Think back, if you can, to the 1990s. For many of those of us who were born into the 80s, it was really the 90s that saw us come of age, and a lot of that was done in front of the TV set (very often whilst seated on Day-Glo beanbags or inflatable chairs, whilst clad in tie-dye T-shirts and/or flannel).
And of course, as many of us were glued to the box day and night during those formative years, it’s to be expected that most of us wound up developing major crushes on some of the stars of our favourite shows…
21. Teri Hatcher in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman presented a very different dynamic to the DC Comics superhero, de-emphasising The Man of Steel himself and focusing on the will-they/won’t-they romantic tension between Clark Kent (Dean Cain) and Lois Lane, played by Teri Hatcher. The show made Hatcher the instant crush of millions (and of course Cain had no shortage of admirers either).
When the series began in 1993, Hatcher was 29 at the time, and had been slowly working her way up the Hollywood ladder with supporting roles in such movies as Tango & Cash and Soapdish, not to mention a memorable guest appearance on Seinfeld. She went on to join the ranks of James Bond’s love interests in Tomorrow Never Dies, before enjoying further small screen success in Desperate Housewives.
20. Amy Jo Johnson in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
When Mighty Morphin Power Rangers first hit screens in 1993, parents were worried it was too violent for young kids. However, a lot of slightly older viewers tuned in to the martial arts superhero series for altogether different reasons: namely, to see the lovely Amy Jo Johnson as Kimberly, the Pink Ranger.
Johnson was aged 23 when she made her debut on the hit action series as one-fifth of the super-powered teen team. Cast largely on the strength of her gymnastic ability, Johnson would appear as Kimberly in 138 episodes and two Power Rangers movies, plus a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in the 2017 big screen reboot.
19. Jeri Ryan in Star Trek: Voyager
Since its small-screen revival in the 80s, the Star Trek franchise has never had too great a shortage of strong, powerful and incredibly attractive women. Arguably no other Star Trek women had quite the same X-factor as Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager.
Ryan was 29 when she was cast in the fourth season of the sci-fi series as a liberated former drone of the dreaded Borg collective, one slowly working to regain her humanity. Recently Ryan reprised the role in Star Trek: Picard, looking every bit as stunning as she did 20 years earlier.
18. Tiffani-Amber Thiessen in Saved by the Bell
As a sitcom specifically geared towards teenagers, Saved by the Bell has a special place in the hearts of many who grew up in the 90s. This was of course helped by how good-looking the cast was: Lark Voorhies and future Showgirls star Elizabeth Berkley were stunners in their own right.
When all’s said and done, though, it was really Tiffani-Amber Theissen who really made the adolescent audience swoon. Thiessen appeared as the impeccably-named Kelly Kapowski in 75 episodes of Saved by the Bell, 18 episodes of Saved by the Bell: The College Years, plus two TV movies.
17. Gillian Anderson in The X-Files
It’s easy to forget the impact The X-Files made when it debuted in 1993. The paranormal investigation series quickly became a global obsession, and a lot of that was down to the sexual chemistry between the show’s stars, David Duchovny (Fox Mulder) and Gillian Anderson (Dana Scully).
Anderson quickly became a superstar and a perhaps unexpected pin-up; TV network Fox had initially opposed her casting, wanting someone with more obvious sex appeal. The actress got the last laugh there, as in 1997 she was voted Sexiest Woman in the World by the readers of FHM magazine.
16. Christina Applegate in Married… with Children
Although sitcom Married… with Children kicked off its run in 1987, it was really in the 90s that the cynical, darkly funny show was at its most popular. For a good portion of the audience, that popularity was largely down to the presence of Christina Applegate as the alluring Kelly Bundy.
Applegate appeared as Kelly in all 262 episodes of the series, right up to the end of its ten-year run in 1997. Applegate broke into movies during that time, most famously starring in Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. More recently, she’s been in the Anchorman and Bad Moms movies.
15. Katie Holmes in Dawson’s Creek
Teen drama Dawson’s Creek didn’t hit screens until near the decade’s end, with the show’s first episode premiering in 1998, but it still made a big impact on teens at the time. Much like James Van Der Beek’s Dawson himself, a great many viewers were left pining after Katie Holmes’ Joey.
