1989 Academy Awards®
Winners and History
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Academy Awards Summaries
Winners Charts:
"Best Picture" Oscar®, "Best Director" Oscar®, "Best Actor" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar®,
"Best Actress" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar®, "Best Screenplay/Writer" Oscar®

The winner is listed first, in CAPITAL letters.

Filmsite's Greatest Films of 1989

Best Picture


Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

Dead Poets Society (1989)

Field of Dreams (1989)

My Left Foot (1989, UK)

DANIEL DAY-LEWIS in "My Left Foot", Kenneth Branagh in "Henry V", Tom Cruise in "Born on the Fourth of July", Morgan Freeman in "Driving Miss Daisy", Robin Williams in "Dead Poets Society"
JESSICA TANDY in "Driving Miss Daisy", Isabelle Adjani in "Camille Claudel", Pauline Collins in "Shirley Valentine", Jessica Lange in "Music Box", Michelle Pfeiffer in "The Fabulous Baker Boys"
Supporting Actor:
DENZEL WASHINGTON in "Glory", Danny Aiello in "Do the Right Thing", Dan Aykroyd in "Driving Miss Daisy", Marlon Brando in "A Dry White Season", Martin Landau in "Crimes and Misdemeanors"
Supporting Actress:
BRENDA FRICKER in "My Left Foot", Anjelica Huston in "Enemies: a Love Story", Lena Olin in "Enemies: a Love Story", Julia Roberts in "Steel Magnolias", Dianne Wiest in "Parenthood"
OLIVER STONE for "Born on the Fourth of July", Woody Allen for "Crimes and Misdemeanors", Kenneth Branagh for "Henry V", Jim Sheridan for "My Left Foot", Peter Weir for "Dead Poets Society"

Driving Miss Daisy was the most nominated film and the Best Picture winner in 1989 (with nine nominations and four wins), although its director Bruce Beresford was un-nominated and snubbed as Best Director. [Note: Driving Miss Daisy became the second film since Grand Hotel (1931/2) to win the 'Best Picture' Oscar without a nomination for its director. Wings (1927/28) was the first 'Best Picture' winner that was also not nominated for Best Director.]

The heart-tugging, sentimental, low-budget film was an adaptation of Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play about an aging, feisty Southern white widowed grandmother (Tandy) and her complex twenty-five relationship with her simple black chauffeur (Freeman). The plot was based upon Uhry's memories of his grandmother and a family chauffeur. Its tagline was: "The funny, touching and totally irresistible story of a working relationship that became a 25-year friendship."

Its four awards included Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay (Alfred Uhry), and Best Makeup. Oscar-winning and Pulitzer Prize-winning Alfred Uhry became the first writer to win both awards for the same material. The film's co-producer, Lili Fini Zanuck, was awarded the Best Picture honor - she became the second woman to receive such an honor. [Note: The first woman in Oscar history to receive an award for co-producing the Best Picture of the year was Julia Phillips for The Sting (1973).]

The other four Best Picture nominees were:

  • Best Director-winning Oliver Stone's biography of Vietnam veteran and anti-war activist Ron Kovic, Born on the Fourth of July (with eight nominations and two wins - Best Director and Best Film Editing). This was Stone's second Best Director Oscar - he had won three years earlier for Platoon (1986)
  • Australian director Peter Weir's film about an unorthodox English teacher at a New England prep school, Dead Poets Society (with four nominations and one win - Best Screenplay)
  • director Phil Alden Robinson's own baseball fantasy - a film adaptation of W. P. Kinsella's novel Shoeless Joe about an Iowa farmer who builds a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield in Field of Dreams (with three nominations and no wins)
  • writer/director Jim Sheridan's low-budget film biography of handicapped, cerebral palsy-afflicted Irish writer/artist Christy Brown, My Left Foot (with five nominations and two wins - Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress) - the first Oscar winner for Miramax. [It was the first Irish film to win a Best Picture nomination]

In the Best Director category, two of the directors of Best-Picture nominated films were neglected: Bruce Beresford for the Best Picture winner Driving Miss Daisy, and Phil Alden Robinson for Field of Dreams. In their places, Woody Allen was nominated for his masterpiece Crimes and Misdemeanors (with three nominations and no wins) - an obvious tribute to Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, and writer/director/actor Kenneth Branagh was nominated for his audacious and inventive first film Henry V (with three nominations and one win - Best Costume Design).

