1989 was a seminal year for me and for my love of cinema. It's not surprising that all six of the movies I consider five-star pictures this year also appear on my list of 100 favorite films. 1989 was my last year of high school and my first year formally studying film; the last summer I lived at home in rural Massachusetts and the first Fall I lived in New York City. It was a year of indelible visits with old friends in Boston as well as a year of living in extreme isolation at the Vanderbilt YMCA on 47th St.—solitarily roaming the grey thoroughfares of a Manhattan that was slowly digging itself out of an economic depression—and discovering the many revival houses dotted around the city at the time.
Due to this combination of both overly familiar and brand new surroundings, my memories of seeing movies in 1989 seem to span far more than a single calendar year. It’s hard to reconcile that the same stretch of time when I saw Batman, Parenthood, Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams, Licence to Kill, and The Abyss in the suburban multiplexes of my youth, was the same period that I saw Sex Lies and Videotape, Crimes and Misdemeanors, The Big Picture, Driving Miss Daisy, Sea of Love, Harlem Nights, and The War of the Roses in theaters that were totally new to me in New York. I simultaneously have vivid memories of watching Say Anything, Great Balls of Fire, Skin Deep, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade over and over on VHS for what seems like the entire duration of my time in high school (though it couldn’t have been). And I’ll never forget seeing When Harry Met Sally, Drugstore Cowboy, Henry V, Mystery Train, The Little Mermaid, and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover during memorable weekend stints in Boston. Most significant was seeing Do The Right Thing, which I went to eight times during its initial release—in my hometown, in Boston, and in several New York theaters. For someone dreaming of one day making his own movies, having such a personal and powerful picture playing in theaters all around was electric.
So while I can’t claim 1989 was one of the greatest years in cinema, it remains a milestone year for me, imprinted and distinguished by the movies I saw.