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)
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
C. Thomas Howell
Harry Dean Stanton
Lt. Col. Andrew 'Andy' Tanner
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
(12 August 1984)
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.
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.
[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.
So this is the battlefield?
Col. Andy Tanner:
It's a real war, kid. It's here every day.
It obviously touched a nerve
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
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.