Mike’s Top Ten of 1989

And we’re finally done with the 80s.

This is a very strong year, and I think that has to do with the growing independent film movement that would take over the 90s. You also get very strong top of the line stuff here. All the Best Picture nominees made the top 20 this year, and there were at least another two more options that could have made it and still kept the field as strong as it is.

Plus, the below the line stuff is all around solid. You can definitely tell we’re getting out of the 80s. Everything is starting to trend upward again. Even Disney! The Renaissance stars this year!

I feel like the top ten or fifteen will be largely the same for most people this year, with the exception of the two or three movies that are quintessentially ones that appeal specifically to me and likely are ones that most people haven’t seen as often as I have or don’t even know about.

But that’s what you come here for, isn’t it?

Mike’s Top Ten of 1989

The ‘Burbs

Do the Right Thing

Driving Miss Daisy

Field of Dreams

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Let It Ride

The Little Mermaid

Major League

My Left Foot

11-20: Batman, Born on the Fourth of July, Christmas Vacation, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Dead Poets Society, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Glory, Lean on Me, Licence to Kill, When Harry Met Sally…

Tier two: The Abyss, All Dogs Go to Heaven, Always, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Back to the Future Part II, Blaze, The Dream Team, A Dry White Season, Heathers, Henry V, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Lethal Weapon 2, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, Look Who’s Talking, Music Box, New York Stories, Parenthood, Road House, Say Anything…, Steel Magnolias

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1. Do the Right Thing

“C’mon, what. What?”
“Always do the right thing.”
“That’s it?”
“That’s it.”

This is Spike Lee’s masterpiece. I don’t watch this as often as I watch the two films ranked immediately below it, but there’s no denying that this is the best movie of 1989. The fact that this was neither nominated for nor won Best Picture is just a huge disappointment. Because this movie is perfect.

It takes place on a hot summer day in Brooklyn, as racial tensions between the Italian and black communities reach a boiling point. Lee stars as Mookie, a pizza delivery boy, who is sort of the bridge between the two communities, and Danny Aiello plays Sal, owner of the pizzeria. Richard Edson and John Turturro play Aiello’s sons, Rosie Perez plays Lee’s girlfriend, and the people on the block are played by Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, Paul Benjamin, Frankie Faison, Robin Harris, Roger Guverneur Smith and Martin Lawrence. You also get little cameos by Frank Vincent, John Savage and Miguel Sandoval, while the whole film is framed/narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, as radio DJ Mister Señor Love Daddy.

This is one of the essential movies. Everyone needs to see this. It is truly the best 1989 has to offer.

2. Major League

“One hit? That’s all we got, one goddamn hit?”
“You can’t say goddamn on the air.”
“Don’t worry, nobody is listening anyway.”

This is one of my all-time favorite movies. I love this so much.

General premise: the Indians owner, mired in years of losing, has decided she wants to move the team to Miami. The only way for her to do that is for the team to be so bad they drop below a specific attendance percentage. At that point, she’s legally able to move the team. So she plans to put the worst possible team out there in order to make that happen. But of course, the rag tag group of players bands together and starts to win.

Charlie Sheen plays Rick Vaughn, a pitcher fresh out of prison with control issues. Tom Berenger plays Jake Taylor, an aging catcher with bad knees. Wesley Snipes plays Willie Mays Hayes, fast as hell but can’t hit worth a damn. Then there’s Corbin Bernsen as Roger Dorn, star third baseman and major diva, Dennis Haysbert as Pedro Cerrano, a voodoo-practicing power hitter who has trouble with curveballs and Chelcie Ross as Eddie Harris, veteran pitcher with an arm going dead. And of course Rene Russo as Berenger’s ex-girlfriend, James Gammon as Lou, the manager, and of course Bob Uecker as Harry Doyle, the play-by-play man, who steals absolutely every scene he’s in.

I will watch this movie any time it’s on. I still say one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard is the scene at the beginning where Mrs. Phelps is showing management the list of players she’s inviting to spring training, and they’re looking over how terrible they are (“Most of these guys are past their prime. Some of them never even had a prime”) and then one of the guys just goes, “This guy here is dead!” And then she goes, “Well cross him off, then!” I will never not laugh at that. I don’t know why that’s so funny to me.

