Study Guide

The Goonies Analysis

  • Inhaler

    Just Breathe

    From the first time we see Mikey, he's using an inhaler to help with his asthma. Throughout the Goonies' adventure, Mikey can be seen taking quite a few drags off of it. But at the end, once their mission is accomplished…he tosses it away with a casual "Ahh…who needs it?"

    Okay, so: asthma doesn't quite work that way. We'd assume his parents, once they got over the initial relief of seeing their son alive again, probably laid into him later about throwing away a perfectly good inhaler.

    But what's the point of this inhaler toss? Why did the filmmakers decide to plant this detail if the inhaler never plays an important role in the story, and Mikey just throws it away at the end?

    Well, in the context of an adventure story, having trouble breathing is a definite sign of weakness. Needing the assistance of a device in order to make your lungs function properly is seen as a flaw. (Hey: we didn't say this logic was good; we just said it was present.)

    When our story starts, Mikey's weak and untested. He's a Goonie only by name. But throughout the course of the story, he gains confidence, overcomes his fears…and grows up a bit in the girl department, too.

    The Mikey that comes out of the tunnels is pretty different from the one who went in. He's more of a man and less of a boy; he's courageous and doesn't need as much help getting the job done. So, because he's matured and become more self-sufficient, he's "outgrown" the inhaler and discards it like yesterday's trash.

    Once again, though, we reiterate: asthma doesn't work that way. Asthma doesn't hold people back from having grand adventures; you can change the world without chucking out your much-needed inhaler.

    Just ask Kristi Yamaguchi. Or Billy Joel. Or Elizabeth Taylor. Or Orson Welles. Or Edith Wharton. Or Che Guevara. (Source)

  • Statue

    This End Up

    In one of the opening scenes, Chunk establishes his signature clumsiness by dropping and breaking one of Mrs. Walsh's prized possessions: a porcelain statue of a naked dude.

    We're sure she just really appreciates sculpture. Yeah, that's it.

    The part that breaks off the statue is the, ahem…part that identifies it as a nude male form. When Chunk glues the missing piece back on, he does so upside-down.

    An honest mistake, or a bit of symbolism?

    The Goonies are all on the cusp of adulthood. They're getting their puberty on. This is going to mean pimples, growing pains, and everything that's covered in those handy-dandy What's Happening to My Body? books. Suffice it to say that the statue's transformation could be symbolic of the Goonies going from boys to men.

    We see them grow up before our very eyes. And this statue visual gag might have been the writer's little nod to the boys' growing maturity.

  • Coins in the Wishing Well

    Quick Change

    There's no secret about this one. Stef comes right out and says that each coin in the wishing well is someone's wish—someone's dream. And then Mouth says:

    MOUTH: Yeah, but you know what? This one, this one right here, this was my dream, my wish, and it didn't come true. So I'm takin' it back. I'm takin' 'em all back.

    Fair enough.

    Aside from the pennies and nickels in the wishing well representing people's wishes, it's also pretty clear that Mouth's bitterness is symbolic, too. He's not just upset about a few literal coins he may have tossed into the well over the years after making wishes that didn't pan out.

    He's frustrated that they all find themselves in their current situation, with the country club jerks forcing their families out of their homes. He's angry at the world, and is taking it out on the "wishes" of others.

    Either that, or he is grossly underestimating how much money it will take to stave off foreclosure. Hope he's got some deep pockets.

  • Troy's Bucket

    Well, Well, Well

    A big deal is made about Troy's bucket. Which, first of all, is totally unfair. Did Troy pay for this bucket? Does anyone see his name on it? Does his family own this wishing well?

    Actually, they probably do.

    Of course, the bucket isn't just a bucket. It's the gateway to freedom. It's relief from terrifying booby traps, bad guys with guns, bats…all of it.

    But it's also an admission of defeat. It's acceptance of the idea that they're never going to find the treasure they seek, and that all hope is lost, and Astoria will no longer be their home. It's the point of no return.

    Which is why, in the end, Mikey is able to talk everyone out of the very tempting prospect of escaping to safety in favor of sending the bucket back up—empty—and carrying forward on their quest.

    Bonus: they don't have to look at Troy's smug, smarmy face when they reach the top. That's probably worth it even if they hadn't saved their homes.

  • Hero's Journey

    Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

    About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)

    Ordinary World

    It doesn't get much more ordinary than suburban America. Just a buncha kids living an ordinary life, breaking statues and zip lining to each others' houses. That ordinary life is about to change, however, unless they can find a way to raise a big hunk o' cash in a hurry.

