Nostalgia November: 1989's Movie Lineup
by Frank Landau
Every year, Hollywood manages to come up with hundreds, if not thousands of movies to release. Some years, there are tons of great choices to muddle over as you decide where your hard earned money will go. Other years, your best Picture is effing Chicago. Yeah...I know, 2002 sucked. All I have to say to counter the suck fest that was Chicago is this: 1989. Specifically the summer of '89.
You might be asking yourself "Hey Frank, what's so great about the summer of '89?" Well...let me show you, oh reader-of-lacking-knowledge.
What do all these movies have in common: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Tim Burton's Batman, Lethal Weapon 2, Stark Trek V, Ghostbusters II, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Back to the Future II, The Little Mermaid, Dead Poets Society, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Field of Dreams, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, Glory, When Harry Met Sally, Driving Miss Daisy, Major League, Road House, Uncle Buck, UHF, The 'Burbs, and The Abyss? If you answered "THEY'RE AWESOME MOVIES!" Well...first...stop yelling. Secondly, You're mostly right (Star Trek V sucked pretty hard even if t did gross a ton of money. But still...how does one really meet God? That's a reach, even for a warp drive capable Constitution class starship). Sorry about that, back to my point: every single one of these movies came out in 1989. The summer was especially insane with Indy 3 leading the way followed by Ghostbusters II, Batman, Lethal Weapon II, Star Trek V, UHF, Uncle Buck...and that's just a few of them. What an awesome time to be a kid who loved movies!
I saw most of these summer powerhouses in the theaters with my Aunt. She was the cool younger sister of my mom (because my mom's taste in movies sucked. She loved Corky Romano. 'nuff said. Love ya mom :-D). She liked Batman and Star Trek and Ghostbusters...and all the other crazy nerdy things 7 year old boys dig. 1989 made me a movie fanatic and my awesome aunt facilitated it. Little did I know how influential these movies would be for decades to come. Let's go over some of the things that changed in this wonderful year.
The hype machine that was Batman is responsible for everything you see when it comes to modern Hollywood movies. Months before Tim "I'm too cool to care about my crazy hair" Burton dropped Batman on us, the movie was crowned amazing. There were toys, t-shirts, posters, fast food tie-ins, even Prince music videos. This kind of marketing had never been done on a movie before, and it worked like a charm. It introduced millions of kids to the Dark Knight and reinvigorated the comic book scene. Who would think today that the concept of a "comic book movie" was considered risky back then? It destroyed box office records and set a new precedent: big name actors in a rehash-reboot-gritty retelling of a property that everyone has already heard of. It's the easiest way to make millions (as I mentioned in my review of Star Trek Into Darkness) and Batman led the way. Yes, this might have possibly ruined films for decades to come, but it also was able to bring a Batman sequel, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the big screen, the Flash to CBS and would eventually pave the way for some of the greatest comic book movies of all time.
Disney builds a foundation for the future
1989 was integral in re-establishing the cherished family movie studio's reputation. Two of the movies on this list are Disney properties and they helped usher in a new era. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids became the highest grossing live action Disney movie at the time and paved the way for the studio to continue working on creative ventures. The Little Mermaid was largely responsible for Disney's expansion of their animation division, which saw a cascading success with the subsequent releases of Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and the Lion King.
But wait...there's more!
What was even more amazing about 1989's movie crop was that even the movies that were modestly successful ended up being classics in their own right. Major League is easily one of the best sports movies of all time. It's hilarious, inspiring and has elements of fantasy because a Cleveland sports team has moderate success.
Field of Dreams is also easily one of the best sports movies ever made but in a different capacity. It has a sense of wonder about it that allows you to suspend disbelief. You want to see why Ray built that field and when you finally see the reason why...it makes you want to call your Dad and tell him you love him. UHF was Weird Al Yankovic's first (and only) foray onto the Silver Screen. It didn't make the kind of money it could have because it was drowned out by Ghostbusters II, Batman, Indy, Star Trek V, Lethal Weapon 2. It has since become a cult classic and one of the funniest movies out there.
Damn, it's hard to talk about all these great movies, but I will try:
Back to the Future II, while not as good as the first one, gave us quite possibly the greatest futuristic technology that everyone wishes was real: the hoverboard. Plus, those shoes Marty wore were AMAZING.
Glory was an incredible movie and won Denzel his first Oscar, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is now a holiday staple for everyone who likes good comedy, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure was fun and made you wonder how Napoleon would respond if dropped off at a water park, Road House was Patrick Swayze round-house kicking everyone, The Abyss was a good non-Terminator James Cameron flick, Uncle Buck was John Candy at his best, When Harry Met Sally... is an amazing rom-com, it might even be the first ever, and Dead Poets Society taught us all that individuality and standing up for what you believe is always worth fighting for. Wow, those all came out the same year. Remember kids, send 1989 a thank you card when you get a chance. He doesn't get out much any more, thanks to all those crazy nights with Charlie Sheen and Corey Haim during the 80's, so he'll appreciate the kind words.
I can't think of another year that had so many incredible movies that all came out at the same time. 1989 changed the whole movie industry and we are still seeing the effects, both positive and negative. You can thank Batman for the abundance of comic book movies, but you can also thank it for seeing Battleship branded hemorrhoid cream and John Carter inspired dental floss. Disney built a solid foundation for the years that followed and what we're seeing now. They struck big with Honey I Shrunk the Kids and Little Mermaid, which led to the Disney renaissance of Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and the Lion King. So, without the success of 1989's movie lineup, they may not have been able to acquire the Marvel and Star Wars properties, they may not have been able to take a risk on doing a movie based on a ride like Pirates of the Caribbean and see if pay off like it did. There are classic sports movies, great family comedies, Patrick Swayze kicking guys, and Christmas traditions to boot thanks to the wonderful last year of the 80's.