Anyway, I hope you know about this movie. This is one of those where, if you haven’t seen it, we can’t be friends. Because this is one of the best sports movies of all time. So goddamn funny.

3. Let It Ride

“I’m having a VERY good day.”

Our second sports comedy in a row. This is one that almost no one knows about that I grew up with. Part of the great career of Richard Dreyfuss that has gone largely overlooked as time has gone by.

He plays a degenerate gambler and cab driver who is generally a loser. One day, his friend comes to him, having recorded a passenger’s conversation about a fixed horse race. Despite having promised his wife he was gonna quit gambling and save their marriage, he goes to the track to make a bet on the race. He prays to God in the bathroom stall for just “one” good day. And then, after that, it just seems like the magic is on his side. He wins the first race, and then the second…. and each time he wins he puts all his winnings on the next race, just feeling as though he’s gonna win.

The entire film (aside from the opening maybe fifteen minutes) takes place during the day at the track, and it’s amazing. It also stars David Johansen, Teri Garr, Jennifer Tilly, Robbie Coltrane, Allen Garfield, Richard Edson and Cynthia Nixon. It was written by Nancy Dowd, who wrote Slap Shot, and directed by Joe Pytka, a commercials director who only made one other feature film in his career besides this one. And that movie… is Space Jam. So this guy having directed two of the seminal movies of my youth is kinda like when I found out that the man who composed the Power Rangers theme song also did the theme song to the animated X-Men series. This guy is responsible for so much of my childhood and I wasn’t aware just how much until much later.

I know most of you don’t know this movie at all, and I know most of you probably won’t enjoy this movie as much as I do. But truly, this is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I will watch this at least once a year just because I love it so much. It’s absolutely amazing, and just makes me happy every time I see it.

4. Field of Dreams

“If you build it, he will come.”

Well, it’s a run on sports here. Pure chance.

Everyone knows this movie. Kevin Costner is a corn farmer in Iowa who hears a voice from the field that tells him to build a baseball field. He decides to listen to it, and pretty soon the ghosts of dead ballplayers come out of the cornfield to start playing.

Amy Madigan is Costner’s wife in the film, James Earl Jones is a reclusive author, Ray Liotta is Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Burt Lancaster, in his final screen role, plays Moonlight Graham.

It’s… amazing. I can’t explain why this movie is so amazing, but it is. This is one of those movies that I feel like everyone thought was gonna be this small movie, and then it became such a cultural classic and was nominated for Best Picture out of nowhere. This is one of those movies that’s not even about sports. My mother loves this movie and doesn’t give a shit about sports. It’s just one of those movies that’s just good.

5. The Little Mermaid

“I wanna be where the people are
I wanna see, wanna see them dancin’
Walking around on those – what do you call ’em? Oh – feet!

Flippin’ your fins, you don’t get too far
Legs are required for jumping, dancing
Strolling along down a – what’s that word again? Street

Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wanderin’ free – wish I could be
Part of that world”

This is the first great Disney movie in like 20 years. They hit a real lull after Walt’s death, and finally here they came out of it.

This is a lot of people’s favorite Disney movie of all time. I can’t argue that, even though I’d disagree. (Though I also won’t pretend like it’s not top five for me as well.)

This is the perfect combination of story and music. They hit all the right notes with this, and created one of the great movies of their entire catalogue.

Also, this is the only movie that features a Jamaican crab that makes sex music. Which does count for something.

6. Kiki’s Delivery Service

“Without even thinking about it, I used to be able to fly. Now I’m trying to look inside myself and find out how I did it.”

This is my favorite Miyazaki movie. It’s somewhat of a minor effort in his career, but this is the one I always want to put on first. It’s just so lovely.

It’s about a young witch who has to go out on her own for a year as part of her training. So she finds a seaside town, where she uses her ability to fly on a broom to start a delivery service.

