When Harry Met Sally…
There may be romantic comedies that are more appealing, but this Nora Ephron classic was the one that set the bar for the contemporary rom com. To be honest, I never actually cared whether Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) get together in the end. What makes this movie work instead is the writing—sharp, incisive and relatable. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny this as one of the classic scripts of modern American cinema.
Hated the ending, loved everything else.
Long before we knew who Nicole Kidman was, she was in this little Australian movie set in the middle of the ocean and it is one of my all-time favorite thrillers. Not because of her, and not even because of Sam Neill, her costar who acts circles around her, but because of director Philip Noyce’s taut scenes and suspense that builds layer by layer. The real star, though, is the setting and Dean Semler’s cinematography. I guarantee you a sailboat will never look the same way again.
The ‘80s were becoming the ‘90s and John Hughes movies were becoming Cameron Crowe movies. A new generation brought a new voice and it was emotional perfection. And, in John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler, a new anti-hero was born.
Sorry, but I love this movie. It’s the one Spielberg movie I bet he’d love to forget, but I’ll stand by it, cheesy hokiness and all. Holly Hunter and Richard Dreyfus were the stunted-growth Bogey & Bacall and Douglas & Turner, they just didn’t always have the best scripts to work with. Still, between their chemistry and charm and Spielberg’s ability to turn schmaltz into gold, Always is the perfect movie for a hopeless romantic like me. I seem to be out here alone on this one, but the heart loves what the heart loves.
Roger & Me
I’m probably not the first or only one to say this was the movie that got them interested in documentaries. Before this Michael Moore classic, documentaries were those boring black-and-white films they showed us in social studies class. But here was this dorky white guy showing us modern America and dared to suggest it is corrupt. Corporate greed? Moore was banging that drum long before it was trendy to do so.
Ok, you know that part where I apologized for my hokey and cheesy Always pick? Well, if you didn’t disown me then, you will now. There must have been something in the water when I was 19, because these sappy romances really hit a chord with me. Looking back on it, this is really a bad movie, but I was so enamored by the actors, including Robert Downey, Jr, Mary Stuart Masterson, Cybill Shepard and Ryan O’Neill that I just ignored all that. It is sweet and corny and, apparently, I liked my movies that way in 1989.
War of the Roses
And then there’s the opposite of corny. You know how a batter strikes out 3 times during a game but then hits the walkoff home run in the bottom of the ninth and all is forgiven? I feel War of the Roses should make up for all of my previous sappy movie picks. This black comedy is pure genius, from the writing to the absolutely brilliant performances by Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas. One of my all-time favorites.
Uh oh, I may have lost you again. Just when War of the Roses was starting to repair my damaged reputation, I take another sledgehammer to it with the inclusion of this total fluff piece starring the world’s most successful milquetoast actor, Ted Danson. And yet I will still say that I love this movie, which also stars Isabella Rossellini. It’s just so darn easy to watch, it’s the movie version of a milkshake: you hate yourself afterwards, but it’s just so delicious when you’re drinking it.
I will never apologize.
Dead Poets Society
I just eat this literary, old school, tragic stuff up. I can take or leave Robin Williams, it’s Peter Weir’s direction that makes this movie a classic.
John Hughes meets Tim Burton. Neither Christian Bale or Winona Ryder were ever as good again as they were in this dark comedy from Michael Lehmann. If you love Mean Girls, you must see Heathers, the first and the best movie about teenage girls and high school politics. Brilliant.
Trailer (I love this, with the original title, Lethal Attraction):
The Little Mermaid
Is this the first modern Disney animated movie to make my lists? Hard to believe. But what a charmer it is. Great music and songs, adorable characters, great animation—Pixar makes us take all this for granted now, but back then, it was a revelation.
Jessica Lange returned after a lackluster 1988 with Music Box, which garnered her third Best Actress Oscar nomination. This Costa-Gavras movie isn’t one of my favorites, but she still knocks it out of the park, as usual.
My Left Foot
What can you say when you witness the arrival of a genius? Daniel Day-Lewis arrived with a bang and this performance is truly one for the ages.
Steve Martin discovered a second career in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, playing sentimental dads and, guess what? He’s great at it. Great supporting cast, too.
The Movies That Should Have Mattered More:
I was underwhelmed.
Born on the 4th of July
Everything I hate about Tom Cruise is in this movie. And there’s a lot I hate about Tom Cruise.
Do the Right Thing
I need to see it again, because it was lost on me.
Driving Miss Daisy
The Fabulous Baker Boys
Shouldn’t I remember something about this movie besides Michelle Pfeiffer on a piano?
Field of Dreams
Ok, this does not mean I didn’t like this movie, it just means that I didn’t think it was the be-all, end-all of baseball (nee sports) movies that many people do.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Third time was not the charm.
License to Kill
Worst. Bond. Ever.
I know so many people who LOVE this movie, I wonder what’s wrong with me.
sex, lies and videotape
Thank you for ushering in the new age of independent cinema, but I still don’t understand you.
The Movies that Might Have Mattered, But I Missed:
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Enemies, A Love Story
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Oscar Winners of 1989:
Best Picture: Driving Miss Daisy
Best Director: Oliver Stone – Born on the Fourth of July
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis – My Left Foot
Best Actress: Jessica Tandy – Driving Miss Daisy
Best Supporting Actor: Denzel Washington – Glory
Best Supporting Actress: Brenda Fricker – My Left Foot