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Red Dawn Review

Updated on June 19, 2020

Red Dawn (1984) review

War, huh, good god…..what is it good for? A great action flick! Sorry, I couldn’t help it. This was definitely a non-stop action packed movie from beginning to end. The cast was phenomenal and the story was brilliant. What a great way to start the movie too! I expected it to be a drawn out opening and the fighting to start twenty minutes or so into the movie, but nope! The action starts immediately after the opening credits and doesn’t slow down for more than a minute or two until the end! There were lots of deaths and explosions, but no more than you would expect from an action movie. I really enjoyed it.

Red Dawn (1984) was written by Kevin Reynolds and John Milius, and was directed by John Milius. It stars Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell and Lea Thompson. In an alternate 1980s, communism has gained strength and the world is on the brink of WWIII. The movie starts with a high school in a small rural town getting invaded by Russian paratroopers. A small band of high school students load up on supplies from a family owned hunting store and go up in the mountains to hide. It soon becomes quite clear to them that the only way to survive is to fight. Taking up the school mascot name “Wolverines”, the band of students start making huge trouble for the invading troops using guerilla warfare tactics.

This was an excellent film. One of my favorite aspects was that this group of high school students started out feeling scared and hopeless, hiding in the mountains and just waiting for the war to end so they could go back home. However as the story progressed, you see each of these kids come to the realization that the only way out was to fight. This causes the real heroes to come out. It was great seeing this team develop into a full fledged organized militia. When the stakes are life or death these students knew they had to leave everything on the battlefield, maybe even their lives.

I would recommend this film to anyone who likes a good war story and doesn’t mind a high body count.

Cast trivia

  • The cast underwent an intensive eight-week military training course before filming started. After the boot camp, in order to get into the mindset of how a guerrilla fighter employs their tactics, John Milius had the cast become an opposing force for the National Guards exercises
  • Captain Dale Dye was the military adviser for this film, he was also in charge of putting the cast and soviet troop extras through boot camp. Dale Dye also advised films such as Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers and Platoon, also starring Charlie Sheen.
  • During their boot camp training, the actors only got to eat when their instructor felt they earned it.
  • C. Thomas Howell had been a rodeo cowboy. He helped teach the rest of the cast how to ride horses.
  • This was Charlie Sheen’s feature film debut.
  • Emilio Estevez was originally cast as Jed, but had to drop out due to other filming commitments.
  • Leif Garrett was considered for a major role.
  • Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Darren Dalton and William Smith appeared in The Outsiders (1983).
  • Both Patrick Swayze and Powers Booths died from pancreatic cancer.
  • Frank McRae, Ben Johnson and Harry Dean Stanton all costarred in Dillinger, which was also directed by John Milius.
  • Powers Boothe’s character was originally written as a proud military man who was also anti-war, and who served as the movie’s “voice of reason”. Boothe was not happy when the character was made into a less complex and more conventional warrior.

Production trivia

  • Red Dawn (1984) had a budget of 17 million dollars, and the worldwide gross is 38.3 million. It was released on Aug. 10, 1984.
  • Red Dawn was produced by United Artists and Valkyrie Films, and was distributed by MGM/UA Entertainment Company.
  • Red Dawn was filmed in New Mexico.
  • This was the first motion picture released with an MPAA PG-13 rating.
  • The film made the Guinness Book of Records for having the most acts of violence of any film up to that time. According to their calculations, 134 acts of violence occur per hour, or 2.23 per minute.
  • An old Safeway grocery store in Las Vegas, New Mexico was converted to a sound stage, and used for several scenes.
  • “Red Dawn” was the given code name of the military operation in Iraq that captured Saddam Hussein on December 13, 2003. John Milius felt honored by that.
  • The original title of the script was “Teen Soldiers”.
  • Two CIA men came to the set, having received reports of Russian tanks in the area. They were relieved to hear the tanks were just for a movie.
  • There are no computer graphics effects or miniatures in the movie, all of the explosions are real and in actual size.
  • Red Dawn is one of the coldest productions on record, as temperatures dropped to -30 below zero several times, especially notable in the final school playground scene.


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