1997 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar), and was designated the International Year of the Reef.
- June - Iraq disarmament crisis: Iraqi military escorts on board an UNSCOM helicopter try to physically prevent the UNSCOM pilot from flying the helicopter in the direction of its planned destination, threatening the safety of the aircraft and their crews.
- June 2 - Timothy McVeigh is convicted on 15 counts of murder and conspiracy for his role in the 1995 terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- June 5 - Kim Hyun Chul, son of Kim Young Sam, president of South Korea, is charged with bribery and corruption related to the awarding of government contracts
- June 7 - A computer user known as "_eci" published his Microsoft C source code on a Windows 95 and Windows NT exploit, which would later become WinNuke. The source code gets wide distribution across the internet, and Microsoft is forced to release a security patch.
- June 10 - Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot orders the killing of his defense chief Son Sen and 11 of Sen's family members before Pol Pot flees his northern stronghold (the news did not reach outside Cambodia for three days)
- June 11 - The British House of Commons votes for a total ban on handguns
- June 12 - The United States Department of the Treasury unveils a new $50 bill meant to be more counterfeit-resistant  (http://www.ustreas.gov/press/releases/rr1746.htm)
- June 13 - A jury sentences Timothy McVeigh to the death penalty for his part in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.  (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/law/june97/mcveigh_6-13.html)
- July 1 - The United Kingdom hands sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China
- July 4 - NASA's Pathfinder space probe lands on the surface of Mars.
- July 8 - Mayo Clinic researchers warn that the dieting-drug "fen-phen" can cause severe heart and lung damage
- July 8 - NATO invites the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland to join the alliance in 1999
- July 10 - In London, scientists report their DNA analysis findings from a Neanderthal skeleton which support the out of Africa theory of human evolution placing an "African Eve" at 100,000 to 200,000 years ago
- July 13 - Body of Che Guevara is returned to Cuba for burial alongside some of his other comrades
- July 15 - In Miami, Florida, serial killer Andrew Phillip Cunanan guns down Gianni Versace outside his home
- July 17 - The F.W. Woolworth Company closes after 117 years in business
- July 21 - The fully restored USS Constitution (aka "Old Ironsides") celebrates her 200th birthday by setting sail for the first time in 116 years
- July 22 - The second Blue Water Bridge opens between Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario
- July 23 - Digital Equipment Corporation files antitrust charges against chipmaker Intel
- July 25 - K.R. Narayanan is sworn-in as India's 10th president and the first member of the Dalits caste to hold this office.
- August 1 - Boeing and McDonnell Douglas complete merger.
- August 2 - Australian ski instructor Stuart Diver is rescued as the sole survivor from the Thredbo landslide in New South Wales, Australia, in which 18 lives were lost.
- August 4 - 185,000 Teamsters union United Parcel Service drivers walk off the job.
- August 6 - Microsoft buys a $150 million share of financially troubled Apple Computer.
- August 26 - The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning set up in Northern Ireland, as part of the peace process.
- August 29 - Christopher Maier of Lexington, Kentucky is bludgeoned to death by serial killer Angel Maturino Resendiz. Angel also rapes and beats Christopher's girlfriend, who survives. This is the first of a string of murders that Angel commits.
- August 31 - Diana, Princess of Wales is taken to a hospital after a car crash in the Pont de l'Alma road tunnel in Paris. She is pronounced dead at 4:00 the next morning.
- September 3 - Arizona Governor Fife Symington is convicted for various crimes tied to his real estate business, effectively forcing him out of office.
- September 4 - In Lorain, Ohio, the last Ford Thunderbird rolls off the assembly line.
- September 5 - Athens is picked to be the host city for the 2004 Summer Olympics
- September 6 - The funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales at Westminster Abbey draws large crowds.
- September 7 - First test flight of the F/A-22 Raptor.
- September 11 - Scotland votes to create its own Parliament after 290 years of union with England
- September 13 - Iraq disarmament crisis: An Iraqi military officer attacks an UNSCOM weapons inspector on board an UNSCOM helicopter while the inspector was attempting to take photographs of unauthorized movement of Iraqi vehicles inside a site designated for inspection
- September 17 - Iraq disarmament crisis: While waiting for access to a site, UNSCOM inspectors witness and videotape Iraqi guards moving files, burning documents, and dumping waste cans into a nearby river
- September 25 - Iraq disarmament crisis: UNSCOM inspector Dr. Diane Seaman catches several Iraqi men sneaking out the back door of an inspection site with log books for the creation of prohibited bacteria and chemicals.
- September 26 - 234 dies in air crash in Indonesia. Probable cause is the smoke rising from numerous forest fires in the area
- October 2 – UK scientists Moira Bruce and John Collinge with their colleagues independently show that the new variant form of the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is the same disease as BSE or "mad-cow disease"
- October 15 - The first supersonic land speed record is set by the ThrustSSC team from the United Kingdom.
- October 26 - After a controversial collision ends Michael Schumacher's race, Williams F1 win their then-record ninth Formula One constructors crown.
