'Captain Marvel' 90s Nostalgia: 16 Music and Pop Culture Moments We Spotted
Tracing through the plot via '90s nostalgia.
Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers might be one of the most relatable superheroes that Marvel Studios has ever brought to the big screen, thanks in no small part to Captain Marvel taking place squarely in the middle of the 1990s, an era that many millennial Marvel fans grew up during.
“It was something we hadn’t done before,” Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said on the Captain Marvel red carpet earlier this week. “We wanted to explore this section of the MCU and we also wanted Carol to have her origin all to herself.”
Most of Captain Marvel’s action takes place in 1995 with some flashback scenes occurring in 1989, so it’s clear we’re in peak ‘90s era. As an amnesiac warrior the Kree call “Veers,” Captain Marvel follows the Kree-Skrull war to Earth where she uncovers the truth about herself and the this intergalactic conflict while she becoming friends with a much younger Nick Fury.
Inverse is running lots of coverage to explain the sometimes complicated plot and influences of Captain Marvel, but another way to view the movie is through the many ‘90s reference scattered throughout the 2-hour film. Read on for a detailed break down of every ‘90s references and Easter egg we found in Captain Marvel.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
1. ‘90s Music
How can any movie claim the style of a decade without prominently featuring tons of music from the era? Captain Marvel features many iconic ‘90s jams across different genres. Whether it’s “Waterfalls” playing as Danvers and Fury drive across the desert or No Doubt blasting in one of the film’s major battles, Captain Marvel has a little bit of everything (plus one of two older tracks just for fun).
Throughout Captain Marvel, we also see Carol wear several different band t-shirts, including the widely-shown Nine Inch Nails shirt, along with others for Guns N’ Roses and Heart. These songs and shirts aren’t always strictly speaking from the ‘90s, but the nostalgia is still pervasive.
Hit play on the playlist above for a taste of the film’s music and continue reading.
2. Blockbuster Video
Blockbuster was a popular movie rental store that peaked in the mid- to late-‘90s with VHS rentals and the early 2000s with the arrival of DVDs. The beloved chain is now all but extinct in real-life, but in 1995 it was thriving. As seen at the start of the first Captain Marvel trailer, Carol Danvers crashes through the roof of one in Los Angeles early in the movie.
3. Danvers Picks Up a VHS of The Right Stuff
It’s a little on-the-nose, but a confused Carol Danvers quickly picks up a VHS tape of The Right Stuff, a historical drama about military pilots conducting aeronautical research that would lead to the first instance of manned spaceflight. In 1989, Carol is an Air Force pilot conducting a test flight of a new technology when her vessel crashes. She still doesn’t remember being human in Blockbuster Video, so her recognizing this film might be her subconscious memory activating somehow.
4. Danvers Blasts a Cardboard Cutout From True Lies
Before Carol can dwell too long on the VHS tape in her hand, she quickly fires a photon blast at an ominous figure in the shadows. Turns out it’s just a cardboard cutout of Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Schwarzenegger for the iconic 1994 action film True Lies.
5. Danvers Robs a Radio Shack to Phone Home
Because Danvers is so far away from her Starforce companions, she has to enhance her suit’s built-in communicator. She asks a rent-a-cop for “communications equipment,” and he refers her to Radio Shack two doors down from Blockbuster. Talk about a classic ‘90s strip mall! Alongside Blockbuster, Radio Shack was another iconic brand that swelled in popularity in that era before dwindling in the years that followed.
6. Game Boys Somehow Help Advanced Kree Communications Equipment
After totally robbing a Radio Shack, Carol Danvers dismantles an incoherent assortment of electronic devices from 1995, one of them being what looks like a classic Nintendo Game Boy. The distant precursor to today’s Nintendo Switch, the original Game Boy was released in 1989 and was an immensely popular mobile gaming system. What component was useful enough that it enhanced the signal on a Kree communicator? Who knows! Carol uses it to chat with her Kree team before getting attacked by some Skrulls.
