Happy 30th, 40th, and 45th!
Looking at Memorable Movies Released in 1989, 1979, and 1974!
Batman – There is no competing with the hype machine that went into this movie. There is no way it wasn’t going to be a blockbuster (and it was), though it took years for me to understand this was a comedy and not a drama like Superman. I’ve only recently began to appreciate it, and I enjoy its sequel more.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford returned to give us the third adventure of the globetrotting archaeologist, and this time they brought along Sean Connery. After the darker Temple of Doom, this one was much more similar to Raiders of the Lost Ark, and it worked in the Spielberg theme of the absentee father along the way. This was a fitting end to the Indiana Jones Trilogy—but it really is too bad they had to make a fourth one…
Back to the Future Part II – Marty McFly and Doc Brown AT LAST returned to the screen in order to give us a sequel to their original adventure. Although, they somehow managed to work in a character based on Donald Trump. See if you can guess who it is…?
Lethal Weapon 2 – Screenwriting Shane Black originally wanted to kill Martin Riggs in this adventure, but the heads at Warner Bros said no way—so Martin gets to live. This is every beat the equal of the original Lethal Weapon, and in some ways, I say better. It’s darker, funnier, and, yes, more violent!
Dead Poet’s Society – Robin Williams showed us a different side of himself in this movie; a more dramatic side, and audiences loved it.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure – Who would have thought a movie about two slackers traveling through time could have been so smart? Certainly not Roger Ebert, who regretted skipping it when he reviewed its sequel a couple years later. This movie is smart, it’s witty, but more than that, it’s fun. “Party on, dudes!”
Lean on Me, Driving Miss Daisy and Glory – Morgan Freeman hit the ground running with this trifecta, and he has been going strong ever since.
Heathers – Let’s make a dark comedy about teens getting killed and masking their deaths as suicide because teen suicide is funny, right? Yes, that is essentially the plot of this cult classic that is a black comedy.
Dead Calm – Acclaimed suspense director, Phillip Noyce, directed this thriller set aboard a boat. It’s tense, it’s suspenseful, and it will leave you drained.
Major League – This may not be the greatest baseball comedy ever made, but it’s worth noting.
Field of Dreams – Kevin Costner stars as a mid-Western farmer who builds a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield. Why? Well, so they’ll come. This is richer and deeper than Major League, and it turns out it’s not even really about baseball.
Say Anything – If you don’t know this movie, stop reading and watch it now. That is all.
Pet Sematary – Up until recently, this was one of the few successful Stephen King adaptations. It’s so good, in fact, that the remake is unnecessary. Also, King was a big fan of The Ramones (and they of him) that they wrote the song that plays over the end credits.
Road House – The name is Dalton. You thought he’d be taller, right? Check your preconceived notions at the door, and enjoy the ride.
Do the Right Thing – Spike Lee made us all sit back and take note with this mediation on race and violence on the hottest day ever in a section of Brooklyn. The fact that he made it just as funny as he did dramatic, made this film even better. This movie improves not only upon repeated viewings, but also as you age and mature. Do the Right Thing is definitely not to be missed.
Disorganized Crime – I hesitate to include this movie, but it still makes me laugh. Being that I first saw it in junior high (and the fact that it still makes me laugh), means some of the comedy still holds up.
Weekend At Bernie’s – A comedy that became a cult classic and inspired a sequel that took away from the greatness of this one. Okay, maybe it isn’t actually great, but it does have some inspired lunacy in it.
When Harry Met Sally… – A sweet ode to love, couples and happiness. Be sure to have what she’s having.
Look Who’s Talking – John Travolta resurrected his career for the second time with this movie (and for a third with Pulp Fiction). This is a movie about a woman, played by Kirstie Alley, who gets pregnant with a baby whose prenatal thoughts we can actually hear and who has the voice of Bruce Willis. Trust me, it’s actually funny.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – This is one of my favorite Christmas movies. There is an underlying sweetness to its goofiness, and I like that about it.
Roger & Me – Roger Moore put himself on the map with this doc. Love him or hate him, he started here.
Leviathan and DeepStar Six and The Abyss – Sometime in the mid-80s, the studios decided they would spend money on an underwater creature feature, so 20th Century Fox green-lit The Abyss. Not to be outdone, another studio green-lit Leviathan, which would be directed by Rambo: First Blood Part II director, George P. Cosmatos. Still, another studio green-lit DeepStar Six, which would be helmed by Friday the 13th director, Sean S. Cunningham. DeepStar Six hit theaters first, followed closely by Leviathan, and both of them were forgotten by the time James Cameron’s The Abyss hit theaters in August. The Abyss is the best, Leviathan is the worst, and DeepStar Six works as a simple horror monster movie under water.
This year will also get its own article.
Alien – I could go on and on about this movie—how it is a haunted house in space, how it taps into our existential dread of the unknown, how it incorporates Lovecraftian elements of cosmic horror to tell its tale, how it is a movie about rape from the moment we first see the alien egg, how it launched a franchise…Instead, I’ll just say it’s really fucking good. Watch it.
The Muppet Movie – It might be hard to impress audiences anymore, and it might be harder to get them to understand why this movie was so magical, but I’ll try—or rather, I will let Roger Ebert: “Jolson sang, Barrymore spoke, Garbo laughed, and now Kermit the Frog rides a bicycle. ‘The Muppet Movie’ not only stars the Muppets but, for the first time, shows us their feet. And if you can figure out how they were able to show Kermit pedaling across the screen, then you are less a romantic than I am: I prefer to believe he did it himself.”
