Movies of the P2B Generation: 1989

One thing we at Place to Be Nation like to celebrate is the subjectivity inherent in entertainment — be it in wrestling, comics, music, television or, indeed, film. With that in mind, ten members of the PTBN staff will be picking the movies of the PTB generation. In this series, panel members will collect their five favorite films of each year, beginning with the year in which the oldest writer was born — 1976. The only rule given to each contributor was to provide his or her own criteria. Some writers may go with the most artistic films, while others might side with the most iconic blockbusters. We welcome your lists on Facebook and Twitter. Each staff member has submitted a list of five movies from 1989 ranked 1 through 5. A first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place vote worth four points, and so on. Using that point system, we have identified the top 5 movies of 1989.

1989 featured a tight battle between the third installment of a classic action-adventure franchise and Bruce Wayne’s return to the big screen . But before we reveal the top 5, let’s see the movies that received votes, but fell short of making our final list.

Honorable Mentions

Christmas Vacation led all honorable mentions in 1990 with 9 points -- a first-place vote and a second-place vote.
Christmas Vacation led all honorable mentions in 1990 with 9 points — a first-place vote and a second-place vote.

Christmas Vacation — 9 points

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure — 8 points

Lethal Weapon 2 — 5 points

Field of Dreams — 5 points

The Little Mermaid — 5 points

Dead Poets Society — 4 points

Say Anything… — 4 points

The Abyss — 3 points

Ghostbusters II — 3 points

My Left Foot — 3 points

Road House — 3 points

No Holds Barred — 2 points

All Dogs Go to Heaven — 2 points

Born on the Fourth of July — 2 points

Police Academy 6: City Under Siege — 1 point

sex, lies and videotape — 1 point

Vampire’s Kiss — 1 point

And now, let’s see the top 5 movies of 1990, as voted by the Place to Be Nation staff.


5. Major League

11 points, ranked by 5 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Anthony Estrada at No. 1

Andrew Woltman: There are films that are great. There are films that are garbage. Then there are films that accomplish what they set out to do, and do well enough to warrant a following. Enter Major League. From the man who wrote The Sting came this story of misfits who compromise the Cleveland Indians. It was his labor of love, showcasing his love of the city as you can tell from that Randy Newman opening sequence.

Ward assembled a cast of up and comers in the manner that Coppola did with The Outsiders, some who had hits and some new to the world. Charlie Sheen got to show off his comedy chops for the first time as Rick Vaughn, and it stuck so well, that he hardly ever strays out of the area to this day. We also got to see Tom Berenger’s first major post-Platoon role in which he plays the old time catcher still with some fuel left in him. But one of the biggest surprises was Wesley Snipes as Willie Mays Hayes. The hubris and over-zealousness in this golden footed rookie leads to some of the strongest comedy in the entire film.

It may be one of the more predictable sports movies of the 80’s, but it’s silly and and sporty with enough of what it needs to work.


4. Do the Right Thing

12 points, ranked by 3 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Andrew Riche and Steve Wille at No. 1

Steve Wille: In the late 1980’s, Spike Lee transformed from an independent filmmaker to a mainstream icon. Whereas many today might take this new found success and parlay it into a media-savvy path of fame and fortune, Lee doubled down, creating a film that deeply explored racial identity in his home of Brooklyn. Do the Right Thing features an ensemble cast portraying slice-of-life stories intertwined into the larger narrative of African-American feelings, interpersonal relationships and the racial tensions of 1980’s New York. Lee takes the lead role as Mookie, a pizza delivery man whose character allows the viewer to observe the individual scenarios as they build to a crescendo. At first, Mookie seems to be the calming force at the center of the film, but as the plots correlate, his own internal tension comes to a boiling point.

As I revisited this masterwork, many of the reviews rightly point out the film’s vivid colors and scenery. This palette and imagery adds greatly to the viewing experience, as does the incredible hip-hop soundtrack, anchored by the Hall of Fame artists Public Enemy. While many of Spike Lee’s future films can be described as engrossing or thought provoking, no other ever matches up to this powerful and entertaining movie.


3. Back to the Future Part II

14 points, ranked by 4 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler and Nick Duke at No. 2

Aaron George:  Where we’re going, we don’t need roads…

When this was said in 1985 a generation of children, adolescents and cats lost their collective shit. We had just been through a fantastic time travelling ride and we were thinking how could this get any better? Hoverboards. That’s how.

The follow up to the classic Robert Zemeckis film is nearly as much fun as the first and fulfils the promise made to finally go to the future. I’m telling you right now that if next year we don’t get all the things that were promised to us in this movie there’s going to be a full scale mutiny, and the starting point is going to be in my god damned back yard. I want the flying skateboards, the weird shoes, I want it all. I want to be able to wear that jacket that Marty does and not feel an ounce of shame.

I think the charm of these movies is that it really looks like everyone is having a blast making them. Michael J Fox is again great as Marty McFly, Christopher Lloyd is totally bearable as Doc Brown, and Elizabeth Shue is a fantastic as Jennifer, replacing the dead Claudia Wells. This movie though is all about Thomas F Wilson. (we all know what the f stands for) He is so good as Biff Tannen, and the story’s main plot of Biff creating a dystopian future where he is king really gives him room to shine.

This is just a fun movie with a great cast that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are much more complicated time travel movies and for the most part they are much worse time travel movies. I can always throw these on and they’re the type of thing I can’t wait to show my son. I do need to work on a better explanation for him as to why there’s a new Jennifer. She’s dead, while totally inaccurate, may scar him to the point where he’ll never want to watch these or listen to Sammy Hagar again.


