Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1989

Timeline of Greatest Film History Milestones and Turning Points
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The Year 1989
Year
Event and Significance
1989
The Sony Corporation of America purchased Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc. and Tri-Star Pictures from Coca-Cola for $3.4 billion, naming itself Sony Pictures Entertainment.
1989
Warner Communications merged with Time, Inc. in March of 1989, to form and become the largest media company in the world, Time Warner.
1989
After African-American film-maker Spike Lee's second feature School Daze (1988) - his major studio debut film, his third film Do the Right Thing (1989) brought him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and launched the director to the forefront of the filmmaking community. His film told of incendiary urban-racial violence and ethnic tensions on one hot summer day in a pizza parlor in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Lee and a new generation of other African-American film-makers and actors (John Singleton, Denzel Washington) were becoming 'mainstreamed' and more commonplace in the Hollywood film community.
1989
26 year-old writer and first-time feature film director Steven Soderbergh's voyeuristic sex, lies and videotape (1989), written in 8 days and filmed over five weeks on a budget of $1.2 million, was screened at the Sundance Film Festival where it became a huge hit - eventually grossing $50 million in worldwide box-office ($24.7 million in the US). This landmark 'independent film' won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. After being aggressively marketed by Miramax - which subsequently became known as the leading supplier of indie films - the independent (non-Hollywood) film movement gained strength during the 1990s.
1989
Director Richard Donner's buddy-cop sequel Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) was the 3rd highest grossing film domestically (at $147.3 million), behind Batman (1989) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). It reprised the main male lead roles of LAPD officers from the original film with natural and fresh rapport-and-bickering between them: Mel Gibson as Detective Martin Riggs, and Danny Glover as Detective Roger Murtaugh. Many reviewers rated this film as the best of the series, although it was both more violent (a surfboard decapitation, a container crate death, nail-gun deaths, lots of gunfights, a helicopter gunship attack on a trailer, neck-breaking, drowning, etc.), and had more profanity than the original.
1989
Octogenarian Jessica Tandy won the Best Actress award for her performance as wealthy, 72 year-old Atlanta resident and eccentric, cantankerous Jewish matron/matriarch Daisy Werthan in Driving Miss Daisy (1989). Tandy's win set a record at the time - she became the oldest performer (and nominee, at 80 years and 252 days old) to ever win a Best Actress Oscar. She was just three months away from her 81st birthday when she accepted the Oscar (at 80 years and 292 days old).
1989
A new generation of expensive computer-generated imagery (CGI) and graphics in the 1990s was heralded by the slinky, translucent water creature in James Cameron's big-budget The Abyss (1989).
1989
The highest-grossing (domestic) movie of the year was director Tim Burton's neo-gothic and dark Batman (1989), an adult version of a comic-book thriller, starring Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader and Jack Nicholson as The Joker. Comedic actor Michael Keaton's casting was originally criticized, but his performance was ultimately praised. It was released in mid-summer as a major 'event' film, and was hyped (with a large marketing budget) long before its release - a new trend, with various product tie-ins (i.e., Bat merchandise, such as Batmobiles, Batman miniskirts, etc.). It scored a record Hollywood opening weekend of $40.5 million, and ultimately made $251 million. It was then available as a video shortly after its theatrical release to add to its box-office take - influencing how future films would be marketed. During this growing blockbuster era, independent-minded Burton was one of the first directors to cross over to corporate Hollywood to make this film. Its dark vision of the caped crusader would signficantly shape the characters of other cinematic superheroes from now on.
1989
Jack Nicholson, portraying the Batman's arch-enemy the Joker in Tim Burton's comic-book blockbuster, took a stake in the film's profits (and merchandising). He reportedly netted $50 million as his personal take.
1989
The third film in the Indiana Jones film franchise, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), had a production budget of approximately $48 million. It grossed $197.2 million (domestic) and $474 million (worldwide), becoming the second highest-grossing (domestic) film of the year. Its opening day gross of over $11 million was the first time a film had made over $10 million on its first day. Its success was due to the pairing of Dr. Henry Jones Jr. (Indiana Jones) with his father Henry Jones Sr. (Sean Connery) in the search for the Holy Grail, while in conflict with the Nazis. It was originally the last film of the trilogy, but a fourth film with aging Harrison Ford finally appeared almost 20 years later, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). In the meantime, there were a number of derivative video games, and George Lucas' TV series titled The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992) focusing on the young 13 year-old Indiana Jones, portrayed in the film's prologue by River Phoenix.
1989
Although Morgan Freeman was first a dancer, stage actor and TV series performer, he established himself as an exceptional actor known for his authoritative and calm style, and narrated voice-overs. His breakthrough role was as chauffeur Hoke Colburn opposite Jessica Tandy in the Best Picture winning Driving Miss Daisy (1989), leading him to future starring roles in Glory (1989), Unforgiven (1992), The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and Se7en (1995), among others.
