Back to the Future

1994: A 20 Year Retrospective

| Jay Benedict reporter |

Two decades ago, the world was treated to one of the best years in entertainment ever.
Most freshmen at PSU, however, were born after this wonderful year. So, here’s an education on what you missed and for us older students, prepare to bask in nostalgia. If you don’t remember it or are unaware of just how great it was, here is a retrospective of the entertainment industry in 1994.


Film was the strongest that year and many of the releases have become classics. Some of the greatest examples of cinema include the likes of “ Forrest Gump,” “Pulp Fiction” and “The Lion King.” It was a great year for comedy, drama and kids’ movies.
The under-18 crowd was treated to a smorgasbord of classic movies, the best of which is easily “The Lion King,” one of Disney’s last, great cartoon-animated movies. The year also saw “Blank Check,” the visualization of every kid’s dream, where a jerk wrecks a kid’s bike and gives him a blank check to cover the cost. Macaulay Culkin’s “Richie Rich” is in the same vein.
“D2: The Mighty Ducks,” another fantastic underdog, feel-good story that made hockey relevant in states that don’t border Canada. “3 Ninjas Kick Back” was the sequel to a movie that got inspired kids on playgrounds all across the country to perform made-up karate moves, and was the last movie in the franchise that wasn’t terrible. “Angels in the Outfield” and “The Little Rascals” stole hearts and provided laughs simultaneously.
The year really belonged to Jim Carrey. He put out three of the highest grossing movies of the year, and they’re all still pop culture references today: “The Mask,” “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” and “Dumb and Dumber” are not great movies, although there are plenty who would argue that point. dumb_dumber_movie-2014
It’s hard to say which one was the most ridiculous, but credit to Carey. He really found his schtick, stuck with it and took it all the way to the bank. There’s even a “Dumb and Dumber” sequel on the horizon after a long, 20-year wait.
Action and drama fans had plenty to ogle at in 1994 too.
Tom Hanks’ played the title character in “Forrest Gump.” It won Best Picture and him Best Actor trophies and was one of the first movies I remember as being better than the book. (Yes, there’s a book.) Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron rode their “Terminator” success and more explosions to another box office blockbuster in “True Lies.”
Audiences were also treated to “Speed,” Brad Pitt and Kirsten Dunst out-acting Tom Cruise in “Interview with a Vampire,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” the bull riding tearjerker “8 Seconds,” cult-classic “The Crow,” western comedy “Maverick” and the list goes on. Plug “1994 in film” into Google and be amazed. There’s enough quality there to keep a movie watcher entertained for weeks.


The year in music is marred by the world losing Nirvana’s lead singer Kurt Cobain.
However, this year was still a listener’s dream. It was a time when alternative rock went mainstream, contradictory to its roots, and the rap/hip h0p/R&B scene produced acts with enormous staying power.
The noise that had been growing in regions became a national radio powerhouse. Green Day dropped “Dookie” on us. Alice in Chains released “Jar of Flies.” Cake made its debut along with OutKast, Weezer, Ben Harper, Aaliyah, Nas, Todies, Oasis, Usher, Notorious B.I.G., Bush and Dave Matthews Band.
The Cranberries released “No Need to Argue.” Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Live, Pearl Jam, The Offspring and Hootie and the Blowfish all released multi-platinum albums. There are Spotify playlists and Pandora radio stations based entirely on this year; go find them.


A discussion of television in 1994 cannot be had without including O.J. Simpson. He and his driver led the Los Angeles Police Department and the nation on a 50-mile slow speed chase. During this time, 95 million people tuned in, more pizzas were sold in LA than ever before and it interrupted Game 5 of the NBA finals. I still remember watching both on NBC’s split-screen coverage. One of America’s most loved athletes fell from grace, the white Bronco became a cultural icon and an obsession with reality TV was born.
In other news, this year saw Ellen DeGeneres start her sitcom and subsequent rise to the culture-changing force she became. “Friends” was NBC’s newest hit. “Sister, Sister,” “The Magic School Bus,” “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” “My So Called Life,” “The Secret World of Alex Mack,” Aaahh! Real Monsters” and “All That” premiere for kids. Elsewhere, “Chicago Hope” premiered and “ER” became a breeding ground for talent with the likes of George Clooney and Julianna Margulies.

While these works and events are older than many people who are reading this, there’s little doubt that they’re well known, or that they at least sound familiar. The year produced so many movies, films, songs, bands and personalities that became mainstays or milestones for popular culture. There may be other years with some better overall quality, but it’s hard to compare to 1994’s quantity of quality.

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