Pop Culture

Entertainment Weekly picks 10 influential pop-culture moments from past 25 years

In honor of Entertainment Weekly's 25th anniversary, the magazine has selected 10 top moments that dramatically influenced pop culture since 1990.

The first five items on the list were discussed on Thursday's episode of TODAY; here's the full list of 10, in no particular order.

1. Ellen DeGeneres' "Ellen" character announces she's gay

When Ellen's titular character announced "I'm gay" over a loudspeaker in 1997, the event transcended plot; it marked the moment that "Ellen" became the first prime-time sitcom to feature a gay leading character. The groundbreaking, cameo-laden episode — which attracted some 42 million viewers — would later win two Emmy Awards and pave the way for other LGBT-influenced programming such as "Will and Grace," "The L Word" and "Modern Family."

2. "Sex and the City" premieres

Debuting on HBO in 1998, the cultural touchstone represented a wave of sexual liberation for a new millennium, made some bold (and perhaps dated) fashion choices, and challenged boundaries of socially accepted views of women.

3. "Survivor" sets new bar for reality TV

Two years after "Sex and the City" premiered, "Survivor" delivered incredible ratings (52 million viewers) for its Season 1 finale, and ushered in a new era of reality programming that continues to this day. Oh, and it's in the middle of its 31st season.

4. Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl

With a worldwide live audience, the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show became infamous the moment Justin Timberlake tore off a piece of Janet Jackson's bustier to reveal more than some viewers were ready to handle. Subsequent debates over supposed "indecency" raged, but an initial FCC fine for the incident was later overturned.

5. Michael Jackson dies

When the so-called King of Pop passed away from cardiac arrest June 25, 2009, in addition to marking the end of an era for one of the most famous and most controversial singers in history, the proliferation of the news and reaction to it on social media showcased just how intertwined they are. In addition, an estimated 1 billion people worldwide watched the live broadcast of his funeral.

6. "Brokeback Mountain"

Considered perhaps the most successful same-sex love story ever created, the 2005 movie made $178 million worldwide. Many film critics also lament that it didn't win best picture at the subsequent Academy Awards ceremony, where that Oscar went to "Crash."

7. Kurt Cobain’s death

The acclaimed Nirvana front man — an icon to Generations X and Y — shocked the band's devout fan base when the singer died at age 27 and left behind a suicide note.

8. Jennifer Lopez’s Grammy Awards dress

As David Duchovny remarked before he and J-Lo awarded the first trophy at the 2000 ceremony, "Jennifer, this is the first time in five or six years that I am sure that nobody is looking at me." That pretty much summed it up viewer reaction to her revealing Versace dress, which Lopez says she still owns.

9. James Cameron movies

In addition to winning 11 Academy Awards in 1998, "Titanic" had been the highest-grossing movie of all time before its Oscar-winning director took on 2009's "Avatar" and shattered the old mark. Combined, they've made almost $5 billion at the box office.

10. "The Sopranos" finale

Airing in 2007, the controversial ending to the acclaimed HBO series left viewers wondering what exactly happened to Tony Soprano in the diner when the scene suddenly cut to black. The continuing debate isn't just over whether the character lives or dies — it's whether the final scene was a triumph or a cop-out.

Follow TODAY.com writer Chris Serico on Twitter.

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