Summer 1989: The Top 10 Hits and More

In what has become tradition on this little blog of mine, the summer season brings us a lot of nostalgia on the silver screen. In the present, that means a slew of sequels and remakes and reboots coming on a near weekly basis. For these purposes, it means taking a look back on the movie summers of 30, 20, and 10 years ago.

As has been written in previous years, I’m listing the top ten hits as well as other notable pics and some flops. One thing is for sure about 1989. It will forever be known as the summer of the Batman and that blockbuster influenced what has become the predominant genre of the 21st century.

A recap of 1999 and 2009 will follow soon, but we start with what audiences were watching three decades ago.

10. Uncle Buck

Domestic Gross: $66 million

John Candy had one of his most notable headlining roles in this John Hughes family friendly comedy that also introduced the world to Macaulay Culkin. No sequel followed, but a short-lived TV series did.

9. Turner & Hooch

Domestic Gross: $71 million

Shortly before Tom Hanks started collecting Oscars and doing primarily dramatic work, he was still known for comedy in the late 80s. This one teamed him with a dog in a buddy comedy that followed the similarly themed with K9 with Jim Belushi from three months earlier. This one made a bit more cash.

8. When Harry Met Sally

Domestic Gross: $92 million

Rob Reiner’s romantic comedy (scripted by Nora Ephron) is considered one of the genre’s landmarks. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan headlined with a diner scene that has become quite iconic.

7. Dead Poets Society

Domestic Gross: $95 million

Robin Williams seized the day and an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of an unorthodox English teacher in Peter Weir’s film, which also nabbed a nod for Best Picture.

6. Parenthood

Domestic Gross: $100 million

Ron Howard’s dramedy sported an ensemble cast with Steve Martin and a crowd pleasing vibe. This is a rare pic that spawned two TV shows. The one from 1990 flopped while the 2010 version ran six seasons. Parenthood marks appearance #1 in the top ten for Rick Moranis.

5. Ghostbusters II

Domestic Gross: $112 million

The eagerly awaited sequel to the 1984 phenomenon was a disappointment critically and commercially when considering the original’s $229 million haul. That said, it gives us appearance #2 for Rick Moranis. A direct sequel will follow in 2020.

4. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Domestic Gross: $130 million

And we reach the trifecta for Rick Moranis as Disney had an unexpected smash hit here. It stood as the studio’s largest grossing live-action feature for five years. Two less successful sequels followed.

3. Lethal Weapon 2

Domestic Gross: $147 million

Of the four action comedy pairings of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, part 2 stands as the franchise’s top earner. This one threw Joe Pesci into the mix with sequels that followed in 1992 and 1998.

2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Domestic Gross: $197 million

While Harrison Ford’s third appearance as his iconic character didn’t match the grosses of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, it did earn more than 1984 predecessor Temple of Doom. Pairing Indy with his dad played by Sean Connery, the character wouldn’t make it to the screen again until Steven Spielberg and Ford teamed up again 19 years later.

1. Batman

Domestic Gross: $251 million

As mentioned, 1989 was dominated by Tim Burton’s take on the Caped Crusader. While the casting of Michael Keaton in the title role was controversial upon announcement, it turned out quite well (as did Jack Nicholson’s turn as The Joker and a funky Prince soundtrack). Three sequels and multiple reboots followed.

And now for some notable pictures outside of the top ten:

The Abyss

Domestic Gross: $54 million

James Cameron was riding a high after The Terminator and Aliens when he made this sci-fi aquatic adventure. Known just as much for its difficult production as its Oscar winning visuals, it had a mixed reaction that has grown more positive through the years.

Weekend at Bernie’s

Domestic Gross: $30 million

Turns out corpses are hilarious in this low budget comedy that turned into enough of a hit that a sequel followed four summers later.

Road House

Domestic Gross: $30 million

It may not have had critics on its side or been a huge success originally, but Patrick Swayze’s turn as a midwestern bouncer became a serious cult hit subsequently.

Do the Right Thing

Domestic Gross: $27 million

A cultural milestone, Do the Right Thing served as the major breakout for Spike Lee and was named by numerous critics as the greatest film of 1989.

sex, lies, and videotape

Domestic Gross: $24 million

Winning the Cannes Film Festival, Steven Soderbergh’s provocative debut helped usher in a wave of independent films that followed in the 90s.

