We have finally reached the end of the 1980s. It’s alright to be sad, but don’t worry, because it certainly didn’t go out without a bang. With caped and fedora-clad crusaders swinging across our screens in unforgettable movies, how could it possibly not? It may be time to say goodbye to the “decade of excess”, but not before reintroducing you to 10 of the best movies 1989 has to offer.
1. Chances Are
Director: Emile Ardolino
Robert Downey Jr. plays a district attorney who, in 1964, is hit by a car and killed, leaving a pregnant wife behind. Over two decades later, he’s reincarnated as Alex Finch, a college graduate who works at a library. As he’s falling in love with a young woman named Miranda (Mary Stuart Masterson), he begins to remember his past life and realizes Miranda is his daughter.
None of that is a spoiler, it’s the actual plot of Chances Are. Does it sound a tad bit like conventional soap opera fare? Yes, but it’s incredibly well acted and comically executed in a way that recognizes and embraces it. Cybill Shepherd and Ryan O’Neal co-star, but it’s really Robert Downey Jr.’s performance that sells the movie.
2. Say Anything…
Director: Cameron Crowe
Say Anything… tells the story of fellow classmates Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and Diane Court (Ione Skye) just after graduating. Lloyd’s not really sure where his life is headed, but he knows he wants to be with Diane. To his (and everybody’s) surprise, she accepts a date with him and the two become close.
Say Anything… isn’t exactly the coming-of-age teen sex comedy the 1980s gave us time and time again. It’s a heartwarming and often funny look at life just after high school. John Cusack gives one of his best performances as Lloyd and you can’t help but root for his strangely optimistic character.
3. Field of Dreams
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Field of Dreams is about a farmer named Ray (Kevin Costner) and his family in Iowa. Ray hears whispers coming from his cornfield and becomes determined to figure it out. Soon after, he builds a baseball diamond in place of his cornfield. Giving away as little detail as possible, Field of Dreams is an incredible movie that, even if you don’t like baseball, can still move you.
More than just a baseball movie, Field of Dreams is mostly about family and the realization that, because time is short, we ought to do something as simple as playing catch with our children or parents. The story is purely fantasy, but it works without requiring much logic because when we think about the relationships or bonds we’d much rather have with our families, logic is irrelevant.
Director: Tim Burton
Who would’ve thought Mr. Mom would be donning a cowl and cape for 1989’s summer blockbuster? Michael Keaton stars as billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, moonlighting as the titular caped crusader, with Jack Nicholson bringing his zany brand of strange as the clown prince of crime. Kim Basinger co-stars as photojournalist Vickie Vale, the love interest for both men.
It’s not hard to imagine why Batman was a box office success, although its casting seems rather unlikely. Part of what makes director Tim Burton’s almost contrarian vision so uniquely entertaining is that it’s unexpectedly dark for its time. There’s humor and action throughout the picture, put to the sounds of Prince and Danny Elfman. For comic aficionados especially, Batman is a must-see.
5. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Director: Steven Spielberg
Harrison Ford reprises his role as Indiana Jones, whose father Henry (Sean Connery) has been kidnapped by Nazis. While dodging bullets and comedically arguing back and forth, both men search for the Holy Grail in what would have been the final chapter in a trilogy. Surrounded by friends and foes, Indy and his father ultimately have to pass what seems like tests.
The pacing of The Last Crusade is a tad more in line with Raiders of the Lost Ark compared to Temple of Doom. The locations used for the film are nicely photographed and lighted to fit the mood of each scene skillfully. The plot is rather simple, which isn’t a bad thing, but what stands out most about The Last Crusade is the father-son character development between its stars.
6. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Director: Joe Johnston
Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) is an inventor working on his latest science experiment: a shrinking machine. Wayne believes his special invention is a failure, but unbeknownst to him, the machine actually works. For him to realize it, the shrunken kids have to go through an obstacle course in their front lawn to make it back to the house.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids sounds bizarre, but it’s a family friendly film with some neat visual effects. The title might not be proper English, but chalk it up to the fun, light-heartedness of the film. If you have myrmecophobia, beware of the ant scene, even though the production’s special effects are actually pretty impressive.
7. Uncle Buck
Director: John Hughes
Buck Russell (John Candy) is an unemployed, practically careless guy who makes a living by gambling. He’s hardly the type of person anyone would want watching their kids, but when his brother calls regarding a family emergency, he’s all they have. As he’s babysitting, he learns responsibility and establishes a bond with his nephew and nieces.
John Candy’s performance is easily what makes Uncle Buck stand out as a comedy. He has great line delivery, whether it’s a funny scene or a more serious one. John Hughes had an admirable ability to blend a serious plot with incredibly funny situations with dialogue that seems natural.
8. Staying Together
Director: Lee Grant
Staying Together is about a family that own a restaurant in a small town. More specifically, the three brothers who work there. Brian, Kit and Duncan (Tim Quill, Dermot Mulroney, and Sean Astin) work for their father, Jake (Jim Haynie) and their mother, Eileen (Melinda Dillon). Out of impulse, Jake sells the restaurant and his sons feel angry and uncertain of their futures.
For anyone who has lived in a small town, Staying Together may feel like a documentary with people you know as the subject. It could be filmed in your hometown, right down the street from you. Monte Merrick’s script coupled with the cast’s performances are what makes this movie stand out compared to other simplistic family dramedies.
9. The ‘Burbs
Director: Joe Dante
The ‘Burbs is about a close-knit group of neighbors living in a cul-de-sac. Seemingly out of nowhere, a new family moves in right next door to the Petersons (Tom Hanks, Carrie Fisher). Ray’s wife doesn’t expect anything, but once a long-time neighbor goes missing, he and his friends Mark (Bruce Dern) and Art (Rick Ducommun) are determined to investigate.
Sort of a horror comedy, The ‘Burbs is an enjoyable and underrated Tom Hanks vehicle that never ceases to entertain. Corey Feldman and Wendy Schaal costar, along with Courtney Gains, Henry Gibson and Brother Theodore. To compare the tone of The ‘Burbs to anything else in Joe Dante’s filmography, I’d say it’s close to Gremlins.
10. Road House
Director: Rowdy Herrington
New York City bouncer, Dalton (Patrick Swayze) is offered a job in Missouri to maintain security and clean up the Double Deuce roadhouse. Unbeknownst to Dalton, the small town of Jasper is practically run by an evil businessman named Brad (Ben Gazzara), who makes it especially difficult for Dalton and his new friends to go about their job.
The first time I saw Road House, I was impressed not just by the acting, but also the film’s multi-genre story. There’s action, comedy, drama, romance and even suspense. The third act is very reminiscent of horror movies. Road House isn’t at all what I was expecting it to be, it’s much better and thoroughly entertaining.
Well, there you have it: the movies of 1989. I imagine you have at least seen a couple of these already. Not to get too topical, but with everything that’s going on in the world and most of us confined to our homes, hopefully this list offers a few movies you can enjoy with your loved ones. Stay safe and, when you get a chance, let us know what’s your favorite movie of 1989.
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