7. AltaVista Is the Only Search Engine at a 1995 Internet Cafe
Before Google established itself as the only search engine that mattered to the extent that “Googling” is a verb kids today grow up with, there was “AltaVista,” a now ancient search engine that Danvers later uses at an internet cafe to get information about locations and people she sort of remembers after her encounter with the Skrulls. This leads Danvers to her favorite bar where she reconnects with Nick Fury.
8. We Get the Origin Story for Nick Fury’s Captain Marvel-Themed Pager
Fury and Danvers investigate a Pegasus military facility where a Dr. Lawson was conducting some kind of research in the late-‘80s, and Fury whips out a two-way pager to send a message to his friends at S.H.I.E.L.D. (These ancient devices were used to send text messages long before mobile phones became overwhelmingly popular.)
At the end of Captain Marvel, Carol retrofits this ordinary pager to send a message a few galaxies away, hence why Fury calls her a few decades later in the Infinity War post-credits scene.
While at the facility, they learn that “Veers” was actually the human Carol Danvers once and that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by Skrull.
9. The Rambeaus Love Barnum Animals Crackers
Danvers’ next stop is the home of Maria Rambeau, her closest friend from when she was a human on Earth, and Maria’s daughter Monica. In one early scene, we see a vintage box of Barnum’s Animals Crackers on a kitchen counter. This style of boxes are still around today, but every ‘90s kid remembers when they were one of the coolest snacks around.
10. Carol Danvers Once Dressed Up as Janis Joplin for Halloween
When they go through a box of Carol’s old things to help job her memory, among everything is a picture of her dressed up as America Rock star Janis Joplin. She died in 1970, but Danvers being a huge fan of Joplin makes her even cooler.
11. Monica Rambeau Has a Discman
The young Monica Rambeau distracts herself at one point by listening to music on her Discman, a music-listening device that gained popularity in the ‘80s and more so in the ‘90s. They were usually powered by either AAA or AA batteries and played CDs. Gradually, they were phased out by MP3 players, then iPods, and nowadays everybody listens to music on their phones.
12. The Rambeau Home Computer Is So Slow
The shapeshifting Skrull Talos walks right into Rambeau’s home to reveal that they have the Black Box from the ship that crashed in 1989, inciting the accident that gave Carol her powers and led to her losing her memory. But when he load the CD onto a computer, and it takes an uncomfortable amount of time to boot it up.
From this, we learn that Dr. Lawson was actually the real Mar-Vell all along. She was researching light-speed travel with Danvers’ help — until Yon-Rogg killed her and Danvers sacrificed herself to destroy the technology, inadvertently gaining superpowers in the process.
13. The Rambeaus Watch The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
When trying to convince her mother to help Team Captain Marvel complete their final mission, young Monica Rambeau says something to the effect of, “What are you going to do, stay home and watch The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with me!?” The beloved American sitcom starring Will Smith would’ve been in its final season at this point in 1995 and at roughly the peak of its popularity.
14. Troll Dolls, Koosh Balls, and Space Invaders Pinball Machine
As it turns out, Mar-Vell had a huge affinity for random 1990s toys and games. Sexist internet trolls aren’t the only trolls involved with Captain Marvel, because Mar-Vell has a few crazy-haired Troll dolls on a table not far from a Space Invaders pinball machine along with at least one Koosh Ball and a very important lunchbox.
15. The Fonz Lunch Box
Who knew that the Fonz had the capacity to contain the power of an Infinity Stone? The Happy Days (1974-1984) star plays a key role after we learn that the Tesseract was the power source Mar-Vell used to develop lightspeed travel. After that crash, it also infused into Carol, transforming her into Captain Marvel. While aboard Mar-Vell’s vessel orbiting around Earth, Carol uses a metal Fonz lunchbox to carry the Tesseract around, hiding it from Yon-Rogg and Kree forces.
16. Nerf Guns
One of Captain Marvel’s last and best jokes has to do with Gemma Chan’s elite Kree sniper Minn-Erva picking up a stray gun. She mercilessly shoots Danvers right in the face with it, but when a foam dart bounces harmlessly off Carol’s forehead, we realize it was a Nerf gun all along.
Did we miss any ‘90s Easter eggs from Captain Marvel? Fire off an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be sure to add it in.
Captain Marvel is now in theaters.