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Red Dawn (1984)

PG-13 | | Action, Drama, War | 10 August 1984 (USA)
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.



(story), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Doug Toby ...
Mr. Teasdale


From out of the sky, Soviet, Nicaraguan, 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!' Written by Derek O'Cain

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A full scale military invasion by foreign troops begins. Total surprise. Almost total success . . . . See more »


Action | Drama | War


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| |

Release Date:

10 August 1984 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ten Soldiers  »

Box Office


$4,200,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(4 channels)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The blast from an exploding jet was so strong it knocked five trailers off their foundations. See more »


Colonel Bella's subordinate always addresses him with "Si, Senor." In the Cuban army, he would call his superior officer "Mi Coronel." See more »


The Colonel: You think you're tough for eating beans every day? There's half a million scarecrows in Denver who'd give anything for one mouthful of what you got. They've been under siege for about three months. They live on rats and sawdust bread and sometimes... on each other. At night, the pyres for the dead light up the sky. It's medieval.
See more »

Crazy Credits

None of the actors are in the opening credits See more »


Referenced in The Experiment (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

Relies too much on viewers' goodwill
23 January 2006 | by (Ireland) – See all my reviews

Time and distance have not been too kind to this movie, but then I suspect that the budget wasn't either. Too much was spent on the helicopter prosthetics, and not enough on writing, casting and cinematography.

'Red Dawn' attempts to tell a common story: what would you do to protect your way of life, and how would those acts of protection change you? It is a movie about resistance to and insurgency against an invader; there is such brutality on both sides that one wonders whether the end justifies the means. It could be construed as an anti-war movie, but I was left with the impression that it was a blatant appeal to the audience: 'The Commies are coming! The Commies are coming!'

Like all movies with a political overtone, 'Red Dawn' is very much a zeitgeist, intended to satisfy an ephemeral hunger. Some movies of this ilk are so well-made that they eventually become classics, but this tale of US insurgency against a Soviet invasion cannot be described thus. It is disappointing that a promising idea has been so badly handled; in fact, I wonder whether the project was rushed just to catch the wave of President Reagan's defence policy. It is interesting to note that, had they waited a year, the producers would have been faced with the difficult task of selling a movie in the 'Pink Dawn' of Glasnost.

With the concept of zeitgeist (or perhaps 'cash-in') in mind, one may be tempted to forgive all those involved for just going through the numbers and hoping to rely on patriotic support. Many more successful film-makers, however, have realised that it's not enough to preach to the converted. John Milius and Kevin Reynolds should have studied the past and looked at British movies of the 1940s for examples of how to tell a story to people who don't want to listen.

It may appear cruel to cite the works of two of the 20th century's best writers, but good writers are needed to tell this kind of story. 'In Which We Serve' (1942, w. Noel Coward) and 'Went the Day Well?' (1942, w. Graham Greene) were two low-budget movies that concentrated on the way of life that their heroes were fighting for. In the case of Coward's work, stranded sailors reflected on this life in a series of flashbacks, whereas with Greene, initially jolly English villagers were faced with a small-scale Nazi paratroop raid. These movies, and many like them, took care to generate empathy in the audience, and reminded them of the need to struggle.

Such a simple trick was carelessly overlooked in 'Red Dawn.' In fact, one barely meets the characters before the war reaches them, and they spend little time afterwards considering or debating the changes they undergo. One feels that the writers are incapable of designing introspection. Most attempts to depict the American way of life are clumsy visual or audio clichés: the Flag, 'America the Beautiful' and Guns, lots of Guns. These references are handled in such a way as to make me wonder about the writers' ability to form personal relationships. An opportunity to render the rebel teenagers as 'Everymen' has been wasted; instead, they come across as ciphers.

With no rounded characters, no time for thoughtful scenes, and with a set-up dismissed almost before the curtains sweep back, how does Milius fill his hour and three-quarters? With death, destruction and tears. The bulk of the movie consists of an unknown cast of Brat-Packers wandering around the Rockies blasting nearly everything with a red star. Very soon, any supportive thoughts the audience brought with them evaporate as they realise they are watching a movie not about resistance but revenge.

Far too much time (and money) is spent on guns, tanks and helicopters. A tedious 'last-stand' scene is stretched out by dull photography focussing on a bunch of Bell choppers poorly dressed up as Soviet gunships. Many scenes of the rebels' deaths are ruined either by such cinematic clumsiness or by dreadful lines delivered by incompetent actors. Each time, I found myself not caring; making a viewer feel that way is the biggest crime in cinema.

There is one positive item in the show: the only decent actor in the show is Harry Dean Stanton; since he is the reincarnation of Huckleberry Hound, it's hard not to like him.

28 of 54 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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