6 Must See Movies from 1989

February 4, 2011

by Joel G. Robertson

Evil Dead 2 was part of a triple feature on HBO Halloween night, 1989.

I remember it so vividly. It was not only the last Halloween where I trick or treated, but it was also my first official introduction to Ash, The Book of the Dead, Sam Raimi’s deliriously wonderful, hyperkinetic filmmaking, and when I was introduced to the actor (via my Dad’s 52″ rear projection big screen television) whose filmography best exemplifies my own eclectic (i.e. oddball) tastes– Bruce Campbell.

This was also the year I realized that my movie obsession made me stand out from the other kids. Sure, there were some that shared my love for horror flicks and sci-fi. But for me, it was a steady diet of raw, unfiltered, cinematic excess; in particular, horror movies.

I’d “charm” the other 8th graders sitting around the table in Mrs. Hill’s Art class with sordid tales of Cenobites, 70s savage cinema titles, the latest straight-to-VHS release from Chuck Band and the boys at Full Moon Entertainment, or whatever else I’d binged my eyeballs on during my usual weekend quadruple-feature.

Oh, how I relished my half-imagined position of power!

I’d developed an interest in Fangoria Magazine the year before, but it was ‘89 when that interest morphed into a crimson-spattered, full-blown passion for those 80-some-odd pages of behind-the-scenes grue.

Yes, ’89, especially the latter half, holds a special place in my heart. What about you? What are your favorite movie memories from 1989?


Pet SemataryRated: R; Dir. Mary Lambert; Starring Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, and Fred Gwynne

After the Creed family loses their family pet to the two-lane highway near their home and buries it in an ancient Indian burial ground, they soon learn why, sometimes, dead is better.

Movie Trivia:

  • Actor Fred Gwynne, who played Jed in Pet Sematary, was best known as Herman Munster from the 60’s sitcom The Munsters.
  • Actress Denise Crosby starred on Star Trek The Next Generation as Lt. Tasha Yar.
  • Mary Lambert is the only woman to direct a theatrically-released movie based on the work of Stephen King (Kari Skogland directed the direct-to-video Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return). She’s also the only director to direct both the original film and sequel of a movie based on one of King’s books.

Pet Sematary Trailer


Uncle BuckRated: PG-13; Dir. John Hughes; Starring John Candy, Macaulay Culkin and Jean Louisa Kelly

When a family emergency arises, irresponsible, life-long bachelor Uncle Buck (John Candy) agrees to watch his nieces and nephews for a week; however, Buck gets more than he bargained for… and so do the kids!

Movie Trivia:

  • Uncle Buck was John Hughes last film as a director (I know, I know, but I REFUSE to accept Curly Sue as his final film).
  • This WAS the last film Hughes and Candy made together.
  • The scene with Culkin waiting at the door inspired Hughes to write Home Alone.

Uncle Buck Trailer


Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure Rated: PG; Dir. Stephen Herek; Starring Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, and George Carlin

When two slacker metalheads need to put together a project for history class, they get the opportunity to literally travel through time and do their research first hand.

Movie Trivia:

  • Actor Alex Winter (Bill S. Preston, Esq.) went on to become a director. His first feature as a director was the woefully under seen Freaked (1993).
  • Jane Wiedlin of the 80s girl band the Go-Go’s played Joan of Arc.
  • Director Stephen Herek also made Critters and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure Trailer


Say Anything…Rated: PG-13; Dir. Cameron Crowe; Starring John Cusack, Ione Skye, and John Mahoney

Lloyd (John Cusack) is in love with Diane Court (Ione Skye), a beautiful girl that seems out of his league. But after graduation, Lloyd decides to take a chance and charms his way into her life.

Movie Trivia:

  • Say Anything… was writer/director Cameron Crowe’s first film.
  • Actor Jimmy Piven (Entourage) had a small part as one of lloyd’s (Cusack) friends.
  • Rumor has it that Kirk Cameron was almost cast as Lloyd Dobler.