All of the year’s acting winners were first-time winners.

British actor Daniel Day-Lewis (with his first nomination) won the Best Actor award, a surprise win, for his performance as Irish-born artist and author Christy Brown - a self-reliant, spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy victim who can only write and draw with his foot, in the British production My Left Foot. [This was the first of three Best Actor wins for British actors in three consecutive years: Jeremy Irons would win for Reversal of Fortune (1990) and Anthony Hopkins for The Silence of the Lambs (1991).]

The other nominees for the Best Actor award were:

  • Tom Cruise (with his first nomination) as gung-ho Marine Ron Kovic who does duty in Vietnam and comes home paralyzed in a wheelchair in Born on the Fourth of July - (a second disabled Best Actor candidate)
  • Morgan Freeman (with his second nomination) for his role as Hoke Colburn, Miss Daisy's wise and loyal chauffeur over a twenty-five year period in Driving Miss Daisy
  • writer/director/actor Kenneth Branagh (with his first two nominations as actor and director) as the title character in his own British film Henry V
  • comedian/actor Robin Williams (with his second nomination) as 50s inspiring prep school teacher John Keating in Dead Poets Society

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).

The other four Best Actress nominees were:

  • Isabelle Adjani (with her second nomination) in the title role as a late 1800s French sculptor (romantically involved with mentor/lover Auguste Rodin) in director Bruno Nuytten's French romantic tragedy Camille Claudel (with two nominations and no wins)
  • Pauline Collins in the title role as a middle-aged British woman who forsakes all during a Greek Isles vacation in director Lewis Gilbert's Shirley Valentine (with two nominations and no wins)
  • Jessica Lange (with her fifth nomination) as defense attorney Ann Talbot who defends her father - accused of Nazi war crime atrocities in director Costa-Gavras' Music Box (the film's sole nomination)
  • Michelle Pfeiffer (with her second nomination) as hard-headed singer/ex-call girl Susie Diamond in writer/director Steve Kloves' directorial debut The Fabulous Baker Boys (with four nominations and no wins)

Denzel Washington (with his second nomination and first Oscar win) won the Best Supporting Actor award as Trip, a tough, brave, runaway slave enlisted in the first regimental unit of black troops fighting for the Union in director Edward Zwick's Glory (with five nominations and three wins - Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound). [Denzel Washington became the second black performer to win the Best Supporting Actor award. Lou Gossett, Jr. was the first - for An Officer and a Gentleman (1982). Overall, he was the fourth African-American to win an Oscar, following also after Hattie McDaniel and Sidney Poitier.]

The other four Best Supporting Actor nominees were:

  • Danny Aiello (with his first nomination) as Italian-American Sal who runs/owns a pizzeria in the heart of Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood - the site of an explosive incident on one long, hot summer day in controversial writer/director/actor Spike Lee's insightful study of race relations, Do the Right Thing (with two nominations and no wins)
  • Dan Aykroyd as Boolie Werthan, Miss Daisy's son who hires her a chauffeur in Driving Miss Daisy
  • Marlon Brando (with his eighth nomination) in a cameo role (his first role in nine years) as South African barrister Ian McKenzie in writer/director Euzhan Palcy's anti-apartheid film A Dry White Season (the MGM film was the first full-length feature directed by a black woman)
  • Martin Landau (with his second consecutive nomination) as Judah Rosenthal, a wealthy ophthalmologist who breaks off his relationship with demanding mistress Dolores - Anjelica Huston - and arranges for her murder in director Woody Allen's examination of morality, Crimes and Misdemeanors

Unknown Irish actress Brenda Fricker (with her first nomination) won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role as cantankerous Daniel Day-Lewis' loving and caring mother Mrs. Brown in My Left Foot. Two co-stars of director Paul Mazursky's adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer's novel Enemies: A Love Story (with a total of three nominations - also Best Adapted Screenplay for co-writers Mazursky and Roger Simon) were nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category:

