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Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #378: The Goonies

As I write this it is the weekend when the second season of 80s inspired show Stranger Things has dropped, so it is the perfect time to take a look at one of the many movies that inspired it, The Goonies (1985). Directed by Richard Donner, written by Chris Columbus and based on a story by Steven Spielberg, this is a movie made by some of the best filmmakers of that time. Although it was not a box office smash it went on to become a cult hit and its influences can be clearly seen on Stranger Things and on plenty of other stories featuring a group of young friends who go on extraordinary adventures.

It took me a while to finally see the full movie since it came out a year before I was born. However since it is a cult film I noticed its impact on pop culture over the years, whether it was hearing someone use the rallying cry “Goonies never say die!” or its influence on other movies like J.J Abrams’ Super 8. Watching it the first time I really enjoyed seeing familiar faces acting in one of their first big movie, whether it was Sean Astin of Lord of the Rings (and now appropriately Stranger Things), Josh Brolin of The Avengers franchise or Jonathan Ke Huy Quan of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. These actors have done a lot, but for many fans they are still The Goonies.

It’s no wonder, because The Goonies are an awesome gang. As with the best of teams, each member has his own set of skills that help them overcome any obstacle, but they are of course not perfect, which makes them more relatable to the audience. For instance Richard “Data” Wang (Quan) is always carrying a bunch of gizmos and gadgets with him, but unfortunately his toys sometimes fail when they are most needed. Lawrence Cohen (Jeff Cohen) has the nickname “Chunk” because of his hefty size, but he comes in handy if you want to break down a door.

The gang, also made up of Martha Plimpton, Corey Feldman and Kerri Green, start off the movie facing the prospect of losing their homes in the Goon Docks area of Astoria, Oregon, because of an expanding country club. They may have found a way to avoid foreclosure after discovering, of all things, a treasure map in an attic. This fortune in doubloons belonged to the pirate “One-Eyed” Willy and is conveniently located somewhere in The Goonies’ community. In Indiana and the Last Crusade Professor Jones said an X never marked the spot on a treasure map. That may be true in real life, but it is so much more fun when it is the case in movies.

The treasure hunt is of course not easy. The Goonies have to go through dank caverns, avoid dangerous traps, and solve tricky riddles. Further complicating things is criminal duo Jake and Francis Fratelli (Robert Davi and Joe Pantoliano) led by their very dangerous mother, “Mama” Fratelli (Anne Ramsey) who also want to get their hands on that pirate loot. The Fratelli brothers are funny when they are failing, but you know these are bad people since they keep their deformed brother Sloth (John Matuszak) chained in his room.

All of these dangers make some of the members of The Goonies think that this whole treasure hunt might not be such a good idea after all. Trudging through a tunnel with armed criminals chasing you is not a good way to spend your evening, so when the gang finds a way to get back to the surface The Goonies are about to call it quit. However Mickey (Astin) gives one of the movie’s best monologues and reminds his friends that down there it is still their time.   

That right there is why The Goonies has had such a lasting impact. Take out the treasure and the bandits, and this would still be a fantastic movie about friendship and having one last hurrah over the summer. Of course it also doesn’t hurt that there is a climactic fight aboard a 17th-century pirate ship and The Goonies have to walk the plank.  


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