Can You Pass This General Knowledge Quiz From 1989?

By: Torrance Grey
Estimated Completion Time
3 min
Can You Pass This General Knowledge Quiz From 1989?
Image: Wiki Commons by White House Photographic Office

About This Quiz

We'd like to call 1989 "the end of an era" because technically, it was -- it was the final year of the '80s. But really, 1989 was not a year of upheaval, unless you lived in a Communist country, many of which transitioned from one-party governments to multi-party, capitalist-leaning systems. In the United States, though, two-term president Ronald Reagan handed off the reins to his longtime deputy, George H.W. Bush, and life in America continued mostly unchanged. The September 11 attacks, America's first black president, and the explosive growth of the Internet all lay in the future.

To commemorate this more peaceful time, we've created a trivia quiz about the world as things stood in 1989. What this means is that while some of the questions would be the same in a present-day quiz (the capital of Canada is still Ottawa), others will require you to provide "1989's answer." For example, think how differently a quiz from that year would handle topics like Princess Diana, the governance of Hong Kong, or computer technology. So, as you answer each question, bear in mind how things have changed in the past 30 years. Don't answer off the top of your head! Don't worry, there's a hint for each question if you get stuck, and afterward, we'll give you a little bit of context about what was different in 1989 and where things stand now. 

Got it? Pour yourself a "Coke II," then, and we'll get started!

With the election of George H. W. Bush, how many presidents has the United States had?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

George Herbert Walker Bush was elected in 1988 and took office in 1989 as the 41st president. His son, George W. Bush, would be the 43rd.

What is the Iron Curtain?
A repair project on China's Great Wall
The division between the Republicans and the Democrats in the Senate
The dividing line between capitalist and Communist Europe
A metal band
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The "Iron Curtain" went up after World War II, when the Soviet Union gained a number of satellite states in Eastern Europe. In 1989, it was still a vital, functioning concept in world politics -- though it wouldn't be for much longer.

Who is the prime minister of England?
Tony Blair
Gordon Brown
Margaret Thatcher
Cornelius Fudge
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Margaret Thatcher held office from 1979 to 1990; she was England's counterpart to the equally conservative Ronald Reagan. Her life and rise to power were chronicled, not very favorably, in the 2011 film, "The Iron Lady."


Who is the reigning WWE champion?
Ric Flair
Hulk Hogan
Bret "the Hitman" Hart
What's the WWE?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

For many years, and all of the '80s, Vince McMahon's organization was the WWF, which stood for World Wrestling Federation. After losing a lawsuit to the World Wildlife Fund, the company changed the name to World Wrestling Entertainment.

Which presidential candidate was the first to have a female running mate?
Joseph Biden
George H.W. Bush
Walter Mondale
George McGovern
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Walter Mondale, the Democrat from Minnesota, chose Geraldine Ferraro as his vice-presidential candidate in 1984. It was a historic choice, but the incumbent Reagan-Bush ticket steamrolled over them for re-election.

What's the missing word here? "Mr. ________, tear down this wall!"
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

This was President Ronald Reagan's famous sound bite at the Berlin Wall. Mikhail Gorbachev, whom he addressed in absentia, was leader of the USSR. Nikita Khrushchev, another Soviet premier, came earlier in the history of U.S.-USSR relations.


Desmond Tutu was the first black Anglican bishop in which nation?
South Africa
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Desmond Tutu was ordained in 1961 and rose to the level of Archbishop of Cape Town. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. Today, he is still sought after as a speaker on theology, politics and world affairs.

Who is the most recent James Bond on the big screen?
Pierce Brosnan
Timothy Dalton
David Niven
Daniel Craig
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Brosnan is an Irish actor who had previously been known for the TV series, "Remington Steele." He portrayed Ian Fleming's dashing spy until 2002. But Bond will always be George Lazenby to us!

On what soap opera would you watch the trials and tribulations of Luke and Laura?
"As the World Turns"
"General Hospital"
"The Edge of Night"
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

"Luke and Laura" were one of the most famous couples on daytime television. They married on a 1981 episode of the powerhouse ABC soap, set in fictitious Port Charles, which still airs today.


