Red Dawn

August 10th, 1984


Red Dawn

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Still of Jennifer Grey in Red DawnStill of Lea Thompson in Red DawnStill of Jennifer Grey and Lea Thompson in Red DawnStill of Patrick Swayze in Red DawnStill of Charlie Sheen in Red DawnStill of Patrick Swayze and Lea Thompson in Red Dawn

It is the dawn of World War III. In mid-western America, a group of teenagers bands together to defend their town, and their country, from invading Soviet forces.

Release Year: 1984

Rating: 6.0/10 (21,290 voted)

Director: John Milius

Stars: Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson

It is the mid-1980s. From out of the sky, Soviet and Cuban troops begin landing on the football field of a Colorado high school. In seconds, the paratroopers have attacked the school and sent a group of teenagers fleeing into the mountains. Armed only with hunting rifles, pistols, and bows and arrows, the teens struggle to survive the bitter winter and the Soviet KGB patrols hunting for them. Eventually, trouble arises when they kill a group of Soviet soldiers on patrol in the highlands. Soon they will wage their own guerrilla warfare against the invading Soviet troops-under the banner of 'Wolverines!'

Writers: John Milius, Kevin Reynolds

Patrick Swayze - Jed
C. Thomas Howell - Robert
Lea Thompson - Erica
Charlie Sheen - Matt
Darren Dalton - Daryl
Jennifer Grey - Toni
Brad Savage - Danny
Doug Toby - Aardvark
Ben Johnson - Mr. Mason
Harry Dean Stanton - Mr. Eckert
Ron O'Neal - Bella
William Smith - Strelnikov
Vladek Sheybal - Bratchenko
Powers Boothe - Lt. Col. Andrew 'Andy' Tanner
Frank McRae - Mr. Teasdale

Taglines: A full scale military invasion by foreign troops begins. Total surprise. Almost total success . . . .

Release Date: 10 August 1984

Filming Locations: Johnson Mesa, New Mexico, USA

Opening Weekend: $8,230,381 (USA) (12 August 1984) (1822 Screens)

Gross: $35,866,000 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

The original trailer, on the laserdisc release, includes a scene with a tank rolling up to a McDonald's where enemy soldiers are eating. The scene does not appear in the final cut, and was likely removed due to a mass murder at a McDonald's in San Ysidro, CA, weeks before the film opened.

Continuity: When Jed shoots Strelnikov, Strelnikov drops his gun. A quick camera cut shows Strelnikov falling to his knees with the gun still in his hand.

Jed Eckert: [they are surveying a wintery landscape, as several tanks gather on both sides to shoot it out] You got across *that*?
Col. Andy Tanner: Just part of it. I hope our guys are still there.
Jed Eckert: So this is the battlefield?
Col. Andy Tanner: It's a real war, kid. It's here every day.

User Review

It obviously touched a nerve

Rating: 7/10

Reading previous commentary, I'm amused by the violent reaction this movie still elicits. The ranting of previous reviewers indicates the movie touched a nerve. I have seen really, really bad movies and Red Dawn is certainly not as bad as the ratings it has received here.

As is so often the case, many previous reviewers are criticizing the film because its premise conflicts with their political philosophy. I wonder how they would have rated this film had the characters been teen-aged members of an all-black football team who become partisans fighting bigoted southern whites in a 1960s civil war that never occurred. Would they be so harsh if the movie were about a group of teenage Jewish soccer team members fighting the Nazis in World War II? they might not have rated it nine or 10 stars but I'd bet they would have given it more than one star. Given the current political climate, they might even receive it more warmly if the characters were Iraqi teenagers fighting Americans.

I understand the temptation to judge movies based on your own preferences rather than the movie's own merits. I recently watched Easy Rider for the first time and absolutely could have kicked myself for wasting the two hours or so it took the silly drivel to play out. Were I to rate it strictly on the way I felt about the movie -- the silly situations at the commune where 50 hippies are supposed to live all winter on about a half acre of wheat, about enough to produce a loaf of bread, the laborious acid dropping scene, the cartoonishly villainous red necks, the lame acting (other than Nicholson) -- I guess I'd have to give it about a one-star rating. But it was a beautifully filmed movie and it obviously spoke to people at that time. So a more valid assessment from my perspective would be that it's an anachronism that seems a bit silly today but obviously had merit in context.

I believe Red Dawn touched something in young people of the mid-80s in the same way Easy Rider touched young people in the late 60s. Sift through the silliness of both movies and you find something people were looking for. Prior to this movie, young people were told that if World War III came, they would either be swallowed by an irresistible communist onslaught or fried in a matter of seconds by a nuclear explosion. Red Dawn said to them, "If the time comes, you will not be helpless. You will fight back and win." It was an entirely unique message at the time and one people were longing to hear. In fact, The United States was already fighting back and won it's greatest victory over its most formidable foe without direct armed conflict and bloodshed because of visionary and resolute political leadership.

From the time of its release until today, Red Dawn has been roundly criticized for the implausibility of the plot. It's quite true that the communist bloc was not capable of a successful invasion of the United States in 1984. But for those who failed to grasp this, Red Dawn was not a documentary. The prologue establishes the circumstances under which the invasion occurred and the action that proceeds from that premise is possible. Would communist troops shoot up a school? Their battle record indicates that if they saw it as or mistook it for a tactical objective, they most certainly would. Would they shoot civilians? Is there anybody out there so ignorant to suggest they wouldn't?

Good Points about Red Dawn: *The action sequences are well done and look realistic. For instance, there's a scene where a plane drops a bomb. You see the fireball first and then hear the sounds. That's a nice, realistic touch. *The actors handle their weapons properly *Beautiful photography *There's some good chemistry between some of the actors *The outcome is typical of what happens in partisan fighting. Partisans typically enjoy initial success because of surprise and knowledge of the terrain. But they usually eventually succumb to better-trained, better-equipped troops *I liked the musical score

Bad points about Red Dawn: *The communists are a tad too stupid for too long *The use of horses is a stretch. *Some of the teenage high-fiving and exuberance will make you groan *Some (but not all) of the dialog and acting is awfully stiff

In short, it's an action picture that will entertain people who like action pictures. It has a unique plot line that has now become an anachronism. At it takes a jab at one of Hollywood's scared cows, communism which is refreshing. Nobody should be ashamed of making it, acting in it or enjoying watching it.

Politically, the real question is not why Hollywood made a film like Red Dawn. It is rather, why did 50 years of totalitarian communist oppression spawn so few films critical of communism? Why are there seemingly scores of movies about McCarthyism and none about the Soviet gulag system? Schindler's List shows that Hollywood can make an incredible film, a film so compelling you can't take your eyes off of it, about something so horrible you can hardly bear to think about it. Stalin's body count exceeds Hitler's yet there is no Schindler's List for the Gulag. And that is something to be ashamed of.


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