In the year AD 1997...
- The world grieves at the untimely death of Princess Diana in a car crash while being chased by paparazzi. It is estimated that more than 1 billion people - one-fifth of humanity - tune in to watch her televised funeral.
- The Asian Financial Crisis begins in Thailand and spreads throughout Asia. The crisis arises out of policies pegging Asian currencies to the dollar, which lead to destablizing currency speculation, as well as the rapid growth of China, which has undermined longstanding patterns of foreign trade. Indonesia, South Korea, and Thailand are hardest hit, with Hong Kong, Malaysia, Laos, and the Philippines suffering significant economic damage as well.
- The Algerian Civil War drags on between the Algerian goverment and several Islamic separatist groups, and between the Islamic groups and each other. Several thousand more people die in random, unprovoked massacres of whole villages which are part of attempts to influence the outcome of the 1997 elections.
- Corrupt strongman Mobutu Sese Seko is overthrown by Tutsi rebels after 32 years as president/dictator of Zaire (soon renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo).
- Harry Potter is unleashed upon an unsuspecting world by British author J.K. Rowling, making his first appearance in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
- A hostage crisis develops in Peru when Túpac Amaru Maoist guerillas seize the residence of the Japanese ambassador during a party attended by numerous high-level diplomats, and take 71 people hostage. After a 126-day stand-off, government commandos storm the compound, rescuing 71 hostages and killing all 14 guerillas. One hostage dies of a heart-attack during the fighting.
- The Labour Party ends 18 years of Conservative Party rule in the United Kingdom as Tony Blair takes over as Prime Minister from John Major.
- The United Kingdom hands over control of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China.
- Scotland votes to form its own Parliament, and Wales votes to form a National Assembly.
- K. R. Narayanan is sworn in as President of India, becoming the first member of the dalit ("untouchable") caste to hold such high office.
- In response to the arrival of Comet Hale-Bopp, which they believe to be a disguised alien spaceship coming to take them up into space, 39 members of the San Diego-area religious cult Heaven's Gate commit suicide by eating phenobarbitol-laced apple sauce, notably while all wearing identical brand-new Nike sneakers.
- Andrew Cunanan goes on a three-month, five-murder killing spree across the US, culminating with the Miami slaying of famed fashion designer Gianni Versace before Cunanan finally kills himself to avoid capture.
- Scientists in Scotland announce that they have successfully cloned an adult sheep, producing a genetically identical clone named Dolly.
- British scientists Moira Bruce and John Collinge conclusively demonstrate that the mysterious human ailment known as variant form Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is the same disease as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or "mad-cow disease."
- The Petronas Towers are completed in Kuala Lumpur, becoming the tallest building in the world until 2003, when they would be surpassed by the Taipei 101 building.
- The futuristic Getty Center art museum complex opens in Los Angeles.
- The US Military's F-22 Raptor is successfully flown for the first time.
- Chinese-American author Iris Chang brings forgotten wrongs to light but ignites controversy with her sensationalist account of The Rape of Nanking.
- Golfer Tiger Woods turns professional and quickly shows that golf will never be the same by winning the 1997 Masters in a runaway.
- One-time boxing great Mike Tyson is disqualified from a bout with Evander Holyfield for biting off pieces of Holyfield's ear.
- The McCaughey septuplets are the first septuplets in which all seven children are born alive.
- Rock duo The White Stripes is formed.
These people died in 1997:
- Catholic nun and humanitarian Mother Teresa, known for her tireless service to India's poorest people.
- Chinese Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping, architect of China's emergence as an economic power.
- Diana, Princess of Wales, and her paramour Dodi Fayed, killed in a car accident in Paris while being chased by paparazzi.
- Mobutu Sese Seko, former dictator of Zaire, of cancer while in exile in Morocco.
- Legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune.
- American actor Jimmy Stewart.
- American beat poet Allen Ginsberg.
- American rapper The Notorious B.I.G., murdered for unknown reasons, although possibly in revenge for the 1996 murder of Tupac Shakur.
- Dutch artist Willem de Kooning.
- American author William S. Burroughs.
- American folk musician John Denver.
- United States Supreme Court justice William J. Brennan.
- Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, murdered by Andrew Cunanan.
- Hungarian conductor Georg Solti.
- American comedian Chris Farley.
- 800-pound Hawaiian singer and ukelele-player Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.
- Elvis Presley's manager Colonel Tom Parker.
- American baseball player and free agency advocate Curt Flood.
Several memorable films appeared in 1997, including:
These television shows began airing in 1997:
1996 - 1997 - 1998