There must have been something pretty magical in the water in Hollywood 30 years ago, because 1989 produced spectacular movies. When you put aside the fact that the last 30 years have flown by (how is it possible that Harry and Sally could be that old now?!), you have to wonder if the quality of films that are released every year has been rapidly declining. While there are certainly huge hits and stellar films that come to the big screen every year, there are never as many as we got the privilege to see in 1989.
This may not be the best Batman ever to have been released (although that’s a very personal preference…), but this film gave us Michael Keaton as Batman for the first time and his incredible foil of the Joker in Jack Nicholson. Perhaps the best part was how Tim Burton-y this movie felt from beginning to end.
10. The Little Mermaid
Yes, it’s been thirty years since Ariel and Ursula duked it out in the depths of the ocean. Thirty years since we fell in love with Flounder and Louis. And thirty years that we have been singing “Under the Sea.”
9. Do the Right Thing
Although this was Spike Lee’s fourth feature film, it’s the one that really put him on the map. The number of stars that appeared in this film is staggering: Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Rosie Perez, Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Lawrence, Frank Vincent, and Bill Nunn brought this raw look into the race issues in a Brooklyn neighborhood to life.
8. The ‘Burbs
The moment in this movie that makes me ugly cry so much because I’m laughing so hard is when Courtney Gains’s character, Hans, offers Tom Hanks’s character a sardine. The sound of the squishy, slimy fish being pulled out of the can by Hanks, and subsequently eaten on a pretzel is worth the price of admission. Fortunately, there are several laugh-out-loud moments in this movie.
7. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Everyone has their favorite Indiana Jones flick, and this one just happens to be mine. The Sean Connery/Harrison Ford chemistry is brilliant, and the movie delivers the same exciting level of adventure, romance, and comedy as its predecessors. After seeing it dozens and dozens of times, there’s no doubt that we could all get to the Ark of the Covenant. Just remember that the penitent man kneels before God.
6. When Harry Met Sally
This movie comes up on a lot of best picture lists (well, because it’s pretty great), and it certainly deserves its place on this list for 1989. Not only did it deliver one of the best moments in rom-com history (“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible”), but it also gave us the famous orgasm-in-Katz-Deli sequence. “I’ll have what she’s having.”
5. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Where would Christmas today be without this epic movie? Yes, the other Vacation movies are incredibly entertaining, but this one takes us through a truly memorable (and familiar, for some of us) holiday with family. And everyone knows at least one guy who insists on plastering his house with thousands of lights every winter.
4. Field of Dreams
“If you build it, he will come.” We were glued to the screen with goosebumps on our arms as Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones tried to decode the messages coming from the great beyond. We fell in love with baseball again as we watched Shoeless Joe run the bases in a cornfield. And our hearts ached as we realized that Burt Lancaster’s Dr. “Moonlight” Graham wouldn’t be able to cross back over to being a ballplayer once he saved Costner’s daughter from choking.
3. Dead Poets Society
“Oh, captain! My captain!” Tears came to our eyes as we watched a loyal group of private school boys stand up for their thoughtful and provocative teacher. And our hearts ached as Robert Sean Leonard’s character took his own life. This movie introduced us to Ethan Hawke, and it also showed the world (yet again) that Robin Williams was not just a comedic actor. The film also won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
2. Steel Magnolias
Ask anyone at which point of this movie they could no longer hold it together, and it inevitably comes to Sally Field’s heart-wrenching speech at the cemetery following the death of Shelby, played by Julia Roberts. Not only did we get an incredible ensemble with Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine, and Daryl Hannah, but we also got a glimpse into just what type of actress Julia Roberts would become.
1. Driving Miss Daisy
We clung to every sweet moment as this unlikely pair of friends bonded over the course of the movie, despite what social conventions dictated at the time. Not only did it win the Academy Award for Best Picture, but Jessica Tandy won for Best Actress, and the script won for Best Adapted Screenplay.