Reliving the Cultural and Historical Highlights of 1990

A Review of the Year’s Best-Selling Films and Singles, Key Events, and Notable Births


The year 1990 marked the start of a new decade and brought with it a multitude of cultural, historical, and entertainment highlights that continue to be remembered and celebrated today. Relive the highlights of 1990, from the release of some of the highest-grossing films of the year to the best-selling singles and key events, this article delves into the happenings of 1990, giving a retrospective view of the memorable moments that defined the year.

Films: The Highlights of 1990

The film industry was thriving in 1990, and some of the year’s biggest box-office hits are still considered classics today. Check out out Parasite film review while you are here.


Paramount’s “Ghost” tops the list of the highest-grossing films of 1990, earning a worldwide gross of $505,702,588. With a star-studded cast and a captivating storyline, this romantic fantasy thriller remains a fan favourite.

Home Alone

Fox’s “Home Alone” comes in second place, earning a worldwide gross of $476,684,675. This holiday classic tells the story of a young boy who is accidentally left behind when his family goes on vacation for Christmas.

Pretty Woman

Disney’s “Pretty Woman” takes third place with a worldwide gross of $463,406,268. This romantic comedy stars Julia Roberts and Richard Gere and has become a staple for those in search of a feel-good movie.

Dances with Wolves

Orion’s “Dances with Wolves” takes fourth place with a worldwide gross of $424,208,848. This epic western drama stars Kevin Costner and tells the story of a Union Army lieutenant who befriends a tribe of Sioux Indians.

Total Recall

Sony and Carolco’s “Total Recall” rounds out the top five with a worldwide gross of $261,317,921. This science-fiction action film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and is set on a future colonised Mars.

Best-selling Singles: Highlights of 1990

The music industry also saw its fair share of chart-topping hits in 1990.

“Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers

The Righteous Brothers take the top spot with their iconic ballad, “Unchained Melody”. This classic love song remains a staple in popular culture and has been covered by numerous artists over the years.

“Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinéad O’Connor

Sinéad O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” comes in second place. This soul-stirring ballad was a hit for the Irish singer and is considered one of the greatest love songs of all time.

“Sacrifice”/”Healing Hands” by Elton John

Elton John’s “Sacrifice”/”Healing Hands” takes third place. The British singer-songwriter delivered another hit with this double-sided single, which showcases his talent for crafting memorable songs.

“Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice

Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” comes in fourth place. This hip-hop classic was one of the first rap songs to reach number one on the charts and remains a staple of the genre today.

“Killer” by Adamski

Adamski’s “Killer” rounds out the top five. This techno-inspired hit was a dancefloor favourite in 1990 and remains a popular song to this day.

Highlights of 1990: A Time of Change and Progress

The year 1990 was a significant one in history, marked by several defining moments and events that left a lasting impact on the world. From the beginning of Glasgow’s year as the European Capital of Culture to the unification of East and West Germany, the year was marked by several noteworthy happenings.

Start of Glasgow’s Year as the European Capital of Culture

January 1 saw the start of Glasgow’s year as the European Capital of Culture. This was a significant event as it marked the city’s recognition as a cultural hub,and helped in the promotion of Scottish culture and heritage on a global platform.

The Rise of the Internet

In January, the first companies providing internet services to commercial users, PSINet and EUnet, began selling internet access to commercial customers. This marked the beginning of the digital age and paved the way for the widespread use of the internet.

Birth of Personalities: The Highlights of 1990

The year also saw the birth of several famous personalities, including Liam Hemsworth, the Australian actor, and Princess Eugenie of York, a British princess.

MTV’s Unplugged and the Nintendo World Championships

MTV’s Unplugged was broadcast for the first time on January 21, with British band Squeeze. On March 8, the Nintendo World Championships were held in the Fair Park’s Automobile Building, marking the start of an  almost year-long gaming competition across 29 American cities.

First McDonald’s in Moscow and China

On January 31, the first McDonald’s in Moscow, Russia opened its doors to customers, 8 months after construction began. On October 8, the first McDonald’s restaurant was opened in Mainland China in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong.

The End of Apartheid and the Release of Nelson Mandela

February 2 saw the announcement by F. W. de Klerk of the unbanning of the African National Congress and the promise to release Nelson Mandela. On February 11, Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison, after 27 years behind bars.

Pale Blue Dot photograph of Earth

On February 14, the Pale Blue Dot photograph of Earth was sent back from the Voyager 1 probe, from around 5.6 billion km away. This photograph captured the essence of our planet and highlighted its fragility in the vast universe.

