Best Documentary Movies of 1989
Roger & Me
A documentary about the closure of General Motors' plant at Flint, Michigan, which resulted in the loss of 30,000 jobs. Details the attempts of filmmaker Michael Moore to get an interview with GM CEO Roger Smith.
For All Mankind
A testament to NASA's Apollo program of the 1960s and '70s. Composed of actual NASA footage of the missions and astronaut interviews, the documentary offers the viewpoint of the individuals who braved the remarkable journey to the moon and back.
Depeche Mode: 101
A fascinating documentary focusing on backstage realities of art and business during the British synthesizer band's 1988 American tour.
Peter Cushing: A One Way Ticket to Hollywood
An interview with Legendary Actor Peter Cushing and clips from some of his best films.
The World at War: The Making of the Series
The making of 'The World At War'. Each film in the 26 episode series had to be an essay on an aspect of the war, because the length and separate aspects of the war was far too much to cover in detail. Jeremy Isaacs talks about the production process and the aims of the project. The intention of the crew that were involved with the various skills in making 'The World at War' had no desire to use film from British, German, French, Polish, Russian, Japanese, or the Americans because of their specific means of showing the winning side of a specific action. Rather, an effort was made to interview people who were not part of the establishment, but rather the common people or assistants and secretaries of historical persons. Film was researched for those films from cameras where there was no special subject, but those that would allow the viewer to make their own decisions about what they had just seen and heard.
Comic Book Confidential
In the 20th century, no artistic medium in North America with so much potential for creative expression has had a more turbulent history plagued with less respect than comic books. Through animated montages, readings and interviews, this film guides us through the history of the medium from the late 1930s and 1940s with the first explosion of popularity with the superheroes created by great talents like Jack Kirby and hitting its first artistic zenith with Will Eisner's "Spirit". It then shifts to the post war comics world with the rising popularity of crime and horror comics, especially those published by EC Comics under the editorshiop of William B. Gaines until it came crashing down the rise of censorship with the imposition of the Comics Code. In its wake of the devastation of the medium's creative freedom, we also explore EC's defiant survival with the creation of the singular "Mad Magazine" by Harvey Kurtzman.
The special is hosted by Tony Danza and Annie Potts celebrating 50 years of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera's partnership in animation. This is the first animated project to be broadcast in Dolby Surround sound system.
Dance of Darkness
The dark sensibilities and cultural resonances of Butoh, the radical Japanese dance movement, are explored in this multilayered work. Profoundly rooted in both traditional and contemporary Japanese culture, Butoh arose in a spirit of revolt in the early 1960s. Characterized by frank sexuality and bodily distortions, Butoh transforms traditional dance movements into new forms, stripping away the taboos of contemporary Japanese culture to reveal a secret world of darkness and irrationality.
Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt
On the eve of 1987's Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, surviving families and friends of people who have died of AIDS prepare panels to be added to a large-scale memorial quilt project. Drawing from the sea of names memorialized, director Robert Epstein focuses on the lives of six people. Alongside the intimate profiles offered, through news footage and interviews, Epstein puts the AIDS crisis in the larger context of social and government response to the disease.
Thomas Hart Benton
Thomas Hart Benton's paintings were energetic and uncompromising. Today his works are in museums, but Benton hung them in saloons for ordinary people to appreciate.
China in Revolution: 1911-1949
CHINA: A CENTURY OF REVOLUTION is a six-hour tour de force journey through the country's most tumultuous period. First televised on PBS, this award-winning documentary series presents an astonishingly candid view of a once-secret nation with rare archival footage, insightful historical commentary and stunning eyewitness accounts from citizens who struggled through China's most decisive century. CHINA IN REVOLUTION charts the country's most violent era where decades of civil war and foreign invasions led to the bloody battle for power between Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek.
Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker
A documentary about the legendary Jazz player Charlie (Bird) Parker.
