Released in 1985, this beloved film didn’t just entertain Generation Xers — it left an indelible imprint on pop culture, turning into a touchstone for many growing up in the era.
The Goonies quest
“The Goonies,” directed by Richard Donner and written by Chris Columbus from a story by Steven Spielberg, captured the hearts of audiences with its unlikely crew of young misfits embarking on an exciting quest for the treasure of the movie’s legendary pirate, One-Eyed Willy.
It wasn’t your typical adventure tale. With its mix of quirky humor, suspense, heartwarming friendships, and infectious adolescent spirit, it echoed the experience of any kid yearning for an epic adventure right in their backyard.
The story takes place in Astoria, Oregon, and our heroes are a tight-knit group of friends dubbed the Goonies.
As they face the threat of their homes being demolished to make way for a country club, they discover an old pirate map leading to lost treasure. This sets them on a journey of discovery — not just of hidden treasure, but also of courage, resilience, and the enduring bond of friendship.
The endearing characters of “The Goonies” also contributed to its cultural impact. Who could forget the Choco-loving Chunk, the inventive Data, the fearless leader Mikey, or the lovable giant Sloth?
These characters — with their distinctive personalities and memorable catchphrases like “Goonies never say die!” — have found a permanent place in the hearts of viewers, influencing the conception of characters in many coming-of-age films to come.
Gen X loved The Goonies then, and still does to this day
“The Goonies” also excelled in making childhood dreams tangible. The idea of finding a map and following it to pirate treasure appealed to the sense of adventure in every child.
For many viewers, the movie served as an initiation into the world of adventure, sparking their imaginations and fueling countless childhood games.
“The Goonies” continues to be a touchstone of popular culture, with its influence felt in modern TV series like “Stranger Things,” and novels like the nostalgia-drenched “Ready Player One.”
That’s all because Goonies did more than just offer 114 minutes of entertainment — it provided a generation with a sense of adventure, friendship, and bravery. Its enduring popularity is a testament to its influence, proving that sometimes a childhood adventure can turn into a lifelong journey.
‘The Goonies’ is an adolescent version of ‘Indiana Jones’
From a review by Kerry Kirspel, Shreveport Journal (Louisiana) June 11, 1985
“The Goonies,” starring Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Ke Huy-Quan and John Matuszak. Directed by Richard Donner. Rated PG.
“The Goonies,” the first movie of 1985 to bear Steven Spielberg’s seal, is an adolescent version of “Indiana Jones.” It has the look and feel of those kiddie mysteries made by Walt Disney a couple of decades ago.
One can almost imagine the young Stars of this movie getting together one Saturday afternoon and saying, “Hey, guys! Why don’t we make a movie together!” “Yeah! We can have crooks and pirates and a treasure map and booby traps and everything!”
The Goonies of the title are a group of kids who consider themselves “rejects.”
There’s Mouth (Corey Feldman of “Gremlins”), who talks a lot; Mikey (Sean Astin), an asthmatic youth who is the self-appointed leader of the Goonies; Data (Ke Huy-Quan), a would-be inventor; and Chunk (Jeff Cohen), a fat boy whose appetite is surpassed only by his exaggerated stories.
The setting is a small coastal town, the sort of suburbia Spielberg loves. The Goonies’ neighborhood is being taken over by a conglomerate that wants to tear down all the houses and construct a golf course; the people who live there are totally inconsequential. That means the Goonies will have to leave for other homes — a prospect none of them enjoy.
While poking around the ancient artifacts in Mikey’s attic (his father is a museum curator), they discover a treasure map made by a shipmate of One-Eyed Willie, a well-known pirate.
Mikey suggests that they try to find the treasure, which would effectively boot out the creditors clawing at their doors. His older brother, Brand (Josh Brolin), is totally against the idea, as are his friends.
Complicating matters are the Fratellis, a family of despicable, klutzy crooks. They are led by Mama Fratelli (Anne Ramsey), a Ma Barker type.
The Goonies run into this bizarre family before they can even find their way underground, and the audience knows that the Fratellis will learn of the map and the treasure before long.