It’s so delightful. It’s a coming-of-age film with the themes of self-confidence and discovering who you are. I really love it. I know people would go for Totoro or Spirited Away or Mononoke, but this is the one for me.

7. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

“Nazis. I hate these guys.”

The most common thing you hear about the Indiana Jones movies is, “Raiders is the best one, but I watch Last Crusade the most.” And it’s hard to argue.

This one brings back a lot of the elements of the first film, eschewing the darker elements from Temple of Doom. The biggest addition, though, is Sean Connery, as Indy’s father. The scenes between Ford and Connery are absolutely tremendous, and make the film work as well as it does. How great is the scene where Connery tells Ford that the girl he slept with is a Nazi, and his explanation for why is, “She talks in her sleep”? The look on both of their faces… man do I love this movie.

It’s Indiana Jones, so I suspect you’ve all seen it. This is the second best effort of the franchise, if not the best, no matter how you slice it. It’s this and Raiders. Those are the best ones. Temple of Doom is fun, but it doesn’t reach the heights these other two reach. And Kingdom of the Crystal Skull… well, that one is what it is.

8. My Left Foot

“Fuck off.”
“If you work with me, I’ll help you say ‘fuck off’ more clearly.”

Daniel Day-Lewis’s first Oscar win, and the first time people saw the lengths he’d go to inhabit a role.

This is a surprisingly dated-looking movie. It looks like it was shot on a camcorder, BBC style. And yet… doesn’t matter. Because it’s so incredible you don’t even care.

It’s a biopic of Christy Brown, born with cerebral palsy and only had control over… well, look at the title. So the first, I don’t know, half hour-plus focuses on him as a child, and shows you his upbringing. Large, Irish family that keeps growing each year, small house, dad’s a coal miner who spends most of the excess income on the drink. It’s wonderful, and really sets you into the community, John Ford-style. The scene where the family (namely the father) realizes Christy is intelligent despite his illness is incredible. And then we cut to him, older, being played by Day-Lewis, and see him learn how to paint and become a celebrated artist.

It’s a really terrific film. Both Day-Lewis and the young actor who plays him in the early scenes are fantastic. This is also Jim Sheridan’s first film, and he had a hell of a run between this and In America. This was nominated across the board for Oscars, with Brenda Fricker also winning alongside Day-Lewis.

9. The ‘Burbs

“Nobody knocks off an old man in my neighborhood and gets away with it.”

Classic comedy. I watched this so many times growing up. People forget that Tom Hanks came up as a comic actor in the 80s. Sure, his comic characters were more complex than most comic characters, but still… this was his start.

This is a Joe Dante-directed film about a bunch of neighborhood guys who begin to suspect the creepy new neighbors murdered the people whose house they moved into. It’s like Rear Window except funny. Hanks is great. Carrie Fisher plays his wife. Bruce Dern is great. Rick Ducommun. You got Corey Feldman in there.

This movie is hilarious. Maybe not as much a part of my childhood as Let It Ride or Major League, but man, is this one of the great comedies of all time.

10. Driving Miss Daisy

“You’re my best friend.”

There’s so much vitriol for this movie out there because it has the reputation of being a terrible Best Picture winner. It’s basically the poster-child for “bad choice.” Which I think is not wholly deserved. But even so, you take the movie on its own terms and it’s really good.

It’s about the friendship between a southern woman and her driver over a bunch of years. Her son hires him when she proves too old to drive safely on her own, much to her consternation. But of course she eventually relents, and they get to know one another, and eventually become each other’s best friend. It’s a simple, sweet movie. Jessica Tandy won an Oscar for her performance, Morgan Freeman was nominated. Dan Aykroyd was nominated!

It’s too easy to say this is a bad movie. I will stand by my enjoyment of this movie and truly like it better than everything else you’re about to read about from this year.

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Batman — It’s Batman. Tim Burton took what was a campy, goofy property and made it dark and badass. Michael Keaton is still arguably the best Bruce Wayne we’ve seen, and Jack Nicholson gives what was for a lot of years for the definitive comic book villain performance. I think I was shown this movie when I was like, two years old. Somehow it didn’t scare the shit out of me (I think)? It’s great. I know the Christopher Nolan movies have eclipsed this in a lot of young peoples’ minds, but these Burton movies are still really, really good.

