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All The Right Moves : An Appreciation of the Tom Cruise Film

Updated on October 2, 2015

'Follow the Dream...or follow the Girl?'

I love 80's cinema. Be they big blockbusters, or smaller character films, the era just had...IT. I am biased, as I grew up in the 80's, but nothing since has really changed my mind. All The Right Moves is a 1983 movie that has not been well remembered, starring a then up and coming Tom Cruise and Lea Thompson. For me, the film cemented Tom Cruise's future stardom (Risky Business came out the same year and DID make Cruise a star), and tried to combine 'teen cinema' with a more realistic, drama-driven film. Kind of like a teen 'Slapshot' if you will.

Its a film I have a certain fondness for, though it has its faults, and I hope you either enjoy revisiting it with me, or discovering it for the first time!

ALL THE RIGHT MOVES, 1983, TM and Copyright (c)20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.
ALL THE RIGHT MOVES, 1983, TM and Copyright (c)20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.


Twentieth Century Fox took a chance with this film, and gave highly regarded cinematographer Michael Chapman his first job as director; Tom Cruise (his 4th film, and second starring role) and Lea Thompson (only her third role) were hired as the two leads. Chris Penn and Craig T Nelson were the excellent support actors. An up and coming Dutch cinematographer, Jan De Bont, was hired to provide the grim and gritty visuals the film needed.

The film was inspired by an article in a Pittsburgh newspaper that exposed the "god-like" power high school coaches coaches in Western Pennsylvania had on whether or not their players went to college and how just one perceived slight could ruin their future for good.

A suitably grim and gritty blue collar industrial town location for shooting was found in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh was also used for some scenes; the entire film was shot on location. The director had Cruise and Thompson go undercover to two seperate high schools, to help them prepare for the roles before shooting started.

All The Right Moves Trailer

Director Michael Chapman interview....

Here are three links to a video interview Michael Chapman gave on the making/ casting of the film. The link will let you watch the video interview itself, or read the transcript. Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

only about 6 minutes long, but well worth a watch/read.

Fun Fact

Tom Cruise and Lea Thompson were sent undercover to two separate High Schools, to help them get into the mindset of the students. Tom Cruise was recognised in 1 day, after recently starring in Taps

ALL THE RIGHT MOVES, 1983, TM and Copyright (c)20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.
ALL THE RIGHT MOVES, 1983, TM and Copyright (c)20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

The Only Way Out of Town...

Stefen "Stef" Djordjevic (Tom Cruise) is a high school football player desperate to get a college football scholarship to escape the depressed small Pennsylvania town of Ampipe where he lives. Both Stef's father and brother work in the steel works, the main source of employment in the town (Ampipe is a company town, named after the fictional employer, American Pipe & Steel), but the recession is biting hard.

Stef finds himself torn between a bullying, domineering coach who is urging him to leave, (a great performance, as always, from Craig T Nelson) and his girlfriend (Lea Thompson), who is scared of losing him. When he falls out with his coach and gets kicked off the team, his dream of a football scholarship looks further away than ever.

Its a nice character piece, and quite a timely one set against the early 80's recession as it is. There's a definite feel of Friday Night Lights about it, and the football scenes are done very well.Its a harsh look at decaying, industrial small towns, the wasting of talent due to circumstance and money, and the age old question of career or love? Its well acted, shot, and directed, and its only real fault is the very pat ending

Tom Cruise and Craig T Nelson were perfect casting.....

ALL THE RIGHT MOVES, 1983, TM and Copyright (c)20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.
ALL THE RIGHT MOVES, 1983, TM and Copyright (c)20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

Amazon Spotlight Personal Review

All the Right Moves Blu-ray
All the Right Moves Blu-ray

The blu-ray of All The Right Moves is the best way to see such a visual film. The enhanced HD quality lets you really inhabit the dirty, gritty decaying town Stef is looking to leave, and the football scenes have never been better. Its a shame no extras have been included, but for such a great price, you can't really argue.


All The Right Moves Theme Tune - Jennifer Warnes and Chris Thompson

Fun Fact

The football players in the film were students recruited from real local schools, smaller students were deliberately chosen for Tom Cruise's team to play up the underdog angle. Many of the best players turned down the roles, as they thought the $40 a day would compromise NCAA eligibility!


1. All The Right Moves Jennifer Warnes And Chris Thompson

2. The Last Stand Doug Kahan

3. This Could Be Our Last Chance Danny Spanos

4. Love Theme From All The Right Moves David Richard Campbell

5. Blue Skies Forever Frankie Miller

6. Unison Junior

7. Mr. Popularity Winston Ford

8. I Don't Wanna Go Down Roach

9. Hold Me Close To You Stephanie Mills

very hard to actually get hold of, as it was only ever released on vinyl.

Reviews of it are very lukewarm, it being a typical early 80's mish-mash of synth-pop and electric guitars, performed by mainly obscure/ unknown artists, with the exception of Jennifer Warnes on the title duet.. I think its fair to say that, outside of the context of the film, its not one you would be seeking out to listen to.

What was Tom Cruise's Best 80's Film?

See results

Fun Fact

Tom Cruise was originally cast as the lead in the film 'Footloose' ,but his schedule on "All The Right Moves" prevented him from accepting it.

ALL THE RIGHT MOVES, 1983, TM and Copyright (c)20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.
ALL THE RIGHT MOVES, 1983, TM and Copyright (c)20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

What Happened Next...

All The Right Moves opened in October 1983, and took $17.2 million, making it the 42nd highest grossing film of the year. So it did ok. Nothing spectacular, but a very decent first effort by Michael Chapman. (Return of the Jedi was the biggest film of the year). I'm not sure what the budget was, but I doubt it was large, so the film probably made a reasonable profit. It was overshadowed unfortunately by the release, the same year, of Risky Business, which made Cruise a huge star.

Michael Chapman has directed a handful of films since, but his main credits are as a cinematographer ( The Lost Boys, Scrooged, Ghostbusters 2). Lea Thompson has had a decent film and tv career, and Tom Cruise did ok for himself (I suspect we won't be seeing All the Right Moves 2 !)

30 Years On....

In a nice final touch, life imitated art on September 14th 2012, when Johnstown, Pennsylvania recreated the game that saw Tom Cruise's working class Ampipe Bulldogs vs. the wealthy Walnut Heights Knights. As well as being a bit of fun, it was also a chance for the 'real' teams (Greater Johnstown High and Westmont Hilltop High) to raise funds for student scholarships. Fans of the 'real' schools bought jerseys in the colors of the movie schools.

In a fun move, in the week leading up to the game, students and teachers dressed in 80's fashions, to get into the spirit of it all, and Lea Thompson and Craig .T.Nelson gave pre-game pep rally announcements.

The actual game was pretty close, though ended differently from the film as Ampipe won by 3...

There is an official Facebook page click here for the event, and you can order commemorative jerseys if you wish.

Good Film? Bad Film? Let me know...

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    • profile image

      ConvenientCalendar 4 years ago

      He is a great actor, especially his older movies!

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 4 years ago

      I had almost forgotten this movie. Pretty good one!

    • profile image

      ChroniclesofaWa 4 years ago

      I haven't seen this movie. Thanks for the review, I will look for this movie. :)

    • profile image

      RuralFloridaLiving 5 years ago

      Thanks - another good lens. You have a very good feel for films.

    • profile image

      RuralFloridaLiving 5 years ago

      I always loved Tom Cruise in Flims but I'm glad he didn't do Footloose.

    • Timewarp profile image

      Paul 5 years ago from Montreal

      Interesting, I just can't picture Tom Cruise in Footloose!