At the time Holmes was 20, and had not long since made her debut in 1997 film The Ice Storm when she began her 128-episode run at the Creek. This paved the way to a successful movie career, with the actress most famously appearing in 2005’s Batman Begins (and later marrying Tom Cruise).
14. Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Arriving five years after the 1992 movie of the same name, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a major game-changer for genre-based television. It didn’t hurt that the cast was very attractive, with Alyson Hannigan’s Willow and Charisma Carpenter’s Cordelia earning their share of fan worship.
All in all, though, it was of course Sarah Michelle Gellar who won the most hearts (almost as many as she drove wooden stakes through, in fact). Her success on the show paved the way to big screen fame in I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2, Cruel Intentions and the Scooby-Doo movies.
13. Jennifer Aniston in Friends
What can we say about Friends that we haven’t already many times before? After hitting screens in 1994, the young and hip comedy became one of the definitive TV shows of the era. It seems like the whole world fell in love with that young ensemble – in some cases, perhaps literally.
When it came to the women of Friends, Courteney Cox’s Monica and Lisa Kudrow’s Phoebe certainly won their share of admirers, but above all else it was Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel that really made audiences swoon. That distinctive, widely-imitated haircut was definitely a factor, as was the on/off romance with David Schwimmer’s Ross.
12. The cast of Baywatch
For anyone with an eye for the ladies who came of age in the 1990s, one TV show ruled them all: Baywatch, the sun-kissed action series following a heroic team of lifeguards. David Hasselhoff was the nominal lead, but the ever-changing ensemble of gorgeous supporting actresses kept the ratings high.
In this instance, there were simply too many crush-worthy women for us to name one above all others. The best-remembered Baywatch actress is of course Pamela Anderson, but don’t forget Erika Eleniak, Nicole Eggert, Yasmine Bleeth, Gena Lee Nolin, Traci Bingham, Donna D’Errico… the list goes on.
11. Jennifer Love Hewitt in Party of Five
Launched in 1994, teen drama Party of Five centred on five orphaned siblings including Neve Campbell, who soon fame in The Craft and the Scream movies. No disrespect to the very crush-worthy Campbell, but the spotlight was stolen when Jennifer Love Hewitt joined in season two.
Hewitt got her big break on Party of Five as Sarah, initially a supporting character who gradually became a key member of the ensemble thanks to positive viewer reaction (not least because she was so lovely to look at). Like Campbell, Hewitt went on to big screen horror movie fame in I Know What You Did Last Summer.
10. Marina Sirtis in Star Trek: The Next Generation
On arrival in 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation divided fans of the classic sci-fi series, but most agreed on one thing: the allure of Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi. As ship’s counsellor, Troi helped the crew with their feelings – and encouraged strong feelings in viewers.
In the early days Troi attracted some derision due to her surely non-regulation plunging necklines, earning her the nickname ‘Counsellor Cleavage.’ In later episodes Troi was clad in a more standard Starfleet uniform, and this certainly didn’t stop Sirtis’ natural beauty from shining through.
9. Lisa Bonet in The Cosby Show
Today, The Cosby Show is tainted by the awful things we now know about its disgraced headlining star, but back when it first aired it was popular with young and old alike. For younger viewers, a lot of the appeal was down to its endearing and attractive young stars, not least Lisa Bonet’s Denise.
Bonet’s charisma and beauty sent the hearts of millions of viewers into a flutter. Such was her popularity, she was given her own spin-off series in A Different World – in which she co-starred with another extremely crush-worthy actress, Marisa Tomei.
8. Jennie Garth in Beverly Hills 90210
Launched in 1990, Beverly Hills 90210 was a teen-oriented soap presenting a glamorous All-American lifestyle of which the bulk of us could only ever dream. Hand-in-hand with that was a dreamy cast, viewers spoilt for choice by the sheer number of beautiful young men and women on screen.
Shannen Doherty’s Brenda and Tori Spelling’s Donna had no shortage of admirers, but it was arguably Jennie Garth’s Kelly who teen viewers crushed the hardest on. Garth proved one of the few actors to remain in the show for all ten seasons, as well as returning in 2008 revival 90210.
