Best Movies of 1989

10. DRIVING MISS DAISY

Driving Miss Daisy

49 LISTS | 2 TOP SPOTS
Bruce Beresford | 99 mins | Drama
Morgan Freeman | Jessica Tandy | Dan Akroyd | Patti LuPone

“Daisy, a Jewish widow in her 70s, is a perfectionist who is demanding, prejudiced and can no longer drive her car without running over the occasional hedge. Hoke, a black widower in his 60s, begins to chauffeur the irascible woman despite a warning from the family maid: “I wouldn’t be in your shoes if the sweet Jesus came down and asked me Himself.” What happens between Hoke and Miss Daisy passes from tolerance to understanding to friendship to a kind of love. What transpires between Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy, under the direction of Bruce Beresford, is pure movie magic.” – Mike McGrady, Newsday

9. DRUGSTORE COWBOY

Drugstore Cowboy

47 LISTS | 1 TOP SPOT
Gus Van Sant | 101 mins | Crime/Drama
Matt Dillon | Kelly Lynch | James Le Gros | Heather Graham

“With his second feature film, director Gus Van Sant has established a distinctive voice, blending a bottomed-out irony and a surreptitious romanticism. Matt Dillon, in the career revival of the decade, plays a highly competent professional junkie, whose job it is to empty the opiate drawers of pharmacies up and down the Pacific coast. Van Sant gets tremendous comic mileage out of the contrast between his hero’s nihilist values and his middle-class work ethic, while perceiving something almost saintly in his strange moral purity.” – Dave Kehr, Chicago Tribune

8. HENRY V

Henry V

56 LISTS | 1 TOP SPOT
Kenneth Branagh | 137 mins | Action/Biography/Drama
Kenneth Branagh | Derek Jacobi | Simon Shepherd | James Larkin

“Irish director Kenneth Branagh breaks down the imposing walls of high art and makes a movie out of Shakespeare, with this alert, rousing interpretation invasion of Agincourt. As the boy who would be king, for whom vanquishing the overwhelming French is a royal coming-of-age, Branagh is boyishly stirring. Certainly the “script” requires that its characters gab in long takes but, in Branagh’s hands and those of his fellow performers, the line readings become the utterances of living, breathing people. It’s a triumphant fusion of art and entertainment.” – Desson Howe, The Washington Post

7. MY LEFT FOOT

My Left Foot

58 LISTS | 2 TOP SPOTS
Jim Sheridan | 103 mins | Biography/Drama
Daniel Day-Lewis | Brenda Fricker | Alison Whelan | Kirsten Sheridan

“If director Jim Sheridan had been even the least sentimental in his story of the Irish writer, painter and poet Christy Brown, who had only the use of one foot in a body given over to cerebral palsy, this might have been one of those treacly “triumph of the human spirit” cliches. Instead, it is a tight, tough-minded movie, blazing with grand performances, the most remarkable of which is Daniel Day-Lewis’ as Christy-ribald, demanding and triumphant.” – Shelia Benson, Los Angeles Times

6. ROGER & ME

Roger and Me

56 LISTS | 4 TOP SPOTS
Michael Moore | 91 mins | Documentary
Michael Moore | Roger B. Smith | Rhonda Britton | Fred Ross

“Roger & Me, written and directed by Michael Moore. An hilarious yet angry “documentary” about one working man’s search for an interview with former General Motors Chairman Roger Smith. Michael Moore, who raised money for the movie in part from bingo games, hails from Flint, Mich., where thousands of GM workers were fired by Smith when GM closed its plants there. The film shows us the resulting physical devastation of the town-it looks bombed-out-as well as its ridiculous plans to turn itself into a tourist center. Moore has a fine eye for the absurd, the racist, and the vulgar, and his cheery good will as he pursues the “evil” Smith is the well-established populist tradition of American movies.” – Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

5. THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS

The Fabulous Baker Boys

55 LISTS | 2 TOP SPOTS
Steve Kloves | 114 mins | Comedy/Drama/Music
Jeff Bridges | Michelle Pfeiffer | Beau Bridges | Ellie Raab

“Smoky, smoldering comedy-drama directed by newcomer Steve Kloves, who percolates an old-time plot with new twists, crisp dialogue and outstanding performances. Jeff Bridges comes fully into his own in this one, as does Michelle Pfeiffer. Beau Bridges hasn’t been this nicely served by a movie since his callow youth days.” – Philip Wuntch, Dallas Morning News

4. FIELD OF DREAMS

Field of Dreams

66 LISTS | 8 TOP SPOTS
Phil Alden Robinson | 107 mins | Drama/Family/Fantasy
Kevin Costner | James Earl Jones | Ray Liotta | Amy Madigan

“This cozy tale with a wonderful cast (James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Amy Madigan) showed why baseball is America’s favorite pastime and why Kevin Costner-watching is fast becoming American women’s favorite pastime.” – Paul Willistein, Morning Call

3. CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS

Crimes and Misdemeanors

92 LISTS | 15 TOP SPOTS
Woody Allen | 104 mins | Comedy /Drama
Martin Landau | Woody Allen | Bill Bernstein | Claire Bloom

“Barnes considers this to be Woody Allen’s best; I prefer “Hannah and Her Sisters,” but that’s of another year. Still, writer Allen asks some interesting questions, more valid and penetrating than in his work of the last few years, and has created some superb characters. Director Allen has found wondrous performances in Martin Landau as a philandering ophthalmologist, Jerry Orbach as his mob-connected brother and Alan Alda as a self-important television producer, just to name a few. Actor Allen is again the lovable loser, but not quite so lovable this time around. The film is funny and also serious, and it’s a winner.” – Joe Pollack, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

2. SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE

sex, lies and videotape

95 LISTS | 9 TOP SPOTS
Steven Soderbergh | 100 mins | Drama
James Spader | Andie MacDowell | Peter Gallagher | Laura San Giacomo

“sex, lies, and videotape is a four-sided triangle: Ann and John are a married couple in their late 20s; she’s sexually repressed, and he’s having an affair; Cynthia is Ann’s sister who is not sexually repressed and is looking for ways to yank her sister’s chain; and Graham is John’s college chum, an odd drifter who arrives with a box full of videotapes he’s crossed the country collecting in which women relate to him and to his camera their sexual experiences. Writer-director Steven Soderberg, 26, doesn’t let us know how he feels about his characters, and the film seems chilly. It doesn’t end as well as it begins. But it’s funny and wry and exquisitely modulated. It’s less about sex than eroticism.
The film moves at least 40 percent more slowly than the mainstream American film, yet you won’t remember a single moment of boredom. Soderberg takes time for the characters to think about what they’re going to say before they say it. Like Harold Pinter, Soderberg hears fluency in the spaces between the words. Fine cast: James Spader, Andie MacDowell, Peter Gallagher and Laura San Giacomo.” – Jeff Millar, Houston Chronicle

1. DO THE RIGHT THING

Do the Right Thing

106 LISTS | 20 TOP SPOTS
Spike Lee | 120 mins | Comedy/Drama
Danny Aiello | Ossie Davis | Ruby Dee | Richard Edson

“Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” encouraged people to decide for themselves what the right thing was, since it provided no easy solution. Telling the story of one hot day in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of New York, it tracks up and down one city block that acted as a microcosm for big American cities. Once this was an Italian neighborhood. Now it is black and Hispanic. Only one Italian business remains–Sal’s Famous Pizzeria, which has been serving pizzas to the locals for years. Behind the counter is Sal, played by Danny Aiello in one of the year’s best performances. The people of the street are exhausted by the heat, but Lee’s camera is tireless, as it establishes relationships and realities, until we know these people as well as their neighbors do. We begin to understand the underlying tensions on the street, and by the time a race riot breaks out, we know everybody who is involved, and it’s up to us to decide why they did what they did. Some audiences were bothered because one of the key acts of violence in the film (throwing a garbage can through the window of Sal’s) was committed by the black character everybody liked the most–Mookie, played by Lee himself. Why did Mookie do it? Because Lee didn’t want to let audiences off the hook by assigning that act to one of the angrier local residents. He forced us to confront the strength and depth of the feelings between the races. (Spike Lee delighted in pointing out on talk shows that the destruction of Sal’s window bothered some viewers more than the death of a black teenager, which also occurs in the film.) “Do the Right Thing” the year’s most controversial film. Some critics predicted hysterically that it would cause trouble. Others felt the message was confused. Some found it too militant, others found it the work of a middle-class director who was trying to play street-smart. All of those reactions were simply different ways of avoiding the central fact of this film, which is that it comes closer to reflecting the current state of race relations in America than any other movie of our time.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Full List:

RFilmL#1ARL%#1%TCLTCL1TCL%TCL1%
1Do the Right Thing106203.4669%20%481164%22%
2sex, lies, and videotape9594.1862%9%44259%4%
3Crimes and Misdemeanors92153.8459%15%41555%10%
4Field of Dreams6684.5043%8%25333%6%
5The Fabulous Baker Boys5525.1636%2%27036%0%
6Roger & Me5645.0635%4%42356%6%
7My Left Foot5826.3035%2%31141%2%
8Henry V5614.9633%1%27036%0%
9Drugstore Cowboy4714.9330%1%26035%0%
10Driving Miss Daisy4925.1429%2%27136%2%
11Born on the Fourth of July4865.5629%6%26435%8%
12The Little Mermaid4415.3629%1%22029%0%
13When Harry Met Sally3925.4225%2%16221%4%
14Batman3904.3325%0%12016%0%
15Enemies, A Love Story3825.9524%2%27236%4%
16Glory3506.4320%0%15020%0%
17Say Anything2806.6218%0%12016%0%
17Heathers2807.6018%0%14019%0%
19High Hopes2817.3818%1%10013%0%
20Casualties of War2735.0018%3%13217%4%
21Dead Poets Society2704.1418%0%10013%0%
22Parenthood2506.6416%0%8011%0%
23Distant Voices, Still Lives2567.6416%6%12316%6%
24Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade2406.7916%0%8011%0%
25Story of Women2405.6015%0%16021%0%
26The Bear2205.4014%0%11015%0%
27The War of the Roses2118.1314%1%9112%2%
28The Adventures of Baron Munchausen2005.6713%0%11015%0%
29Mystery Train1305.678%0%8011%0%
30In Country1205.438%0%203%0%
30A Dry White Season1204.008%0%608%0%
32Steel Magnolias1125.867%2%507%0%
33Scandal1117.757%1%719%2%
34Let's Get Lost1118.677%1%8111%2%
35True Believer1007.506%0%203%0%
36Music Box1008.756%0%405%0%

Lists Included 154 | Top Critics’ Lists Included 75

R Rank
L Total number of lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
AR Average position on ranked top 10 lists
#1 Total number of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year
L% Percentage of total lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
#1% Percentage of mentions where the film was selected as the best film of the year
TCL Number of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1 Number of times that the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL% Percentage of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1% Percentage of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists

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