Born on the Fourth of July — Another great Oliver Stone war movie. He earned his second Best Director Oscar for this. This is also arguably Tom Cruise’s best performance too. He plays Ron Kovic, an all-American boy who is excited to sign up and fight in Vietnam. And then he ends up losing his legs. So we watch him have to deal with that, in the military hospital, before coming home, disillusioned about the war and now upset at how badly the military is treating its veterans. It’s really good. One of the essential war movies and one of the best Stone has made (which includes a lot of great movies).

Christmas Vacation — The second of the Griswold films and arguably the most famous. Clark tries to have a big Christmas gathering for his family, and it turns into a disaster on every level. It’s absolutely hilarious and features Chevy Chase at his best. This is one of the great comedies of all time and should be seen by all. An absolutely essential Christmas movie too.

Crimes and Misdemeanors — One of the Woody Allen movies that I think is great. It’s two movies in one, and the connection between the two is slight and doesn’t reveal itself until the end. The first half is Martin Landau as a dentist who has been having an affair with Anjelica Huston. He’s been promising her that he’ll leave his wife for months but hasn’t done it yet. She says that she’s gonna tell his wife everything if he doesn’t, forcing him to take drastic measures. His brother says he knows a hitman who can take care of her for him. And in case that sounds like it’s dark… it is. And the second half… not so dark. Allen himself plays a documentarian who is hired by his brother-in-law, Alan Alda, to make a movie celebrating his work. And Alda… plays the biggest schmuck in the world. And everything he does in this movie is hilarious. He’s the one who gave us such lines as, “If it bends, it’s funny. If it breaks, it isn’t,” and “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” It’s so funny. Landau is incredible here and was rightly nominated for an Oscar for his efforts, and the movie works on both levels and is truly one of the best that Allen’s ever made.

Dead Poets Society — O Captain, my Captain. This is one of those movies everyone sees early. It’s a classic. Robin Williams is a poetry teacher at an all-boy’s school who dares his students to think differently. Carpe diem, motherfuckers. Peter Weir directs, and it’s one of those all-time classics. Nominated up and down the line for Oscars, and just a movie that everyone knows and everyone sees. It’s great and pretty much guaranteed to be top 20 for most people from this year.

The Fabulous Baker Boys — Terrific drama written and directed by Steve Kloves, who would go on to write all the Harry Potter movies. It stars Jeff and Beau Bridges (fantastic choices) as two brothers who have a lounge act they travel across the country with. Beau is the family man, with a wife and kids at home, and Jeff is the single one who goes out and sleeps with all the women he meets while on tour. Beau is comfortable with them playing the same old standards night in and night out, and Jeff thinks the act is stale but goes along with it because everything’s going fine. When places stop hiring them in favor of showier acts, they decide to hire a singer. Enter Michelle Pfeiffer. Who naturally complicates things between the brothers. It’s a really good movie, and if this year weren’t as strong as it is, would have made the top ten. Pfeiffer was nominated for her performance, and both Bridges brothers are fantastic in it. I’m surprised Kloves hasn’t directed more, because this one shows real talent.

Glory — One of the classic war movies. Definitely one of the definitive Civil War movies (though I’ll always be a ‘Patriot’ guy). It stars Matthew Broderick as a lieutenant sent to command the first all-black volunteer company. Naturally they aren’t given any supplies, or help, but all the men have a fighting spirit, and he whips them into shape. It’s really good. Also stars Denzel (he won his first Oscar for this), Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, Andre Braugher and Bob Gunton. Really strong film directed by Ed Zwick, who would go on from this to have the ultimate “Oscar bait” career.

Lean on Me — Morgan Freeman. Hell yeah. This is part of that ‘clean up the school’ genre. Only where it’s usually the teacher who gets the kids to listen to him, here Freeman is the principal. Joe Clark. He’s the HNIC, determined to clean up the school by any means necessary. It’s great. Freeman delivers one of his best (and most underrated) performances, and this was directed by John G. Avildsen, who after Rocky and The Karate Kid, continues his stretch of directing films you really like that you didn’t know he was responsible for.

