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  • Michael W. Rickard II

1989: The Year of the Blockbuster

Copyright 2019 by Michael W. Rickard II

While there have been some great years for films, I still have trouble recalling a blockbuster season as epic as the summer of 1989. Whether it was newcomers such as Batman or the latest sequels such as Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Ghostbusters II, Indiana Jone and the Last Crusade, or Back to the Future II, people who liked summer blockbusters had a lot to look forward to. While the films didn’t always deliver, it seemed like a great time to be a moviegoer. However, in hindsight, was 1989 everything it promised to be or was it another example of the studios promising everything and delivering nothing?

By 1989, Hollywood had established the summer as blockbuster season, a time when moviegoers checked their brains at the ticket window as they went to see big-budget films ranging from comedies to action films to science-fiction. Fans looking for something a bit cerebral always had an option, but the studios tended to pay them lip-service (although films such as Parenthood and Field of Dreams showed alternatives to summer blockbusters could be profitable). The film fields were ripe for the harvest and studios seemed to know what made them the most money during the year’s hottest months.

While I’m too lazy to see how many films were released in 1989 compared to other years, it seemed as if the studios were releasing one blockbuster after another as well as smaller-budget films they hoped might break out into the big leagues. For terms of this blog, I’m looking at films from roughly Memorial Day through September 21, 1989. 1989 featured many films now considered classics (such as Major League, Say Anything, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The War of the Roses, Always, Glory, Driving Miss Daisy, and others).

Just consider some of these films in addition to the ones already mentioned: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,The Karate Kid Part III, License to Kill, Lethal Weapon 2, Weekend at Bernie’s, Friday the 13th Part VIII, Jason Takes Manhattan, Lock-Up, The Abyss, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, No Holds Barred, Uncle Buck, Black Rain, Fright Night 2, and Kickboxer.

As you can see, it was a summer of sequels, franchises, and a few new films that would become franchises. Hollywood seemed determined to go for the easy money and in some cases, they proved right. In other cases, the various sequels began showing their age and fans wondered how much longer they might go on. Weekend at Bernie’s II showed that some films are better left alone (although it also showed Hollywood will always put out a sequel to a successful film, no matter how badly it ends up being) while Star Trek V demonstrated that a film’s subsequent sequel can make up for an uneven production (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is usually seen as one of the franchise’s best outings, unlike Star Trek V).

Of course, these were just a few of the films released around and during the summer of 1989, with some becoming classics and others fading into obscurity. Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at some of the best and some films that haven’t fared as well. If you grew up in 1989, you probably remember the seemingly endless wave of blockbusters, but you may have forgotten some of the gems that slipped through as well as some of the garbage.

What are some of your favorite films from 1989 as well as films you can’t stand? Be sure to leave your comments and check back for updates.

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