10 – Along with The Pink Panther, this might be the movie Blake Edwards is most remembered for; Bo Derek is iconic in her one-piece bathing suit and beads in her hair; Dudley Moore really is funny and is the man who becomes infatuated with her; and then there is the classical musical piece, “Bolero.”
The Jerk – Steve Martin took his “wild and crazy guy” personae to the nth level with this movie, which is an inspired piece of lunacy and idiocy. So much so, you can’t help but want to laugh at the exploding oil cans or to be proud of yourself for being in the phone book. Do they even still have those, actually…?
The Warriors – If you don’t know the line, “Warriors, come out to play-ay-ay!,” then you need to watch this movie immediately. A stylized, violent adventure directed by Walter Hill about a gang who just wants to get back home. The problem? Every other gang between here and home wants to kill them.
Apocalypse Now – Francis Ford Coppola nearly killed himself directing this adaptation he had written of Joseph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness. It is a rich, rewarding movie that is more than worth the time. And remember, “Charlie don’t surf!”
Phantasm – An independent horror movie written and directed by Don Coscarelli that launched a franchise, and introduced us to not only The Ball, but also to The Tall Man. “BOY!”
Kramer vs. Kramer – A very moving story about a dad who just wants to keep his son after the divorce. People always said I looked like the kid, too, whose name is also Billy.
Rocky II – Picking up right where the first one left off, this continues the story of Rocky Balboa as he gets another chance to fight Apollo Creed.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian – The Monty Python troupe considers this to truly be their best effort—the story of Jesus Christ’s neighbor Brian, who was born on the original Christmas in the stable next to Jesus, spends his life being mistaken for a messiah.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Star Wars was such a success that Paramount wanted in on the action, and what better way to get in on it than to resurrect a franchise, which had been cancelled a decade prior. The result is interesting if not entirely successful, which is why when Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan came out a few years later, they largely ignored this movie.
1941 – This is an interesting misstep for Steven Spielberg, which is not say it is bad. It’s a very loud, all over the place action comedy about a possible Japanese invasion after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Spielberg spoofs the opening of Jaws, John Belushi stars as a fighter pilot, and…it just gets crazier from there.
Manhattan – This is a movie to see for its cinematography. It is a love letter to Manhattan, and truly the city has never been photographed more beautifully. It is also going to be very hard to watch because Woody Allen stars as an older divorced man in a relationship with a teenage Mariel Hemingway—it is really hard and gross and uncomfortable to watch. Watch it or don’t, but the first five minutes are really good, and they will show you exactly what I mean about how great the city is shot.
The Towering Inferno – Along with The Poseidon Adventure (which came out two years prior), this cemented the disaster movie as its own genre, and more than that, it cemented Irwin Allen as the “King of Disaster.” (Interesting tidbit: his favorite restaurant was Jack in the Box.). Not all of his disaster movies were great, but this one was. Starring Steve McQueen and Paul Newman (both of whom were stars at the time and received “staggered billing” so that neither could claim they were billed first), and also Robert Vaughn, Richard Chamberlain, Red Buttons, Faye Dunaway, and O.J. Simpson (yes, you read that read). It’s the kind of movie they don’t make anymore—the kind in which all of Hollywood’s talent is on display from the stars, to the effects, to the music by John Williams.
The Godfather Part II – Many consider it to be even better than its predecessor, however, I’ll leave that for you to decide. What I will tell you is that this movie shows Michael Corleone trying to grow his father’s empire, while (in a parallel storyline) we see Vito Corleone’s rise to power as a young immigrant to America. It’s a moving movie that spans decades filled with betrayal, death, and blood. “You broke my heart, Fredo.”
The Sugarland Express – Before Jaws, there was The Sugarland Express, Spielberg’s directorial debut on the big screen. Starring Goldie Hawn and William Atherton, it’s the story of a woman who wants to reunite her family by helping her husband escape prison and the both of them kidnapping her son. Doesn’t quite sound like Spielberg’s normal fare, but this was before he was Spielberg, and it is interesting to see how he found his style.
Chinatown – Jack Nicholson stars in this movie—written by Robert Towne and directed by Roman Polanski—as Jake Gittes who is a private detective who uncovers adultery, corruption and murder as he investigates the theft of water in 1920s LA. This is one movie you won’t easily be able to forget.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – “Who will survive and what will be left of them?,” asked the posters for this film. Tobe Hooper put himself on the map with this visceral story of some kids who happened to be upon the wrong house and find themselves the victim of a family who…I’ll just stop there. This is a rocket ride of a movie with a bleak ending. The survivor doesn’t survive because of any particular skill, but only because they can stay ahead of the chainsaw—pure luck—and there might not be anything scarier than that.
Dark Star – John Carpenter directed this feature written by Dan O’Bannon, who would go on to write Alien, a sci-fi horror movie that takes it horror much more seriously.
Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein – Mel Brooks scored this one-two punch in the same year. He considers these his favorite movies, and it is easy to see why, especially with Young Frankenstein. When it comes to Blazing Saddles, you can rest assured that this is another kind of movie that they will no longer make anymore.
Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla – Godzilla faces off against a mecha version of himself, designed by aliens and sent to Earth to…Does it matter? This movie was released 20 years after the original, and as we are about to get another Godzilla movie this summer, I figured it would be fun to note.
That’s all for now. See you on the next installment!