Nine Reasons Why Nostalgia is Keeping the ‘90s and 2000s Genre Alive


Nostalgia serves as a potent tool in filmmaking, eliciting powerful emotional responses from audiences and enhancing their engagement with the story. The word is a combination of two Greek words: nóstos, meaning “homecoming” and álgos, meaning “despair” or “sorrow.” Together, they make nostalgia, originally coined by a 17th-century medical student describing the anxieties and sadness of fighting away from home. The feeling can come up in a variety of situations, from eating a certain food, like the pancakes your dad would make every Sunday or mom’s famous tacos on Taco Tuesday, to reminiscing about the good old days, like the friends you made in your college days or when you were at peak physical health. It is the yearning for the return of past circumstances. It is homesickness for a place, a person, a feeling.

Nowadays, nostalgia is working to keep certain movies and TV shows alive too. We’re looking back at the ‘90s and 2000s to remember the shows that we waited all week for, just to see what would happen next to our favorite characters. We’re rewatching and reanalyzing the movies that made an enormous success at the box office and in our homes. For many, these decades represent their formative years, filled with memories of watching favorite shows and movies. But why does it work so well? Why are we still reverting back to these movies and shows when new content is being released all the time? We’ve compiled a list of nine reasons why nostalgia works so effectively in bringing us back to movies and TV shows in the ‘90s and 2000s.

1. Escapism: Watching shows and movies from a bygone era provides a form of escapism, allowing viewers to temporarily retreat into a world they remember fondly. People can feel like they’re hanging out with their pals at Central Perk or shopping with Cher from Clueless. Nostalgia transports them back to simpler times, offering relief from the stresses of the present.

2. Reliving Happy Memories: Nostalgic entertainment allows people to relive happy memories associated with specific shows or movies. Whether it’s reminiscing about family movie nights or bonding with friends over a favorite TV series, these experiences evoke feelings of joy and contentment.

3. Connection to Pop Culture: Shows and movies from the ‘90s and 2000s played a significant role in shaping pop culture during those decades. Remember “the Rachel?” Nostalgia prompts people to revisit these cultural touchstones, rekindling their love for iconic characters, memorable catchphrases, and timeless storylines.

4. Comfort in Familiarity: Nostalgic entertainment offers a sense of comfort in familiarity. Viewers already know the characters, settings, and plotlines, making it easy to slip back into the world of their favorite shows or movies like revisiting old friends. We know that Monica and Chandler are going to end up together, so we’re okay with watching them date other people or argue with each other. We’re okay with dealing with the human experience, especially if it isn’t our personal experience.

5. Rediscovering Childhood Favorites: Many people who grew up in the ‘90s and 2000s enjoy introducing their favorite childhood shows and movies to a new generation. Nostalgia motivates them to share these beloved classics with their children or younger relatives, passing down cherished memories from their own childhood. From Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada, Mean Girls, The Sopranos, 10 Things I Hate About You, Seinfeld, and so many, many more.

6. Revisiting Milestones: Shows and movies from the ‘90s and 2000s often coincide with significant milestones in people’s lives, such as graduations, first jobs, or starting a family. Nostalgia prompts viewers to revisit these productions as a way of reflecting on their personal growth and development over the years. Some shows lasted a long time, like Friends and The Office, which each lasted for around ten years. People who were in high school had become semi-functioning adults by that point. People had grown up in that time.

7. Cultural Zeitgeist: The ‘90s and 2000s were marked by distinct cultural trends and societal shifts, reflected in the entertainment of the time. Nostalgia for this era prompts people to revisit shows and movies that capture the spirit of the times, offering insight into the cultural landscape of those decades.

8. Rediscovering Lost Gems: Nostalgia motivates viewers to rediscover hidden gems or overlooked classics from the ‘90s and 2000s that may not have received widespread recognition at the time of their release. These hidden treasures offer a fresh perspective on the era and provide new sources of nostalgia. While The Office was popular at its time, it regained new life when it became available on Netflix in 2021 and Gen Z grew to love it as well.

9. Continued Influence: Shows and movies from the ‘90s and 2000s continue to influence contemporary entertainment, fashion, and music. Nostalgia prompts viewers to revisit these influential productions, recognizing their lasting impact on popular culture and appreciating their relevance in today’s media landscape.

In conclusion, nostalgia works so well in movies and TV shows because it taps into our emotional memories, provides a form of escapism, and so much more. And these movies work so well because they offer us all of these things. While nostalgia can sometimes hurt (the Greek word for “despair” literally makes up half the word!), it can also comfort. We could all use a little comfort.