1989
One of the biggest and most unexpected hits of 1989 was Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989). To date, it was the highest grossing live-action Disney film, at $130.7 million (domestic), and was the 5th ranked film of the year. It led to two sequels, Honey I Blew Up the Kid (1992) and Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves (1997), and a TV series titled Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show (1997-2000).
1989
The cult classic and sci-fi fantasy Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) was mildly successful at $40.5 million of domestic box-office revenue (ranked 32nd in the films of 1989). The story was about two dumb SoCal teens, Bill and Ted (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves), who went on historical time travels through a miraculous phone-booth, to bring back personages including Napoleon, Socrates ("So Crates"), Lincoln, Billy the Kid, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, Beethoven, and Freud. Its release was followed by two TV series (a 1990-1991 animated TV series, and a short-lived live-action 1992 TV series), a video game: Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure (1991), and the successful sequel Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (1991).
1989
In the years before 1989, John Cusack's non-formulaic film career consisted of a hodgepodge of movies, such as his debut feature film Class (1983), The Sure Thing (1985), and Better Off Dead... (1985). However, it was his role as teen Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything... (1989) that established him as a successful romantic male lead, and he went on to star in more adult roles in The Grifters (1990), Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), Being John Malkovich (1999), High Fidelity (2000), and Serendipity (2001).
1989
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), the original series' fourth sequel, marked William Shatner's directorial debut film (after Leonard Nimoy had directed the two previous Star Trek films). It was the only Star Trek film to date that featured a pre-credits scene, and the only one to have the opening credits play over the action of the story rather than over a starfield. It was nominated for six Razzie Awards (with three wins): Worst Actor (Shatner), Worst Director, and Worst Picture. A writer's strike and a slashed budget for special effects results in a poorly-received film. However, it was financially successful at $52.2 million (domestic), and ranked 25th for the year.
1989
Disney's critically-acclaimed The Little Mermaid (1989) earned $84 million and revived animated films (contributing to the animation renaissance), especially for Disney Studios after the limited success of The Fox and the Hound (1981), The Black Cauldron (1985), The Great Mouse Detective (1986), and Oliver & Company (1988). It was the film that jump-started Disney's second golden age of animation, with its classic songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.
1989
Writer/director David Ward's R-rated underdog sports comedy Major League (1989) - with lots of foul language - was an attempt to follow up on the success of Paramount's baseball film Bull Durham (1988). The moderately-successful film told about misfits on the Cleveland Indians team, including catcher Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger), ace pitcher Ricky 'Wild Thing' Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), and third baseman Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen), who unpredictably began winning ball-games, much to the dismay of new "showgirl' team owner Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton). It led to two lesser sequels: Major League II (1994), and Major League: Back to the Minors (1998).
1989
The first full half-hour episode of Matt Groening's animated sitcom The Simpsons was shown on Fox-TV during prime time on December 17, 1989. The sketches had originally been developed as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987. The long-running show was also developed into a feature film, The Simpsons Movie (2007).
1989
Madonna's controversial Like a Prayer music video (with prominent burning crosses before which she danced) prompted Pepsi to drop her $5 million dollar two-minute commercial (titled "Make a Wish") and their sponsorship of her Blonde Ambition tour, due in part to protests from Catholic groups and other religious groups who threatened to boycott. Subsequently, Madonna won the Viewer's Choice Award at the MTV Music Awards show for her video.
1989
The old-fashioned romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally... (1989) with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, similar in theme to Woody Allen's Annie Hall (1977), re-established the fact that rom-coms (and 'chick-flicks') could be profitable ventures - a trend that continued into the 1990s decade with Pretty Woman (1990). It also asked the important late-1980s question of sexual politics: "Can two friends sleep together and still love each other in the morning?" Its timely film script by Nora Ephron popularized the notion of "high-maintenance and low-maintenance" women, and a "Harry-and-Sally relationship," and the film's conclusion presented marriage in a favorable light. During the 1990s, Meg Ryan followed up with a series of romantic leading roles in numerous films, including being paired opposite Tom Hanks in three films: Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and You've Got Mail (1998).
1989
Australian director Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society (1989) was in the top 10 of films in 1989 (at # 10 with domestic box-office revenue of $95.9 million). It was the first Touchstone Pictures release to receive a Best Picture nomination (it lost to Driving Miss Daisy (1989) - and it won only one Oscar, Best Original Screenplay. In the drama, Robin Williams starred as inspiring English teacher John Keating at Welton Academy prep school, who was noted as telling his students to bring back the Dead Poets Society, and urging them to: "Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary." The film was shot at St. Andrews, a private boarding school in Delaware. To honor Robin Williams following his suicidal death in 2014, words from the film were referenced: "O Captain! My Captain!"
1989
Bruce Willis was paid $10 million - the highest reported fee at the time for only a voice-over role (as wisecracking Baby Mikey), in the sleeper hit Look Who's Talking (1989). It was the 4th highest-ranked film of 1989, with $140 million (domestic) revenue.
