Generation X Cultural Icons That Defined An Era—Kurt Cobain, Prince and More

Generation X—people born from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s—are the so-called forgotten generation, sandwiched between the Boomers and Millennials.

Today, a cohort of Generation X's began reflecting on what it means to be from the era of MTV, grunge, The Breakfast Club, yuppies, slackers, Biggie and Tupac.

The term Generation X (often called Gen X) became a trending topic on Twitter as former "latchkey kids" reflected on the defining traits of their era along with nods to the then cultural zeitgeist.

"Wait. Why are people suddenly paying attention to Gen X?? F***. They found us, friends," tweeted TV writer Gennifer Hutchinson. "They found us."

While political commentator Christopher Hahn joked: "We are Gen X. We had awesome music. We're tech savvy but not obnoxious about it. We only care when you make us."

The zeitgeist of Generation X can be defined by a number of celebrities across the cultural landscape.

Kurt Cobain and Prince
Kurt Cobain and Prince Getty

Here's a look at some era-defining stars.

Kurt Cobain

The late Kurt Cobain largely defined grunge, a genre synonymous with Gen X. The Nirvana frontman will forever be remembered for the band's seminal Generation X anthem "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Nirvana performs on MTV Live and Loud
Kurt Cobain of Nirvana during the filming of 'MTV Live and Loud' in December 1993. Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images


Prince is another artist whose music provided the soundtrack for a generation of kids who rejected labels and strived for the individualistic allure of the "Purple Rain" artist.

Prince performs live at the Fabulous Forum on February 19, 1985 in Inglewood, California. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia was an inspirational figure for women sci-fi fans and her role in Star Wars propelled women into the genre like nothing seen before.

Star Wars
American actors Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford on the set of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope written, directed and produced by George Lucas Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images

Biggie Smalls

The hip-hop movement of the 90s was powered by Gen X, bringing the genre into its Golden Age, with New York rapper Biggie Smalls at the precipice.

Biggie Billboard Music Awards
American rapper Notorious BIG (born Christopher Wallace) attends the Billboard Music Awards, New York, New York, December 6, 1996. Larry Busacca/WireImage/Getty

Tupac Shakur

Similarly, Biggie's rival Tupac helped to establish the musical standard that rappers still strive to reach today.

Rapper Tupac Shakur poses for photos backstage after his performance at the Regal Theater in Chicago, Illinois in March 1994. Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Boy George

One of the defining figures of the New Romantics movement, Boy George is synonymous with the non-conformist, androgynous edge that flourished in the 1970s and 1980s.

Boy George
Boy George of Culture Club at his apartment in London, United Kingdom, 1983. Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Molly Ringwald

80s teen icon Molly Ringwald starred in one of the era's most defining films, The Breakfast Club, forever synonymous with Generation X.

first day of school movies breakfast club
Ally Sheedy and Molly Ringwald in a scene from the film 'The Breakfast Club', 1985. Universal Pictures/Getty

Muhammad Ali

One of Generation X's star athletes, the late Muhammad Ali is still one of the most celebrated sporting figures of the 20th century.

 Muhammad Ali
American Heavyweight boxer, Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali, 1942-2016), making a fist as he lies on his hotel bed, London, 27 May 1963. Ali was in London for a match against Henry Cooper.

David Bowie

One of the most celebrated musical artists of the last century, David Bowie's influence on pop culture came to be a defining aspect of Gen X.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees
David Bowie entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Getty

Winona Ryder

One of the most prolific actresses of the 80s and 90s, Winona Ryder is a generation-defining Gen X icon with her roles in classics like The Heathers and Reality Bites.

Winona Ryder
Winona Ryder in a scene from the film 'How To Make An American Quilt', 1995. Universal/Getty Images