Tom Cruise, Winona Ryder and Reese Witherspoon: Why your favorite ‘90s stars are still ruling Hollywood today


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From Tom Cruise and his billion-dollar “Top Gun” resurgence, to Winona Ryder, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Reese Witherspoon – Hollywood stars who made a name for themselves in the ‘90s know how to keep their careers in motion. 

Tom Cruise, who recently turned 60 years old, became a household name with films such as “Risky Business,” “Cocktail,” and “Born on the Fourth of July.” He continued to dominate the box office throughout the ‘90s with starring roles in movies like “A Few Good Men,” “Jerry Maguire,” and “Magnolia.”

But it was with his spy character Ethan Hunt in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise that would land him movie roles as not only the leading actor, but also the head stuntman.

Tom Cruise, Winona Ryder and Reese Witherspoon are just a few of the Hollywood stars from the ’90s enjoying major success in their careers today.
(Getty Images)

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“It has to do with storytelling… It allows us to put cameras in places that you’re not normally able to do,” he said during an interview on The Graham Norton Show.

Those stunts paid off to the tune of six “Mission: Impossible” movies, with one in production and another recently wrapped. The film franchise has earned more than $3 billion through the years.

Cruise recently broke his first box office record, though, with the Memorial Day weekend release of “Top Gun: Maverick,” which soared above the $1 billion marker and is the highest-grossing film of Cruise’s career.

Evan Nierman, CEO of Global PR firm Red Banyan, told Fox News Digital why the ’90s created massive stars like Cruise.

Tom Cruise attends the screening of "Top Gun: Maverick" during the 75th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 18, 2022 in Cannes, France. The film has since earned more than $1 billion at the global box office

Tom Cruise attends the screening of “Top Gun: Maverick” during the 75th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 18, 2022 in Cannes, France. The film has since earned more than $1 billion at the global box office
(Lionel Hahn/Getty Images)

“A-list actors from the 90s achieved super stardom at a time when pictures were built more around Hollywood stars and their charisma and less around action franchises,” he said. 

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“They are still supremely ‘bankable’ decades later, enjoying global fame and essentially guaranteeing strong financial returns for any company that bankrolls a film with them in the credits. For character-based dramas or films without outlandish budgets, you limit your risk or exposure when you cast a proven star that audiences will always pay to go and see on the big screen. Plus, the teenagers from that era are now middle-aged consumers with disposable income who can buy tickets for themselves, and also their kids.”

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Fans fell in love with Winona Ryder decades ago for her work in “Heathers,” “Little Women,” “Mermaids” and “The Crucible.” 

She cemented her status as the ‘90s queen with roles in the angsty coming-of-age flick “Reality Bites,” “Girl Interrupted” with Angelina Jolie, and working alongside ex-boyfriend Johnny Depp in “Edward Scissorhands.”

Ryder recently found an entirely new fan-base, starring on the pop culture phenomenon from Netflix, “Stranger Things.” 

She stars as Joyce Byers in the Emmy-nominated show, and recently told Harper’s Bazaar that she’s always offering advice to her younger co-stars, including Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin.

Winona Ryder stars as Joyce Byers in the Emmy-nominated Netflix series, "Stranger Things." Pictured at a cast photo call in July

Winona Ryder stars as Joyce Byers in the Emmy-nominated Netflix series, “Stranger Things.” Pictured at a cast photo call in July
(Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Winona Ryder's co-star from "Girl, Interrupted," Angelina Jolie, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1999.

Winona Ryder’s co-star from “Girl, Interrupted,” Angelina Jolie, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1999.
(Getty Images)

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“I want the kids to understand, this does not happen,” she said of the show’s meteoric success. “This is really unusual. And I’m always telling them, ‘The work is the reward!’ Because when I was that age, it was so hard to enjoy the fruits of my labor.”

She also recalled her split with Depp in the ‘90s, which she referred to as her “‘Girl, Interrupted’ real life,” referencing the 1999 film where she portrayed a patient in a mental institution.

Ryder has since found happiness in a relationship with fashion designer Scott Mackinlay Hahn, who at first meeting, thought she was Milla Jovovich. 

“He told me I was great in ‘The Fifth Element’.”

She added on a more serious note, “We have so much in common. We connected on so many levels. But it was amazing that he’s not in this business… I really did try to keep it quiet.”