    Call to Adventure

    Willy's treasure map changes everything. Suddenly, there's a light at the end of the quite literal tunnel.

    Refusal of the Call

    Mikey's the only Goonie who doesn't seem to be having second thoughts. Chunk, Data and Mouth are getting a little tired of the same old Goonie adventures, Brand has been charged with keeping Mikey at home and doesn't want to risk getting grounded, and Andy and Stef—unofficial Goonies for now—are just along for the ride.

    Meeting the Mentor

    The mentor in this case is One-Eyed Willy himself. He guides the gang along their way via the map, which at times is frustratingly vague, and at all times frustratingly in Spanish. (Thanks for translating, Mouth.)

    Crossing the Threshold

    Once the Goonies enter the restaurant where the Fratellis are hiding out—and especially once they lower themselves through that hole under the fireplace—there's no going back. Not unless they want to get ash in their hair.

    Tests, Allies, Enemies

    Bats, organs, and booby-traps, oh my. There's almost no end to the number of obstacles in their way, but one by one they pass Willy's tests, and stay just a step ahead of their enemies.

    Approach to the Inmost Cave

    Not every "approach to the inmost cave" is as much fun as this one. Conveyance to the lagoon via water slide? Where do we sign up?

    Ordeal

    They didn't think it was going to be easy, did they? The Fratellis finally catch up to the Goonies, and they're not big sharers. In addition to the Fratellis, the crew also has to contend with another booby trap, falling rocks, exploding dynamite, and romantic interludes.

    Reward (Seizing the Sword)

    Mikey doesn't realize it at the time, but when he drops a few jewels into his marble bag, he is in effect rescuing his family from a fate worse than foreclosure. Well…okay, from foreclosure.

    The Road Back

    After escaping from the cave that contains Willy's ship, the Goonies make their way back to shore, and only consider themselves safe once they're back in the arms of their families.

    Resurrection

    Once the jewels are discovered, Mr. Walsh rips up the foreclosure papers and tosses them joyfully into the air. The citizens of Astoria who have been under threat from the country club folks have renewed life. They've probably shot themselves in the foot when it comes to being invited to play a round at the golf course, unfortunately.

    Return With the Elixir

    The movie ends before we get a chance to see how the Astorians move on post-Willy, but it looks like smooth sailing (you see what we did there?) from here on out. The Goonies can go back to their adventuring, and no one will have to move out of their home. And there's a runaway pirate ship.

    Hey, one loose end ain't bad.

  • Setting

    The Walsh Home

    There's a very good reason that fifteen of the first twenty minutes of the movie take place in the Walsh home—and it isn't just to show off that Rube Goldberg gate-opening trick.

    Obviously, it's the perfect place to meet all our characters, see them interacting in one place, and get an idea of what their day-to-day feels like before we embark on a larger adventure. Mikey's our hero, and this is his pad…so it makes sense.

    But that isn't the only reason.

    This whole movie—everything the Goonies do—is about saving their homes. Why should we care about their house being saved if it's just some faceless structure? Instead, we're taken inside the home, which is big and beautiful and packed with character—the kind of home you'd understand being bummed to leave.

    We spend some time there, and get to see how much the Goonies love to come together and hang out there. In other words, this house isn't just where the Walshes get dressed in the morning. We see how many Goonie-esque touches have been lovingly added—the aforementioned gate contraption, Data's zip line, and the boys' trip up into the attic shows how much history there is in this house, and in this town.

    Astoria—and this home—are characters themselves. Losing this place would be as difficult as losing Data, or Chunk, or Mouth. (Well, maybe not Mouth.)

    It's because it was so important to establish this house as yet another character that the layout is so unique. The gorgeous white house on a hillside, that wraparound porch, Mrs. Walsh's kitschy decorating tastes (or maybe that stuff was all "in" during the 1980s?) all serves to make us feel as much at home there as the Walshes do. So that when it comes time for the Goonies to either save the day or move on, we care.

    The Restaurant

    We can just imagine the Yelp reviews:

    Poorly lit, damp atmosphere. Dirty, grimy walls and floors. Employees threatening to cut off your tongue and/or shove your hand into a blender. Someone chained up downstairs.

    As a restaurant, this place is more than a bit lacking. But it clearly isn't the best choice for a criminal hideout, either.

    It's right out there in the open, first of all—the furthest thing from "secluded." Soon after the Fratellis are inside, they're visited by a couple of FBI agents. They either didn't cover their tracks very well, or else they decided to hide from the authorities in a restaurant that is frequented by FBI agents. Either way…not the best planning.

