Pop Culture in Review for the Year 1999

Popular cultures are the major happenings of a particular time period that shape out the culture. From large scale political movements to singers, actors, musicians, and big companies playing in the market, it all depends on them as they are the direct influences on how the public thinks and perceives an image about them.

The last year of the 20th century, 1999, was one of the most important ones for the 21st century. It is considered as one of the most stable years before the attacks of 9/11 shook the whole world and the concept of terrorism emerged on a global scale.


The film industry in 1999 was erratic with major ups and downs while there were many significant films being released this year.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

The most grossing film of the year 1999 which nearly touched the $1 billion mark in terms of gross incomes was Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. It was written and directed by George Lucas while production and distribution were under 20th Century Fox. The film was a major hit round the globe and became the number one grossing film of the year 1999 and the second most grossing film of the century after Titanic.

Film Stars included Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, and Anthony Daniels. Further sequels were started right after the movie became a global hit. In 2012, a 3D version was released for the same film.

The release of the prequel film also renewed interest for Star Wars action figures that were produced by Kenner, who has been the manufacturer of classic Star Wars toys since the first movie in the franchise. The deal between Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, and Kenner to produce Star Wars action figures was made in 1976, which was one year before the premier of the first Star Wars film. If you want to get more info on the iconic Star Wars action figures, you can read our article, “Things to Know About the Kenner Star Wars Action Figures.”

Death – Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick is known to be one of the pioneers of American film direction. He was born on July 26, 1928 and died on March 7, 1999 at the age of 70. The filmmaker has directed several films under him mostly which include novels, short stories, realism, dark humor, and other related genres. The film maker was also known for his extensive set designs and exceptional cinematography.

Some of the top films under Kubick include The Killing, Paths of Glory, and Spartacus. On March 7, 1999, Kubick died after suffering from a heart attack. This was a significant time in his life as it had just been 6 days before his movie “Eyes Wide Shut” was released.

Stanley Kubrick

The Matrix

The Matrix was a thriller science fiction film which was written and directed by Wachowskis. The film shows a distant future where humans are trapped inside a virtual or augmented reality created by intelligent machines. Stars of the film included Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano.

The Matrix was a super hit film of its time due to exceptional cinematographic effects such as bullet shots in slow motion, speed up human movements, and handling the other different subjects as well. The film was able to have a gross rental of more than $465 million with a budget of $63 million.

Stuart Little

Stuart Little was a comedy-action movie for the whole family based on the same-name novel by E.B. White. The film shows a small rat, Stuart Little, that can speak and communicate while he is also the pet of a family. The film was directed by Rob Minkoff as his first film.

Stars of the film included Geena Davis and Hugh Larie while the voiceovers by Michael J. Fox and Nathan Lane were significantly important.  The film is still considered as one of the best films for kids. It received the award of Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards. Stuart Little was so successful that further sequels were released later in 2001, 2003, and 2005.


Baby One More time by Britney Spears

Baby One More Time was the debut studio album by Britney Spears and was released on January 12, 1999. The song “Baby One More Time” has had sales of over 10 million copies and is still considered to be one of the bestselling singles of all time. Although, the album was initially criticized for its immaturity, but it was later considered to be a major impact on pop culture and young entertainment.

The album has 14 Platinum Certifications and the album has more than 25 million copies sold worldwide. The single and the album have received multiple other awards and nominations at the different Grammy Award Sessions.

Year for Eminem

On February 23, 1999, The Slim Shady LP was released which was an album by the American Rapper Eminem. The Slim Shady was the second most popular album of the era after “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears. The album focuses on lyrical content more and depicts the violence  and made up tails of the different trailer-park stuff.

Much of the lyrics in the album are considered satirical, it still showed how Eminem lived a life of poverty. The Slim Shady has debuted number two on Billboard 200 and number one on the Top Hip-Hop Albums Chart. Critics also considered it a unique one with dark humor and better lyrics as well.

Suicide of Adrian Borland

Adrian Kelvin Borland was one of the top English singers and songwriters. He had a lead role in the band, The Sound. The singer was a guitarist and record-producer as well. He was born on 6th December 1957 and died on 26th April 1999.

Due to the major ups and downs that the singer faced throughout his career, he developed a schizoaffective disorder which led to depression and anxiety along with personality disorders as well. Borland attempted suicide by jumping in front of a live train on 26th April and was pronounced dead immediately.

Adrian Borland


In a Hot Air Balloon for 233 Hours

Colin Prescot and Andy Elson were the first ones who tried to circumnavigate the entire earth on a hot air balloon. The attempt was successful to an extent only since the group was able to stay in the air for 233 hours and 55 minutes after which they were forced to land owing to technical difficulties and problems with the balloon. Both made a new record on 27th February for staying so long in a hot air balloon.

Soon on 3rd March, Bertrand Piccard with his colleague Brian Jones made a successful attempt of completing a non-stop circumnavigation around the earth in 17 days. The two used the solar power concept to have the balloon running up in the air.