Licence to Kill — The second and final of the Timothy Dalton Bond movies. This one I like a lot. Dalton, to me, has too serious a tone for Bond, but this story is serious, so it fits with what he does. Felix Leiter gets attacked by a drug lord and Bond sets out for revenge. He is told he cannot do this by MI6, so he resigns and becomes a vigilante. The third act is basically a Sorcerer ripoff, and I am all for that. It’s dope.

When Harry Met Sally… — One of the classic romantic comedies of all time. Directed by Rob Reiner, still on one of the greatest stretches any director has ever had. It stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as two friends who have known each other for years who keep running into each other and have chemistry but somehow never get together. It’s so good. Written by Nora Ephron. Everyone must see this. There’s no excuse. You have to see this movie.

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Tier two:

  • The Abyss
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven
  • Always
  • Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
  • Back to the Future Part II
  • Blaze
  • The Dream Team
  • A Dry White Season
  • Heathers
  • Henry V
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
  • Lethal Weapon 2
  • Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland
  • Look Who’s Talking
  • Music Box
  • New York Stories
  • Parenthood
  • Road House
  • Say Anything…
  • Steel Magnolias

The Dream Team is a movie that I could not believe I didn’t find out about sooner. So here’s the premise: four mental patients are taken out to see a baseball game and end up unsupervised after things go wrong. Oh, and did I mention, the four mental patients are Michael Keaton, Peter Boyle, Christopher Lloyd and Stephen Furst? Tell me you don’t want to see that movie right now. It also has Lorraine Bracco, Milo O’Shea, Philip Bosco and James Remar. This movie features the first (and pretty much only. There’s like two more ever other than this) use of the song “Walk the Dinosaur” in a feature film, which made me applaud when I first heard it, and also is way too small a number. But seriously… this movie is amazing, and you should see it. The Abyss is James Cameron. The one that people overlook because all the others are gigantic films. (Well, True Lies… but that’s fun.) This is a movie that, as is the case with most Cameron movies, was touted for its pioneering visual effects work. Now, it looks a bit cheesy. But people do really like this movie. It’s about a diving team who go to the depths of the ocean to find a submarine and encounter… a species… down there. Stars Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. It’s solid. My least favorite Cameron movie, but still good.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a classic. It’s a Wonderful Life if it were an 80s comedy. Bill and Ted are two guys who are slated to save the world one day. However, if they fail their history class, they won’t be able to do that. So, the universe sends George Carlin in a time-traveling phone booth to take the guys throughout history and collect actual historical figures for their report. It’s… the best. Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter. George Carlin is the fucking man. Love this movie. Always is Steven Spielberg remaking A Guy Named Joe. Which is a movie that no one remembers from 1943. It’s interesting he did it, because even now this is probably one of his five least remembered films (this, Sugarland Express, Empire of the Sun, 1941 and what, The Terminal? Those are probably some variation of most of the five, anyway, with this probably being #1, now that I look at it). He shot this back to back with Last Crusade. The premise is — Richard Dreyfuss is a hotshot pilot who helps put out forest fires. He meets and marries Holly Hunter. One day he dies during one of his flights. He comes back as a ghost, with unfinished business. He goes back, and thinks his unfinished business is to help out the new pilot who took his place. Only… that pilot stars to fall in love with his wife, and vice versa. It’s a great idea for a story. I don’t know if Spielberg totally pulls it off (and I don’t know if the original totally pulls it off either), but it’s a great story. Also Audrey Hepburn’s final role. So there’s that too.