1985's Best Picture winner, "Amadeus," was about which musician?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Mozart's full name was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Tom Hulce starred in this popular movie that not only won the Best Picture Oscar, but fed into a Mozart boom in the mid-1980s. (We still can't get the techno-pop hit "Rock Me, Amadeus" out of our heads!)

Who spearheaded the famine benefit called Band-Aid?
Bob Geldof
Brian May
Neil Gaiman
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Geldof, now "Sir Robert," founded the famine-relief supergroup with Scottish musician Midge Ure. Band Aid released "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in 1984, to benefit hunger relief in Ethiopia. (And yes, we know Neil Gaiman isn't a musician, but we threw him in because he's got that same sunlight-challenged, tousle-haired look that Geldof rocks so well.)

Which country was dictator "Baby Doc" Duvalier forced to flee?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Thanks to their anti-Communist stance, both "Baby Doc" and his father, "Papa Doc" Duvalier, had enjoyed support from the United States. It wasn't enough to protect Baby Doc from a people's revolution in Haiti, and he left the country in 1986.


How many astronauts died as part of the Challenger disaster?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

We're being inclusive when we say "astronaut" -- one was a schoolteacher, Christa McAuliffe. She went through a rigorous NASA training program to win her spot on the shuttle, so we think the title applies to her, too. She and the other six died when the Challenger exploded on launch in January 1986.

Which of these was the first video aired by MTV?
"Billie Jean"
"Like a Virgin"
"Jailhouse Rock"
"Video Killed the Radio Star"
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The Music Television channel -- now universally known as "MTV" -- aired with a wink, playing this infectious hit by the Buggles. Fortunately, it turned out that reports of the death of music as an audio-only format were severely premature.

Who was the first woman sworn in as a justice on the Supreme Court?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Sandra Day O'Connor
Sonia Sotomayor
Elena Kagan
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has had a moment recently, with the release of the 2018 film, "On the Basis of Sex." However, O'Connor preceded her onto the Supreme Court in 1981. Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were both Obama-era nominations.


Where did the Velvet Revolution take place?
Studio 54
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The Velvet Revolution was the name of a peaceful transfer of power from the one-party Communist government to a multi-party, democratic system. 1989 was, in general, a bad year for Communism, as the USSR broke up and lost its hold on Eastern European nations.

What was the Morris worm?
A dance craze
A computer virus
A newly-discovered species
A children's toy
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The Morris worm was the first well-known virus. It was launched in 1988 as a way (its creator said) to highlight security flaws. Robert Morris was a Cornell student at the time​ and has since avoided talking about his notorious creation.

Which of these countries is the colonial administrator of Hong Kong?
None of these; it is independent
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Hong Kong -- the name means "fragrant harbor" in Cantonese -- came under English control in 1842, and a 100-year lease was agreed upon between England and China in 1898. The "handover" to China occurred, to great fanfare, in 1997.


Who was the live-action lead in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"?
Drew Barrymore
Bob Hoskins
Michael Madsen
Sigourney Weaver
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

"Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (yes, there's really no question mark in the title) had a game-changing mix of live action and animation; audiences were enthralled. British actor Bob Hoskins played the detective who had to exonerate Roger Rabbit of murder.

What country did England fight with over control of the Falkland Islands?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The Falkland Islands conflict was a brief one in 1982, with England sending military forces to regain control. The Falkland Islanders themselves have voted overwhelmingly for remaining a British territory, despite the islands' nearness to mainland Argentina.

"The Waste Land" was one of the seminal poems of the 20th century. Who wrote it?
W.H. Auden
T.S. Eliot
Sylvia Plath
J.K. Rowling
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Thomas Stearns Eliot, the American-born poet who made the U.K his home, wrote both "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and "The Waste Land." This is one of those answers that would have been the same in 1979, 1989 or today.


Cold fusion was a longtime dream of physicists. Who realized it?
Niels Bohr
Max Planck
Cold fusion was not yet a reality in 1989.
Cold fusion has never been a reality.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Cold fusion is the name for -- theoretically -- creating a nuclear reaction at low(ish), Earth-like temperatures instead of those hot as the center of a star. Many physicists consider it a pipe dream, like alchemy.

