1989 will always remain a landmark year in history books, and not only because the Germans began to tear down the Berlin Wall and the United States and the Soviet Union declared the Cold War to be over. The world heard AOL’s iconic greeting – “Welcome! You’ve Got Mail!” – for the first time, and we also got our first taste of its instant messaging service. Gas cost .97 cents per gallon, and people were introduced to the cell phone on a massive scale when the first commercial for Centel’s handheld device launched. Billy Joel taught the planet a history lesson when he released We Didn’t Start the Fire, and Michael Jackson left people humming his newest tune, Smooth Criminal. Nintendo released the popular handheld gaming system – the Game Boy – and audiences around the globe witnessed the births of arguably the two best television comedies of all time – Seinfeld and The Simpsons. If all of that wasn’t enough, I was brought into this earth, a pencil in hand, waiting to shower my adoring fans with my writing.
The year of 1989 will always remain an important year in cinematic history as well, with some of the most iconic and beloved films of entire generations hitting theaters for the very first time. In celebration of this, here is a list of my top five favorite movies that were released the year I was born.
5. Ghostbusters II
Long before Sam and Dean Winchester graced our television screens as outlaw ghost hunters on Supernatural, the world knew a different group of paranormal experts living the lives of misfits in New York City. Sure, the Ghostbusters – consisting of Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddemore – weren’t hunky heartthrobs and may have dealt more with bright, neon-colored slime than anything truly scary, but that’s what made them so endearing. The appeal of these four social outcasts wasn’t just their humor, although that was a big part of it, but also the fact that they were average people trying to maintain their friendship and make a living doing what they loved. Sure, Vigo the Carpathian wasn’t the most intimidating villain, and yes, managing to control the Statue of Liberty via a remote control was incredibly corny, but none of it mattered because the misadventures that our four heroes got up to during their investigations were filled with heart, laughter, and fun that made the journey worthwhile.
Although the original Ghostbusters is arguably the better movie, Ghostbusters II has always held a special place in my heart because of the fact that, growing up, I actually saw this one for the first time before I ever saw the original. Not only that, but as a born-and-bred New Yorker, any piece of media that really gets the Big Apple right – like both Ghostbuster films do – tends to hold a special place in my heart. On top of which, I am a huge horror movie aficionado now, and I consider this movie to be the gateway drug that opened up that world to me as I grew up. Every time I happen to catch this one while flipping through channels on television, I always stop to watch it in its entirety, and after each viewing, I become disappointed yet again that the long rumored Ghostbusters III will never come to see the light of day.
4. Back to the Future Part II
Lo and behold, there are two sequels in my top five movies of 1989! I’ve always considered my love of sequels a sort of guilty pleasure, but in my defense, sequels produced in the late 1980s were still legitimately good films and not merely cash grabs. Back to the Future is one of those iconic movies that every person has to see growing up for its sense of whimsy and adventure, and Back to the Future Part II is one of those rare follow ups– like the Empire Strikes Back – that not only reproduces everything that worked in the original, but also improves upon it to create a film that is superior in every way.
Unlike with the Ghostbusters franchise, I viewed the Back to the Future trilogy in chronological order, so by the time I saw the second one, I was already in love with Marty McFly and Doc Brown. While it was great seeing their adventures continue in the sequel, I remember truly staring at the screen in awe of the advanced technology bordering on magic that the filmmakers promised would be our reality by the year 2015. Who didn’t want a pair of self-lacing sneakers, a hoverboard, or a flying car? Though they’re still not a reality as of yet in 2017, at least we can take solace in the fact that the real life Biff Tanner is running America and is as influential as his fictional counterpart, as well as the fact – the way Hollywood keeps churning out sequels – we probably will get a Jaws 19 at some point sooner rather than later.