Protests Against the Poll Tax

March 9 saw police sealing off Brixton in South London after another night of protests against the poll tax.

Largest Art Theft in US History

On March 18, twelve paintings and a Shang dynasty vase worth around $100-300 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. This was the largest art theft in US history, and the paintings remain missing to this day.

The 62nd Academy Awards

The 62nd Academy Awards were held on March 26, hosted by Billy Crystal, and were held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, California. Driving Miss Daisy won the Best Picture award.

The 1990 United States Census

The 1990 United States Census began on April 1, with 248,709,873 residents in the U.S.

Muppets Mark Earth Day with Star-Studded Celebration

On April 22nd, the Muppets marked Earth Day with a two-hour special jam-packed with guest stars. The guest list was long and impressive, including names such as Neil Patrick Harris, Carl Sagan, Dustin Hoffman, Tone-Loc, Will Smith, Dan Akroyd, Chevy Chase, Downtown Julie Brown, Candice Bergen, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Morgan Freeman, Queen Latifah, Jack Lemmon, Edward James Olmos, Christopher Lloyd, Rick Moranis, Martin Short, Meryl Streep, Alex Trebek, Robin Williams, and casts from popular TV shows such as The Cosby Show, Cheers, Married With Children, and Golden Girls.

British Actor Dev Patel Makes His Mark in 1990

April 23rd saw the rise of British actor Dev Patel, who made his mark in the industry with his talent and charisma.

Liverpool F.C. Wins 18th English Football League Title

On April 28th, Liverpool F.C. won their 18th English Football League Title when they beat Queens Park Rangers 2–1 at Anfield, with goals from Ian Rush and John Barnes.

London Mugging Results in £292 Million Loss

On May 2nd, London made headlines when a man brandishing a knife robbed a courier of bearer bonds worth £292 million, the second largest mugging to date.

American Actor, Dancer, and Singer Sammy Davis Jr. Passes Away

On May 16th, the world said goodbye to American actor, dancer, and singer Sammy Davis Jr. who passed away at the age of 65.

World Health Organization Removes Homosexuality from List of Diseases

On May 17th, the World Health Organization made history by removing homosexuality from its list of diseases,a landmark decision in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

The Birth of Harry Potter: Joanne Rowling Gets the Idea for Harry Potter on a Train to London

June saw the birth of a literary icon, as Joanne Rowling got the idea for Harry Potter while on a train from Manchester to London  Euston railway station. She went on to complete Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1995 and published in 1997.

The 1990 FIFA World Cup Begins in Italy, Broadcasting in Digital HDTV for the First Time

June 8th marked the start of the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy, which was also the first broadcast of digital HDTV in history. Europe wouldn’t begin HDTV broadcasting en masse until 2004.

Discovery of “Sue”: The Best-Preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex Specimen

In August, paleontologist Sue Hendrickson made a major discovery near Faith, South Dakota. She uncovered a well-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex specimen, which was later named “Sue”. To this day, “Sue” remains the best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex specimen ever found.

Food and Dining: Highlights of 1990

September was a big month for fast food chains Pizza Hut and McDonald’s as they expanded their reach to new markets. On September 10, the first Pizza Hut opened in the Soviet Union, and a year later on September 11, the first Pizza Hut opened in China. Meanwhile, on October 8, McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in Mainland China in the city of Shenzhen.

Lisa Olson Experiences Sexual Harassment in the Locker Room

On September 17, journalist Lisa Olson made headlines for all the wrong reasons. While trying to conduct a locker room interview, she was sexually harassed by multiple players from the New England Patriots. This event marked a landmark moment for women in journalism and sparked a conversation about the treatment of female journalists in male-dominated sports.

The Reunification of East and West Germany

October 3 marked a historic moment in the Cold War as East Germany and West Germany reunified into a single Germany. This event signaled the end of the division between the two German states and paved the way for a new era of unity and cooperation.

End of Segregation in South Africa

On October 15, South Africa took a major step towards equality by ending segregation of libraries, trains, buses, toilets, swimming pools, and other public facilities. This was a crucial moment in the country’s history, as it signaled the end of the apartheid era and the beginning of a new era of equality and integration.

The Earliest Portable Digital Camera and the First Web Page

In November, the earliest known portable digital camera was sold in the United States. This marked the beginning of a new era of photography, as digital cameras started to replace traditional film cameras. Additionally, on November 13, the first known web page was written, marking the beginning of the World Wide Web.

The Release of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the Marriage of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

On November 21, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was released in Japan, setting the stage for the next generation of video games. Meanwhile, on December 24, Hollywood power couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman got married.

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