- October 29 - Iraq disarmament crisis: Iraq says it will begin shooting down U-2 surveillance planes being used by UNSCOM inspectors
- October 30 - British au pair Louise Woodward is found guilty of the baby-shaking death of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen.
- November 10 - Telcoms WorldCom and MCI announce a US$37 billion merger to form MCI-WorldCom (the largest merger in US history).
- November 10 - A jury in Fairfax, Virginia finds Mir Aimal Kasi guilty of the murder of two CIA employees in 1993.
- November 11 - Mary McAleese is elected the eighth President of Ireland
- November 12 - Ramzi Yousef is found guilty of masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
- November 16 - After nearly 18 years of incarceration, the People's Republic of China releases Wei Jingsheng, a pro-democracy dissident, from jail for medical reasons.
- November 17 - In Luxor, Egypt, 62 people are killed by 6 Islamic militants outside the Temple of Hatshepsut (police killed the assailants)
- November 19 - In Carlisle, Iowa, Bobbi McCaughey gives birth to septuplets in the second known case where all seven babies were born alive.
- November 20 - Boeing 727 of Portuguese TAP airline crashes just before landing in Funchal airport in Madeira - 123 dead
- November 24 - Following a 554.26 point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), officials at the New York Stock Exchange for the first time invoke the "circuit breaker" rule to stop trading (this was a very controversial move and prompted a quick change in the rule; trading stops will only occur when the DJIA drops at least 10 or 20 percent).
- December 1 - Michel Carneal fires at students in West Paducah, Ky - 3 dead, five wounded
- December 2 - Actress/model Anat Elimelech is murdered by her boyfriend, the hairstyler David Afuta
- December 3 - In Ottawa, Canada, representatives from 121 countries sign a treaty prohibiting manufacture and deployment of anti-personnel landmines. The United States, People's Republic of China, and Russia do not sign the treaty, however
- December 19 - Astrophysicist David Schramm is killed in a plane crash near Denver, Colorado.
- December 27 - Protestant paramilitary leader Billy Wright is assassinated in Northern Ireland
- December 29 - Hong Kong begins to kill all the chickens within its territory (1.25 million) to stop the spread of a potentially deadly influenza strain
- December 30 - In the worst incident in Algeria's insurgency, 400 people are killed from four villages.
Year in topic
- January 10 - Sheldon Leonard, producer, actor, director
- January 17 - Clyde Tombaugh, astronomer, discoverer of Pluto.
- January 19 - James Dickey, poet, novelist
- January 20 - Curt Flood, baseball star
- January 21 - Colonel Tom Parker, celebrity manager
- February 1 - Herb Caen, newspaper columnist
- February 2 - Chico Science, Brazillian musician.
- February 5 - Pamela Harriman, US Ambassador to France
- February 11 - Don Porter, actor.
- February 19 - Deng Xiaoping, Paramount Leader of the People's Republic of China
- February 20 - Edmond Yu, medical student
- March 9 - The Notorious B.I.G., rap musician
- March 10 - La Vern Baker, singer
- March 14 - Fred Zinnemann, director
- March 19 - Willem de Kooning, artist
- March 20 - Tony Zale, Boxer
- April 5 - Allen Ginsberg, US poet
- April 7 - Georgi Shonin, cosmonaut
- April 16 - Doris Angleton, Houston, Texas socialite
- May 14 - Harry Blackstone Jr., magician
- May 29 - Jeff Buckley, musician (accidental drowning)
- June 22 - Gérard Pelletier, French journalist, politician and diplomat (b. 1919)
- June 24 - Brian Keith, actor (b. 1921)
- June 26 - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, Hawaiian singer
- June 28 - Mrs. Miller, singer
- July 2 - James Stewart
- July 4 - Charles Kuralt, television reporter
- July 15 - Gianni Versace, fashion designer
- July 20 - John Akii-Bua Ugandan hurdler
- July 23 - Chuhei Nambu, Japanese athlete
- July 24 - William J. Brennan, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (b. 1906)
- August 2 - William S. Burroughs, US author
- August 2 - Fela Kuti, Nigerian musician and political activist
- August 10 - Conlon Nancarrow, composer
- August 10 - Selena Peart Taylor, daughter of Rush drummer Neil Peart, in an automobile accident
- August 24 - Louis Essen, physicist
- August 29 - Christopher Maier, student killed by Angel Maturino Resendiz
- August 31 - Diana, Princess of Wales
- August 31 - Dodi Al-Fayed
- September 5 - Georg Solti
- September 5 - Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (Mother Teresa)
- September 9 - Burgess Meredith
- September 17 - Red Skelton
- September 19 - Rich Mullins, singer
- October 24 - Don Messick, cartoon voice-over actor
- November 5 - Isaiah Berlin, historian of ideas
- November 11 - Rodney Milburn, American athlete
- November 22 - Michael Hutchence, musician, INXS frontman
- November 25 - Monique Serf, French singer
- November 30 - Kathy Acker, author
- December 19 - David Schramm, astrophysicist
- December 27 - Billy Wright, Irish paramilitary leader
- December 30 - Stephen Carls, scientist
- (unknown) - Laurence Henry Hicks, composer