7. Jane Leeves in Frasier
Frasier was a spin-off of the top-rated sitcom Cheers that surprised everyone by becoming every bit as successful as its predecessor. While much of that success was down to Kelsey Grammer’s performance in the title role, but it also had a lot to do with the supporting cast.
A key player in Frasier was British actress Jane Leeves as Daphne, the live-in nurse of Frasier’s ailing father Marty (John Mahoney). Throughout the series, Frasier’s brother Niles (David Hyde-Pierce) fell desperately in love with Daphne, and he certainly wasn’t alone there.
6. Kelly Hu in Martial Law
Short-lived action series Martial Law was primarily a vehicle for Hong Kong martial arts legend Sammo Hung – but it also enabled us to see Kelly Hu every week. The role of Grace Chen gave Hu regular opportunities to show off her martial arts skills, giving us further reasons gape at her in awe.
Along with Hung, Hu was the only cast member to appear in all 44 episodes of Martial Law before its cancellation in 2000. She went on to movie success as Lady Deathstrike in X-Men 2, and as the all-powerful (and very scantily-clad) Sorceress in The Scorpion King alongside Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.
5. Alyssa Milano in Charmed
Thanks to her role on sitcom Who’s the Boss?, a lot of 80s kids grew up with Alyssa Milano as the girl of their dreams. However, Milano really set hearts aflutter when she was cast in hip witch drama Charmed, alongside the similarly crush-worthy Shannen Doherty and Holly Marie Combs.
As the series went on, Milano took centre stage on Charmed – particularly after Doherty departed, to be replaced by the (wouldn’t you know it) also-gorgeous Rose McGowan. But as lovely as her co-stars were, there was just something about Milano that kept viewers truly spellbound.
4. Alicia Witt in Cybill
On its arrival in 1995, Cybill marked the comeback of leading lady Cybill Shepherd. Younger viewers couldn’t have cared less about that, though: we were all too busy gawking at Alicia Witt. Witt was 20 with roles in Dune and Twin Peaks behind her, when she was cast as Cybill’s Gen-X daughter Zoey.
Witt’s co-star Dedee Pfeiffer (sister of Michelle) may also have inspired a few youthful crushes – and honestly, the same can be said of leading lady Cybill Shepherd herself. However, it was definitely Alicia Witt above all that we were left most anxious to see again in every new episode.
3. Sherilyn Fenn in Twin Peaks
Few TV shows warrant the label ‘game-changer,’ but Twin Peaks, thanks to its bizarre blend of detective drama, oddball comedy and metaphysical horror, certainly does. Again though, this wasn’t all that brought viewers back week after week; there was also the matter of how hauntingly beautiful the cast was.
Sherilyn Fenn’s Audrey Horne wasn’t the only Twin Peaks star viewers were crushing on: we can hardly forget Lara Flynn Boyle and Mädchen Amick, plus older co-stars Joan Chen and Peggy Lipton. Fenn’s Audrey had the edge, though, thanks to the more seductive, assertive nature of her character.
2. Brandy Norwood in Moesha
Launched in 1996, teen-oriented sitcom Moesha followed the trials and tribulations of the high school teen of the title and her family. The all-important title role was taken by Brandy Norwood – or simply Brandy, as she was known from her other career as a singer.
Playing Moesha gave Norwood ample opportunity to exercise her dramatic and comedic muscles on a weekly basis – and, much to the delight of the show’s enthusiastic audience, she always looked very good doing it. Brandy’s fame on the show certainly didn’t hurt her pop career either.
1. Lucy Liu in Ally McBeal
When Ally McBeal first hit TV screens in 1997, it immediately wowed audiences with its quirky blend of courtroom drama and surrealist humour. Plus, as was so often the case with 90s TV, the series offered up a veritable smorgasbord of eye candy in its extremely good-looking cast.
The ladies of Ally McBeal included such beauties as Jane Krakowski, Portia de Rossi and Calista Flockhart in the title role. But no one had quite the same animal magnetism as Lucy Liu. The role of Ling Woo cemented Liu as a sex symbol, leading to movie success in Charlie’s Angels and Kill Bill.