Red Dawn (1984)
Controversial, bloody 1980s WWIII film with teen heroes.
Based on 8 reviews
Based on 19 reviews
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Red Dawn (1984)
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Red Dawn is a controversial what-if war film that has a lot of shooting, with frequent bloodshed (though little of what would be considered gore) and explosive mayhem. Many characters die, including young heroes, as well as villains. Characters swear ("s--t" and "goddamn" are heard), and there's a suggestion that two underage characters might have been raped or molested. Hunting and killing of animals, for food as well as part of a ritual, is shown. Both the invading and Wolverine forces feature White, Latino, and multiracial characters; the Wolverines also have women fighting on their side.
Violent, But Fine For Most Teens
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An American Classic!
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What's the Story?
In RED DAWN, the former USSR and sympathetic Latin American countries launch a full-scale invasion of the United States. This Third World War is shown from the vantage of Calumet, Colorado, which is suddenly occupied by Russian paratroopers. Many captured citizens get herded into the local drive-in movie theater, now a mass internment camp and propaganda center, while the town mayor (Lane Smith) 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 enemies, using their former gridiron team name, the Wolverines.
Is It Any Good?
When this overly self-important film premiered in the 1980s, U.S. critics were divided along political lines. Left-leaning ones hated Red Dawn, while the right-leaning ones (especially those whose newspapers supported President Ronald Reagan) loved it. Now, with the USSR a thing of the past, this "what if?" movie feels more like a mixed bag. On one hand, stiff action sequences make the brave high school heroes smashing the Red Army look like some kind of kiddie park ride. On the other hand, the seemingly absurd concept of 1980s 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 where the Wolverines consider executing one of their own is electrifying.
Despite his sometimes clumsy filmmaking and dramatics, the conservatism of writer-director John Milius goes deeper than it seems, with the movie raising questions about sacrifice and which side has the moral high ground after all. Milius' ambiguous ending is both a frustrating cop-out and strangely appropriate.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the 1980s and the Cold War. How has Hollywood depicted the era? What has changed in the world since?
Do you think Red Dawn realistically depicts what an invasion and occupation is like?
Red Dawn was made by right-leaning filmmakers. Do you think right- and left-leaning politics are equally represented in movies?
- In theaters: August 10, 1984
- On DVD or streaming: July 17, 2007
- Cast: C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen
- Director: John Milius
- Studio: MGM/UA
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- Last updated: March 4, 2023
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For kids who love action-adventure stories
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