    Then, when a group of curious young kids wanders over, they walk right in. No locked door, no "Closed Until the Summer" sign hanging outside: this place is open and ready for the public.

    Then again, the Fratellis confront the Goonies immediately after they enter the place, and even seem to be having a little fun at their expense, so maybe they just welcome a challenge.

    The Tunnels

    This is the heart of the film, of course. The underground adventure is what makes The Goonies The Goonies. Without that part of the story, it's just a bunch of kids loitering on private property, breaking into businesses, and missing their curfews.

    It's the tunnels that capture the imaginations of children (or big children, a.k.a. "us"). It's an entire unknown, underground world that connects to the world above in some small ways (the pipes, the wishing well, etc.), but is completely its own entity.

    The tunnels are an escape from reality, where kids can be heroes, far away from the meddlesome intrusion of adults (aside from the three who are trying to kill them). Where booby traps and pirate ships are very real things, not just well-worn elements of a bedtime story.

    The idea of an underground world where magical, unexpected things happen grabs our attention and gets our imagination gears whirring. In fact, it's the sort of thing we might even wish for the next time we throw a penny into a well.

  • Point of View

    The Goonies ain't big on fancy tricks when it comes to how this story is told. There are no flashbacks, no flashforwards, and no flashsideways. We watch the Goonies' story unfold linearly, although it does jump back and forth between the kids and the Fratellis (and then Sloth and Chunk) for a bit.

    But other than that, the emphasis is on the story itself and not on getting overly experimental with the telling. Leave the fancypants narratives to the Quentin Tarantinos of the world.

  • Genre

    Comedy; Adventure; Family

    Let's see. Are you laughing your butt off?

    Check. It's a comedy.

    Have you spent the last hour and a half on the edge of your seat, equal parts excited and nervous?

    Check. It's an adventure.

    Could you have watched this with children in the room, without having to cover their eyes at the dirty parts?

    Check. It's a family film.

    But the reason The Goonies is so enduring is that it manages to be the best parts—and avoid the pitfalls—of all three of these genres. It has the hilarity of comedy without being plotless. It has the thrill of adventure without being too sober. And it has all the warmhearted cleanliness of a kid's film without being too full of cheesy "Let's Learn a Valuable Lesson"-style morality.

    Unless you count "always keep a stash of Baby Ruths" as a valuable lesson. (0/10 dentists endorse this lesson.)

  • What's Up With the Title?

    The quick and dirty answer is that it's called The Goonies because the movie is about a bunch of goonies.

    But that raises the question: what in tarnation is a Goonie?

    We get a hint when we hear Mikey talk about something called "the Goondocks." We've heard of boondocks before, a term that usually refers to some type of remote area. And Astoria, Oregon is hardly a bustling metropolis.

    But "goonies" itself is a totally made-up word, so don't go looking it up in Webster's. The only time the word "goonies" is used is in reference to this film. It has joined the extensive Cinema Vocab Dictionary, taking its rightful place next to words like "Wookie" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

  • What's Up With the Ending?

    There's nothing all that shocking here. Good wins, evil is vanquished. The kids find the treasure, the town is saved, the Fratellis are going back to jail, and the country club folks have to eat dirt. It's all pretty formulaic, predictable, and status quo. (It's also 100% satisfying.)

    But it's that last shot that might need just a bit more attention. The final frame doesn't show the Goonies celebrating their victory. It isn't a close-up shot on Mikey shooting us a coy smile.

    It's Willy's ship, sailing off into the distance.

    This might seem strange. Willy, being a skeleton, doesn't even have any lines in this film. His character isn't developed, and we can't get much of a sense of his motivations (aside from the fact that he was awfully possessive for a dead guy). So why does he get to be at the center of the parting visual?

    As much as The Goonies is about this specific group of kids, it's really about wonder. It's about childhood, and imagination, and making the seemingly impossible possible. Willy, and his ship, represents those ideas. To see it sailing away, un-captained by a living soul, packs a much more powerful punch than lingering on mere humans.

    Humans are a dime a dozen. But skeleton pirates are awesome.

  • Shock Rating

    PG

    The Goonies is rated PG, and it only gets that rating because of an overabundance of the "s" word.

    Weirdly, for a movie that features so many corpses, they're all totally bloodless. They're either dead (pun!) ringers for Skeletor, or they're human popsicles in the Fratellis' fridge. Because of this, they have the same shock value as, say, Wile E Coyote getting bashed with an anvil.