Summer Movie Memories: 1989

Behold, the summer movie blockbuster season is upon us. This year it may look a little different because the world has not been quite itself for the past year. But make no mistake, we are in the thick of it, traditionally the biggest season of the year for Hollywood box office. A long time ago in what seems like a galaxy far far away Hollywood took the summer off.  That is no longer the case, in fact it is quite the opposite. In Part 1 we looked at the movie that got the ball rolling on the summer movie season, Jaws (here). In this edition we will take a look back at a couple of memorable summers at the box office. First up: 1989.

Since it’s the summer and no one has time to read about every movie that came out that year we’ve broken the box office down to a few categories which will include the best movie of the summer, movies that won Oscars, flops and any popular kid’s movies. So, without further ado let’s head back to 1989…

Summer Action: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Abyss, Stark Trek V, Lethal Weapon 2 and Batman were the top action movies that summer and cashed in big at the box office. Star Trek V became the highest grossing film in the series at that point. The Abyss was a solid sci-fi thriller for Director James Cameron who was starting to find his groove in Hollywood. 

Surprise Summer Hit: When Harry Met Sally. This movie was Meg Ryan’s first leading role opposite Billy Crystal and she delivered. The film made Ryan a star, raised Crystal’s profile, is considered one of the top romantic comedy movies of all-time and gave us one of the most memorable scenes in all of film. Honorable mention – Weekend at Bernie’s

Summer Flop:  There were several sequels released in the hot summer months of 1989. A few worked but most didn’t and the one that totally fell flat was Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. The Friday the 13th franchise was hoping Part VIII would fare better than Part VIII by taking Jason somewhere beyond Crystal Lake but the whole film feels more like satire than horror. It also didn’t help that most of the film doesn’t take place in New York City and was also mostly shot in Canada. 

Something For The Kids: Back in the 80s children’s movies at the theater were few and far between which is why Disney was a parent’s best friend. Fortunately, they put out two solid films: Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and they re-released the classic Peter Pan. Disney was still a few years away from cranking up the production in the animation department. Depending on your age  Honey, I Shrunk The Kids may have been a little tough to stomach while Peter Pan was full of fun adventure kids of all ages enjoyed!

The Summer Belonged To……… Batman. The highest grossing film of the summer seemed like an unlikely candidate to be a big hit at first. Critics were skeptical about Michael Keaton as Batman and Tim Burton directing. They were all proven wrong. Keaton gave a stellar performance that was complemented by Jack Nicholson as Joker. Batman became a film people lined up around the corner to see in theaters. This also could have gone in the ‘Surprise Summer Hit’ category. Burton helped set the tone for the Batman franchise and the film helped lay the groundwork for comic book superheroes on the big screen. 

Oscar Buzz: Batman won an Oscar for Best Art Direction and was among several summer films that got the attention of The Academy. The Abyss also received an Oscar for Best Visual Effects. Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing received two Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay. When Harry Met Sally also received a Best Original Screenplay nomination. Dead Poets Society ended up winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.


There’s a recap of the summer of 1989 at the box office. Our next installment will take us into the 90s and the summer of 1994. Stay tuned for more summer memories!


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Written by Andy Mattison

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