2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

23 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler, Russell Sellers and Andrew Woltman at No. 1

Glenn Butler:  When it came time to make a third Indiana Jones movie, Steven Spielberg and company returned to basics. The Temple of Doom, while slightly underrated in my opinion (and Andrew’s), gained a reputation as the “off” Indiana Jones movie, so the third installment brought back many elements of Raiders that the previous movie had eschewed. Indy was once again facing off against the Nazis — he hates those guys. The MacGuffin that the characters were chasing was an object from the Western canon rather than an “exotic” Eastern artifact (and in fact this movie went even more mainstream, using the Christian Holy Grail rather than the strongly Jewish-identified Ark of the Covenant). Denholm Elliott and the great John Rhys-Davies would reprise their roles as Brody and Sallah to check the “plucky side character” boxes. Since nine years had passed since the making of Raiders, you could see this as an element of nostalgia easily known by anyone observing the oft-decried current cycle of regular reboots.

As part of this nostalgia, the movie opens with an extended sequence featuring River Phoenix as a young Indy, providing the origin story for everything from his treasure-hunting adventures, to his more serious interest in archaeology, to his issues with snakes, to his whip and hat. That opening sequence also introduces Sean Connery as Indy’s father; Sean Connery, as an actor, brings a great deal of warmth, gravitas, humanity, and humor to the movie, which are coincidentally Harrison Ford’s strengths in this series as well, and it is their chemistry that really makes the film sing. It may be cliché to pair your dashing action hero with a character unfit for action heroics for the sake of jokes & goofs (and to get your action hero into a few more tight spots), but the deft writing of the Jones’ estrangement and Ford and Connery’s chemistry make the suspension of disbelief easy for the duration of the requisite globe-trotting adventure, from the rat-infested catacombs of Venice and the Canyon of the Crescent Moon all the way to a Berlin book-burning party and into the hands of Der Führer.

(Incidentally, the globe-trotting nature of the movie does invite some thoughts on the imperialist nature of the Crusades, and the colonialist implications of two different groups of Europeans (and European-descended people) converging on a site in the Middle East to extract artifacts from it. But these things are somewhat orthogonal to the film itself.)

While many parts of The Last Crusade are reminiscent of Raiders, including the return to an artifact better known to Western audiences, the role of that artifact is slightly different. The Ark of the Covenant was presented almost as a mystical horror, an alien artifact from the old world, dominion of a vengeful god who will take the lives of any mortal who dares look upon it. Even the theme John Williams wrote for it inspires a feeling of mythic horror. The Sankara Stones in The Temple of Doom don’t carry quite as much dread, and the villagers certainly place their faith in them, but they too have a will of their own, one that is not entirely within human understanding. The Last Crusade, in contrast, humanizes the Grail somewhat. It’s represented by a knight who represents himself with equal parts authority and humility, a stereotype of medieval chivalry. The trial that leads to the Grail isn’t just a maze and a mystery, it’s also a test of character and a literal leap of faith. The Grail itself does not even kill Donovan; he dies for the grievous sin of selecting too ornate a goblet, a crime we would all be advised to avoid (actually, as in so many morality tales, he’s killed by his own hubris, but we’re dealing with symbolism here). Unlike the MacGuffins in the previous two movies, the Grail itself only brings life. The path is different, but the overall lesson is the same: comport yourself with virtue and wisdom, and you will be refreshed; give in to greed, and you have chosen poorly.


1. Batman

29 points, ranked by 8 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke at No. 1

Nick Duke: It’s hard to put into words just how important the 1989 Batman is to me, both personally and as a Batfan. I’ll start with its importance to the fandom at large. Before 1989, the general public’s mental image of Batman was that of Adam West doing the Batusi and beating up bad guys to colorful “Biff! Pow! Zocko!” exclamations. Pretty much every time a newspaper has run a story about comic books and used one of those words in the headline, you have Adam West to blame. And while I’m a pretty big fan of the 60s take on the character, it was vital for the character to be redefined in the minds of the public if Batman was ever going to ascend the pop culture mountain once again.

Well, in the wake of Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns, the decision was made to give the character a more serious angle in his return to the big screen. Enter Tim Burton, who brought his eerie sensibilities to Gotham City, making Batman and his surroundings feel all too, well, gothic. But the movie isn’t remembered just for its tone and scenery. Of course, there’s Danny Elfman’s iconic score that we all know and love.

Then there are the performances. Michael Keaton brings a quirky everyman quality to Bruce Wayne that no other actor has brought to the character. His Batman started the “gruff voice” trend, although he never veered into Christian Bale “hockey pads” territory. Keaton’s casting was met with jeers and laughs by fans, but he ultimately proved himself a more than capable Caped Crusader.

But, let’s be honest here. It isn’t Michael Keaton’s movie. Sure, he plays the title character, but from his first scene, Jack Nicholson completely steals the show. His turn as Jack Napier/The Joker is endlessly quotable (Bob, gun.) and he brought a manic energy that perfectly captured the essence of the comic book version of The Joker at the time. He……was the number one….guy.

The movie was a smash hit, thrusting Batman back into the pop culture spotlight and introducing generations of fans to a darker, more brooding Batman. For me personally, it introduced me to a whole other side of Batman that I never knew existed. It quickly became one of those VHS cassettes that my parents grew tired of rewinding for me. Over the years, Batman films have continued to come, and while there may have been a few that were of equal or higher quality, none have been as important.

That does it for 1989. To see the full breakdown of all 10 ballots, click here. Check back soon to see the staff’s top 5 movies of 1990!