Say Anything… Trailer


Black RainRated: R; Dir. Ridley Scott; Starring Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, and Kate Capshaw

A New York City detective (Douglas) and his partner (Garcia) follow the trail of a killer to Japan where they must battle Yakuza and local cops.

Movie Trivia:

  • The cinematographer on Black Rain was Jan De Bont, who would go on to direct Speed and Twister.
  • Actor Yûsaku Matsuda was dying of cancer while filming Black Rain. He passed soon after its completion.
  • The filmmakers’ visas ran out during production, forcing them to shoot the final showdown in Napa Valley, California.

Black Rain Trailer


Honey, I Shrunk the KidsRated: PG; Dir. Joe Johnston; Starring Rick Moranis, Matt Frewer and Marcia Strassman

Wayne Szalinski (Moranis) is a scientist who creates a machine that miniaturizes objects. When his kids get caught up in its ray, they learn that great danger and adventure can happen in your own backyard.

Movie Trivia:

  • Director Joe Johnston, a former special effects artist, also made Jumanji, Jurassic Park 3, and most recently the remake of The Wolfman.
  • The Honey, I Shrunk the Audience ride, a semi-sequel to the original film, at Disney’s Epcot replaced the classic Captain EO movie/ride; however, in 2010 it was itself replaced by, none other than, Captain EO!
  • Horror filmmaking legends Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) and Brian Yuzna (Bride of Re-Animator) wrote the story and screenplay for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Trailer

So, as the decade where so many of us discovered our unnaturally intense love for movies comes to a close, so does this series of posts.

Well, almost.

We’re going to do one more year. Next week it’s 1990, but that’s where this “6 Movies You Must See” train pulls into the station. After that, well, you’ll have to wait and see. We have all sorts of goodies planned as we creep our way into the second decade of the new millennia.

So, until then remember, a flick’s only forgotten if you’re not talking about it.

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35 comments on “6 Must See Movies from 1989

  1. No, not BLACK RAIN! A dreary, xenophobic polemic made by a slumming director with a lead performance that frankly grates. (Am I correct that you almost went with ROAD HOUSE instead?)

    No other big disagreements but I’ll provide an alternate list anyway:

    Horror: DEAD CALM. I love PET SEMATARY, and although DEAD CALM is more of a thriller, it’s an incredibly effective one that’s also often quite scary.

    Comedy: THE WAR OF THE ROSES. A dark, angry comedy to be sure, but a comedy nonetheless and one of my favorites of the year. (Another dark, angry comedy I could’ve put here: HEATHERS.)

    Sci-Fi: THE ABYSS. I don’t care what people say, it’s terrific, visionary stuff.

    Drama: DO THE RIGHT THING. Some might insist it’s a comedy, but at its heart this is one deadly serious movie. (I could’ve instead mentioned DRUGSTORE COWBOY, SEX LIES & VIDEOTAPE, THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS or CRIMES & MISDEMEANORS.)

    Family: THE LITTLE MERMAID. I’m not personally a huge fan of this one but it’s very good and it single-handedly reversed the fortunes of Disney’s animation department.

    • Hi Ian– Wow! Did I touch a nerve, mayhaps? JK 😉 It’s funny as I was pretty sure the BILL AND TED sci-fi choice would have stirred up the most vitriol. And yes, I was thisclose to going with ROAD HOUSE instead…

      I agree with your other picks though. HEATHERS is excellent but I have a soft spot for ‘ol UNCLE BUCK. DO THE RIGHT THING is definitely a classic and worthy of any list, but I went with my personal sentimental fave on that one.

      Thanks for posting your picks!

      • At the time I was angry about BLACK RAIN. After five strong movies in a row (a couple of which are all-time greats) it seemed like Ridley Scott had finally run aground.