Bad year for NASA

Whether it was a mistake or a purposeful act, NASA lost two important spacecraft this year namely the Mars Climate Orbiter and the Mars Polar Lander. The Mars Polar Lander was a 290-kilogram robot which was launched by NASA on 3rd January 1999 on a mission to study the soil and climate of Planum Austral which was a region near the South Pole on Mars.

However, in less than a year on December 3rd, 1999, the lander failed to establish contact with Earth due to premature termination of the engine. On the other hand, the Mars Climate Orbiter was a bigger space probe which was launched on December 11 1998 but lost communication on September 23 1999 due to an error on earth where produced output was put in Non-SI units of pound force instead of SI Units.

The Melissa Worm Virus Released

The Melissa Virus was one of the earliest developed macro-viruses which produced mass mails and considerable amount of network traffic. Viruses like this had the potential to infect computers with an email of subject “Important Message From” which was followed by a list of other such emails,  pornographic material, and illegal aspects.

David L. Smith released the virus on March 26, 1999. The method of globally unique identifier was used to trace the virus back to Smith. Police caught him four days later with multiple authorities and important personnel involved. Later, 1st May 2002, Smith was fined $5000 and sentenced to 20 months in prison.


1999 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships

The 34th session of World Artistic Gymnastics Championships was held in China with more than 20 nations participating in the events that included Russia, China, Romania, Spain, South Korea, USA, Japan, Ukraine, Canada, Hungary, Latvia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Greece, Switzerland, France, and others.

The Men’s Team Champion was China with a total score of 230.395. The Women’s Team Champion was Romania with a total score of 153.527. Russia was, however, on the top of the medal table with 11 medals in total. China was at second position at 8.

Death – Payne Stewart

Born on 30th January 1957, William Payne Stewart was one of the most successful professional golfers of America who has a record of winning 11 major PGA Tour events as well as three major championships in his life as well. Stewart also captured the third major title after holding a 5-meter par putt on the final hole with just one stroke to victory.

On October 25, 1999, Stewart was travelling to Texas from Florida on a Learjet 35. The plane crashed and Stewart died. At the time of his death, Stewart had a net worth of more than $12 million which depicted his exceptional success in the field.

Television and Literature

Rising Trend of Cartoons

1999 was a period where children’s cartoons were becoming more popular. There were multiple channels such as Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Sports for Kids which were on air. Specific attention was being given to children programs as they were a trendy content and relatively newer genre.

Ed, Edd n Eddy premiered on Cartoon Network on January 4th. Soon, The Powerpuff Girls was also aired in the UK. Nickelodeon Games and Sports for Kids channel was started in February. SpongeBob SquarePants premiered on Nickelodeon on 17th July. Many other cartoons also debuted this year.

First Ever Winner of Who Wants to be a Millionaire

The famous television show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” was just started a year ago and got its first winner on 19th November when John Carpenter won the $1 million. He is the first contestant in the American program to win this amount. John was so confident in all his answers that he did not take even a single lifeline in answering the questions.

On the last question, however, he decided to take the lifeline and call his dad but everyone was surprised when he just informed his dad that he was coming home with $1 million rather than asking him to help him through the question. His success gave him major recognition and he later became a part of multiple TED talks as well.



There were two major Earthquakes on earth whereas many small ones followed later as well. The first one occurred in the start of the year on January 25 where the Earthquake occurred at Columbia. The Earthquake had a magnitude of 6.2 on the Richter Scale and was considered as the strongest Earthquake in Columbia in 16 years. More than 1900 people died while many buildings and houses collapsed bringing in a considerable amount of economic loss.

The second one occurred in Turkey and is known as the deadliest Earthquake in the history of Turkey with over 17,000 lost lives and 50,000 injuries as well. It occurred in the city of Izmit and was given the status of Mercalli Intensity.

Death of John F. Kennedy Junior

The son of 35th President of America, John F. Kennedy, was a seasonal trainee pilot who was flying over the Atlantic Ocean. Accompanying him was his wife, and sister in law. The single-engine aircraft took off from Essex County Airport for its intended destination being Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

Kennedy fell to spatial disorientation and was confused over the indicators of his plane. With lost control and a poor sense of visual indicators, the plane crashed amidst a terrible weather and all on-board died.

Future President States his Intentions

George W. Bush was the Governor of Texas in 1999. On June 12, he announced that he will be seeking the nomination on behalf of the Republican Party for the post of President of the United States of America.

The elections were merely a year and a half away and this was an important statement by Bush. In the upcoming elections, George W. Bush emerged successful and became the 43rd President of America.


1999 was designated as the International Year of Older Persons by the United Nations General Assembly because of the exceptional work that was being done for the older citizens this year. The last year of the 20th century was a remarkable one with several interesting turn of events and one of the last years before global terrorism became an important concept. 1999’s pop culture highlights were quite erratic.

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