A Dry White Season is an apartheid movie. This one’s more a courtroom movie. Donald Sutherland is a South African teacher who sees the horrors of apartheid first hand. He starts to investigate and see all the evil and corruption going on within the government. And he brings them to trial (featuring Marlon Brando as his lawyer), and eventually is labeled a race traitor, severely complicating his life. It’s a really solid film. This movie is also notable for being directed by a black woman, which I believe is the first time a black woman was given control of a major studio film like this. Which is awesome. Though it is unfortunate that she got almost no more major work after it. But still, this is a big deal that is underreported throughout film history. Back to the Future Part II is the sequel. Biff and the Sports Almanac. It’s the sequel the original set up right at the end. Marty goes into the future (2015) to rewrite where history goes wrong. It’s fun. The first Back to the Future is clearly the best, and the third one is inconsequential yet fun, but this one is a worth sequel.

Look Who’s Talking is one of those classic 80s family movies. Kirstie Alley gets pregnant by a married man and is left to raise the child on her own. She soon starts daring John Travolta, a cab driver. The entire story is told from the point-of-view of the child, whose voiceover is done by Bruce Willis. It’s fun. I watched this a bunch when I was like, six. Blaze is a Ron Shelton film starring Paul Newman. Shelton is mostly known for his sports films… Bull Durham, Tin Cup, White Men Can’t Jump. And even his lesser films are mostly sport-related: Cobb, Play It to the Bone. His other films are generally forgotten, which includes this one. Newman plays Earl Long, brother of Huey Long. He’s… eccentric, and pretty much does what he wants. Which includes falling in love with a young stripper. That’s the film. Old Paul Newman falls in love with young Lolita Davidovich. It’s fun. Inconsequential, but fun. Parenthood is a Ron Howard film. It’s a nice mix between comedy and drama, as it details a family and all the relationships therein. Stars Steve Martin, Dianne Wiest, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Robards, Rick Moranis, Tom Hulce, Martha Plimpton, Keanu Reeves and Joaquin Phoenix. It spawned a TV show that ran for like six seasons. It’s a really solid movie with great performances and one of the more underrated films of Ron Howard’s career.

Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland is an animated movie that scared the shit out of me as a child. It’s about a young boy whose dreams take him to a magical fantasy world, which he then has to save from an unspeakable evil. Based on a famous comic strip, and the scenes of the evil place, and the dark sticky goo that comes from it scared the ever-loving shit out of me when I was like, four. I’ll always have everlasting respect for this movie because of that. New York Stories is an anthology movie with segments directed by Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola. That’s right. If you haven’t heard of this, you probably already want to see it on that alone. It starts with the Scorsese segment, which stars Nick Nolte, Rosanna Arquette and Steve Buscemi. Nolte is a painter and Arquette is his assistant and former lover. She’d rather learn from him and not sleep with him. But he’s jealous watching her go out with other men, and he pours all that emotion into his work. Then there’s Coppola’s story, which stars Talia Shire, Giancarlo Giannini, Adrien Brody and Chris Elliott. It was co-written by Sofia, which you’ll understand in a second. it’s about a young girl with famous parents who are constantly traveling. So she lives alone in a hotel and goes to school with the children of insanely famous and wealthy people. (See what I mean about the Sofia thing?) And then there’s Woody Allen’s movie, titled Oedipus Wrecks, not surprisingly. Stars Allen himself, Mia Farrow, Julie Kavner, Larry David and Mike Starr. He plays a man dominated by his mother who wishes she would just disappear. And then, during a magic show, she actually does. The film overall has its moments. I’m not crazy about Coppola’s segment. Allen’s is interesting as a joke premise but doesn’t land. And Scorsese’s is solid. Still, it’s three great directors making short films in (and almost about) New York. Definitely worth your time.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is a classic of my childhood. I love this movie. Rick Moranis (the OG) develops a ray that can shrink things. And guess what happens? The scenes of the kids traveling through the lawn are just so great. This is what special effects should be. Movies today don’t understand how to do it. They overload them with action sequences and things. You make this movie today and it would be like Ant-Man, with the kids riding on wasps and shit and fighting other insects. Here, it’s the notion of ants being giant because of the relative size that’s the effect. It totally works. One of those films everyone should see as a child. It’s so good. All Dogs Go to Heaven is a Don Bluth animated movie. In this era, all animated movies can pretty much be traced back to like, two or three studios and/or like three other directors. Bluth is one of those guys. He made like all the non-Disney great animated movies of your childhood: Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, Land Before Time, Anastasia… he’s a bigger influence on your life than you might think. This movie stars the voice of Burt Reynolds as a dog who gets murdered by a mob boss dog. He then returns, seeking revenge with the help of a girl who can talk to animals. It’s great when you read the plots of these movies. They sound nuts. And yet, when you watched them as a child… made total sense.