        How did I know you’d almost picked ROAD HOUSE? Because apparently you liked it so much, you named the BLACK RAIN trailer after it! 😉

        • Ian– Oopsy! Yep, it was definitely me pick up until the last minute! Thanks for the heads up though, so I could remedy the situation. 🙂

          • Okay, while we’re on the subject: the intentional misspelling of ‘cemetery’ in the title of your horror selection is ‘sematary’.

            And by the way, do you know what Mary Lambert’s latest movie is? Syfy’s MEGA PYTHON VS GATOROID starring Debbie Gibson & Tiffany.

            Good campy fun perhaps, but certainly not the career I envisioned for Lambert 20 years ago.

          • So, what you’re saying is I misspelled my misspelling?!? 🙂 No problem. I’ll fix that in a jiffy and I may have to make you my official FF proofreader/editor. We shall call you Ian Eagle-eye! 😉

            And it’s funny you bring up Mega Python Vs. Gatoroid as I was just talking to my podcast co-host Jason about it this past week. He’s very excited to see it. I on the other hand think I might hold out for something more pleasurable, like a Novocain-free root canal given by a dentist going through withdrawal.

          • Except that EAGLE EYE is the name of a terrible Shia LaBeouf movie!

            I almost tried out MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS — on Blu-ray, no less — but then it occurred to me that bad movies are best when they’re not bad *on purpose*.

            I prefer bad movies by people who thought they knew what they were doing. Bad movies like that get me fired up. Bad movies like EAGLE EYE!

          • Ian– EAGLE EYE was so bad in fact, I got interrupted while watching it and never bothered finishing it. And you know what’s funny? I can’t remember anything from the movie itself that wasn’t in the trailer!

            And I agree with your “bad on purpose” analysis. The problem really stems from the fact that films that are really bad (but those involved didn’t set out to make an actual “bad” movie) usually have some heart behind them; whereas the ones made to pander to those who love so-called bad cinema seem to lack that necessary element.

          • I agree it was awful

  2. Love Uncle Buck and Say Anything!

    I think I would put National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on the top of my comedy list.

    I agree with Ian on Do The Right Thing which I have always really appreciated, but would still keep Say Anything a notch above. You have to put Dead Poets Society and Field of Dreams in that conversation as well.

    Have to mention Batman and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade which were both game changers.

    Family films seemed to be evolving into a stronger category in 1989. In addition to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids you also had The Little Mermaid which really served to bring the animated feature film back into prominence. You also had Bruce Willis voicing the talking baby in Look Who’s Talking with John Travolta.

    Here are some others that I thought deserve mention:
    When Harry Met Sally
    Weekend at Bernie’s
    The Fabulous Baker Boys
    Harlem Nights
    Major League (one of my favorite sports movies of all time)
    Road House
    See No Evil, Hear No Evil
    Tango & Cash
    The War of the Roses

    So sad that we have come to the end of the 80s. Fun topic and enjoyed going year by year, but just found it was too difficult to narrow them down by category.

    • @OldSchool80s– That’s a great (and comprehensive) list! Christmas Vacation is definitely at the top and the only movie from ’89 that I watch annually (guess when? ;)). And man, HARLEM NIGHTS takes me back. I remember my friend Richard and I sneaking into the theater to see it on opening night. The place was packed and we had a ball. I know it’s not a “perfect” movie by any stretch, but I always felt it got a bad rap simply because it was viewed as a vanity project for Murphy. Well, maybe it was, but you gotta respect the guy for trying to do it all!

  3. Shannon Feb 4, 2011

    I’m gonna make you feel old: I was BORN in 1989. lol

    • You’re cruel!

      • Shannon Feb 4, 2011

        😛 Just because I’m young doesn’t mean I don’t love a good (or so bad it’s good) 80s movie. Or from any decade previous either, for that matter. i love movies.

