"Red Dawn" Movie Facts

by Toby Welch

"Red Dawn" is an American war film that hit theaters in 1984. It was directed by John Milius, who co-wrote the screenplay with Kevin Reynolds. At the time, "Red Dawn" was considered too violent for many people's tastes. The entire film was shot in New Mexico. "Red Dawn" is available on DVD in wide screen and full screen formats.


"Red Dawn" tells the story of a high school in Colorado in the mid-1980s that is overrun by Soviet and Cuban troops. The paratroops immediately attack the school, and a group of teenagers seek safety in a nearby forest. Armed only with minimal weapons, the teens must survive the bitter winter and evade the soldiers who are hunting for them. After six months in the woods, the teens run out of supplies and must take the food that the Soviets have left as a trap. Their numbers dwindling, the teens attack Soviet headquarters and confront their enemy.


One of the most impressive things about the movie is the cast. While many of them were relative unknowns at the time, the movie shot some of the cast members into stardom. Patrick Swayze played the role of Jed Eckert. Charlie Sheen played his brother, Matt. Their friends in the movie are played by C. Thomas Howell, Brad Savage, Darren Dalton and Doug Toby. Lea Thompson and Jennifer Grey play two young women under Jed and Matt's care. Powers Boothe, Harry Dean Stanton, Pepe Serna , Ben Johnson, Ron O'Neal, William Smith, Lane Smith, Vladek Sheybal, Roy Jenson and Greg Miller round out the cast of major characters.


"Red Dawn" was the first film released in the United States with a Motion Picture Association of America rating of PG-13. Originally filmed in English, it is also available in Russian and Spanish. "Red Dawn" was referred to in the movie "Hot Tub Time Machine" and TV shows including "Family Guy," "Scrubs," "South Park," "American Dad" and "The Game." "Red Dawn" is also either mentioned or is a part of the plot in a half dozen video games. It is especially prevalent in "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" and "World in Conflict".


"Red Dawn" opened on Aug. 10, 1984, to mixed reviews and made $8,230,381 on its first weekend. The total box office gross was just over $38 million. Considering it took $4.2 million to make the movie, the movie was a financial success. "Red Dawn" was the 20th highest grossing film of 1984. The Guinness Book of World Records rated it the most violent film of all time as it had 134 violent acts per hour -- a record that has been eclipsed by more recent movies.


  • "Patrick Swayze: One Last Dance"; Wendy Leigh; 2009
  • "Echoes of War: A Thousand Years of Military History in Popular Culture"; Michael C. C. Adams; 2002
  • "Red Dawn (2-Disc Collector's Edition)"; 2007