One of 1985’s most beloved films, The Goonies was a fine choice to revisit in 2015. A cult classic whose stature has only grown over the years (it opened as the #2 movie and never reached #1 box office over its theatrical run, losing to Rambo: First Blood Part II and then Cocoon debuted, with St. Elmo’s Fire following) despite amassing $61.5M in box office receipts against its cost of roughly $20M to make. Due to Gremlins (1984)’s behemoth success ($145M), The Goonies was widely considered to be a failure. It has rehabilitated that image over the past 30 years to become a beloved part of ’80s culture.
The film was squarely targeted at children, and it is for this reason that it’s so beloved by children of the ’80s (and also by later children that discovered it on VHS). A film about children having an adventure together? That should have been box office gold for families. The Goonies was also written by Chris Columbus, produced by Steven Spielberg, and the movie poster painted by Drew Struzan. Having one of those elements is usually enough to label a film a cult classic, much less having that triple threat.
It’s important to note that this was released in 1985. Spielberg was just starting out that stretch of his oeuvre that turned him into *jazz hands* STEVEN SPIELBERG! *jazz hands*. Jaws (1975), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), E.T. (1982), and Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom (1984) put Spielberg into King Midas’ company. He had just produced the aforementioned Gremlins (1984) as well. Blockbuster after blockbuster. But 1984 was also a year of gloom and doom for both Spielberg and Lucas – relationship woes influenced their art. Spielberg was also producing another 1985 classic at the same time – Back to the Future (1985). It’d be easy to say that The Goonies was an afterthought at times, but that simply isn’t the case.
There’s so many pop culture moments that find their genesis in The Goonies such as Sloth, the Truffle Shuffle, and of course, one of the last pirate-related movies that Hollywood made for a while. It’s only gotten more beloved over time as its contemporary audience has aged and now crave reminders of their childhoods of the ’80s, probably the last decade for children to grow up in without the pervasive technological changes that began to take place in the ’90s.
A family-friendly adventure remains one of Hollywood’s rarest commodities and almost always becomes a beloved cult classic or a worldwide success. The list goes on and on about films that can be considered part of this echelon: the Star Wars and Indiana Jones cycles with involvement from Spielberg alone would meet the criteria. The Goonies is perhaps the most beloved cult film that involves Spielberg in some form. All in all, it’s a modern retelling of some of the most treasured tales of boyhood – swashbuckling pirates, treasure, saving the world (or at least their own worlds), and of course, doing it without adults!
In short – The Goonies wasn’t intended for adults, and remains enjoyable to children of all ages. If you’re interested in a cultural artifact from the 1980s, have fond memories of the film, or are a child (either presently or at heart), then you have my highest recommendation. Otherwise, consider this a part of your cultural education, which means you can either screen the film at some point or not. It’s not canonic, except in the sense of being a part of the cult classics canon.
It’s also important to note that the type of adventure these children have wouldn’t be possible today, not with all the helicoptering parents and crime that has unfortunately skyrocketed. Gone are the days that you could just tell children to go outside and play with rocks and sticks until dinner time. In that, The Goonies allows those of us that remember those days of being a kid to relive them vicariously.
MPAA Rating: PG