Bugs and Daffy: The Wartime Cartoons
Leonard Maltin introduces us to and takes us back to a theatre showing Wartime cartoon shorts and explains how Bugs and Daffy and the gang, through a collection/sampling of 11 cartoon shorts which served the war effort.
The Heat Is On: The Making of Miss Saigon
A behind-the-scenes look at the putting on of the successful West End stage musical, including footage of the cast rehearsing and the triumphant first night.
Paul McCartney: Put It There
This fascinating hour-long documentary film takes the viewer to the heart of the creative process, focusing on 1989's acclaimed album, Flowers In The Dirt. Mixing studio footage with interviews, Put It There features Paul talking candidly about the process behind some of the album's most beloved songs, especially a detailed exploration of the single ‘My Brave Face’, co-written by Elvis Costello. Candid, anecdotal and honest, the documentary is a must for any Paul fan and was expanded for its DVD release to include a gallery section and previously unseen performance footage.
Route One is the first major U.S. highway. 5000 km along the Atlantic coast, from the Canadian border to the tip of Florida. Doc, a physician who spent many years in Africa, returns to the U.S. and decides to reconnect with his home country by walking the legendary Route One.
CENTRAL PARK is a film about the famous New York City landmark and the variety of ways in which people make use of it: running, boating, walking, skating, music, theatre, sports, picnics, parades and concerts. The film also illustrates the complex problems the New York City Parks Department deals with in order to maintain and preserve the park and keep it open and accessible to the public.
Batmania: From Comics to Screen
This is the fully documented story of Batman, his genesis, his development, and his overall entertainment career. Told with dramatic insight, this action filled documentary will satisfy every fan who ever delighted in Batmania.
For 200 years, the United States Congress has been one of the country's most important and least understood institutions. In this elegant, thoughtful and often touching portrait, Ken Burns explores the history and promise of this unique American institution. Using historical photographs and newsreels, evocative live footage and interviews with David Broder, Alistair Cooke, Cokie Roberts, Charles McDowell and others, the award-winning film chronicles the personalities, events and issues that have animated the first 200 years of Congress and, in turn, our country.
I Went To The Dance
The definitive film on the history of the toe-tapping, foot-stomping music of French Southwest Louisiana. Includes many Cajun and Zydeco greats, featuring Michael Doucet and Beausoleil, Clifton Chenier, Marc and Ann Savoy, D.L. Menard, and many others.
One Year in a Life of Crime
Their job is stealing, their lives a cruel dead end. Director Jon Alpert takes his cameras undercover for this hard-hitting look at men who live by theft and suffer addiction. Focusing on a year in the lives of three professional criminals, this gritty profile—which includes hidden-camera footage of actual thefts—exposes the "petty" crimes that are paralyzing America.
NEAR DEATH is a film about the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital. The film is concerned with how people face death. More specifically the film presents the complex interrelationships among patients, families, doctors, nurses, hospital staff and religious advisors as they confront the personal, ethical, medical, psychological, religious and legal issues involved in making decisions about whether or not to give life-sustaining treatment to dying patients.
Back to the Future Part II - Back to the Future Night
The Johnstown Flood
On May 30, 1889 the South Fork Dam, which maintained a pleasure lake for wealthy Pittsburgh industrialists and their families, failed due to very heavy rains and poor maintenance by the dam's owners. The burst dam sent a wall of water and debris, 40 feet high and half a mile wide, 14 miles downstream to the bustling industrial city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. More than 2000 people lost their lives in the disaster. This documentary tells the story, and tells us that the disaster was easily avoidable.
How Hitler Lost the War
Through interviews with former World War II fighter aces, "How Hitler Lost the War" examines the theory that the German Armed Forces substantially won and then lost the war in Europe before 1942. That had it not been for the political and military mistakes of Adolf Hitler, the United States would have had to stand alone against a Nazi Europe allied with an even more powerful Japan, and face a future that is barely imaginable.