Reese Witherspoon earned an Emmy nomination on Tuesday for her work on the Apple TV Plus program "The Morning Show," but became one to watch in the ‘90s with her first film role in "The Man in the Moon."

Reese Witherspoon earned an Emmy nomination on Tuesday for her work on the Apple TV Plus program “The Morning Show,” but became one to watch in the ‘90s with her first film role in “The Man in the Moon.”
(Getty Images)

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Reese Witherspoon earned an Emmy nomination on Tuesday for her work on the Apple TV Plus program, “The Morning Show,” but has been one to watch ever since the ‘90s when she landed her first film role in “The Man in the Moon.”

She was only 14 years old at the time, but received rave reviews from critics, including Roger Ebert, and would go on to star in major movies including “S.F.W.” with Stephen Dorff, “Fear” with Mark Wahlberg in 1996, and “Freeway” with Keifer Sutherland and Brooke Shields.

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In 1998 alone, Witherspoon starred in three major movies- “Overnight Delivery, “Twilight,” and “Pleasantville” with Tobey Maguire.

Witherspoon broke all the rules in “Cruel Intentions,” where she worked with Selma Blair, Sarah Michelle Gellar and her future ex-husband, Ryan Philippe. She followed up the moody East Coast drama with “Election,” co-starring Matthew Broderick.

Witherspoon has since become the face of “Legally Blonde” after starring as Elle Woods in 2001, and earned an Academy Award for her portrayal as June Carter Cash in the film “Walk the Line.”

The mother-of-three and Hello Sunshine production company founder, who is now married to CAA talent agent Jim Toth, has been nominated for nine Golden Globe Awards, four Screen Actors Guild Awards and two British Film Awards.

“There are very few stars that you can count on all of us knowing,” entertainment expert Dan Wakeford said. “Those stars are, for the most part, the same stars we had two decades ago. They are the big names that we all knew when we didn’t have the choice of streaming media, and the multitude of social platforms and digital options, we were all watching the same TV networks and seeing the same movies.”

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck earned an Academy Award for "Good Will Hunting" in 1998.

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck earned an Academy Award for “Good Will Hunting” in 1998.

“So these stars from the nineties are still the ones you can count on for Americans from all age groups to know and love so therefore they are often the most bankable.”

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Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, the Boston-bred, life-long best friends who rose to fame with their ‘98 Academy Award-winning screenplay, “Good Will Hunting,” have each achieved success individually, but have also earned accolades as one of industry’s most memorable duos to make it big in the ’90s.

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Affleck still has the title for youngest winner of Best Original Screenplay as he was only 25 years old when the Gus Van Sant-directed drama, which also starred Robin Williams, Minnie Driver and his brother Casey Affleck, was released in December 1997.

Damon and Affleck worked together on a number of movies through the years as writing partners and co-stars, and are starring together once again in an as-yet untitled Nike movie about sports branding marketing extraordinaire Sonny Vaccaro.

Affleck will direct, write, co-star and produce while Damon will star, write and produce the film about the former Nike executive’s life story.

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck worked together on a number of movies through the years as writing partners and co-stars, and are starring together once again in an as-yet untitled Nike movie about sports branding marketing extraordinaire Sonny Vaccaro.

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck worked together on a number of movies through the years as writing partners and co-stars, and are starring together once again in an as-yet untitled Nike movie about sports branding marketing extraordinaire Sonny Vaccaro.

Damon will star as Vaccaro and Affleck will take on the role of Nike co-founder Phil Knight. The film will follow Vaccaro’s rise through the ranks of sports legends as he set out to sign Michael Jordan to the shoe brand, and his first sneaker deal.

In 2021 following the premiere for the film they starred in and co-wrote, “The Last Duel,” the “Bourne” franchise hero said he missed working with his writing partner and hopes to get more pen to paper with his buddy. 

“I think we’ll write a lot more in the future just because it didn’t turn out to be as time-consuming as we thought,” Damon told Entertainment Tonight. 

“Back in the day, we didn’t have deadlines because nobody cared what we were doing, no one was waiting for the script, we were unemployed, so we literally had nothing else to do. And now we can build the time, it’s a little more structured, right? Like, alright, let’s write from 10 to 2, you know, because we can drop the kids off and then we can pick the kids up. We actually have lives now which is nice, finally.”

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Fox News’ Larry Fink contributed to this report.



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