The B+ Movie Guide: The New List (Part XLIV)

I gave Colin a giant list of 500 movies, and he finished it. Of course I’m gonna come up with another list.

This one is for everyone, though. Not specifically for Colin. This is raw material for everybody, should they choose, to go out and see more movies. Not all of them are essential. Most of them are just awesome. I told Colin that once he finished this list, I’d give him another one that was more fun than work. Geared toward cool stuff that he’d enjoy.

I went through and found 1,000 more movies that I think either need to be seen (leftover “essential” films) or are just really great and would be enjoyed by most who see them. Here they are:


Heathers (1989)

This is one of those cult movies that’s on the list of the cult movies. Simple premise: girl wants to be popular, so she helps kill the popular kids. This is a touchstone for a lot of people, so it had to be mentioned.

Henry V (1989)

The Olivier version is great for 1944. This version is great. This is the one everyone can watch and enjoy. The battle scenes are terrific, Branagh really acts and directs the hell out of this one. There’s typically one version of every Shakespeare movie that you should see. Zeffirelli has Romeo and Juliet, Olivier has Hamlet, and I think Branagh has Henry V.

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

This is probably my favorite Miyazaki movie. It’s kind of a three-way tie. This, Totoro and Spirited Away. Spirited Away is thought of as his “best” movie, and Totoro is probably the crowd favorite. I just love this movie so much. It’s about a young witch who does what all witches do — sets out to go become the witch of a town. It’s a rite of passage. So she goes to this small seaside town to become their witch. And it’s a beautiful little movie. Not big in scope, but a lot of fun and just simple. You can show this to a five year old and they can get it. Either way, Miyazaki is essential. Don’t skip out on this.

Lean on Me (1989)

Morgan Freeman is a principal of an inner city school and goddamnit if he’s not gonna make it respectable. Because he’s the H.N.I.C. Great movie, great Morgan Freeman performance. These teacher movies (technically he’s a teacher) about trying to improve inner city schools are always engaging.

Let It Ride (1989)

LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie. Somehow I grew up with a bunch of truly underrated sports comedies in my life. My father used to watch this and Necessary Roughness all the time, and that’s how I started seeing it. This is one of the underrated comedies of the 80s. Written by the same woman who wrote Slap Shot and North Dallas Forty. So don’t sleep on this. Directed by a man who directed two movies in his career: this… and Space Jam. I think that qualifies him for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also directed a couple of Michael Jackson videos.

Anyway, it stars Richard Dreyfuss (who is a man whose filmography is loaded with hidden gems) as a cab driver who comes into a tip for a horse race through his friend, who tapes his fare’s conversations. He goes to bet the horse and make some money (despite having told his wife he would stop gambling to save their marriage). He hits the race, and then decides, “You know what? This is my day.” So he decides to (insert title here). And each time he wins, he puts everything on the next race. And the whole movie takes place over the course of this day, as he becomes a legend around the track, makes new friends, tries to salvage his marriage — it’s great. No joke, one of my all-time favorite movies. Also has Teri Garr, Jennifer Tilly, Allen Garfield, Richard Edson, Cynthia Nixon and Robbie Coltrane! This is one of those movies that I love to show people. This is one of those movies that I have up my sleeve (we all have a dozen movies up our sleeve to show people that no one knows about).

Major League (1989)

Two sports movies in a row. This one is significantly more famous. It’s an all-time sports movie and an all-time comedy. Absolutely hilarious. And also one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s just great.

My Left Foot (1989)

What a film. Jim Sheridan’s first film. Talk about a career — this guy had a stellar list of first five movies (and then he made Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Maybe he’s the Irish Cameron Crowe. Once he stopped having something to say, it all went to shit). This movie cemented Daniel Day-Lewis in the pantheon of great actors. It’s about Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy, who learns to paint using the only limb he has control of (guess which one that is). The beauty of this film is that is spends the first hour establishing the family and the childhood. It has that John Ford trick — community, community, community. Establish the society and the neighborhood, and then everything else is just golden. There are all these little character moments that are just wonderful. And then you have these beautiful moments — the scene where they realize Christy isn’t dumb when he uses the chalk is beautiful. This movie is essential. Because it’s great and because Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance is otherworldly good.

Say Anything… (1989)

Cameron Crowe. Very famous movie. John Cusack with the juke box over his head playing Peter Gabriel. Has to be mentioned.

When Hary Met Sally… (1989)

All time romantic comedy. When listing the romantic comedy as a genre, this is one of those perfect examples. Hell, I don’t even have to look — I guarantee you that when AFI did those movie lists ten years ago, and they listed the top ten rom coms, that this was on that list. This movie is the very definition of the romantic comedy genre. Also features the famous orgasm scene by Meg Ryan. Essential movie.

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Awakenings (1990)

Another underrated 90s movie. It’s really terrific. There was an encephalitis epidemic in the 30s and everyone who got it has been catatonic since. But now they develop a drug that might allow them to come out of it. And the story is about Robin Williams as the doctor trying out these tests and Robert De Niro as one of the catatonic patients who comes out of it. And it’s incredible. Trust me on this. See this movie, you will not regret it. It’s fantastic. Some of both actors’ best work. De Niro is a guy who went catatonic as a kid and is now in his 40s. It’s really good. Just see this and don’t think twice about it.