It wasn’t all success stories in the summer of 1989 and here’s some that failed to meet expectations:

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Domestic Gross: $52 million

Captain Kirk himself directed this installment after Leonard Nimoy made its two well received predecessors. This one was met with ambivalence and stands at the second lowest earner of this particular Trek franchise.

The Karate Kid Part III

Domestic Gross: $38 million

In 1984, the original made $90 million and the 1986 sequel made $115 million. Three summers later, moviegoers had tired of Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita in their signature roles. Yet TV watchers are currently tuned to a series reboot with Macchio back as Daniel.

Licence to Kill

Domestic Gross: $34 million

Timothy Dalton’s second turn as 007 was a stateside flop and is the lowest grossing Bond flick when adjusted for inflation. Its star would never return in the role and the six year gap that followed when Pierce Brosnan reinvigorated the series with Goldeneye stands as the lengthiest gap in its near 60 years of existence.

Lock Up

Domestic Gross: $22 million

Sylvester Stallone had plenty of hits during the decade, but this one casting him as a tortured convict wasn’t one of them.

Casualties of War

Domestic Gross: $18 million

Brian de Palma was coming off a massive hit with The Untouchables, but this Vietnam War drama with Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn didn’t find an audience.

Pink Cadillac

Domestic Gross: $12 million

Three summers later, Clint Eastwood entered Oscar territory with Unforgiven. This action comedy with Bernadette Peters is one of his forgotten efforts and stalled with critics and crowds.

I hope you enjoyed this look back on the 1989 summer period and I’ll have 1999 up soon!

Summer 1987: The Top 10 Hits and More

As we begin the month of August and the dog days of summer, I’ll be traveling back 30, 20, and 10 years ago to seasons past giving you the top ten hits and more of that particular time frame. Today we are going all the way to 1987.

It was a simpler time back then. There were very few sequels and franchises and reboots and a good portion of the highest grossing flicks dealt with law enforcement in action type settings. Only one picture grossed over $100 million dollars. Yes, the times have changed, but what a hoot to look back at what was burning up the box office charts three decades ago. This post will also discuss some other notable flicks outside the top ten and some big ole flops.

Let’s get to it!

10. The Living Daylights

Domestic Gross: $51 million

The 15th James Bond picture kicked off the brief two picture reign of Timothy Dalton, who took over the iconic role after the late Roger Moore’s 12 year long portrayal of 007. It’s $51M gross would just surpass the $50M earnings of Moore’s swan song, 1985’s A View to a Kill. Two summers later, Dalton would star in his swan song Licence to Kill before Pierce Brosnan donned the tuxedo six years later.

9. Robocop

Domestic Gross: $53 million

Paul Verhoeven’s futuristic sci-fi action thriller nearly received the dreaded X rating upon its release. It also received critical acclaim and spawned two sequels and a 2014 remake.

8. La Bamba

Domestic Gross: $54 million

This biopic of singer Ritchie Valens starring Lou Diamond Phillips was a major summer sleeper and even earned a Golden Globe nod for Best Picture (Drama). It also featured the Los Lobos cover of the title song that was in the top ten summer songs of 1987.

7. Dragnet

Domestic Gross: $57 million

A few years before Tom Hanks was earning back to back Best Actor Oscars, he was costarring in silly remakes of 1950s cop dramas. Dragnet managed to perform well and it’s a guilty pleasure, especially Dan Aykroyd’s take on Sgt. Joe Friday (a role made famous by Jack Webb).

6. Predator

Domestic Gross: $59 million

One of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s finest action pics, Predator also kicked off an impressive three picture directorial run by John McTiernan that was followed up by Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October. This franchise is still going strong today, but nothing beats the hard edged original.

5. Dirty Dancing

Domestic Gross: $63 million

The biggest sleeper hit of the summer vaulted Patrick Swayze into super stardom and won the Oscar for Best Original Song for Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’s “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”.

4. The Witches of Eastwick

Domestic Gross: $63 million

Mad Max maker George Miller went Hollywood with this critically appreciated comedic fantasy with an all-star cast of Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

3. Stakeout

Domestic Gross: $65 million

This was the height of the buddy cop era and it propelled this one starring Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez to big grosses. A less regarded sequel costarring Rosie O’Donnell would follow six years later.

2. The Untouchables

Domestic Gross: $76 million

Brian De Palma’s take on the classic TV series was a big-budget and highly entertaining affair headlined by Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Andy Garcia, and Sean Connery (who won a Supporting Actor Oscar for his work).

1. Beverly Hills Cop II

Domestic Gross: $153 million

Eddie Murphy was just about the biggest movie star in the world in summer 1987 and that’s shown here by the enormous gross of the sequel to his 1984 classic, directed by Tony Scott. A much less successful third entry would follow seven summers later after Murphy’s box office potency had waned.

And now – here’s some other notable pictures from the season:

Full Metal Jacket

Domestic Gross: $46 million

Legendary director Stanley Kubrick’s first film in seven years (since The Shining) is now considered a modern classic, especially for its unforgettable first half featuring R. Lee Ermey’s Vietnam drill sergeant.

Spaceballs

Domestic Gross: $38 million

This Mel Brooks spoof of Star Wars may not be in Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein territory, but it’s certainly earned quite a cult status through the last 30 years.

Adventures in Babysitting

Domestic Gross: $34 million

The directorial debut of Chris Columbus (who would go on to make Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire and the first two Harry Potter pics), Babysitting has also achieved cult cred in addition to its decent box office showing at the time.

The Lost Boys

Domestic Gross: $32 million

Another flick with a rabid fan base, the teen pic cast Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, and Corey Feldman in a California town overrun by vampires.

And now for a couple of 1987 summer box office bombs:

Jaws IV: The Revenge

Domestic Gross: $20 million

12 summers prior, Steven Spielberg’s original was a landmark motion picture. By the time the fourth entry came around, the series had gotten terrible. It still has a 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes and Michael Caine actually missed picking up his Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters because he was shooting this turkey.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Domestic Gross: $15 million

Not a solid summer for four-quels. This served as a bad ending to a series started nine years earlier. There was a moratorium on Supes pic for the next 19 years.

Ishtar

Domestic Gross: $14 million

Considered one of the largest bombs in film history at the time, this comedy with Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman was a punchline for years. Its reputation has grown a bit since.

And that’s my recap folks! I’ll be back recounting summer 1997 very soon…

In Defense of Timothy Dalton

When Spectre opens this weekend, it will mark the 24th official James Bond adventure and Daniel Craig’s fourth go round as the famed super agent. There is no doubt that Mr. Craig’s time as 007 has been a wildly successful venture and it’s brought the franchise to previously unseen billion dollar heights.

Regarding the general consensus of the six actors who’ve played Bond, the least regarded are typically George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton. Not so coincidentally, they’re the two thespians who played him the least. Lazenby played him just once in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and his mediocre work was crushed under the weight of Sean Connery comparisons, who was the only man at the time to have played him. The generally negative rap on Lazenby is one in which I agree.

With Dalton, it’s a different story in my view. When 1987 came around, it was clear that it was time for Roger Moore to call it a day. 1985’s A View to a Kill found Moore playing 007 at the advanced age of 57. It was a mostly rewarding 12 year run in the role, though the pics themselves varied considerably in quality. Enter Dalton, stepping into Bond’s designer shoes in his mid 40s. Ironically, it has since been revealed that Dalton was originally considered to replace Connery for Secret Service and that even the actor himself felt he was far too young at the time to do it.

The Living Daylights would be his first outing. Two years later, Licence to Kill would be his second and his final. Six years later, after MGM’s financial woes delayed production of new entries, Pierce Brosnan would take over with Goldeneye. And while Brosnan’s four picture time in the part is justifiably regarded as pretty strong, Dalton’s double effort is often not.

Yet when I made the daunting task of watching all 007 flicks in a row in late 2012 to early 2013, I ended that adventure by ranking my preferred Bonds from 1-23. And it turned out that both Daylights and Licence landed in the top ten. Not one Brosnan pic did. Daylights, which stands as a more traditional Bond experience, was 10th. Licence to Kill was 6th, just above the beloved Skyfall. That film  stands alone as less of a normal 007 movie and more of a hard edged late 80s action thriller popularized at the time by the likes of Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. So while 007 purists weren’t enthralled, I found Licence to work exceedingly well in the genre it was borrowing. I believe that it’s the most underrated motion picture of the entire franchise.

As for Dalton himself, he was perfectly serviceable as Bond and I would’ve been curious to see his evolution in a third or fourth entry. It was never to be, but if you re-watch his two performances, there are hints of the darker take on the character that audiences would celebrate with Daniel Craig.

So while many talk of the Timothy Dalton era as a forgettable one, my verdict is that it produced two of the top ten flicks among the 23. That’s not forgettable to me.