1985 was far more than just an impressive year for Hollywood releases; it also marked a transition in film entertainment, as studios embraced new voices overflowing with creative talent. However, the journey to the stellar lineup of films released in 1985 started many years before. Its roots lay in the late 1970s explosion of fantasy and science fiction that led to Superman the Movie, Star Wars, Alien and many more. The 70s had introduced the world to a whole new generation of writers, producers and directors, all of whom pushed the boundaries of genre filmmaking, from Steven Spielberg to George Lucas, Ridley Scott, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola.
By the early 1980s, this change in the Hollywood system had led to Raiders of the Lost Ark, An American Werewolf in London, The Empire Strikes Back, E.T, Poltergeist and many more. However, many argue it was 1985 that saw this explosion of late 70s and early 80s creativity reach its pinnacle. After all, this was the year that would bring us Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, Fright Night, Cocoon, The Color Purple, St Elmo’s Fire, Brazil, The Explorers and of course, The Goonies.
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The Goonies may have been born in the imagination of its Executive Producer Steven Spielberg, but its journey to the screen and cult status came from a collision of creative minds. Due to his work on The Color Purple, Spielberg was unavailable to direct the picture or dedicate much time to the screenwriting process. Therefore Spielberg would recruit the new Amblin Entertainment writer Chris Columbus who had also developed the script for Gremlins (1984). Columbus was a safe pair of hands for Steven Spielberg’s vision, embedding The Goonies in a world of comic book fantasy, humour, and teenage escapism.
Columbus would place the kids in a parallel universe to Gremlins while nodding toward his previous work in the screenplay. However, as The Goonies neared pre-production, a director was still missing. Spielberg’s choice was inspired as he brought on board Richard Donner, a director who had the experience of multi-genre hits such as The Omen, Lola and Superman the Movie.
The Goonies would bring together three creative giants of the Hollywood system, each wrapping The Goonies journey in their own imaginative worlds. For example, The Goonies universe is Gremlins thanks to Chris Columbus; the adventure is that of Indiana Jones thanks to Spielberg, and the drive and humour are that of Donner. Even the Superman logo appears alongside Data and Donner’s love of James Bond.
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However, despite its layers of pop culture homage to the films that came before it, The Goonies true genius lay in a screenplay that reminisced on a notion of childhood freedom and exploration that seemed to be rapidly disappearing in the 1980s. For all its pop-culture twists, elements of The Goonies feel utterly timeless in construct. In this respect, the coming of age themes at the heart of The Goonies reflects a feeling of nostalgia, unlike the work of John Hughes, where the 1980s was embraced as a time of positive change. However, just like Hughes, adults are placed at an arms-length throughout The Goonies. However, The Goonies has more in common with the kid’s adventure serials, and comics of the 40s and 50s as the adult villain’s intelligence never equals that of our young adventurers.
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The Goonies success came from its ability to redefine the boundaries of genre-based cinema while dovetailing 80s pop culture with 40s and 50s adventure. Like Back to the Future of the same year, it was a moment where 70s ingenuity and change met 80s creativity and optimism. Over the years since its release, many films have attempted to recreate The Goonies magic with mixed success, from Stranger Things to The Kid Who Would Be King and The Monster Squad. However, The Goonies represents a moment in time incased in amber, a moment where three Hollywood giants collided and created one of the greatest kids films of all time.
Director: Richard Donner