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Red Dawn (1984)

PG-13 | | Action, Drama | 10 August 1984 (USA)
2:10 | Trailer

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It is the dawn of World War III. In mid-western America, a group of teenagers band together to defend their town, and their country, from invading Soviet forces.


John Milius


Kevin Reynolds (story), John Milius (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
1,162 ( 97)
1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Patrick Swayze ... Jed
C. Thomas Howell ... Robert
Lea Thompson ... Erica
Charlie Sheen ... Matt
Darren Dalton ... Daryl
Jennifer Grey ... Toni
Brad Savage ... Danny
Doug Toby ... Aardvark
Ben Johnson ... Mr. Mason
Harry Dean Stanton ... Mr. Eckert
Ron O'Neal ... Bella
William Smith ... Strelnikov
Vladek Sheybal ... Bratchenko
Powers Boothe ... Andy
Frank McRae ... Mr. Teasdale


From out of the sky, Soviet, Nicaraguan, and Cuban troops begin landing on the football field of a Colorado high school. In a few 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 K.G.B. 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


In our time, no foreign army has ever occupied American soil. Until now. See more »


Action | Drama


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »





English | Russian | Spanish

Release Date:

10 August 1984 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ten Soldiers See more »


Box Office


$4,200,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$8,230,381, 12 August 1984, Wide Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo (4 channels)


Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The U.S. flag in the classroom at the start of the movie, and other scenes, is a forty-eight-star flag. This was the flag during World War II, and a symbolic reference for a movie portraying the start of World War III. See more »


When Robert saws the barrel off his shotgun, the sound does not match his actions. See more »


Stepan Gorsky: Boy, say if you're a friend so I will not die alone.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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


Referenced in C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

Purposely Misunderstood
13 February 2003 | by cyberbronson-1See all my reviews

I've yet to see a serious review of John Milius' magnum opus, Red Dawn. For the most part, the liberal critics dismiss any discussion of its technical and dramatic strengths and instead focus entirely on the message. The thrust of complaints against Milius and Red Dawn amount to probably some of the most disingenuous criticisms in cinematic history. They critics argue that the audience should reject whatever Milius was trying to say (he's a conservative and board member of the NA) because the scenario is NOT REALISTIC and just a propaganda vehicle. I've always wondered how liberals, who draw the line at "it's bad" when it comes to understanding war, have the gall to judge the credulity of any piece in the genre.

My main objection with the Left's attack on "Red Dawn" is their refusal to acknowledge that Milius' focus on the Wolverines represents only a snapshot of a far larger, broader story the remains ever present in the background. When critics complain about how incredulous it is for the Soviets and their Latin allies to attack a small town in Colorado, they purposely misunderstand the message Milius explicitly delivered through the Wolverine's conversation with Col. Tanner--these kids are only a small set of actors in a much larger war.

It doesn't take that much of a mental exercise necessary to justify the period's well thought out belief that the Soviets could exploit their adventures in Latin America to invade the United States. Between Vietnam and the "nuclear freeze" movement, right before the Reagan build up, the West was essentially in retreat throughout the entire globe. Whether or not the Soviets could've succeeded in this gamble is another debate, but "Red Dawn" is a story of extraordinary times and circumstances albeit with careful attention to the real world.

Even so, the focus on the realism of Red Dawn's background story is an attempt to get away from the really other stunning aspects of the film. You may disagree with the conservative themes in this film, but one thing John Milius does very well is let his views flow naturally from the experiences of his characters and the realities of war. There is no Rush Limbaugh avatar reaching into the film to preach through Patrick Swayze or Harry Dean Stanton, something Aaron Sorkin can't help but injecting into the endless banter that has become staple to the "The West Wing."

The most clever critics realize that thematically Red Dawn is a success, so they go after the acting -- after all, that's where half of Milius' conservative propaganda is coming from. Yet more often than not they dismiss this important part of the film's success without a single attempt to specify their objections. You might ask what people should expect in the way of expressions and dialogue from high school kids who've been conditioned into guerillas , and I can't say that the kids in the "Lord of the Flies" featured the timely emoting that we see from say Swayze's character when they first arrive in the mountains. The terse, yet clearly emotional and meaningful chatter between the Wolverines is strikingly credible, and surpassed only by Harry Dean Stanton's powerful performance as a Midwestern blue collar thrown into a detention center and Ron O'Neal's slow yet well paced descent into disillusionment with his tiny slice of the war.

There's wide agreement that the cinematics were decent given the budget involved and the technology of the time. The art direction apparantly was so successful that two CIA case officers were alarmed by the attention to detail given to the T-72 main battle tank mock ups. Over all, Red Dawn maybe one of the most original, well done pieces from the 1980s.

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