When recalling the classic 1985 flick The Goonies, the first rides that come to mind aren’t typically cars—or even land-based.
The film, of course, coalesces around the search for a fantastic pirate ship captained by the fearsome One-Eyed Willy. And taking place in the rain-soaked Pacific Northwest, it features its fair share of maritime references.
The whole thing kicks into action when a band of down-and-out kids living in Astoria, Oregon discover an old treasure map. The map is fabled to have been written by Willy and his mates, leading to piles of the rich stuff.
Unable to resist the adventure it entails—and actually doing their parents a favor, as all of their houses are due to be sold to make way for a country club golf course—the crew decides to see where the map leads.
Unfortunately, it points them directly into the path of the Fratellis, a criminal family fresh out of jail who are currently holing up in the abandoned restaurant where the path toward the treasure starts.
But it wasn’t all about chasing an adventure at sea.
The Goonies and gang sported some sweet rides of the motor vehicle variety to get them around the rugged hills of Oregon—and put on a number of chases and races that make searching for buried treasure look like a walk in the park.
Keep on reading to see how exactly the group gets around, and how the film stacks up on our patented rating scale of awesomeness.
The primary whip we have to write about is the Fratelli gang’s family car, a 1984 Jeep Cherokee XJ. (With a bunch of kids on a quest for buried treasure, the movie serves as a bit of a caper, but perhaps the biggest mystery of all is the meaning behind the initials “KC,” sported on a pair of decorative plaques on the front of the Jeep.)
Among other innovations that made the XJ model a classic was its unibody structure. It was the first non-military 4x4 vehicle to utilize one, making it especially durable, both on- and off-road.
Which is a good quality for a mom looking to break her son out of prison.
Ma Fratelli, played by Anne Ramsey, ingeniously uses every part of her Jeep—up to and including its optional sunroof—when springing son Jake from the joint.
But other qualities of the rugged car came into play for the crime-loving family’s getaway.
Aside from helping the crew elude the cops on a chase across Astoria (more on that later), the Jeep’s four-wheel drive was a crucial feature for the family. (Say what you will about Ma Fratelli, but the woman sure knows how to pick her vehicles.)
Entered last-minute—to say the least—in a race across the beaches of Oregon, the Jeep is seen masterfully weaving in and out of the pack of other rugged rides, with the Fratelli’s XJ emerging victorious, leaving the family not only with a successful jail breakout but probably a pretty cool trophy, to boot.
Still, the Jeep wasn’t the only break-out vehicular star of the film.
A solid runner-up award goes to the 1983 Ford Mustang GT driven by local snotty rich kid, Troy Perkins.
A beautiful red convertible with a solid black racing stripe, the ride should have been enough for Troy to win the affections of head cheerleader Andy (Kerri Green). But, unfortunately for the country club kid, she’s more interested in goon dock resident Brandon Walsh (a very young Josh Brolin—in his big screen debut).
Clearly unaccustomed to the word “no,” Troy decides to let Andy—and Brandon—know exactly how he deals with rejection when he sees Brand sporting a little girl’s bike, furiously riding down the road in pursuit of little brother, Mikey (Sean Astin), who’s gone off searching for treasure. (In an especially deft move, Mikey and the boys flatten Brand’s actual bike tires to thwart his anticipated chase.)
In what would be an incredibly dangerous idea if this wasn't an ‘80s movie intended for children, Troy revs up the Mustang’s powerful engine to send Brand sailing off a nearby cliff—theoretically ridding himself of competition for Andy.
But back to the Jeep, which, along with the incredible musical score provided by Dave Grusin, sets the perfect opening pace for an adventure flick.
Once Jake escapes from the county jail, the Fratellis make their getaway, driving top speed all across the sleepy coastal Oregon town. Of course, the local cops are in hot pursuit.
They even pop a few rounds into the wayward 4x4, blessedly giving the character Chunk (Jeff Cohen) the perfect excuse to later describe the vehicle as an “ORV; bullet holes the size of matzah balls!” (Meanwhile, Ma Fratelli, ever the cool customer, benignly munches on a snack during the high-octane ride.)
The chase also serves double-duty as an introduction of the movie’s main movers and shakers. The cars whiz past Andy, who fails to notice the hoopla as she’s busy teaching her cheer squad the victory pyramid.
It also buzzes by fellow Goonie Mouth (Corey Feldman), who thinks the sirens and gunshots are part of the old black-and-white movie he’s watching. The flick happens to feature an equally-exciting car chase at the same time the real-life cops and robbers are speeding past.
Whiz-kid Data (Jonathan Ke Huy Quan) gets stuck in a barrel while testing out one of his contraptions just before the cars fly by. And cautious adventurer Stephanie (Martha Plimpton) is inexplicably bobbing for crabs along the docks, missing the chase while her head is submerged in a giant tank of water, making for the weirdest reason ever recorded to not witness a police pursuit.
The only member of the team who sees the chase is Chunk, who gleefully abandons his video game—but not his pizza or milkshake—to take in the sight.
But faster than he can marvel at the spectacle, it’s gone, with the Jeep off to enter—and win—its impromptu beach race.
The Goonies is one of the best movies made in an era known for particularly awesome movies. That being said, it’s not exactly a car flick, but we have to give props where props are due: in what scenes it does feature motor vehicles, it goes above and beyond, with unforgettable chase scenes and unfathomable cliff-dives.
For its sparse-but-creative approach, we award the movie a 6 out of 10—with a bonus Truffle Shuffle Award for scoring the whole thing to such fantastic music.
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