15 ’90s Teen Heartthrobs Who’ve Resurfaced on TV


This Sunday, Showtime premieres Penny Dreadful, a new horror series that stars Josh Hartnett. Hartnett hasn’t completely fallen off the radar, but he’s definitely been in the spotlight less than he was when he started out in the late ’90s. Back then, Hartnett was a Heartthrob with a capital H, profiled in everything from J-14 to Bop, his picture adorning the walls of teen bedrooms and junior-high lockers across America. His return to the mainstream is exciting — but he’s not the only ’90s hottie on television right now. Here are 15 teen heartthrobs from the ’90s and the recent TV shows you can watch them on.

Josh Hartnett

Heartthrob Past: Josh Hartnett — or Josh Hotnett, as every teen magazine I once subscribed to called him — really broke out in the ’90s. I can never decide who I love more: The Faculty‘s cute bad boy Zeke Tyler or The Virgin Suicides’ foxy asshole Trip Fontaine.

Currently: Aside from the strange crime drama series Cracker in 1999, Hartnett has stayed away from TV until now, with Penny Dreadful. He plays Ethan Chandler, the muscle of the show, who helps to solve a supernatural mystery.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar

Heartthrob Past: Gosselaar is best known for playing Zack Morris on Saved by the Bell, the incredibly popular teen sitcom that aired from 1989-1993 (and had one iffy season in college). Every girl wanted to date him.

Currently: Gosselaar stars in the buddy comedy/legal drama Franklin & Bash as a hard-partying lawyer with unconventional methods for winning cases. (Admission: Franklin & Bash is secretly one of my favorite shows on television). Every woman wants to date him.

Breckin Meyer

Heartthrob Past: Clueless! Who wasn’t in love with shaggy stoner skateboarder Travis? Meyer was in a few ’90s staples: The Craft, an episode of Party of Five, and he played a band member in Can’t Hardly Wait.

Currently: Co-starring with Mark Paul Gosselaar on Franklin & Bash as either Franklin or Bash (it doesn’t matter; they are interchangeable characters), bro-ing down, and chugging beer in court. The TNT show returns for a fourth season this summer.

James Van Der Beek

Heartthrob Past: Van Der Beek starred as the super sensitive, prone-to-crying Dawson Leery on the WB teen drama Dawson’s Creek.

Currently: After some forgettable TV appearances, Van Der Beek went on a mission to prove he had a sense of humor — recreating memes, playing a fictionalized version of himself on the sublime Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23 — and now plays a divorced gynecologist on the CBS sitcom Friends With Better Lives. (Bonus fact: He also appeared in an episode of Franklin & Bash.)

Joshua Jackson

Heartthrob Past: On the opposite side of the creek was Joshua Jackson as Pacey, vying for the heart of Katie Holmes’ Joey. (Also: The Skulls!)

Currently: Jackson acted in a few bad movies — Cursed, Shutter — before going back to television in Fox’s Fringe, a science-fiction show created by J.J. Abrams. The critically acclaimed show unfortunately ended last year but hey, there’s always Netflix if you need your Pacey fix!

Joey Lawrence

Heartthrob Past: Joey Lawrence won us over as Joey Russo on Blossom (“Whoa!”) and then Joe Roman on Brotherly Love (where he starred alongside his two real-life brothers).

Currently: Since 2010, Joey Lawrence stars alongside fellow ’90s alum Melissa Joan Hart in ABC Family’s Melissa & Joey, a surprisingly cute sitcom reminiscent of Who’s The Boss? And he’s still playing a character named Joe.

Ryan Phillippe

Heartthrob Past: Most of us loved Phillippe in 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer but really fell for him as the fucked-up manipulator Sebastian in 1999’s Cruel Intentions.

Currently: In 2010, Phillippe had a quick stint on the fifth season of Damages. Soon we’ll be able to see him weekly on Secrets & Lies, an upcoming crime mystery drama on ABC.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas

Heartthrob Past: Jonathan Taylor Thomas was everyone’s favorite on Home Improvement, growing up from a cute kid to a swoon-worthy teen in front of our eyes. And don’t forget about Wild America.

Currently: JTT had a great, Christian-Slater-in-Heathers-like turn in a Veronica Mars episode and recently did a three-episode stint on Last Man Standing, reuniting him with his TV dad Tim Allen.

Devon Sawa

Heartthrob Past: Speaking of Wild America, Devon Sawa had a great run in the ’90s as well: Now and Then, Night of the Twisters, and SLC Punk!

Currently: Sawa had a regular role in The CW’s Nikita, which just ended its four-season run in December.

Shane West

Heartthrob Past: Technically, Shane West wasn’t a ’90s heartthrob but instead helped usher in the early 2000s. But let’s face it, the movies he starred in — Whatever It Takes (2000), the underrated Get Over It (2001), and A Walk To Remember (2002) — were basically ’90s teen movies.

Currently: West co-starred with Devon Sawa in Nikita and can currently be seen as John Alden in WGN’s lackluster (but getting better!) witch drama Salem.

Freddie Prinze Jr.

Heartthrob Past: The handsome lead in two of the three I Know What You Did Last Summer movies and the jock in She’s All That.

Currently: Remember when Freddie Prinze Jr. had his own sitcom? I’m the only one who does, and that’s probably best for him. In 2013, he appeared in Witches of East End (shirtless, of course) and, just a few months ago, Bones.

Ashton Kutcher

Heartthrob Past: The adorable and simplistic Kelso on That ’70s Show. Also, Dude, Where’s My Car? came out in 2000 but feels cheesy enough to fit in what the previous decade.

Currently: Kutcher did a ton of mediocre movies, but none of them were as bad as his current project: the lead on Two and a Half Men, a role he took over after Charlie Sheen’s meltdown, where he’ll probably stay for at least five more years.

Donald Faison

Heartthrob Past: Another Clueless alumnus (of both the film and the TV series), Faison also appeared in Can’t Hardly Wait (in the same band as Breckin Meyer!) and a few episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Currently: Faison is best known for his long stint on Scrubs, which ended back in 2010. Now, he’s one of the stars of TV Land’s The Exes playing — what else? — a ladies man.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Heartthrob Past: Gordon-Levitt first caught the world’s attention on Roseanne, but he stole everyone’s heart in 3rd Rock the Sun — mine included; there is still a copy of this Nickelodeon Magazine cover in my childhood bedroom.

Currently: JGL, sporting a much better haircut, is still breaking hearts all over film and TV (remember his Magic Mike-inspired Saturday Night Live monologue?!) and now hosts HitRecord on TV, a Pivot variety series that he created and directs.

Mario Lopez

Heartthrob Past: True, most Saved by the Bell fans were all about Zack Morris, but some of us adored the meathead qualities of Mario Lopez’s Slater.

Currently: He’s had a few roles on shows like Nip/Tuck and The Bold and The Beautiful but has mainly stuck to hosting duties on everything from The X Factor to The View. Currently, Lopez hosts Extra with Maria Menounos.