Let’s just admit that there was something special about the heartthrobs of the 1990s. Sure, actors today are still hot – Andrew Garfield, Rob Pattinson, a bunch of guys named Chris. But nothing about them lights my fire the way certain bowl-cutted (and usually blond – eww) teenage boys did for the greater part of my childhood. Whether I was ripping their posters out of Tiger Beat or watching Wild America enough times to break the VHS, these were the boys dominating my dreams, not to mention my bedroom ceiling.
Oh Andrew, where do I even begin? Yes, he’s probably most famous for his role as the sleazy BMOC who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “pensive” in Ten Things I Hate About You. Or maybe you remember his lengthy turn as a young dad (hot!) on 7th Heaven. I definitely had a thing for him when he played Claudia Salinger’s unrequited crush on Party of Five. But Andrew Keegan’s glory days began with a little film called Camp Nowhere. Andrew’s first movie, Camp Nowhere is about a group of kids dreading their parentally-guided summer plans who rent a camp and trick their parents into letting them go wild in the woods sans supervision for eight weeks. Andrew, of course, plays the hottie. The thing about Andrew Keegan is that unlike so many of the other tween idols of my youth, he was legitimately handsome and still is. Maybe the shirtless picture above is a bit much, but he has a great face, seemed cool, and totally nailed that arrogant-but-likeable thing. Plus, he had brown hair and I still found him attractive – a huge accomplishment given my taste when I was ten.
It would be sacrilege to mention Camp Nowhere and not talk about another gorgeous specimen called Jonathan Jackson. The actual star of the movie, he played the devilishly charming rapscallion responsible for the camp scam. The coolest thing about Jonathan Jackson is that so many of us fell in love with him as he was then – the adorable prepubescent slacker boy pictured above. But he quickly grew up to become a bonafide hot guy! See below:
I remember when I realized that the Jonathan Jackson I admired in The Deep End of the Ocean and Tuck Everlasting was the same Jonathan Jackson from Camp Nowhere. Totally mindblowing! I’m not a soap opera person but I should mention that he also had a very long career on General Hospital, which he reprised a couple of years ago only to quit again a year later. I’m not totally sure why he never had more of a successful career (his filmography is fairly pitiful post-Nowhere), but his resemblance to the next fella on our list might have had something to do with it.
A veritable king among boys, Devon probably stole every role for which Jonathan Jackson and the other bros on this list auditioned. And can you blame him? Look at that tousled mop! Those sea-green eyes! That milky skin! He was the perfect pretty boy with sharp edges, and his pout made my heart pound way before I knew about Ryan Philippe. Of course, I love his work in Little Giants and Casper (when are ghosts going to make a sexy comeback a la vampires?), and his naked rope-swinging in Now and Then is thrilling to this day. After Wild America, he took on decidedly darker teen roles in Idle Hands and Final Destination. It’s too bad the whole premise of Final Destination revolves around main characters dying, because otherwise he could have totally had a second coming with that franchise. Even his name still sounds attractive to me. Devon Sawa. It’s like your mouth has to make kissing shapes just to say it out loud.
To be fair, I really could have included all three Lawrence brothers: Joey, Matthew, and little Andrew, who, by the way, is arguably the hottest as an adult. They all had that hot-frog look going on, but each was attractive in his own way. Still, I was only ever interested in Matthew. Joey was a tad too old for my taste, and Andrew was of course too young, so Goldilocks that I was, all my worship fell to the middle brother. I was obsessed with Mrs. Doubtfire as a kid and Matthew played the cute, sensitive brother struggling with his parents’ divorce (swoon!). Pretty sure the only other thing I ever actually watched him in was the Lawrence Brothers TV show, Brotherly Love. And yes, I had to double-check that title a few times because it sounds so ridiculously made-up.
Jonathan Brandis (R.I.P.)
I professed my Ladybugs love as recently as last week, so I won’t go crazy here, but suffice to say he pretty much deserved an Oscar for his turn as Matthew/Martha in the cross-dressing strangely-dirty tween comedy. He was also spectacular in The Neverending Story 2 and Sidekicks (remember that gloriously 90s Karate Kid rip-off?). I’m not into science fiction but I’ll admit to tuning into Seaquest DSV from time to time just to catch a glimpse of this towheaded Adonis. Of all the guys in my Top Five, Jonathan Brandis seemed the most boy-next-door approachable. Of course he was a smoldering hottie, but there was a sweetness to him that made him seem like your elementary school crush as opposed to a dangerous movie star. So it was all the more shocking when he committed suicide in 2003, apparently depressed about his declining career. If it were up to me, Ladybugs would have become a franchise in and of itself, saving Jonathan’s career and life in the process. This is why I should be President, right?
Of course, any Top Five necessarily excludes some valuable runners-up. Jonathan Taylor Thomas is notably absent from this list, in part because he feels a little too famous, despite having no current career to speak of. I definitely wanted to bone him in an innocent, let-me-be-the-Nala-to-your-Young-Simba kind of a way. But he was everybody’s favorite and that kind of annoyed me. I wanted to feel like I actually had a chance with these guys, you know? Plus when I wrote him a fan letter in fourth grade all I got back was a mimeographed postcard. Completely lame. Others who just missed the cut-off: Rider Strong (another frog-like beauty!) and Scott Wolf. So what was it about these guys? The floppy hair? The patterned shirts? I’m not entirely sure, but I am thinking about buying some 1992 Bop magazines on eBay.