  • Anjelica Huston (with her second nomination) as the current wife of post-Holocaust survivor Herman Broder
  • Lena Olin (with her first nomination) as Broder's mistress in late 1940s New York, who hid Broder during the war

The remaining two Best Supporting Actress nominees were Julia Roberts (with her first nomination) as Shelby Eatenton Latcherie - Sally Field's diabetic daughter and bride-to-be in director Herbert Ross' tearjerker about a group of six southern women who regularly gather in a Louisiana beauty parlor in Steel Magnolias (the film's sole nomination), and Dianne Wiest (with her second nomination) as Helen - a divorced mother with troubled teen children in director Ron Howard's film about parenting, Parenthood (with two nominations and no wins).

And Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, previously nominated only once as Best Director for Ran (1985) (a film with four nominations and one win for Best Costume Design), was presented with an Honorary Award "for accomplishments that have inspired, delighted, enriched and entertained audiences and influenced filmmakers throughout the world." He was best-known for his films Rashomon (1950), Ikiru (1952), and The Seven Samurai (1954).

Oscar Snubs and Omissions:

The war epic Glory, about the uncelebrated 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (a black regiment of Union soldiers in the Civil War) was not nominated as Best Picture or for Best Director (Edward Zwick). Also neglected in the cast were Matthew Broderick as young Col. Robert Gould Shaw, and Morgan Freeman as 'elder statesman' Sgt. Major John Rawlins. Actor/director/writer Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing was nominated for only two awards - Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Danny Aiello), without a Best Picture or Best Director nod. Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors was empty-handed for its three nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Martin Landau), Best Director (Allen), and Best Original Screenplay (Allen) - and had been bypassed in the Best Picture category.

Director Tim Burton's box-office smash Batman had only one nomination and win - Best Art Direction, but was un-nominated in other categories: Jack Nicholson in a dual role as the villain: egotistical mobster Jack Napier (and maniacal Joker), and composer Danny Elfman for his musical score. Likewise, one of the most popular romantic comedies of all time, director Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally..., also had only one nomination (and lost) - for Nora Ephron's witty screenplay. There were many overlooked components: a Best Director nomination, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as the two leads Harry Burns and Sally Albright, and Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher as their best friends Jess and Marie.

Although director/actor Kenneth Branagh was nominated as Best Director and Actor for the expressive Shakespearean Henry V - his first directorial effort - he was devoid of a Best Picture nomination. And another neglected picture - director/writer Nancy Savoca's low-budget debut comedy film True Love with Annabella Sciorra as Italian-American Bronx bride Donna ended up without any nominations. Cinema Paradiso (1988, It.) was the Oscar winner of the Best Foreign Language Film (its only nomination), but had been neglected for Best Picture.

Other worthy, would-be nominees included:

  • Hugh O'Conor for his supporting role as young Christy in My Left Foot
  • John Cusack for his role as Lloyd Dobler in writer/director Cameron Crowe's directorial debut film - the refreshingly-realistic teen romance Say Anything
  • Matt Dillon as drug-addicted Bob in writer/director Gus Van Sant's independent film Drugstore Cowboy (without a single nomination)
  • Andi MacDowell as Ann Mullany and Laura San Giacomo as Cynthia Bishop in writer/director Steven Soderbergh's first film - the kinky, sharply-acted, provocative sex, lies, and videotape (with a single unsuccessful nomination for Best Original Screenplay even though it was the Palme d'Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival)
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh as emotionally unstable Carol in writer/director Matthew Chapman's Heart of Midnight
  • Winona Ryder as independent-thinking Veronica Sawyer in the dark and cynical black comedy about teenage suicide, Heathers
  • J. T. Walsh as a Hollywood producer in Christopher Guest's movie-business satire The Big Picture
  • Kevin Costner as baseball diamond-building Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella as lead, and both James Earl Jones (as reclusive, disillusioned 1960's writer Terence Mann) and Burt Lancaster (in his last role before his death as Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham) were unnominated for their supporting roles in Field of Dreams

And although Anjelica Huston was a Best Supporting Actress nominee for Enemies: A Love Story, she also should have been nominated for her role as Dolores Paley in writer/director Woody Allen's morality play Crimes and Misdemeanors.

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