1989
Back to the Future, Part II (1989) was a highly-successful sequel, and the 6th highest-ranking film of the year, at $118.5 million. It was shot back-to-back for release in two consecutive summers with the Part III sequel. It was both more somber and dark, and also left the viewer with a 'cliffhanger' ending. However, it had a very complex and sophisticated plot involving time-travel. It was the first film to accomplish interaction between the same actor on the screen as more than one character. Computer-controlled camera work, called VistaGlide, allowed three characters (all performed by one actor, Michael J. Fox) to match up and interact seamlessly in the same scene (the "instant pizza" dinner scene), through impressive split-screen photography. Actor Crispin Glover sued the filmmakers for using his likeness in the film without his permission. The case was settled out of court for $765,000 by Universal's insurance company to avoid a trial. The Screen Actors Guild subsequently introduced new rules about illicit use of actors.
1989
Maverick independent filmmaking pioneer John Cassavetes died at the age of 59 of cirrhosis of the liver. He was both an actor (known mostly for Shadows (1959), The Dirty Dozen (1967) (Cassavetes was nominated as Best Supporting Actor), and Rosemary's Baby (1968)) and as director (for Shadows (1959), Faces (1968), Husbands (1970), Minnie and Moskowitz (1971), A Woman Under the Influence (1974), The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), Opening Night (1977), Gloria (1980), Love Streams (1984) and Big Trouble (1986)). Many of his low-budget, unconventional films (anti-Hollywood and anti-establishment) were shot documentary style with hand-held cameras and natural lighting. His wife Gena Rowlands starred in several of his films, and received Best Actress nominations for her roles in his Best Director-nominated A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and Gloria (1980).
1989
The original title of this year's Bond film, Licence to Kill (1989) was Licence Revoked, causing some delay and confusion. It was the 16th film in the series, and the fifth and last Bond film directed by John Glen in the 1980s. It took six years until the next Bond film was issued (GoldenEye (1995) with new Bond actor Pierce Brosnan), for numerous reasons (including the fact that this was screenwriter Richard Maibaum's last Bond script before his death). It was also the last film for producer Albert R. Broccoli. This was the second and final Bond film for Timothy Dalton, who portrayed a much more hard-edged title character. It was one of the more violent and dark of the Bond films (with a number of gruesome deaths, including death by pressure chamber and via electric eel). It was the first Bond film to be rated higher than PG - it was given a PG-13 in the US. Some of the more grisly images were edited or cut (i.e., Krest's head-exploding death) to avoid an R-rating. In this film, Agent 007 uncharacteristically went rogue during a relentless pursuit of the drug lord villain Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), leading to Bond's suspension from MI6.
1989
A quintessential modern Christmas-time classic comedy, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) was filled with non-stop sight gags and one-liners as Clark (Chevy Chase) and the Griswold family attempted to have an old-fashioned Christmas celebration, including chopping down a Christmas tree and lighting the house. Written by John Hughes, this hilarious comedy ("Yule Crack Up") was the third of the National Lampoon Vacation series of films. It was the 15th highest-ranked film of the year, according to its domestic box-office revenue of $71.3 million. It was preceded by National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) and European Vacation (1985), and subsequent films included Vegas Vacation (1997) and the TV-movie spin-off Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure (2003).
1989
Animation voice actor and comedian Mel Blanc died at the age of 81 of heart disease and emphysema. During the Golden Age of animation at Warner Bros, he had been the 'voice' of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester and Tweety Bird, and Yosemite Sam, among others. In his latter days at Hanna-Barbera, he voiced the characters of Barney Rubble (The Flintstones) and Mr. Spacely (The Jetsons)
1989
The esteemed actor Laurence Olivier died - at the age of 82. His career was marked by great acclaim for his Shakespearean works and other acting triumphs (he was considered the greatest English-speaking actor of the 20th century), such as his portrayal of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights (1939) and as Maxim de Winter in Hitchcock's Best Picture winning Rebecca (1940). Low points included his participation in Inchon (1981) as General Douglas MacArthur. He was nominated for various Oscars 11 times, but only won once, Best Actor for his own Best Director-nominated Hamlet (1948). He was married to famous actress Vivien Leigh for over 20 years.
1989
Legendary actress Bette Davis, one of the greatest stars of all time, died at the age of 81 in France, of breast cancer. She won two Best Actress Oscars during her long career, for Dangerous (1935) and for Jezebel (1938). She became the first performer to acquire ten Academy Award acting nominations (from 1935 to 1962). Most of her early films were with Warners, after which she went free-lance. Her most notable films included: Of Human Bondage (1934), The Petrified Forest (1936), Marked Woman (1937), Dark Victory (1939), The Old Maid (1939), All This, and Heaven Too (1940), The Letter (1940), The Great Lie (1941), The Little Foxes (1941), Now, Voyager (1942), Mr. Skeffington (1944), All About Eve (1950), The Star (1952), and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).


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