Henry V is Kenneth Branagh’s directorial debut. If it was calculated, it was a good calculation. This was Laurence Olivier’s first film he directed, and Branagh certainly set himself up as a young Olivier. He followed it up with Hamlet, and a bunch of other Shakespeare adaptations. His Shakespeare movies are really the only straight adaptations that can hold a candle to the Olivier films. You might even prefer this one to Olivier’s just because the battle scenes are more intense and better directed, owing to the freedom of modern filmmaking at the time. It’s really terrific. If you’re gonna watch a film version of Henry V, you’re gonna do this or the Olivier one. There’s something to be said for definitive film versions of famous literary works. Steel Magnolias is one of the classic “weepies,” as they’re known. The movies your mother watched on cable a bunch. To me, it’s more a story about women. That’s its strongest suit. The fact that it ends tragically for one of them is beside the point. It’s about a bunch of women who either work or hang out at a local (southern) salon. Stars Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Olympia Dukakis, Daryl Hannah, Sam Shepard, Dylan McDermott and Tom Skerritt. Directed by Herbert Ross, too. It’s really solid. Roberts got her first Oscar nomination for this, for what is kind of a lead role.

Road House is the classic Patrick Swayze movie. He’s a bouncer named Dalton and that’s what he does. Even if it means ripping out a throat or two. The 80s are the movie that gave you such stranger stories… bouncers, bartenders… I love the weird avenues 80s movies took. This movie is a must-see. It’s so weird in premise that it just works. Swazye is a badass, and the movie is just fun as hell. This is the kinda movie I wanna have people over and drink beers and watch. Music Box is a trial movie with a really great premise: what if a successful lawyer found out her dad was convicted of war crimes and had to defend him? And even worse… what happens if it seems like he’s actually guilty? Jessica Lange stars and delivers an Oscar-nominated performance, and Armin Mueller-Stahl plays her father. It’s a really solid film. One of the hidden gems of the courtroom genre. Written by Joe Eszterhas (based on his own experiences with his father) and directed by Costa-Gavras. It’s solid. Lethal Weapon 2 is the sequel. More Riggs, more Murtaugh. I always remembered this one because of that opening sequence where Murtaugh is stuck on the toilet and bombs are strapped to it. This one introduces Joe Pesci, who would become a mainstay for the rest of the franchise, and it’s about South Africans who are using their diplomatic immunity to do illegal shit. It’s fun. All the Lethal Weapons are fun. They diminish in quality as you go along and get more ridiculous, but that’s what these kinds of movies do. You’d rather a decent Lethal Weapon than most other action movies, so why quibble?

Say Anything… is the movie that gave us the iconic image of John Cusack, standing outside with the boombox over his head as it plays “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel. For that alone, it’s one of those movies everyone needs to see. But also… Cameron Crowe directed this. It was his directorial debut. Cusack is an average kid with no real ambition who falls for the valedictorian. So they have a summer romance before she goes off to college. It’s very good. Cameron Crowe made only good movies before he ran out of things to say. This is included in that stretch. (Funnily enough, Jim Sheridan has the same kind of stretch over almost the same amount of years. And they both started their run this year.) Heathers is a cult movie. I never saw it for years, despite knowing all the references and having friends who love this movie. I never saw it until probably last year. And it’s fun. It’s a smart high school movie that’s very much a product of the 80s. Winona Ryder is a good girl who joins the rich popular girl clique and hates it. So she hooks up with Christian Slater, the crazy weirdo, and plots to murder them. Which they do. And it’s great. A movie everyone needs to see, just so they can properly be able to quote lines like, “I love my dead gay son” and “fuck me gently with a chainsaw.” It’s a cardinal rule that you can’t reference something you haven’t seen. Don’t be one of those assholes.

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