        • Honestly Shannon, the fact you are young and want to keep the movie memories alive gives me hope for the future! 🙂

  4. DO THE RIGHT THING is the answer to best movie of ’89 (another great year). It is so vibrant and energetic, Spike Lee’s best movie, and while about racism, it is much more universal. It is about how we mistrust and fear each other and the repercussions that stem from it. And it is a forgotten movie. I love this movie more today then when I saw it in the theater in ’89. I knew Joel was doing 1989 today and I tried to finish an essay on Do The Right Thing, but hit a lot of walls. The reason is, the movie is so phenomenal, it can not be summarized in 750 words. So I’ll summarize it in two: see it.

  5. So many good films that year – I think I’d have to go with When Harry Met Sally, Major League, Chances Are, Cinema Paradiso, The Dream Team, Roadhouse

    And let’s not forget Blind Fury came out that year too… Genius.

    • Mags– I’ll admit it. I liked CHANCES ARE when I was a lad. And yes, I was a horror hound, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a soft spot (It’s located atop my chrome dome and I have to be VERY careful when running into walls…). Cinema Paradiso is a truly a classic, but (and I’m ashamed to admit) one I’ve never seen in its entirety. But never fear, it’s been promptly added to the Q and I’ll remedy my shame post haste! 🙂

  6. Some excellent films listed here in the feature post and in the comments section–I have yet to see BLACK RAIN or DO THE RIGHT THING, I definitely plan to see them soon though. John Cusack, Lili Taylor et al. turned in some delightful performances in SAY ANYTHING. I’m not ashamed to admit that I watch THE LITTLE MERMAID, LOOK WHO’S TALKING, and WHEN HARRY MET SALLY on almost a daily basis. Two others on my list not yet mentioned here are GROSS ANATOMY and a little gem called COOKIE starring Peter Falk & Emily Lloyd.

    • RedKQueen– Don’t know if you’ll believe this or not, but I used to have a video store poster for COOKIE hanging on my bedroom wall! Back in the day, a lot of the video stores would give away there posters after they were done promoting the new releases. I was pretty nondiscriminatory in my choices (although, if it was horror, it was mine!), and COOKIE was one of the one’s I gathered for my collection. I recall thinking Emily Lloyd was hot, which helped with my cognitive dissonance, allowing me to hang it amongst the other video nasty posters.

  7. Chris Feb 4, 2011

    Lots of good movies that year…big movies too. But I’ll throw out three very under-rated comedies from that year. (I saw someone put Harlem Nights, so I’ll add a new third…1)The Dream Team 2) The ‘Burbs 3)Skin Deep. All worth checking out if you haven’t seen them.

    • Hi Chris! Those are three great additions and I’ve seen ’em all. I remember John Ritter in SKIN DEEP. A woefully underrated Blake Edwards comedy! What a loss for this world that Ritter and Edwards are no longer with us…

      But keepin’ the memory of movies like SKIN DEEP alive will keep their memory alive, so keep ’em comin’ I say! 🙂

    • Peter Nielsen Jun 9, 2011

      THE ‘BURBS is one of my all-time favorite movies. I rewatch it on a regular basis and never tire of it. 🙂
      SKIN DEEP… Ah,yes!! A great, but as you say, underrated comedy by Blake Edwards. Haven’t seen it in a while now! I think I’ll do a review of it, how does that sound? 🙂

  8. uncle buck was such a classic movie, 1989 … I was 13 … wow I feel old

    • Hi Steve! I too was a wee lad of 13 when Buck Russell in the form of Sir John Candy graced the silver screen. It was only like, what, 22 years ag… oh crap… now I feel old too! 😉

      • Oh, you young ‘uns. I was in college!

        • Peter Nielsen Jun 9, 2011

          Yeah… I was 21 at the time! Feeling old? Nah… NEVER!! Now if I could just get out of this chair without groaning…

  9. Definitely all are a must see! Talking about great antics
    from the guys of Honey I Shrunk The Kids to the sexy and fierce Michael Douglas
    on Black
    Rain. This would be perfect for all my movie night cravings.


    • Hi Nicole! If you liked this list, you oughta check out the others. There’s a list of “6 Must See Movies” from every year in the 80s!

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