Red Dawn (1984)

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

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 16 reviews

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.

Violence

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.

Sex

Indistinct glimpse of one Russian looking at a magazine centerfold.

Language

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

Consumerism

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 byTracerBullet June 3, 2010

Dated cold war relic with some interesting ideas but if you want to see them executed well read John Marsden's Tomorrow Series i

Safe and comforting should not be the words that first spring to mind when reviewing a movie like Red Dawn, a film that advertises itself as a terrifying peek i... Continue reading
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
Teen, 16 years old Written byluke3854 July 22, 2010

Great movie

Great movie to start, But there is some violence since i dont want to spoil the movie ill just tell you that there is some blood but no gore. Some of the best r... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byB-BOY March 30, 2013

great 80s action

the original red dawn is an awesome movie if you like action and bette then the remake. Even though there is lots of emotional violence, (including innocent peo... 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

For kids who love action-adventure stories

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate