Red Dawn (1984)

Red Dawn (1984)

Taglines: In our time, no foreign army has ever occupied American soil. Until now.

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!’

Red Dawn is a 1984 American war film directed by John Milius, filmed in Metrocolor and Panavision, and co-written by Milius and Kevin Reynolds. It stars Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, and Jennifer Grey. It is notable for being the first film to be released in the US with a Motion Picture Association of America PG-13 rating.

The film is set in an alternate history timeline in which the United States is invaded by the Soviet Union and its Cuban and Nicaraguan allies. However, the onset of World War III is in the background and not fully elaborated. The story follows a group of American high school students who resist the occupation with guerrilla warfare, calling themselves Wolverines, after their high school mascot.

Red Dawn (1984)

About the Story

The United States has gradually become strategically isolated after several European nations (except the United Kingdom) withdraw from NATO. At the same time, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact partners aggressively expand their sphere of influence. In addition, the Ukrainian wheat harvest fails while a Communist coup d’etat occurs in Mexico.

On a September morning, in the small town of Calumet, Colorado, a local high school teacher pauses when he sees Soviet paratroopers landing in a nearby field. The paratroopers open fire when the teacher confronts them. Pandemonium follows as students flee amid heavy gunfire. In downtown Calumet, Cuban and Soviet troops are trying to impose order after a hasty occupation. Cuban Colonel Bella (Ron O’Neal) instructs the KGB to go to a local sporting goods store and obtain the records of the store’s gun sales on the ATF’s Form 4473, which lists citizens who have purchased firearms.

Brothers Jed (Patrick Swayze) and Matt Eckert (Charlie Sheen), along with their friends Robert (C. Thomas Howell), Danny (Brad Savage), Daryl (Darren Dalton), and Aardvark (Doug Toby), flee into the wilderness after hastily equipping themselves at a sporting goods store owned by Robert’s father. While on the way to the mountains, they run into a Soviet roadblock, but are saved by an attacking U.S. Army UH-1 helicopter gunship. After several weeks in the forest, they sneak back into town; Jed and Matt learn that their father is being held in a re-education camp. They visit the site and speak to him through the fence; Mr. Eckert (Harry Dean Stanton) orders his sons to avenge his inevitable death.

Red Dawn (1984) - Lea Thompson

The kids visit the Masons and learn that they are behind enemy lines in “Occupied America.” Robert’s father is revealed to have been executed because of the missing inventory from his store. The Masons charge Jed and Matt with taking care of their two granddaughters, Toni (Jennifer Grey) and Erica (Lea Thompson). After killing Soviet soldiers in the woods, the youths begin an armed resistance against the occupation forces, calling themselves “Wolverines,” after their high school mascot.

The occupation forces initially try reprisal tactics, executing groups of civilians following every Wolverine attack. During one of these mass executions, the fathers of Jed, Matt and Aardvark are killed. Daryl’s father, Mayor Bates (Lane Smith), is a collaborator and tries to appease the occupation authorities. Despite the reprisal tactics the occupation forces get nowhere.

The Wolverines find a downed pilot, Lt. Col. Andrew Tanner (Powers Boothe), who informs them of the current state of the war: several American cities, including Washington, D.C., were obliterated by nuclear strikes; the Strategic Air Command was crippled by Cuban saboteurs; and paratroopers were dropped from fake commercial airliners to seize key positions in preparation for subsequent assaults via Mexico and Alaska.

The middle third of the U.S. has been taken over, but American counterattacks have halted Soviet advances along the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River and the lines have stabilized. The only remaining U.S. allies, the UK and China, are militarily crippled. Concerned about nuclear fallout, both sides refrain from the further use of nuclear weapons.

Red Dawn Movie Poster (1984)

Red Dawn (1984)

Directed by: John Milius
Starring: Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Darren Dalton, Jennifer Grey, Brad Savage, Harry Dean Stanton
Screenplay by: John Milius
Production Design by: Jackson De Govia
Cinematography by: Ric Waite
Film Editing by: Thom Noble
Set Decoration by: Lowell Chambers
Art Direction by: Vincent M. Cresciman
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Distributed by: Metro Goldwyn Mayer, United Artists
Release Date: August 10, 1984