Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 1989!

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

In reading through my list again, I realised there are a few movies I somehow missed including or mentioning before. Black Rain is in my Top Tony/Ridley Scott list, Blue Steel is an underrated thriller, Three Fugitives is an underrated comedy, Renegades is one of my favourite buddy cop movies.

10: The Killer (HK)

Maybe the first John Woo film I ever saw, like many it opened my eyes to a new world of Action cinema. Growing up I was mainly exposed to Hollywood’s muscle bound Action heroes and Asia’s Martial Arts masters, but John Woo came along and created a bridge between the two, offering sardonic, stylish, conflicted protagonists who were just as deadly with their fists as they were with a handgun. Action isn’t treated like a series of explosions, but like a choreographed dance for maximum emotional impact. Like many of Woo’s early movies, it pits one man against another in a sort of cat and mouse formula, and masculinity is dissected. Chow Yun Fat is an assassin trying to get out of the business, but he accidentally injures a singer in his last job and falls in love with her. Danny Lee is the detective on his trail and becomes obsessed with The Killer, while Shing Fui-on is the Triad boss pulling all of the strings and acting as the central big bad. It’s a more condensed and small scale experience than earlier works like A Better Tomorrow, and his balletic approach would be perfected in upcoming films such as Hard Boiled and Face/Off, but it’s still a smooth, stylish, bullet crazed watch.

9: Uncle Buck (US)

One of the seminal movies of the great John Candy, and probably the one I was most familiar with growing up. Candy stars as the titular Uncle who is tasked with looking after his nieces and nephew and has somewhat unorthodox measures. It has its madcap moments, but it’s still a John Hughes movie, meaning a lot of heart, modern family values, and plenty of guttural belly laughs.

8: Born On The Fourth Of July (US)

The movie which should have seen Tom Cruise win his Oscar, Born On The Fourth Of July is Oliver Stone dealing with the aftermath of Vietnam from a veteran’s perspective. It’s a gripping performance and watching it now we’re reminded that Cruise is capable of powerful dramatic performances when he’s not leaping out of airplanes as he trying to complete impossible missions. Based on the life of Ron Kovic, the film follows his life from childhood, to his horrific experiences in Vietnam, and to the months and years after as he became an activist. Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, and John C McGinley join Stone again after Platoon, albeit in much smaller parts, and the surrounding cast including Kyra Sedgwick, Frank Whaley, and Lili Taylor put in memorable performances.

7: Kiki’s Delivery Service (Japan)

I think this is my favourite Ghibli movie. Naturally, Miyazaki directs and writes, and Joe Hisashi brings another lovely score. It’s not the most riveting or outlandish or visually adventurous Ghibli movie, but it’s sweet, evokes a lot of feelings, and creates a charming world you would love to spend more time in. It’s also a film about growing up, about finding your place in the world, through the lens of a young girl who happens to be a Witch, heading off on her own for the first time and setting up a delivery service thanks to her flying ability. It does that Ghibli thing of perfectly capturing a specific mood and is as close to capturing the atmosphere of a Legend Of Zelda game as any movie I’ve seen, even though narratively the two have little in common. It’s simply a beautiful experience.

6: See No Evil, Hear No Evil (US)

One of the lesser known entries for both Pryor and Wilder, it’s nevertheless my favourite film by either performer… Brewster’s Millions and Willy Wonka maybe on another day. It’s utterly ludicrous, vaguely offensive, and our two stars are on fine form. I’ve said this many times over the decades – I’ve never been much of a Kevin Spacey fan (seems I was right all along) but this is his best performance. I’m willing to die on that hill. It’s the ridiculous story of a blind man (Pryor) and a deaf man (Wilder) who become friends and are embroiled in a murder case. Japes follow. Many, many japes. I know it’s not clever (except when it is) or sophisticated, but there’s just something about these two actors playing equally bemused characters getting into stupid situations and causing chaos for everyone they meet that I find endlessly hilarious and endearing.

5: Licence To Kill (US/UK)

It’s a shame Dalton didn’t get to squeeze in one more Bond film before Brosnan took over – he’s probably the best actor to ever wield the PPK, and he took the series in an interesting direction. This is a better film overall than The Living Daylights, and you feel Dalton was just hitting his stride. It was the most grisly and dark Bond film upon release, bolstered by two slimy performances by Benicio Del Toro and Robert Davi and has one of the series most exhilarating finales.

4: Pet Sematary (US)

Speaking of grisly, Mary Lambert brought Stephen King’s darkest and most upsetting novel to the big screen, not shying away from the horrors of death, grief, and resurrection. Interestingly, it’s the supporting cast who steal the limelight from the two leads – Fred Gwynne iconic as Jud, and Miko Hughes on Oscar worthy form as the ill fated Gage. In case you’re unaware of the story, it follows a family moving to rural Maine, their farmhouse on the side of a particularly busy road, and how they cope with first the loss of the family pet and then something far more devastating. It turns out that an ancient burial ground behind the house as the power of resurrection… but sometimes dead is better. It doesn’t match the sheer bleak emotional power of the novel, but it gets closer to the bone than most horror movies, and there isn’t a shred of light to be found anywhere.

3: Back To The Future Part II  (US)

It’s not as good as the first, but it’s damn close. It does that second act thing which annoys me in most films, of having the main character fall out with his friends/go down a darker path – this all takes place in the alternate boss Biff future, but aside from that minor personal thing it’s a wonderful adventure. The cast is back to together, the story and sets all blend seamlessly with Part 1, and every single performer is at the top of their game. I love all the hoverboard and 3D shark action, plenty of jokes and humour, and it’s all done in such a way that viewers of any age can enjoy it. They don’t make them like this anymore.

2: Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure (US)

There’s something more pure and original and fun about this first Bill & Ted movie which the second one lacks somewhat. I love them both, but this is the superior outing. Hell, it even has a sequence in a waterpark, what’s not to love. It’s quotable, the supporting cast and characters are fun Reeves and Winter and Carlin are most excellent, and the story is shamelessly silly – two aspiring musicians and otherwise no hopers are thrust back in time in order to learn about history so that they can pass history class. If they don’t, the very future of mankind is under threat. To Metal and Grunge fan younger me, this was my Gospel.

1: Batman (US)

It’s in my Top Movies Of The 80s post.

Let us know your favourite movies of 1989 in the comments!

Tell it like it is!

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