Red Dawn (1984)

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Red Dawn (1984) Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Controversial, bloody 1980s WWIII film with teen heroes.
  • PG-13
  • 1984
  • 114 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 18 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Surface message of patriotism and fighting for your country/freedom are underscored by more complex lessons, about striving against impossible odds and even taking doomed or hopeless stands for what is correct. War and partisan insurgency are shown not to be a children's game when the Wolverines face having to execute one of their own.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All young characters seem act mature and disciplined, though it's declared that the strongest ones paid a price -- miserable childhoods learning survival skills under a strict dad. Both Communists and Wolverine forces are mixed whites and Latinos; only the Wolverines have a few girls fighting along with them.


Shooting and explosions in abundance, with spattering blood (but little gore) more often than not. One character (and a deer) shot with an arrow. Inference that the invading Soviet soldiers have raped women and girls.


Indistinct glimpse of one Russian looking at a magazine centerfold.


"S--t," "bastard," and "SOB."


Product labels include Coors beer, Chevron gas, Buck knives.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some beer drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this controversial what-if war film features much shooting, with frequent bloodshed (though little of what would be considered gore) and explosive mayhem. Many characters die, young heroes as well as the villains. Swearing is occasional, and there is a suggestion that two underage-female characters might have been raped or molested. Hunting and killing of animals, for food as well as a sort of manhood ritual, is shown and seemingly endorsed with great enthusiasm by the filmmakers.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byropemaker January 7, 2011
The original review on this page said there were a few prophanities, but failed to mention at least 3 blasphemies against God ( GD) which is much worse than sh*... Continue reading
Parent Written byMikely July 1, 2017

This one's too close to home (it's not a fantasy, sci fi, or in futuristic times or foreign country..)

This movie, released in 1984, is not on par with the intensity and level of violence of more recent films. But the theme of American high school boys and girl... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bySun Always Shin... March 12, 2021


Oh boy, where does one begin? Let me start by saying that this movie is a definite political statement that has most people divided. Is the idea of guns easily... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bylavastorm92 January 17, 2020

Good movie

I enjoyed this movie because I am a history fanatic but you don’t need to have that much history knowledge to see it. There’s a lot of deaths and some swearing... Continue reading

What's the story?

Spurred on by a homeland famine and a strong leftist-disarmament movement in Europe, the USSR does the unthinkable and launches a full-scale invasion of the United States, preceded by selective nuclear strikes -- we don't see it, but apparently both Washington D.C. and a lot of China are vaporized. The Third World War is shown from the vantage of Calumet, Colorado, suddenly occupied by Russian paratroopers and their Latin-American Communist allies. Many captured citizens get herded into the local drive-in movie theater, now a mass internment-camp and propaganda center, while the town mayor cooperates with top Communist officers to keep the community going peacefully. But a group of high-school students -- including prominent players on the school football team -- have escaped into the mountains. Refusing to surrender, they form an armed resistance squad, striking back against the unprepared Soviets, using their former gridiron team name, the Wolverines.

Is it any good?

When RED DAWN premiered, critics, no surprise, divided along political lines. The left-leaning ones hated it, the right-leaning ones (especially those whose newspapers supported President Reagan) loved it. Now, with the USSR a thing of the past, the lone movie that dared show a battleground outcome to the Cold War is a mixed bag. On one hand, stiff and absurd action sequences make the courageous high-school heroes smashing the Red Army look like some kind of kiddie-park ride. On the other hand, a seemingly absurd concept of '80s American teens turned armed partisans is treated with seriousness -- no music-videos, no worrying about whether Marxism will outlaw dancing at the prom -- and a scene the Wolverines considering executing one of their own is electrifying.

Despite his sometimes-clumsy filmmaking and dramatics, the conservatism of writer-director John Milius goes deeper than just kill-the-commies stuff, with questions about sacrifice and which side in this war has the moral high ground after all. Milius' ambiguous ending (a real hack would have shown Rambo triumphantly pummeling Reds all the way back to Moscow) is both a frustrating cop-out -- and strangely appropriate.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the 1980s and the Cold War. What do parents remember? What other ways has Hollywood depicted the Cold War? How is it different from the war on terror?

  • Do you think Red Dawn realistically depicts what an invasion/occupation is like?

  • Red Dawn was made by right-leaning filmmakers, a group that (at least since the 1960s) has not maintained a very high profile. Do you think right and left leaning politics are equally represented in movies?

Movie details

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