To those who grew up in the 1980s, the phrases “Goonies never say die!”, “Boodie traps!” and “Down here is our time. It’s our time, down here!” are all stirring rallying cries of youthful adventure. And now that the original fans of Richard Donner’s 1985 cult kid classic have their own children approaching Goonie-age, this is your time – your time to relive the journey along the rain-soused Oregon coast where much of the movie took place
The cast of The Goonies featured a group of misfit, pint-sized Indiana Joneses – played by Josh Brolin, Sean Astin and Corey Feldman, among others – but with more swearing and bigger laughs. Instead of fighting Nazis, the kids are battling greedy land developers trying to gobble up their parents’ houses.
The town they’re going to lose when their cash-strapped folks sign away the real estate is perhaps the film’s best casting: hilly, green, wet Astoria, Oregon. The foggy coastal hamlet with colourful Victorian homes is dripping with cloudy discontent but also rife with verdant possibility. It may not look like much at first glance – an ungilded, micro-San Francisco, perhaps – but treasures await if you explore.
“Donner had decided that the tone at the opening of his movie would be gloomy in order to reflect the sombre mood of the kids,” writes Mick Alderman in Three Weeks With the Goonies, a short book of naïve recollections from Alderman’s stint as an unpaid member of the film crew. In fact, Donner chose to shoot in the fall for the abundance of wet weather.
Astoria’s town centre is a walkable grid of streets along the Columbia River, dwarfed by a massive bridge spanning the waterway. The downtown area features heavily in the opening car-chase sequence, in which the other bad guys – the comically dysfunctional Fratelli crime family – escape from jail. John Warren Field on Exchange Street, used by the local high school, is the film’s football field. The Flavel House Museum, the county’s historical society, is the movie’s history museum where one of the Goonies’ dads works. The docks where you’re introduced to the character Data are the East Mooring Basin on the edge of town. Lower Columbia Bowl bowling alley where you meet Chunk is still there.
The opening scene’s jail break takes place in the cells of what was, from 1914 to 1976, the Clatsop County Jail. Since 2010 – The Goonies’ 25th anniversary – the building has been the Oregon Film Museum. Parked outside is the actual Jeep Cherokee driven by the Fratellis in the film.
The museum may claim to be devoted to the entire state – marquee posters tout movies such as The Black Stallion, which was shot at a nearby beach – but half of the museum is focused on The Goonies. Data’s gadget-packed trench coat is in a cell. There are photo stills, random ‘80s merchandise and life-size cut outs of the characters, including the deformed but ultimately loveable Sloth. On a large visitor bulletin board, one earnest visitor wrote, “I’m a Goonie because I love the thrill of an adventure.”
But the biggest fan is probably the young man who was selling tickets at the museum door. Micah Dugan used to work at the town’s video store, which is about as good a training as you can get for his current gig. He was dubious about the recent news of a Goonies sequel but conceded that it’ll be good for local business.
Tourism is now Astoria’s chief source of revenue, he told me while standing near replicas of the Goonies’ treasure map, $50 Sloth masks and Baby Ruth candy bars (Sloth’s favourite). “It used to be salmon and timber and now it’s Goonies,” he said. It makes sense then, that the town’s annual Goonies celebration, which takes place every June, will be super-sized this year for the film’s 30th anniversary.
Goondocks, the name of the house where the brothers played by Brolin and Astin live, might be fans’ most significant stop. The white Queen Anne-style home (368 38th St) is on a tiny, one-way road at the edge of a cliff overlooking the East Mooring Basin; from the house you can hear seals barking.
Even if your memory of the house is hazy, you can’t miss it; signs on the street below will guide you there. But the signs also ask you to respect that the house is privately owned, and to walk (not drive) up the hill for a closer (but not too close) look.
I parked next to the nearby elementary school (the same one in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Kindergarten Cop) and walked up to snap a picture, like everyone else. The owner emerged just then, smiled hello and beat a quick exit to his car. Next door to the Goondocks is, fans know, Data’s house.
There are a few other stops worth making in town. If you drive up near the top of the town’s hill, on windy Skyline Avenue where it intersects with Valley Street, you’ll see the house where Mouth, Corey Feldman’s character, lived. Just the view of the river and ocean is worth the detour.
But my favourite find in town was a lark. Along with the video rental store, another ‘80s throwback is Arc Arcade (1084 Commercial St; 503-468-0576), a bona fide, quarter-fuelled video game arcade. A tsunami of nostalgia hit as I played games (some free!) that I hadn’t seen, much less played, in 30 years. Among them, Nintendo’s 1986 Goonies adventure. I found it too difficult to play and moved on to other areas of former childhood expertise.
You may recall that the opening scene’s car chase ends on the beach, the Fratelli’s Jeep Cherokee slipping away in a race of similar vehicles. Well, you can’t drive it, but you’ll enjoy walking the wide, wild sands of Cannon Beach, where the scene was filmed, 25 miles south of Astoria.
The lovely little resort town is known best for the huge rocks that litter its beach, most prominently, the 23-storey-high Haystack Rock. You see the rock formations that were featured in the film’s road race and, later, that aided the Goonies in triangulating the location of the pirate treasure they seek.
The only disappointment in following the Goonies trail is that the most exciting parts of the film take place in a warren of underground caves, full of “boodie traps”, a waterfall and ultimately a pirate ship full of One-Eyed Willie’s treasure – none of which exist outside of a Hollywood sound stage. But this just means you need to find your own Goonies-esque settings.
With all the craggy cliffs that abut the beach, it isn’t hard. Just south of Cannon Beach is Hug Point park. My friend Jesse and our young daughters explored rocks at low tide, peering into tide pools of clams and sea anemones. We climbed to the top of a medium-sized waterfall where someone had made a bonfire the night before. As waves came in, we jumped on rocks and made our way around a bend to find empty caves. The little ones were thrilled, and as the tide threatened to trap us, Jesse and I soaked ourselves carrying the kids back to high ground.
The next day my wife and I took our daughters to Ecola, a state park two miles north of Cannon Beach on Highway 101. Near the main entrance is Ecola Point, a big parking lot with a sweeping view over islands, beach and Pacific Ocean. Goonies fans will recognize the view as the one where the kids use the rock key to line up the outcroppings and find the cave entrance: an abandoned bar being used as a hideout by the Fratellis.
For the movie, a temporary building was constructed by the film crew in the middle of Ecola Point’s field. According to Alderman’s book, the grassy mounds you see in the film are covered picnic tables that they couldn’t remove from concrete anchors.
More Ecola fun is found at Indian Point, located at the end of a winding road flanked by moss-covered trees. It’s along this route that Brolin’s bike accident prank unfolds. And at the end of it you find a dramatic beach sandwiched between ocean waves and high cliffs with wood paths. This was the intended location for the end of The Goonies, according to Alderman, but the bad weather that Donner sought scuttled those plans. The beautiful, sunny beach that actually appears at the end of the film, as the family embraces in the celebratory glow of found pirate treasure, thwarted land developers and arrested convicts, is sunny Goat Rock Beach in northern California.
But I’d take rain-soaked Oregon Coast over California sound stages and beach stand-ins any day. Because Goonies never die!