Pop Culture In Review for the Year 1989

The last year of the 1980s decade saw some very important events. There were some very memorable movies in both the live-action and animated categories. At the same time, the political scene was also rife with vital events that shaped the future. Here’s a brief look at several of the most major occurrences in 1989.


The Year of Sequels

1989 saw several sequels made and released to the public. Most of these were based on highly popular movies that had already seen box office success in 1989. Some of the most iconic titles in the sequel category for this year include ‘Lethal Weapon 2′, Back to the Future II’, ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ and ‘Ghostbusters 2’.

Besides a sequel, Ghostbusters also received a spin-off animated show titled “The Real Ghostbusters,” which first aired in 1986. The show was accompanied by a line of action figures and toy vehicles that were produced by Kenner, a popular toy company in the 70s and 80s that are known as the manufacturer of the classic Star Wars toys. For more information about Kenner and the 80s Ghostbusters action figures, you can read our article titled “Learn About Kenner, the Company Behind the Classic Star Wars Figures.”


This Batman movie was the first installment of the series by Warner Bros. It featured Michel Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. The movie’s financial and critical success inspired several sequels, an animated series, etc.

Michael Keaton’s Batman

The casting of Michael Keaton as the atman in the 1989 movie created a bit of controversy. Some were of the opinion that Keaton won’t really be right for the part, being mostly viewed as a comedic actor. Eventually, Keaton’s role in Beetlejuice made director Tim Burton settle one this choice.

The Demands of Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicolson had some very straightforward demands before he would accept the role of the Joker for this movie. He demanded top billing, part of the film’s earnings including merchandise, and the freedom to choose his own schedule for shooting.

Back to the Future Part II

The ‘Back to the Future’ was officially a series with the release of its first sequel. Unlike the fat of most sequels in movie history,’ Back to the Future II’ was quite well-received. The feedback for the movie got better as time went on, with some saying that it was one of Robert Zemeckis’s best works ever. Some even claim that this sequel was better than the original.

The Little Mermaid

This animated film from Disney was an instant hit with audiences everywhere. The animation, storyline, and music all received a lot of praise after the movie was released.

When Harry Met Sally

This was one of those romantic comedy films that defined the genre for all future works. It was released very gradually, in just a few select cities at a time. The producers decided to let word of mouth do the job of marketing for them, and they succeeded.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Yet again, a new series was born with the ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ movie. It’s a mixture of comedy, science fiction, and family-friendly fun. It held the record of the highest-grossing Disney film for the next five years. This success led to several sequels, theme park attractions, and a TV series as well.

Dead Poets’ Society

With Robin Williams at the fore, this movie was set for success. The storyline was heartwarming and through-provoking, with a teacher using unorthodox yet delightful methods to teach his students how to break out of their shells.



Another Day In Paradise 

This song by Phil Collins is considered to be the top tune form this year. It was a massive hit and has been described as a classic.

Controversy Around ‘Like a Prayer’

The music video for Madonna’s track ‘Like a Prayer’ was released in 1989 and immediately attracted a lot of criticism for its imagery. The video portrayed iconography of the Catholic Church as well as images of a burning cross. While this naturally triggered religious sentiments everywhere, there was also praise for the video’s interpretation of faith, rape, discrimination, etc.

Pepsi Drops Madonna

The ‘Like a Prayer’ music video controversy resulted in Pepsi dropping Madonna as their spokesperson. This decision was made out of the fear that religious groups would boycott Pepsi as a reaction to the video’s imagery.

I Heard it Through the Grapevine

The song entitled ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ saw an upsurge in its popularity. This was mainly due to the commercial for claymation raisin figures. The band ‘The California Raisins’ came out with a version of this song that reached the Billboard Hot 100.

James Brown’s Strange Answers

James Brown, a legendary name in the field of funk music, appeared on CNN for an interview. He had allegedly just come from beating his wife using a lead pipe and also firing shots at her car. The interviewer was Sonya Freidman, and Brown only answered her questions with his own song titles instead of actual answers.


 The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey 

This self-help book was highly popular when it came out, and is still widely read more than two decades later. After its release, the book sold millions of copies and was translated into about 40 languages around the world. Several heads of state, Bill Clinton included, asked Covey to help them inculcate the principles of their book into their daily lives and operations.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett 

This book established Follett’s position as a master of suspense. It’s a historical novel that was followed by two other installments.

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

This was a popular British graphic novel that featured a dystopian landscape ruled as a police state. The popularity of this novel soon led to a movie of the same name in 2005.


The Creation of Hypertext

Sir Tim Berners-Lee made HTML or ‘hypertext markup language’, which is used to create Web pages. He also came up with the URL or the ‘Uniform Resource Locator’ in order to identify a place where certain information is kept. These two components found the basis for the World Wide Web and later the Internet.

Game boy

Nintendo started selling the Gameboy, a handheld gaming console. At the time, it was just an 8-bit console with a dial for controlling contrast and five buttons for gameplay.

486 Microprocessor Released

The 486 series of microprocessors were supplied by Intel. This opened the way for building and developing more powerful PCs.

Office Suite

Microsoft released the Office Suite package, which included Word Processor, Presentation software, Database, and Spreadsheet. These programs are still relevant and even dominant within many homes and workplaces.


Lendi Wins The Australian Open

Tennis superstar Ivan Lendi finally won the first Australian Open of his career. He has several other grand slam titles on his record already. However, the player was never able to get the Wimbledon title.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Abdul-Jabbar was a well-known name in the 80s for anyone who followed the NBA. Some called him a scoring machine, and they weren’t wrong. Jabbar’s skyhook shot was never successfully copied by any other player. He retired in April 1989 after 20 years of playing and 38,387 points as his total score.

Debut of One-Handed Pitcher

Jim Abbot, a pitcher with just one hand, made his debut in the major leagues as part of the California Angels. He hadn’t spent even one day as part of the minor leagues. Even with all the odds against him, Abbot still managed to establish a 12-12 record in his very first season.

An American Wins the Tour de France

Greg LeMond, a citizen of the United States, won the Tour de France this year. He had been the first American to win this race in 1986 as well.


Cosby Sweaters

At this point in time, Bill Cosby was one of the most beloved and familiar faces on television. He had a long-running TV sitcom known as ‘The Cosby Show’ even though the central characters had the surname ‘Huxtable’. He would wear loud, ugly sweaters in the sitcom, which eventually became known by his own name. ‘Cosby sweaters’ were very popular in 1989, even with women. In any case, baggy styles were definitely ‘in’ again and everyone was looking for a way back to conservative fashion.

Inspiration from ‘Saved By the Bell’ 

One of the most iconic role models for boys in the 1980s was Zack Morris from the series ‘Saved By the Bell’. His styles and fashions were relentlessly copied by any young boy who wanted to look like a troublemaker and appear cool at the same time.


Bill Cosby and Pudding

Bill Cosby was known for his comedy, his hit TV sitcom, and his numerous advertisements for Jell-O pudding. For many people growing up in the 1980s decade, Cosby’s face was synonymous with pudding shots, pudding pops, and the Jell-O brand.

Finales and Premieres

The series finale of the popular TV show ‘Family Ties’ was broadcast. It was followed by the premiere of ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’.

The World Series Interrupted

The World Series on ABC was already a few minutes into its third game when the earthquake known as LomePrieta took place. This caused a lot of damage and also delayed the series by about ten days. It wasn’t clear whether Game 3 would resume or postponed, so the ABC channel put on repeat episodes of ‘The Wonder Years’ and ‘Roseanne’.

Premier of the Long-Running ‘The Wonder Years’

‘The Wonder Years’ has its premiere; this show was about a teenage boy growing up in the American suburbs in the late 60s and early 70s. The show would go on for six seasons and is still fondly remembered (and rewatched) by many people in the 21st century.

The Simpsons’ Premiere

After being aired as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, ‘The Simpsons’ finally premiered as a show in its own right. The premier was entitled ‘Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire’ and was also meant to be a Christmas special.

‘The Simpsons’ as an Early Hit

This new animated series was an early hit for the network Fox, entering its Nielson top 30 almost immediately.


Opening a Gate

While the fall of the Berlin Wall officially occurred in November 1991, 1989 saw the beginning of this historical event. This was in the opening of the Brandenburg Gate, which was just a short distance from the wall itself. This opening occurred on 22 December 1989 and paved the way for the removal of the wall in the near future.

Massive Protests Against the Wall

There were a lot of protests calling for the removal of the Berlin Wall at the time. This pressure brought about the ideological collapse of the Berlin Wall. Along with this, the East German Government was also dismantled. These steps would eventually lead to the unification of Germany.

Ayatollah Khomeini Passes Away

The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, passed away in June 1989. He was 86 years old and the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. He was instrumental in overthrowing Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and had established Iran as an Islamic Republic. Khomeini was also responsible for the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979. This included American hostages as well.



The Electric Slide

‘The Electric Boogie’ was the song that probably gave rise to the electric slide dance step. While the song was released back in 1976, the 1989 Marcia Griffiths cover made the nation remember it again. The simple dance was a favorite for school dances, weddings, country dance halls, graduation parties, etc. Since the dance was simple and easy to follow, it was great for large gatherings where everyone wanted to dance together.

The Running Man

This is a pretty self-explanatory dance step; all the dancer has to do is run in place. The peak of this step’s popularity came in 1989 when the ‘Rhythm Nation’ music video came out. Janet Jackson performed the step, so it must have been popular enough then.

Related posts: