1989 was one of those years. Blockbusters were my thing, and have been ever since, honestly. I’m kind of a sucker for the big explosions and a rolling storyline with snappy characters. While I would have been twelve years old for the release of the bulk of these, many were snuck later, or one of my parental units just didn’t care if I saw it or not. My honorable mentions from the year include Pet Semetary, Tango & Cash, Lethal Weapon 2, Road House, Say Anything…, Ghostbusters II, Dead Calm, Leviathan, Lean On Me, The Phantom of the Opera, UHF, and Venus Wars. Ghostbusters II, while funny, is sequel fodder that never really lived up to the first film. I did really like the Phantom of the Opera with Robert Englund in the lead role. And no, that’s not the musical. Dead Calm was, and still is, a fantastic thriller. Billy Zane is incredibly underrated. And Venus Wars has some stunning visuals to go along with a powerful story about a war torn space colony. So what are my top ten?
10. Field of Dreams (Phil Alden Robinson)
Let me get this out of the way: I hate baseball. It’s slow; it’s boring. I don’t care about the statistics, and could never be bothered, even when I was forced to play in little league, to learn to play. But, having said that, I love this movie. Field of Dreams and The Natural are two of my favorite baseball films, probably because they’re less about baseball and more about peoples lives in and around the game, and their passion for it. Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones are great in the film, and I even like Ray Liotta who’s always hit and miss for me. I used to have this on VHS of all things. Good times.
9. Steel Magnolias (Herbert Ross)
My initial reasons for watching this movie were Daryl Hannah and Julia Roberts. I loved them when I was growing up. Aside from that, it’s a great drama piece centered around an interesting cast of characters who are just trying to live their lives in a little southern town. Tom Skerrit always cracks me up in this and Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, and Sally Field all deliver stellar performances. I honestly think this was the film that got me to spread out away from just action, fantasy and sci-fi and see what else was out there.
8. Dead Poets Society (Peter Weir)
I think this was the first film I’d seen Robin Williams in that wasn’t a comedy. While there are some comedic moments to this, it’s definitely a dramatic tear jerker, and leaves a lasting impression. It’s been far too long since I’ve seen this film which is probably why I don’t’ have it rated higher, but I remember being really moved by it and that the actors did an amazing job with the film.
I happen to have a love for war films. Now I don’t watch them all the time, but I’m a sucker for a well done drama set during the Civil War or World War II, so when I saw ads for this as a kid, it piqued my interest. Broderick does a great job with this, but the stars of the film are Freeman, Braugher and Washington. This is one of those must-see, heart wrenching films you may only watch once, but should see it at least that first time. I haven’t watched it since the late ’90s, but making these lists has me wanting to go through and watch some of these all over again.
6. Back to the Future Part II (Robert Zemeckis)
While the sequels to Back to the Future were admittedly a little rocky, they were still a lot of fun, and it was great to get back into that world. While 2015 is coming around and we still don’t have hoverboards or 3D like the Jaws in that film, it’s got a lot of great bits to it that I definitely still love. There were some recasting moves that are more noticeable now in the age of DVD when we can watch them back to back, but the effects still look pretty decent, and I’m a sucker for Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox.
5. The Little Mermaid (Ron Clements, John Musker)
The film that put Disney animated features back on the map again with a revamped musical style that’s pretty much survived to this day. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched this one, and I still know the words to the songs. The more kid friendly take on the original tale works, and the villain is fantastic as she starts a new trend of more incredible villains as Disney goes along. While it’s not my favorite of this era of Disney animated films, it ranks up there for sure.
4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Jeremiah S. Chechik)
This is that holiday movie that I have watched every year since it hit home video. Not only is it a tradition, but it is also an amazing family comedy with great lines, excellent timing from everyone involved, and even though it’s 25 years old now, it still manages to be completely relevant to current audiences. The entire cast is great, but the banter between Chase and Quaid is always hysterical, as well as the older members of the family in the third act. This one became an instant classic and is my favorite of the four Vacation films.
3. Batman (Tim Burton)
This is the film that got me into the Batman comics and piqued my interest in another comic series: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While I think that Nolan’s grittier take is probably closer in tone to a more modern Batman series, Burton’s film has that ’70s comic book feel to it. This has some great actors, a fantastic set design, an iconic looking Batmobile that can’t maneuver at high speeds, and Kim Basinger, Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. I ended up seeing this in one of the last remaining drive-in theatres in Western New York. It’s still a fantastic ride even if it’s a more fanciful one, and Burton has a flair for some great shots that just work really well within the context of the Batman mythos.
2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Steven Spielberg)
One of my other childhood favorites, Indiana Jones was a mainstay in my house and I remember going to see this with most of my family when it hit theaters. I also ate chinese food for the first time before we saw it! Of the four, I prefer this one even over Raiders. There’s a great blend of everything in Last Crusade that makes an Indiana Jones film tick, and then you add in Connery as his father and it just gets even better. Aside from one or two iffy effects shots, it has held up amazingly well, and still has a great pace to it. It was the perfect send off if they hadn’t decided to make another one, but for some people, it still is.
1. The Abyss (James Cameron)
Before I’d made the connection that Cameron had directed The Terminator and Aliens, I ended up watching this on VHS as a rental. This led to me begging my mom to buy me a copy, which she wholeheartedly agreed to. While I think the DVD extended cut is an even better film, the theatrical cut is no slouch either. There are some great themes throughout the film, and Cameron’s knack for making a team of actors pull off the illusion that they’ve been working together forever definitely comes across here. Aliens had a lot of that with the Marines, as well as Avatar later. Ed Harris and Mary Elisabeth Mastrantonio are amazing in their roles, and Michael Biehn as the Marine who loses it is excellent as well. Some great computer effects, incredible practical effects work, and a great script make this one of my favorites from James Cameron.