Unless you’re a character actor bent on taking on peculiar roles, it’s practically a requirement in Hollywood to be good-looking or at the very least, photogenic or telegenic. After all, we look up to our favorite Hollywood stars and whether we admire them for their looks or their talent or the personalities they project to the public, the fact of the matter is, we like celebrities who are visually appealing. That’s exactly why they pull out all the stops when they walk the red carpet. They can alter their physical appearance all they want in some of their most challenging roles, but they still prefer to look like the best versions of themselves in their official public appearances.
The 90s saw a lot of heartthrobs and well-loved celebrities and you can guarantee that almost all of them were great-looking back then. They were the hits, the bright stars of the decade. Some of them still look amazing 20 years later. But the ones below made us do a double take because they’re a far cry from what they looked like back in their heyday.
15 Luke Perry
Though he has dabbled in other projects, he was and always will be known for his one-hit wonder role as Dylan McKay in the original version of the hit teen TV show Beverly Hills 90210. Luke Perry was one of many actors who were made to play a character much younger than the actor’s actual age. In 90210, for example, Perry’s character Dylan was a high school teenager. In real life, Perry was already in his 20s at the time. But that didn’t seem to matter to his huge female fan base. They thought Dylan was dreamy and swoon-worthy anyway, likening him to a modern day James Dean. The show opened to doors for Perry to appear in films and he eventually felt the need to distance himself from the teen idol stereotype and move on to more mature roles. As a result, he left the hit show in 1995 to pursue other projects. He never exactly garnered the recognition that he once had as good-looking Dylan.
14 Jonathan Taylor Thomas
One of the biggest challenges of starting out in the entertainment industry as a child actor is the struggle to break out of the wholesome, kiddie mold and transition into more mature, adult roles. In other words, it’s hard to be taken seriously when you’re trying to leave your childhood behind and be seen as a grown up. One such person who went through this obstacle is Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Known as a child star and teen idol of the 90s, he was most known for his role as Randy Taylor, the second of the three sons of Tim “the tool man” Taylor (played by Tim Allen) in the TV sitcom Home Improvement. Despite his success, he opted to leave the show to focus on his academics. Thomas appeared in many films during and after his stint on Home Improvement, the most notable of which was lending his voice to Disney in the animated film The Lion King, in which he voiced Simba as a cub. He has made the occasional TV appearance here and there, but audiences can barely believe that he’s the same person as the cutie that he was back in the 90s.
13 Devon Sawa
The name Devon Sawa may not ring a bell the same way that Leonardo DiCaprio or the late Jonathan Brandis do, though they were all young actors at the same time and even bore some physical resemblance to one another. No, they didn’t look alike per se, but they had that same look about them: blond, fair-skinned, lanky with pretty boy features. Sawa began his career in the early 90s and first caught the attention of producers (and teen fangirls of course) in the kiddie sports film Little Giants. From there, he got was cast in the film Casper opposite Christina Ricci and though he only got five minutes of screen time, since he appeared in the film as the human Casper, that was considered his biggest role to date. He still had those all-American looks when he appeared in another movie with Ricci, whom he shared a second onscreen kiss with, in the coming-of-age film Now and Then. Since then, he has been relegated to bit or supporting roles and voice acting gigs.
12 Skeet Ulrich
There are some actors who know exactly what movie genre they’d thrive in, while others like hopping from one genre to another for the sake of diversity and variety. In the case of Skeet Ulrich, he stuck to horror and to this day, his most known movie roles are of that category. His first notable onscreen role though was in the 1996 drama film Boys, which flopped pitifully at the box office despite having a big name like Winona Ryder as its female lead. The two films that Ulrich is known for the most both had him starring opposite Neve Campbell: the supernatural horror flick The Craft and Wes Craven’s slasher film Scream, in which he played the killer. After appearing in these two films, his career was never quite the same again, as he had small roles in films like As Good As It Gets and dabbled in TV as a guest actor in CSI: NY, among others. Though he still has that brooding, sinister look, it’s not quite the same sexy smolder that he had back in the day.
