1. ALL of the Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987-1996)
Take your pick! Mike: carefree, adventurous, funny. Raph: brooding, angsty, rebellious. Don: brains, bravery, compassion. Leo: honest, confident, courageous. They may not have been human, and they may not have worn pants — but that didn’t stop any of us from thinking that we could make a sewer romance work.
ANY RESIDUAL EMBARRASSMENT?: Despite the fact that they’re turtles, not really. There are two types of people in this world: those that admit they had a turtle crush in the ’90s, and LIARS.
2. Wheeler and Kwame, Captain Planet (1990-1996)
The powers of Earth and Fire could rock your world and burn it down! True, Wheeler was kind of an asshole, but he was certainly a flirt with that popped collar and shaggy red hair. Kwame was definitely the more reliable of the two — strong and assertive, and that accent! NO, MATI. YOU DON’T MAKE THE LIST.
ANY RESIDUAL EMBARRASSMENT?: We didn’t all immediately put two and two together that LeVar Burton was voicing that Zimbabwe purr, so it may have been a tad weird to realize you were crushing on “the guy from Reading Rainbow.” Otherwise, no.
3. Peter Pan, Peter Pan & The Pirates (1990-1991)
It wasn’t enough to be the bad boy who would never grow up — our beloved ’90s Peter Pan also had a BITCHIN’ PONYTAIL. He regularly fought with Captain Hook — who was far beefier/scarier/more imposing in this incarnation. Peter was dashing and cocky, and he could fly. Of COURSE we thought he was dreamy.
ANY RESIDUAL EMBARRASSMENT?: The only thing that doesn’t really hold up here are Peter’s clothing choices, which seem all over the map — headband, mini-cape, cowl, pointless decorative belt — but we’ll chalk that up to “no adult supervision.” Conclusion? Not much.
4. Ren, The Pirates of Dark Water (1991)
Speaking of pirates…Ren may have only ever found eight of the Thirteen Treasures of Rule (before he was so rudely cancelled) but he definitely captured our hearts. The combo of ultra-tan skin and ultra-bleached hair was just oh-so-right in the early ’90s. Toss in crazy genie eyebrows and a single earring? Forget it, Ren was IT.
ANY RESIDUAL EMBARRASSMENT?: None. Ren was hot then, he’s still hot now.
5. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice (1989-1991)
This one seems a little odd in hindsight because he’s just so gosh-darned disgusting to look at — but it’s true. Many a 12-year-old had an unexplainable and unfortunate crush on Beetlejuice. If there was any doubt that he had a tender heart underneath that icky exterior, he was a fantastic friend to Lydia, and we were all jealous.
ANY RESIDUAL EMBARRASSMENT?: Yes. All of it. All the embarrassment.
6. Doug Funnie, Doug (1991-1994)
Perhaps the most sensitive entry on this list, Doug was a creative and imaginative guy! A writer! A musician! A dreamer! A poet! He wore his heart on his sleeve. He may not have been hunky, but he more than made up for it in boyfriend material — and we kinda sorta hated Patti Mayonnaise just a little bit for not cluing in quicker.
ANY RESIDUAL EMBARRASSMENT?: As sweet as he was, Doug is still kind of a wiener. And we DEFINITELY can’t put up with that Quailman wearing-your-damn-underwear-around-on-the-outside-of-your-pants-like-it’s-not-completely-mortifying nonsense. So, yes.
7. Darien/Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask, Sailor Moon (1992-1997)
Darien to those of us stateside (but Mamoru everywhere else) — he’s the tall, dark, and handsome mysterious dream stranger. Every trope rolled up into one somehow works out in the end. After she got past hating his guts, Serena/Usagi crushed HARD and we did too. Believe it or not, in the ’90s, we did not find that hat ridiculous in the slightest.
ANY RESIDUAL EMBARRASSMENT?: NOW in the PRESENT DAY that hat is, in fact, entirely ridiculous. So, a little.
8. Gambit / Remy LeBeau, X-Men (1992-1997)
From Cyclops to Wolverine, Bishop to Cable, there were many members of the team who were just as chiseled — and there were just as many villains who could have filled out the pleather — but none of them had Gambit’s natural Cajun swagger. Perhaps it was the red/black eyes or the way he relentlessly pursued Rogue despite the danger, but if Remy was in the episode, we were all just a little more excited.
ANY RESIDUAL EMBARRASSMENT?: Nope. Remy could still get it.
9. Max Goof, Goof Troop (1992-1993)
Those of us who loved Max take no issue with the fact that he’s technically a different species. He was adventurous and cool, a good son and friend. The spiky hair and baggy clothes were totally in style, and who could resist that charming gap-toothed smile? He was aged-up a bit for the subsequent movies, but younger Max was still a catch.
ANY RESIDUAL EMBARRASSMENT?: As cute as he was, Max remains a gap-toothed, skateboarding dog. So yes.
10. The Joker, Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)
Batman Schmatman. Robin Schmobin. While the Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder both cut a mean figure, there’s no denying the weird and inescapable appeal of Gotham’s most loveable lunatic. If it was a Joker episode, it was a good episode, and we always felt just a little regret when his plans to execute Batsie fell through at the last moment. The scenes with the Joker and Harley Quinn showed us that despite his volcanic mood swings, there was still a man behind the make-up. And we could change him! Oh, if only we could try!
ANY RESIDUAL EMBARRASSMENT?: Weirdly, very little. YES he’s a clown with poor dental hygiene, but his zany charisma levels the field.
11. Goliath, Gargoyles (1994-1997)
Goliath may have been a 400-pound winged monster, but he was OUR 400-pound winged monster! Noble and righteous, fearless and brave, he was stone by day, but by night he was a stone fox. Claws, horns, fangs, and all — we learned that it was okay to have a crush on a character who looked so much like a cartoon devil, because we ALL had a crush on Goliath.
ANY RESIDUAL EMBARRASSMENT?: You’d think there would be, but this is a crush that nearly everyone who watched Gargoyles will readily cop to. There is safety in numbers — so, nope!
12. Trent Lane, Daria (1997-2002)
Tom who? While Daria may have moved on to other romantic endeavors, we never did. Trent was the kind of Gen-X slacker dreamboat we would have absolutely killed to meet in real life. Easy-going yet mysterious, he was both handsome, artistic, and authentic.
ANY RESIDUAL EMBARRASSMENT?: He may have been effortlessly cool, but “effortless” seemed to be standard operating procedure. It’s hard to overlook the way he coasted by without judging him just a wee bit for it. Still, he’s pretty hot. So, no.
13. James, Pokémon (1997-present)
Team Rocket’s theatrical conspirator was just as adorable as he was bonkers. No one could say he wasn’t dedicated to his cause — and that sort of single-minded tenacity was admirable! Plus, the shiny periwinkle hair and sparkly green eyes were oh-so-dreamy.
ANY RESIDUAL EMBARRASSMENT?: Looking back on it now, it’s not entirely clear what team James would even play for — but that’s almost irrelevant because he is such a colossal ham. Therein lies some mild embarrassment.
14. Bender Bending Rodriguez & Philip J. Fry, Futurama (1999-2013)
You wouldn’t think a complete asshole and a total moron could be so hopelessly loveable, but you’d be wrong! Bender’s swaggering, aggressive over-confidence was somehow just as appealing as Fry’s earnest, bumbling ineptitude. Charming and sincere — or in Bender’s case, charming despite WILD insincerity — we loved them both!
ANY RESIDUAL EMBARRASSMENT?: Not a bit!
Did your ’90s cartoon crush not make the list? Comment and tell us all about it! :D
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