to this list?

Photos by danzden, Erkka P. and sully213

Jessica Weil Social Media Analyst at advertising agency in Cambridge, MA. Loves: sharks, philosophy, horror movies. Fascinated by the quirky stuff that makes life so interesting.

View all posts by Jessica Weil

17 Responses to “As Long As You Love Me: Our Favorite ’90s Heartthrobs”

  1. McKenzie Lawton

    This is the perfect list of 90′s male heartthrobs. Throughly enjoyed it.

  2. Jen Kalaidis

    OMG I totally forgot about Devon Sawa. Such a hottie…although I think he turned into kind of a creep.

    I’m glad the number one stop was reserved for Leo ;)

  3. Christine Peterson

    AAAHHH, I totally forgot how obsessed I used to be with Ryder Strong!! SUCH a hottie. And if my boyfriend is any indication, “the inevitable hot mess of a guy” is sometimes EXACTLY who you should be with! ;)

  4. Rolliene Mallari

    Is it bad that I read this, clicked for pics and started getting all giggly?

    I don’t think there’ll ever be a time when Rider Strong and my fave #1 (too!) Leo DiCaprio wouldn’t make me swoon like the little girl I was. Boy Meets World and Romeo+Juliet will always make me cheese.

  5. Pete Cutler

    Nice work with the research and updates. And thank you (I think) for a look into the motivations of teenage girls – although perhaps I learned more than I really wanted to. I’m relieved that I wound up with two (now grown) sons and “lost out” on the experience of dealing with suitors of one or more daughters.

    I have not been a strong DiCaprio fan, although he has indeed grown into a respected and talented actor and the movie “Inception” is a fine example. Mark Whalberg has always been on the gritty side and “The Fighter” is a showcase for his dedication to physical prowess.

    • Jessica

      Thanks for the comment! This was a fun article to research/write. I’m sure raising two sons was not without its own sort of interesting issues to deal with. I kind of hope that when the time comes for me to have children that I am able to experience both a son and a daughter. I’m genuinely curious about the different experiences!

  6. Alex Pearlman

    Oh, LEO… my favorite. We used to cut out pictures of him and compare who had the best ones at school. And, let me just say that I was NOT a fan of JT. It was JC Chasez ALL THE WAY (notice how I know his name).

    But this just might be my fav post of the whole week. Rockin’ list.

    • Jessica

      Thanks, girl!

      To be honest, I didn’t like any of the N*Syncers…but I thought I’d include JT to be fair to all the other millions of girls who loved him in the ’90s!

      And the picture of Leo looking through the fish tank in Romeo + Juliet? AHHHH. Swoon.


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