Water and Power
Pat O'Neill, one of the most interesting filmmakers in America today, offers a dazzling reflection on the conflict between nature and man in Los Angeles, or the desertification of the city's surroundings due to its enormous water consumption. More interestingly, it is also a film in the age-old tradition of city symphonies: a film about LA's foundation myths and the dreams it embodies, about its history and (grim) future, its topography and ethnography. O'Neill uses footage from several classic films to recreate the several layers of meaning emanating from the city, juxtaposing images and fantasies and hardly ever allowing one picture to go untouched. George Lockwood's swarming soundtrack is likewise composed of conflicting languages, an elaborate work of plunderphonics in which snippets of sound stolen from movies collide with electronic soundscapes, contemporary chamber music, improv, and what not.
Who Killed Martin Luther King?
This film, which includes archival footage and interviews with convicted killerJames Earl Ray, Martin Luther King III and former police officers, looks back at Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in 1968 and lingering conspiracy theories.
Grateful Dead: Downhill from Here
Grateful Dead show on July 17, 1989 at Alpine Valley.
Michael Jordan: Come Fly with Me
Get an inside look at Michael at home, on the golf course and in the air. Features rare footage from his days at the University of North Carolina. Relive spectacular highlights from his NBA career and All-Star games. Enjoy slam dunks, gravity defying shots and more!
The Fatal Attraction of Adolf Hitler
Documentary seeks to answer why the majority of the German people were so willing to follow Hitler, even as he led them into war.
The Road to Terror
In The Road to Terror, revolutionaries tell how their dream descended into a nightmare of terror and execution. They speak as exiles in Paris, a city that is preparing to celebrate the glories of the first mass revolution of 1978. Behind its strange images, the struggle for power in the Iranian revolution has followed a pattern uncannily similar to many of the great revolutions of the past: just as 200 years ago in France, the Iranian revolution has gone down the old road from liberation to repression, the road to terror.
John Huston: The Man, the Movies, the Maverick
Biography of risk-taker and raconteur John Huston from his childhood to become one of the most highly respected filmmakers in the world.
Brian Eno: Imaginary Landscapes
Here’s an interesting and extremely rare documentary from 1989, which features legendary producer and multimedia artist Brian Eno discussing his process and his thoughts on music in general.
Manhunt: Search for the Night Stalker
Based on the true story of Richard "The Night Stalker" Ramirez who terrorized California in 1985 and the two Los Angeles police detectives who try to track him down.
Making 'Do the Right Thing'
The Behind-the-Scenes documentary of the dramatic comedy Do the Right Thing.
Horror Effects: Hosted by Tom Savini
Tom Savini has served as a makeup artist for some of Hollywood's most terrifying -- and disgusting -- creature features. In this instructional program, he takes fans behind the scenes to reveal the secrets of his craft. Clips from Savini's masterpieces, including the Friday the 13th movies, Dawn of the Dead and Creepshow, accompany a discussion of his career and some helpful tips for viewers pursuing their own Hollywood dreams (or nightmares).
I'm from Hollywood
I'm from Hollywood is about the adventures of late performance artist Andy Kaufman in the world of professional wrestling. This film includes interviews with Taxi co-stars Marilu Henner and Tony Danza and interviews with comedian Robin Williams, wrestler Jerry Lawler, wrestling commentator Lance Russell, and Kaufman's best friend, Bob Zmuda. Other people seen in the film include TV host David Letterman and Jimmy Hart of Continental Wrestling Association. The film's title refers to a phrase spoken by Kaufman to the Memphis wrestling audience.
Surname Viêt Given Name Nam
The film evolves around questions of identity, popular memory and culture. While focusing on aspects of Vietnamese reality as seen through the lives and history of women resistance in Vietnam and in the U.S, it raises questions on the politics of interviewing and documenting.
Helmut Newton: Frames from the Edge
A camera crew follows Helmut Newton, the fashion and ad photographer whose images of tall, blond, big-breasted women are part of the iconography of twentieth-century erotic fantasy. He's on the go from L.A., to Paris, to Monte-Carlo, to Berlin, where he was a youth until he escaped from the Nazis in 1936. We see him on shoots, interviewing models, and discussing his work.