11 Mickey Rourke
He actually started out in the entertainment industry as early as the 1980s and it was then that Mickey Rourke quickly rose to fame as a lead actor in films like Diner, Rumble Fish, and Angel Heart. He was one of the best-looking guys on the big screen with his soulful eyes and refined features. He made movies well into the early 90s, starring in films like Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man and White Sands. He realized he was discontent as an actor, even turning down roles in big films like Top Gun, Rain Man, and Silence of the Lambs and decided to return to his first love: boxing. Unfortunately, his pretty face was permanently marred from his many boxing injuries, like a broken nose, split tongue, and a compressed cheekbone. No amount of plastic surgery could restore his original features and though he eventually returned to acting, he looked like a completely different person.
10 Brendan Fraser
How can we forget Brendan Fraser in the 1992 comedy film Encino Man, in which he played a caveman frozen in the ice age and awakening in modern day California? It’s one of the campiest films, but it was highly popular among the teeners of the early 90s and certainly paved the way for Fraser to have a lucrative career for the rest of the decade. He appeared in other high-profile films like School Ties, in which he starred with Matt Damon and Chris O’Donnell; Blast from the Past opposite Alicia Silverstone; and Disney’s George of the Jungle. But it wasn’t until 1999 that he appeared in his most popular role to date: that of Rick O’Connell in the first of three movies in The Mummy movie franchise. He has certainly appeared in other films after The Mummy, but he hasn’t experienced the same success as he did in his Indiana Jones-type role of American adventurer Rick.
9 Fred Savage
Anyone who was growing up in the 90s would surely have seen at least one episode of The Wonder Years. For those not familiar with it, it was a highly-rated coming-of-age American drama that ran for six seasons until 1993 and was set in the late ‘60s. It followed the ups and downs of Kevin Arnold, a young adolescent in a typical suburban middle-class family. We all fell in love with the adorable Kevin, played to perfection by Fred Savage. With his big brown eyes and adorable smile, Savage was everyone’s favorite kid on TV. For the role, he unsurprisingly earned Golden Globe and Emmy nominations because of his impressive acting chops. But after Wonder Years, Savage’s star began to wan. Sure, he had other movie and TV projects and even ventured into directing some episodes of shows like Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, and Ugly Betty. But it’s safe to say he left his wonder years behind in the 90s.
8 Tara Reid
Back in the late 90s, Tara Reid won her way into the public’s hearts in roles that put her well on her way to America’s Sweetheart status. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty started her career on TV as a teenager, appearing in shows like Saved By The Bell: The New Class and California Dreams, but she transitioned to the big screen when she made her film debut in the 1987 movie A Return to Salem. But it wasn’t until almost a decade later that she had her breakout role in the 1998 film The Big Lebowski. It was uphill from there for Reid, as she starred in a string of box office hits like Cruel Intentions, Urban Legend, and the film that she was most known for in the 90s, American Pie. It came as a surprise to many fans when Reid’s public appearances in the early 2000s showed a drastic change in her once gorgeous face and body. In 2006, she admitted to being a victim of plastic surgery gone wrong, saying that the surgeon botched up the attempt to even out her breasts and give her six-pack abs, leading to deformities. Another surgeon attempted to fix the problem, but she hasn’t quite gotten back the looks she had in her youth.
7 Meg Ryan
She once rivaled Julia Roberts as the queen of romantic comedies in the 90s. Meg Ryan started appearing in films in the mid-1980s and many may not remember that she was part of the cast of the wildly popular 1986 film Top Gun, where she played a small supporting role and then had her first role as a leading lady in the fantasy comedy film Innerspace. But it wasn’t until 1989 that Ryan enjoyed box office success when she appeared opposite Billy Crystal in the now cult classic film When Harry Met Sally. 1993 saw the second of three films Ryan starred in with Tom Hanks, Sleepless in Seattle, which was a huge hit and endeared her all the more to the public. With her blonde locks, big blue doe eyes, and angelic smile, she was easily one of the prettiest women in Hollywood. It’s a pity that as the years waned, so did her looks. She’s still recognizable as THE Meg Ryan, but it’s clear that age hasn’t been all too kind to her.
6 Pamela Anderson
It’s not much of a surprise that the sexy Pamela Anderson got her start as a celebrity as cover girl of Playboy’s October 1989 issue. Unsatisfied with her figure at that time, she opted to have breast implants to increase her bust size to a 34D, then increased it even further a year later to 34DD. This led to several more appearances on Playboy. On TV, she was cast as the “Tool Time Girl” on the TV sitcom Home Improvement in the early 90s, but it was a short stint because she soon won the role of CJ Parker on Baywatch, which was one of the most successful TV shows at that time. Anderson in a slick red swimsuit that amply showed off her curves and cleavage? Everyone swallowed it hook, line, and sinker and she became an overnight hit. She reportedly removed her famous implants in 1999 because she realized they were too big. She hasn’t been offered roles with quite the same level of success as her stint on Baywatch.
5 Rose McGowan
With her porcelain-white skin, rosy red lips, and ebony black hair, Rose McGowan could easily have passed for Snow White. No doubt she was a true beauty when she started her film career in the early 90s. She made her film debut in the 1992 comedy film Encino Man, where she had a bit role. She caught the attention of film critics for the 1995 dark comedy The Doom Generation and this led to her landing a supporting role in the slasher film Scream. She went full mean girl mode in the 1998 dark comedy teen flick Jawbreaker, where she played a popular, scheming high school student who was involved in a peer’s murder. She’s perhaps most known for her role as Paige Matthews in the TV series Charmed and she really shone on her own, despite initially coming onboard as Shannen Doherty’s replacement. As of late though, her age is showing, despite attempts to hide it via thick make up and Botox.
4 Macaulay Culkin
Not very many kids can claim financial success and fame at the tender age of 10, but Macaulay Culkin was one lucky child in that aspect. In fact, at the height of his popularity, he was touted as the most successful child actor since Shirley Temple. He exploded into the Hollywood scene in 1989 when he appeared in the huge box office family comedy Home Alone, in which he played Kevin McCallister, the boy with countless misadventures when his family accidentally left him home for several days. It was a no brainer for him to appear in a sequel in 1992, in New York this time around. Culkin stepped out of the role to play other memorable roles in films such as My Girl (opposite Anna Chlumsky), The Good Son, and Richie Rich. Unfortunately, as Culkin grew older, it became clear that he slowly started to shed those cute kiddie features. He didn’t hold quite the same appeal as a grown up as he did as a child and adult roles were few and far between.
3 Edward Furlong
He was known as one of the biggest teen idols back in his heyday, but if you ask millennials who he is, they’d probably give you a puzzled look when you mention the name Edward Furlong. He once won a Saturn and MTV Movie Award for his breakthrough performance in the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgement Day, in which he played John Connor. He also won a Young Artist Award for the 1993 film A Home Of Our Own, not to mention garnering critical acclaim for starring roles in films such as Pecker and American History X. With so many accomplishments under his belt before even turning 20, Furlong’s future in Hollywood seemed hopeful and bright. But he pretty much disappeared from the radar in the 2000s, only appearing in supporting roles in not-too-successful films. This was most likely due to several arrests and heavy usage of alcohol and drugs. This resulted in his perennial unkempt appearance and weight gain as well, making him unattractive by Hollywood standards.
2 Haley Joel Osmont
We first noticed the adorable Haley Joel Osmont in the 1994 film Forrest Gump, where he played the young son of Forrest (Tom Hanks) and Jenny (Robin Wright), Forrest Junior and we all “awwwed” at how smart and endearing he was. But it was in his pivotal role in M. Night Shyamalan’s film Sixth Sense that really cemented Osmont’s status as a true thespian because his gripping portrayal as the young and tormented Cole Sear truly had the audience at the edge of their seats during those suspense-filled moments. The Oscar nomination he received for Best Supporting Actor for his role was truly deserved and it promised a good future for the child. This role paved the way for other high-profile film projects such as A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Pay It Forward. He sort of disappeared from films as he grew older and branched out to theatre and voice-roles and if you look at him now, he’s a far cry from what he looked like as a kid.
1 Val Kilmer
Though he got his start on the stage, Val Kilmer eventually gained popularity in Hollywood in the mid-1980s, after appearing in cult classic comedies like Top Secret! and Real Genius. He was also part of big mainstream films Top Gun and Willow, but his most notable roles landed on his lap in the 1990s, which was when his star really shone bright. He played renowned musician Jim Morrison in the 1991 film The Doors, Doc Holliday in the period Western film Tombstone, Bruce Wayne in Batman Forever, in which he controversially replaced Michael Keaton; and probably his last widely successful role, Simon Templar in the 1997 film The Saint. Kilmer is rumored to be difficult to work with, which many speculate, is one of the reasons he hasn’t been offered many lucrative roles in the past two decades. It’s probably also because he has chosen to focus on other projects, like music and his charity work.