You had to live in 1993 to understand the hype around Jurassic Park. From the moment the first trailer hit the theaters, everyone wanted to see it. Never before had dinosaurs looked that real. Oh, and the greatest blockbuster director ever, Steven Spielberg, was directing it. It was a no-brainer: Opening weekend, you had to see Jurassic Park. For those that did, they waited in long lines; lines that wrapped around the block, some for two or three blocks. The movie itself also lived up to its billing. It was the quintessential summer blockbuster. It had suspense, scares, laughs, and dinosaurs. To this day, Jurassic Park remains one of the greatest popcorn flicks ever.
Spielberg was not just concentrating on dinosaurs in ’93. He also released arguably his best film ever, Schindler’s List, the same year. The story revolves around Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson), a Nazi factory owner who becomes increasingly concerned for his Jewish workers as he witnesses the persecution of Jews by the Nazis. Not only did the film do great at the box office, ($321+ worldwide), it took home Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director.
Robin Williams scored a huge comedy hit with Mrs. Doubtfire while Harrison Ford continued his run of box office success with The Fugitive. Author John Grisham has not one, but two of his best-selling novels adapted into movies that make the top ten list at the box office: The Firm and The Pelican Brief. Demi Moore, Woody Harrelson, and Robert Redford take infidelity to the sixth spot at the box office with Indecent Proposal. Tom Hanks scores two big hits with Sleepless in Seattle and Philadelphia, which he won Best Actor for at the Academy Awards.
Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” continues its dominance on the chart from late 1992 into the early months of ’93 and ends the year as. Hip hop and R&B have a strong year as nine of the top ten year-end Billboard 100 singles fall into these two categories. Some of these singles were one-hit wonders including Tag Team’s “Whoomp! (There it is),” Wreckx-n-Effects’ “Rump Shaker,” and Snow’s “Informer.”
Mariah Carey had another huge album released in 1993. Music Box remains one of her most successful albums to date, selling more than 20 million units worldwide. Janet Jackson, already a prominent artist up until this point, releases her most successful album. Titled janet., it sold more than 17 million units worldwide. Aerosmith also scored a big hit with their album Get a Grip, selling more than 20 million units worldwide. The videos for their singles “Cryin’,” and “Amazing” starred Alicia Silverstone who would later go on to lead the hit 90s movie Clueless.
*Aerosmith’s “Cryin'” video starring Alicia Silverstone was one of the most popular music videos of the 90s
Of importance is the continued strength of hip hop’s popularity with mainstream audiences. With The Chronic catapulting the genre to new heights, groups such as Tribe Called Quest and Cypress Hill enjoyed more mainstream success with their albums Midnight Marauders and Black Sunday. Both albums went platinum. In addition, two legends of hip hop had debut albums in ’93: Snoop Doggy Dogg and Wu-Tang Clan. Snoop’s Doggystyle would go on to sell more than 11 million units worldwide while Wu-Tang’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) has sold more than two million but is considered one of the most influential hip hop albums in history.
’93 also saw a number of tremendously successful rock albums, one of which was the Counting Crows’ debut studio album, August and Everything After. It would go on to sell more than seven million units worldwide. The Smashing Pumpkins had one of the most successful rock albums of the year in Siamese Dream, selling more than six million units worldwide. The biggest rock album of the year was Nirvana’s second album In Utero, which would go on to sell more than fifteen million units worldwide.
In the television world, Michael Jackson is at the forefront of a few TV moments. The Super Bowl has its first halftime solo performer when Michael Jackson performs a medley of his most popular songs. He also wins the Grammy Legend award at the 1993 Grammy Awards, the highest rated Grammys of the 90s. Jackson also gives his first on-air interview in 14 years with Oprah Winfrey, which draws in over 90 million viewers.
*This was Michael Jackson’s first on-air interview since Barbara Walters interviewed him on 20/20 in 1979
Amy Fisher’s story was turned into big hit movies for both NBC and CBS in 1993. As a 16 year-old high school student, Fisher began an affair with 35 year-old Joey Buttafucco. In May of 1992, Fisher drove to Buttafucco’s house where she was met at the front door by Buttafucco’s wife, Mary Jo. At one point during their conversation, Mary Jo turned away and Fisher shot her in the head before leaving. The whirlwind story was turned into “The Amy Fisher Story” by ABC and “Casualties of Love: The “Long Island Lolita” Story” by CBS. The ABC version starred an 18 year-old Drew Barrymore while the CBS movie starred Alyssa Milano. Both were big hits for each the networks.
*The real Amy Fisher’s mugshot after being arrested for the attempted murder of Mary Jo Buttafucco
For cable television, ’93 saw the debut of two channels that remain popular today. ESPN launched their secondary channel, ESPN2, initially intended to be a less formal and more youth-oriented network than ESPN. The Food Network also debuted in ’93 and remains the go-to channel for food shows. Originally called the Food TV Network, the only star that remains today from its original lineup is Emeril Lagasse.
Interestingly, other debuts in ’93 include three pop music stars on the The New Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera. In addition, two late night talk show hosts begin their popular shows with David Letterman’s Late Show with David Letterman on CBS while NBC begins Late Night with Conan O’Brien, who replaces David Letterman.
*John Goodman wears the “First Guest” medal on Conan O’Brien’s debut of Late Night with Conan O’Brien
There were a notable amount of television shows in ’93 that would wind up becoming popular. One of the biggest TV dramas of the 90s, NYPD Blue, would start as well as one of the biggest sitcoms in Frasier. A number of other shows would debut in this year as well: Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Homicide: Life on the Street, Walker, Texas Ranger, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, The X-Files, Martha Stewart Living, Boy Meets World, Ricki Lake, Grace Under Fire, and The Nanny.
’93 would also be a year that TV viewers would say goodbye to some of their favorite shows. The biggest of these would be Cheers, which remains the second most-watched television show finale of all time with more than 84 million viewers tuning in. Other shows that would end in ’93 include Knots Landing, Saved by the Bell, Designing Women, A Different World, Perfect Strangers and The Wonder Years.
On a sad note, the entertainment world lost a few big names in ’93. Andre “The Giant” Rousimoff, one of the most iconic wrestlers in history, passed away of a heart attack at the age of 46. The saddest deaths of the year were in the film industry. Brandon Lee, son of legendary martial artist Bruce Lee, died on the set of The Crow after being mortally wounded by a bullet from a prop gun. He was only 28 years old. River Phoenix, older brother of Joaquin Phoenix, and rising star, died after overdosing outside the Hollywood nightclub, The Viper Room. He was only 23 years old.
A year dominated by Steven Spielberg but filled with a cornucopia of film, music, and television that made it arguably the best year of 90s American pop culture. Jurassic Park remains popular as do such artists as Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Snoop Dogg, and the Wu-Tang Clan. As audiences would say goodbye to one of the biggest sitcoms ever in Cheers, they would welcome another big one in 1994.