Billy Crystal: Midnight Train to Moscow
Comedian Billy Crystal performs in Moscow.
John Wayne Standing Tall
Profile of one of the world's most popular motion picture stars, told through interviews with some of the artists who worked with him, family, friends, and excerpts from many of his films and television appearances.
A British Picture
The updated autobiography of Britain’s most controversial film director, the maker of Women in Love, The Devils, The Music Lovers, Tommy and The Rainbow, is as unconventional and brilliant as his best films. Moving with astonishing assurance through time and space, Russell recreates his life in a series of interconnected episodes – his thirties childhood in Southampton, his first sexual experience (watching Disney’s Pinocchio), his schooldays at the Nautical College, Pangbourne, early careers in the Merchant Marine and the Royal Air Force, dancing days at the Shepherds Bush Ballet Club and of course his career as a film-maker, beginning with an extraordinary interview with Huw Weldon for a job on Monitor. Full of marvellously funny anecdotes and fascinating insights into the realities of the film director's life, A British Picture is a remarkable autobiography.
Fatal Addiction: Ted Bundy's Final Interview
Ted Bundy, an infamous serial killer responsible for the murder of as many as 50 young women and girls, granted an interview to psychologist James Dobson just before he was executed on January 24, 1989. In that interview, he described the agony of his addiction to pornography. Bundy goes back to his roots, explaining the development of his compulsive behavior. He reveals his addiction to hardcore pornography and how it fueled the terrible crimes he committed.
Calgary ’88: 16 Days of Glory
A documentary covering the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary.
Goddess Remembered is a salute to 35,000 years of "pre-history," to the values of ancestors only recently remembered and to the goddess-worshipping religions of the ancient past. This documentary features Merlin Stone, Carol Christ, Luisah Teish, Starhawk, Charlene Spretnak and Jean Bolen, who link the loss of goddess-centered societies with today's environmental crisis.
A More Perfect Union
Become an eyewitness to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. This stirring 2-hour film will bring the Founding Fathers to life as you witness the struggles and the miracles that produced the Constitution of the United States and the freest nation on earth. Filmed on location at Independence Hall; Williamsburg, Virginia; and other historical sites, it dramatically chronicles how America became a nation. It is exciting drama of the best kind-fact, rather than fiction. "It brings the history books to life," writes one reviewer. "Dramatically moving, and visually handsome," says another. Officially recognized by the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, who cited the film as being "of exceptional merit."
The Ultimate Event
Over 30 songs including:Detroit/With A Song In My Heart/The Candy Man/What Kind Of Fool Am I/Bad/Music Of The Night/All That Jazz/Sailor Boy/Ring Them Bells/Mon Amour/Caberet/Where Or When/For Once In My Life/Mack The Knife/One More For My Baby/My Way/Style/Talk To The Animals/Money Money/I've Got You (Under My Skin)/I've Gotta Be Me/Birth Of The Blues/The Lady Is A Tramp/And The World Goes Round/That's Where We belong (New York)/New York,New York
Mr. Hoover and I
Celebrated documentary filmmaker Emile DeAntonio discusses his comtempt for J Edgar Hoover, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and American political intolerance in general.
Using experimental narrative structure as his vehicle, Benning recreates the sensationalized and controversial circumstances surrounding Lorencia Bembenek, aka "Bambi", former "Playboy bunny" turned cop, turned accused and convicted killer who disappeared after a daring escape from prison. The film shows the evolution of Benning's and Bembenek's relationship presented through their actual letters read in voice over which depict the filmmaker's curiosity with the subject as it evolves from intrigue to a love obsession.
The Making of 'Nightmare on Elm Street IV'
Witness the behind-the-scenes techniques and gruesome special effects that dominate this box office hit! See through the mysteries of the slasher saga by watching brilliant direction from concept to actual filming, special make-up techniques, and all the mechanical devices used to produce the inherently terrifying nightmares. Starring Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger!