Study Guide

The Goonies Introduction

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The Goonies Introduction

Release Year: 1984

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family

Director: Richard Donner

Writer: Chris Columbus and Steven Spielberg

Stars: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen

Been up to your attic lately?

You never know what you're going to find up there. Interesting historical artifacts—like an eight-track tape player. Antiques—like your grandpa's collection of souvenir snow globes. A box full of those puff paint sweatshirts your mom used to make for you and then force you to wear in public.

Oh, yeah…or a 17th century map that leads to an ancient and storied pirate treasure.

Shake that booty.

It isn't hard to see what it is about The Goonies that appeals to a younger audience. Who among us hasn't dreamed about uncovering a treasure map, swashbuckling our way through a series of underground tunnels, fending off a bunch of much older and dangerous baddies, or becoming an absolute hero in our parents' eyes? This flick caters to just about childhood fantasy a kid can have. About all it's missing is an invisibility cloak.

And yet…adults love this thing too. Maybe it's because it reminds them of their own childhood and lost sense of adventure; maybe it's because they still secretly dream of putting on a Superman shirt and pirate hat and knifing their way down the length of a mainsail. Maybe it's because adults can appreciate the Goonies' innuendo better than youngsters—this film has a pirate named One-Eyed Willie, after all. (Tee hee.)

Or maybe it's just that The Goonies is so totally fantastic.


Whatever the age, and whatever the draw, The Goonies is an enduring classic. Produced by Warner Bros. and Amblin Entertainment and released in 1985, the movie became a hit faster than you can say "Slick Shoes." It ended up being one of the top ten highest-grossing films of that year, and was just getting started. It has since achieved cult hit status, and now gets only slightly less play than Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Big Lebowski.

This movie's totally entrenched in the American pop cultural consciousness. When a movie makes phrases as bizarre-o as "Sloth love Chunk" or "Truffle Shuffle" not only comprehensible but also iconic… well, you know it's a hit for the ages.

What is The Goonies About and Why Should I Care?

Ah, yes. Childhood. That magical, pastel-colored wonderland full of sunshine, ponies, cupcakes, sing-alongs and… insane criminal families hell-bent on murdering a group of tweens.

Hmm. To quote Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the others.

We tend to think of kids' movies as being sparkly, happy, and totally devoid of real danger. Think Cinderella. Think Babe. Think brightly colored Pixar perfection. These aren't the kinds of movies that would inspire cult classic status and result in midnight showings at indie theaters in college towns.

And while there ain't nothing wrong with happy-go-lucky kiddie films (who doesn't love Monsters, Inc.?) they're not exactly edgy.

But back in the 1980s, kid's movies had more edge than a switchblade knife…and almost as much implicit danger.

In The Goonies, the kids look up to a pirate. That's right: their idol is a murderous criminal. And in order to plunder this dead pirate's booty (tee hee: booty), the gang of Goonies travels through a set of booby traps (tee hee: booby) that would leave Indiana Jones broken out in a cold sweat. They dodge real-deal danger—dismemberment, being crushed, being suffocated by bats—in order to complete what is quite literally an act of grave robbing. Oh yeah: and they stumble across about half a dozen corpses in their quest.

Yeah. Compare that plot to, say, Inside Out. On the one hand we have death and crime and on the other we have… a girl who moves from Minnesota to California.

As Roger Ebert says:

There used to be children's movies and adult movies. Now Spielberg has found an in-between niche, for young teenagers who have fairly sophisticated tastes in horror.…His technique is to take his thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds and let them act a little older than their age. It's more refreshing than the old Disney technique, which was to take characters of all ages and have them behave as if they were twelve. (Source)

We tend to think that most of what Ebert says is sage-like—we idolize him in much the same way that Mikey idolizes One-Eyed Willy—but we think this is especially right on the money. The Goonies works because it's a movie laced with real horror elements, and because it allows its protagonists to face challenges that would make grown-ups quiver in fear.

And The Goonies is made all the more special because its edginess is a rarity. An Atlantic Monthly article titled, "1985: The Last Great Year in Film for Kids and Young Adults," breaks down one reason why the kids' movies of today play it safe:

A PG movie with those [adult] themes couldn't be made today thanks to the dominance of the PG-13 rating, which bifurcated films for younger audiences after it was introduced in 1984. (Source)

We're loath to say it, but when your parents tell you that "kids movies used to be so much better," they actually have a point. Kids' movies used to be darker, more violent, and more ominous. And, as The Goonies proves, they had some serious staying power.


Jonathan Ke Quan, who played Data, wasn't allowed to swear. Sometimes parents have more say than the director. So, doing his best to satisfy both parties, he spelled it out…which is why you hear him yell, "Holy S-H-I-T" in the movie. Hey, free spelling lesson. (Source)

John Matuszak, the guy who portrayed Sloth, had a very good reason for having those massive arms and overall intimidating frame—he'd been a professional football player. For this film, he traded in his Oakland Raiders' jersey for a Superman t-shirt. (Source)

A lot of the kids' parents who show up at the end of the movie are the child actors' actual parents. Talk about being hands-on with your kid's acting career. (Source)

Sean Astin, who played Mikey, was given the treasure map to keep after filming wrapped. His mother, Patty Duke, thought it was trash and pitched it. (Source)

The Goonies Resources


Your one-stop shop for all things Goonies-related.
The official website of the movie, including a gallery, info on the cast and crew, and a sweepstakes. Don't get excited though—the sweepstakes is over and done with. Ugh. This is like getting to Willy's ship after someone's looted all the treasure.
The ultimate fan site for Goonies both young and old. (But mostly young.)

20 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About the Goonies
Includes a gallery along with a bunch of interesting facts. Although, to be fair, Chunk probably made up about half of this stuff.


The Goonies (the book)
Do you prefer to read your movies? Then help yourself to the novelization of the movie. All the excitement, many more words.

"Immersive Theater
Richard Donner, the director, announced in 2015 that he's planning an "immersive theater" adaptation of his classic movie. We're picturing audiences being sent down water slides, and a bunch of bats being released into the theater.

Articles and Interviews

Roger Ebert's Review
The Goonies got three stars from the famed movie critic. We give his review two-and-a-half stars.

Richard Donner Interview
Uproxx interviews the movie's director thirty years after its release. Yeah, he's still alive.


Goonies Cast on Entertainment Tonight
Here you can see the Goonies out of character as they're interviewed about their experiences working on the film. This interview was conducted long before the actors got older and less cute.

Where Are They Now?
Want to know where the cast is now? Or…as of 2015, at least? Here you can see the older, less cute versions of each of them.

We want the name and number of whoever picked this background music. The 80's sure were different.


Hail, hail, the gang's all here.

Movie Poster
Original movie poster. Fortunately for the actors, they did not actually have to perform this dangerous looking stunt.
Some colorful illustrations of the goonies. Sloth is basically a walking advertisement for scheduling regular dental checkups.

Here's lookin' at you, kid.

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