Goonies Never Say Die

There's a reason I left The Goonies off my lists of "great forgotten" kids films of the 80s and 90s, and that's because it's more than just a film, and is far from being overlooked. It's more than some old popcorn family flick about a bunch of sugar-high screaming kids shoving their way through a Young Indiana Jones-inspired Spielbergian pirate treasure adventure. It's a generation-defining statement. It came out a year before I was born and still loomed large over the whole scene back then in a more or less constant repetition that has continued right up to the present day. And to show its lasting legacy, I think I only just got the "one-eyed willy" joke yesterday. That's a good one... hehe.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, The Goonies was a 1985 film about a bunch of kids who go on a treasure quest through a trap-filled pirate's cove, all to have one more "fling" together before they have to part ways for good or find enough money to save their neighborhood from being turned into a golf course--the "goonies" being the residents of this alcove derisively labeled "the goondocks." And since it would take "about 400 paychecks" to save it, they decide they better set off for the treasure.

The main quartet had Mikey, the shy-type leader and main inspiration figure living on an inhaler and the promise of One-Eyed Willy's fortune; Data, the gadgets guru and arsenal expert who could never pronounce "booby traps;" Mouth, the fearless and fluent Spanish speaker who got them all into and out of so many a near-death predicament with his big mouth; and Chunk, the chubby "Truffle Shuffle" one they all made fun of and who always had an excuse or a tall tale to ramble about. Joined by Mikey's jock older brother Brand, his brother's less-than-virtuoso piano-playing girlfriend Andy, and her smart-alec friend Stef, the "Goonies" were a complete troupe. They also later designated Sloth, the deformed Fratelli brother, an honorary member for joining them in defense of their cause of trespassing in the name of "this is OUR time... down HERE."

The real magic of it all was just how much ground they covered. What starts out as a totally normal suburban setting gets more and more fantastical as they plunge the depths of this cave until they finally come upon the fabled pirate ship itself in all its glory, full-masted, intact, and packed with priceless riches entombed forever in this very well lit cavern. It almost seems like a place you've been yourself many times in your imagination or even in your dreams. It's that familiar. Along the way we're treated with an odd assortment of one-liners, shouting matches, Data's bizarre inventions like his "slick shoes" and "pinchers of peril," booby traps like the skeleton piano floor cave-ins and the waterfall, and all those preteen hijinks run amok:

"B-Flat? Heh, if you hit the wrong note, we'll all "B flat!" "Come on, Brand! Slip her the tongue!" "Hope it's not a deposit bottle!" "Always separate the drugs." "No, I want the veal scalopini!" "Follow them size five's!" "I'm gonna hit you so hard that when you wake up your clothes will be out of style!" "Chunk, I'm pretty much ODing on all your bullshit stories!" "I love the dark, but I HATE NATURE!" "Your looks are kind of pretty when your face isn't screwing it up." "You're in the clouds and we're in a basement!" "Man! You smell like Phys Ed!" "I've been saved by my Pinchers of Peril!" "Long enough, Mikey. Long enough." ...etc. We all know at least one.

Take one look at this film and you'll start feeling those goosebumps crawl your arms, because for some reason, more than nearly anything else, it seems to tap into something unique to "us," those of us on the upper end of generation X and the cusp of Y. Maybe it's that honest depiction of the profanity and innuendo we all got into as a kids. Maybe it's that Cyndi Lauper-colored quirkiness in the soundtrack. Maybe it's that thin glimmer of haze, the thick glasses, headbands, square headlights, and other bits of nostalgia. Maybe it's because we all knew someone like one or more of the characters from the movie, even the more cartoony ones. Maybe it's really just about that bygone era before the internet when we used to go on our own little naive adventures in a time when, yeah, we were subversive with the swearing and sex jokes, but we were still "kids." Kids who actually went on "adventures." Modern childhood is nothing like this. And yeah, we may be set in our late 20th century ways now, but it's films like The Goonies that documented it and in so doing made that time period timeless.

Credit belongs entirely to Steven Spielberg, Chris Columbus, and Richard Donner not just for making this treat of a movie, but for contributing to our collective life enjoyment for the last 27 years because of it. The fun of it was that any suburban kid who ever went on an adventure could be a "Goonie" too, and "Goonies never say die" indeed.

"Goonies never say die!"

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  1. That is why I LOVED older kids' movies and shows! They had adult humor, adult jokes and innuendo and unless you were way too kiddish, you always had a slight hint of what they were talking about. Man I wished they made more movies like that.

    Which reminds me- if you like movies like that, go watch Paranorman! It was funny, cute, kiddish yet adultish and had tons of funny adult humor! :)

    1. Yeah kids are way smarter than they're given credit for.