3. The Little Mermaid
Growing up, a lot of young children develop cute, completely innocent crushes on certain cartoon characters, and I was no exception. For me, it was on Ariel in The Little Mermaid. While I can’t remember if it was this “crush” that drew me as a young boy to watching this film in the first place, it’s certainly not the titular mermaid’s strategically placed seashells that makes me rank it as one of the best films of 1989, nor what drives me to re-watch it every time I stumble across it playing on Freeform or the Disney Channel.
I’m an enormous Disney fan, and I think I can attribute my huge fandom for the company directly to this movie as it was the first film released by the studio that I remember watching. In that way alone, The Little Mermaid changed my life. Watching it as a child was an absolutely magical, colorful experience, and I remember belting Under the Sea and Kiss the Girl along with Sebastian the crab every time my mother put the VHS tape into our VCR. While there may be lessons in the film that are questionable at best nowadays (ie. a woman giving up her entire life for a man she loves), it still holds up as an excellent musical adventure that ushered in the Golden Age of Disney films that includes Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. When the inevitable live-action remake hits theaters within a few years, you can bet I’ll be one of the first people in line to see it.
2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Let me be honest upfront – I’m a sucker for Christmas. It’s by far my favorite holiday, and my favorite time of year; I love everything about it. If a movie or a television show incorporates any aspect of the holiday into its plot, chances are it will bump my rating up a point. I don’t think it’s my bias speaking, however, when I say that not only is Christmas Vacation the best-made film in the entire National Lampoon franchise, but it is also legitimately the funniest.
While I always loved this movie as a child, it’s one of the rare ones that gets funnier and becomes more relatable with age, which is why I’m rating it so high on my list. Clark Griswold’s determination to have a “good old-fashioned family Christmas” that includes both sides of the family, the perfect tree, a nicely decorated house, a delicious feast, and plenty of presents is a plight that many people can relate to. What even more people can relate to, however, are the most perfectly laid out plans going wrong, which I believe is a key facet to this film’s enduring popularity. What this film truly accomplishes, however, is being incredibly funny, while having an abundance of Christmas cheer that never veers too close to becoming overly sappy or sentimental. That, in itself, is a Christmas miracle that many holiday films have failed to achieve since. It’s because of this that, every December without fail, I end up watching this movie multiple times.
I can’t even begin to express in words just how much the character of Batman means to me. He is, and always has been, my favorite fictional character of all time. I think I was destined from birth to love this particular hero, because there are pictures of me in my parents’ house at only a few months old wearing onesies with the insignia of the Caped Crusader embroidered into them. So in case either of them are reading this, I just want to say, “Thanks, mom and dad, for starting my life off right by introducing me to the Dark Knight right off the bat! (Pun intended.)”
I’ll never forget the first time I watched Tim Burton’s Batman. I always knew that I would like it, but I had no idea that it would open my eyes as to what the character of Batman is truly all about. I didn’t see it for the first time until I was almost ten years old, and up until that point in time, all of my Batman knowledge came from the old Adam West television series and the incredible Batman: The Animated Series. Tim Burton’s film, however, was a revelation to me in terms of exactly what could be done with the character. It introduced me to his complex psychology, and opened my eyes to the fact that people actually could take a movie about a man dressed as a giant bat while fighting a homicidal clown seriously. More so than Richard Donner’s Superman from a decade before, Batman truly laid the groundwork for the modern superhero renaissance that we currently live in nowadays. And in terms of the character himself, the movie helped him to escape the campy perception of him the public had developed since the sixties, bringing him back to his darker roots. It also inspired me to delve into the Batman mythology via comic books, from which I branched off into other DC titles before making my way over to Marvel. This movie truly helped to shape me, turning me into the enormously proud geek that I am today, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
I’m extremely proud whenever I get to bring up the fact that these five legendary movies came out the year of my birth. Besides the ones mentioned above, however, there were a plethora of other films that came out in 1989 that are just as iconic – did I happen to disregard any that you would have included in place of any of the above? Hit the comments and let me know below!