How many planets are there in the solar system?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

From 1930 to 1992, the correct answer was "nine." But in 1992, the discovery of several astronomical objects about the size of Pluto in the Kuiper Belt cast doubt on its status. It has since been downgraded to a "dwarf planet."

Which of these is NOT a Soviet republic?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Russia was one of the Soviet Union's constituent republics, though "first among equals." It's Chechnya that was never a republic of the USSR -- it's currently considered a "breakaway republic" from Russia itself.


The capital of India, one of the world's most populous countries, is which of these cities?
New Delhi
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Kolkata (once "Calcutta") used to be the capital of India. New Delhi has served in that role since 1931. Its greater metro area is home to more than 2 million people.

"Swatch" was a huge brand in the 1980s. Its name was a portmanteau of what two words?
"Smart" and "watch"
"Second" and "watch"
"Swiss" and "watch"
"Smile" and "watch"
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

"Swatch" was a Swiss creation, so you can be forgiven for thinking the first word is "Swiss." But it was "Second," because the watches were meant to be inexpensive, and not for frequent or longtime wear.

Eritrea is a state in which African nation?
None; it is independent
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

We admit this is a tricky one unless you're a world-geography buff. Eritrea is now a small independent state, which seceded in 1991. Its name is taken from the Greek word for "red" because of its proximity to the Red Sea.


Three of the five members of pop group Duran Duran have which last name?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

In addition to Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes, Duran Duran's members were John, Andy and Roger Taylor. No relation, they say; just a coincidence. The pop group dominated the charts in the '80s with hits like "The Reflex" and "Hungry Like the Wolf."

Which of these beauties is the "face of Chanel"?
Lily-Rose Depp
Keira Knightley
Nicole Kidman
Claudia Schiffer
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford were the top models of the era, and Schiffer landed the coveted position of Chanel ambassador. Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny, was not yet born in 1989, but was 2016's choice for the "face of Chanel."

When was the last Space Shuttle mission flown?
This has not yet happened in 1989.
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The Space Shuttle program was NASA's way of providing efficient, partially-reusable transport into space. The last shuttle flew in 2011. The program was very successful, though with two notable disasters (one of which is mentioned elsewhere in this quiz.)


What is the new name for the African country of Rhodesia?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Rhodesia was named for a British explorer and colonialist, Cecil Rhodes. The country's native denizens rejected the name in 1989, due to its roots in colonialism. The chose "Zimbabwe" instead, after the name of a great but ruined city.

"Beetlejuice," with Michael Keaton, was a breakthrough movie for which director?
Tim Burton
David Fincher
Kimberly Peirce
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Since 1987's "Beetlejuice," Burton's career has been legendary. To this day, he often collaborates with Johnny Depp, who was also just starting out in the late '80s. This was when they made "Edward Scissorhands."

Homer, Marge and the rest of the Simpsons made their debut on which of these shows?
Their own show, "The Simpsons"
"In Living Color"
"Saturday Night Live"
"The Tracey Ullman Show"
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Tracey Ullman is a prolific and talented comedienne, but her 1987 show was short-lived. The yellow-skinned family who made their debut in animated segments, however, showed real promise. "The Simpsons" was a breakthrough hit for the new Fox network.


The first black model to appear on the cover of U.S. Vogue was _________.
Tyra Banks
Pat Cleveland
Beverly Johnson
Naomi Campbell
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Johnson appeared on the cover of U.S. Vogue in 1974. However, Donyale Luna was on the cover of U.K. Vogue nearly a decade earlier, in 1966. Banks and Campbell were models who rose to stardom in the late '90s and the 2000s.

What is the capital of Argentina?
Buenos Aires
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

This answer is one of those which would have been right in 1889 as well as 1989. Buenos Aires, Spanish for "good/healthful air," is one of the world's great capitals and highly recommended as a tourist spot.

You Got:
Wiki Commons by White House Photographic Office