As in the two “Indiana Jones” movies, the quest for the prize is strewn with a number of booby traps, including a series of large boulders set to drop on unsuspecting victims, crumbling floors, and a pit with spikes at the bottom.
With a screenplay by Chris Columbus (author of “Gremlins”), the movie was directed by Richard Donner, who was also responsible for the first “Superman” movie, and he tries to recapture that same comic-book feeling in “Goonies,” even though he does tend to get a bit heavy-handed every so often.
As for the Goonies themselves, they are cute, albeit one-sided. As Mikey, Sean Astin (son of John Astin and Patty Duke) comes across as the most plucky. He ignores his asthma in order to reach the noble goal of saving their families and their homes.
The others have admirable traits as well. Ke Huy-Quan, Short Round in “Indiana Jones,” has a number of not-very-reliable inventions tucked into his belt (not unlike Batman’s utility belt). He and his gizmos have some of the funniest scenes, as does Jeff Cohen as Chunk.
His penchant for telling outlandish stories makes it difficult for anyone to believe him when he actually does tell the truth. He’s at his funniest when he is captured by the Fratellis, and is told to “confess everything,” which he takes literally.
The makeup of Sloth (John Matuszak), the deformed but friendly Fratelli brother, looks like so much latex and foam rubber. But he, too, has some of the film’s funniest moments. The young audience at the screening I attended even cheered when he appeared during the climax.
Like the live-action Disney mysteries involving kids, “The Goonies” isn’t terribly concerned with logic or sensibility. In fact, it’s sometimes downright silly. But it tells a story that probably every young boy has daydreamed of time and time again. And what the heck, it’s fun, too.
Soundtrack video: Cyndi Lauper’s The Goonies ‘r’ Good Enough
Goonies stars: Where are they now?
From the rocky coasts of Astoria, Oregon, to the glitz and glam of Hollywood, California, the stars of The Goonies have each charted their own unique courses. Here’s an update from 2023.
Sean Astin, who portrayed the ever-optimistic Mikey, has continued to make waves in the acting world. From the loyal Samwise Gamgee in the “Lord of the Rings” movies to the brave Bob Newby in “Stranger Things,” Astin has proven his mettle many times over.
Corey Feldman, the sharp-witted Mouth, held fast to his Hollywood dreams after his Goonies adventure. His youthful charm graced a number of other iconic 80s films such as “Stand by Me” and “The Lost Boys.” While the 90s saw a downturn in his acting career, Feldman since bounced back with reality TV appearances and a music career that’s as unique as his film repertoire.
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Josh Brolin, who played Mikey’s older brother Brand, carved out a strong presence in Hollywood, with roles in films like “No Country for Old Men” and as Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Josh’s father, actor James Brolin, has been married to Barbra Streisand since 1998 — meaning the multi-talented EGOT winner is his mother-in-law.
Ke Huy Quan, who brought the ingenious gadgeteer Data to life, demonstrated that his creativity wasn’t limited to contraptions and booby traps. After a significant hiatus from acting, during which he worked behind the scenes in various film departments, Quan made a striking return to the screen in 2022. His Academy Award-winning performance in the sci-fi drama “Everything Everywhere All at Once” marked a triumphant comeback.
Martha Plimpton, the brave Stef, has found success on stage and screen, earning critical acclaim for her work in Broadway and in television shows such as “Raising Hope.”
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Jeff Cohen, who played the unforgettable Chunk, looks at Hollywood from the other side now. Yes, after stealing our hearts with his Truffle Shuffle, Cohen traded acting for law, and is now a successful entertainment lawyer. One of his clients happens to be a guy named Ke Huy Quan.
Kerri Green, who was the athletic and kind-hearted Andy, also journeyed on from the treacherous caves and booby traps. After charming audiences with her performance in “The Goonies,” she starred in films like “Lucas” and “Three for the Road.” Green later stepped behind the camera, co-founding a film production company, and directing the 1999 movie “Bellyfruit.”