Dances with Wolves (1990)

Your Best Picture winner of 1990 over Goodfellas. It should be seen just so you can rightly say it shouldn’t have won. It’s actually a great movie. Is the other reason you should see it. Kevin Costner stars as a Civil War soldier who snaps and rides right into battle, between both sides, expecting to be killed. But he isn’t. He actually surprises everyone enough to where his side is able to win. But they then put him on a far outpost in the west to get rid of him. And he befriends the natives there. It’s a really strong film. It really is. It’s essential for a lot of reasons.

Dick Tracy (1990)

I love this movie. This movie is great. Warren Beatty directs and stars, and it’s a comic strip movie made in the 90s. Throwback 30s gangster kind of tone, but what really makes this movie are the sets and costume design. It looks great. It’s one of the most colorful films you’ll ever see. I love how expressionist it is. It’s also loaded with famous people. Madonna, Al Pacino, William Forstyhe, Glenne Headey, Seymour Cassel, Charles Durning, Allen Garfield, Mandy Patinkin, Paul Sorvino, Mike Hagerty, Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Dick Van Dyke, Colm Meaney, Catherine O’Hara, James Caan, Michael J. Pollard, Estelle Parsons, Mike Mazurki. One of the great (and underrated, somehow) films of the 90s. It’s hard to not have fun with this movie.

The Grifters (1990)

Neo noir. John Cusack, Anjelica Huston, Annette Bening. He’s a con man, Huston’s his mother, Bening’s his girlfriend. They’re all con artists. They’re all playing different angles, and they’re all planning a big con. It’s great. It’s really great. Nominated for a few Oscars, but also one of the criminally underrated movies of the 90s. You need to see this one, because this is the other L.A. Confidential of the 90s. If there wasn’t already L.A. Confidential, this would be that film. This is the hidden gem version of that movie, if that makes sense.

Home Alone (1990)

Classic. A staple of my childhood and a lot of childhoods of people born in the 80s and 90s. How can you get through life without seeing this? One of the great holiday movies. Seriously, this is essential. Just do it. Because if you haven’t, I can’t believe you made it this far already.

The Hunt for Red October (1990)

This movie is awesome. Sean Connery is the top Soviet sub commander who ignores his directives and heads toward the US. And no one knows if he’s trying to defect or start war. And it’s up to Alec Baldwin (Jack Ryan) to figure it out. One of the great movies of the 90s. Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones, Peter Firth, Tim Curry, Stellan Skarsgard, Jeffrey Jones, Fred Dalton Thomspon. See this. It’s fantastic.

Misery (1990)

Kathy Bates in this movie. She seems fun. I think people know about this. Rob Reiner directs (part of his insane run of great movies), based on a Stephen King story. James Caan is a novelist who crashes in a snowy road and wakes up in Kathy Bates’ house. She tells him she rescued him and will help him recover. Only pretty soon it becomes — if you don’t rewrite your next book to my liking, you’ll never get out of here. It’s great. She won an Oscar for this, and rightly so.

Quick Change (1990)

One of the most underrated movies of all time. Forget about just comedy. This movie is criminally underrated. This is the only movie Bill Murray ever directed. It’s him, Geena Davis and Randy Quaid. Bill Murray is wearing a clown suit for 90% of the movie. The three of them rob a bank, but the problem is that as they try to get out of the city, it becomes impossible for them to do so. This movie is hilarious. If you haven’t seen this movie, trust me when I say you are watching one of the greatest movies you’ve never heard of.

Reversal of Fortune (1990)

Jeremy Irons won an Oscar for this. His wife is brain dead, and they think he tried to kill her. He says he didn’t, but because he’s such a cold person everyone just assumes he did. So he hires a law professor to defend him. It’s ultimately a trial movie, which — we know how those go. It’s a really engaging movie. It’s not so much about a reveal as much as it is about the story. The law professor has his students help him with the case, and we watch things get revealed as we get further into it, and the whole movie is narrated by Irons’ (technically) dead wife (Glenn Close). Good stuff.

Total Recall (1990)

Classic sci-fi movie. Both great and campy at the same time. (So… a Paul Verhoeven movie.) Factory worker goes to get memory implants put in of a vacation, when something goes wrong and he suddenly remembers an entire other identity. And all of a sudden, everyone is out to get him, and his wife is trying to kill him, and we learn he isn’t who he thinks he is. Great movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone — so much fun. You should see this because it’s so late 80s-early 90s sci fi. And Cuato.

Wild at Heart (1990)

What a batshit crazy movie. David Lynch made this and basically came up with the entire story through the dreams he was having. One character disappears midway through the movie, and it’s because he simply stopped having that character in his dreams. It’s also David Lynch and Nicolas Cage, which is one of those matches made in heaven. When you get two singular talents like this, they bring out the best in one another (look at Cage and Herzog in Bad Lieutenant).

Cage plays a character named Sailor who is getting out of prison after killing a guy. He reunites with Laura Dern, his gal. Her mother doesn’t like that, so she hires a hitman to kill Cage. Don’t worry so much about the plot. Just know that this movie is absolutely insane and fun as hell. This is Nicolas Cage cranked to 11. And Diane Ladd. Oh my god, Diane Ladd in this movie. Trust me on this. See this one.

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