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‘Red Dawn’ Cast: See Young Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen and Leah Thompson in 1984

We revisit this classic cold war film from 1984. 


In the heart of the Cold War era, the release of Red Dawn in 1984 sent shockwaves through the cinema world and became a cultural phenomenon that resonated deeply with audiences. Directed by John Milius and produced by Sidney Beckerman and Buzz Feitshans, this action-packed thriller featured a star-studded cast that captured the imagination of viewers worldwide, offering a gripping narrative set in the midst of a fictional World War III scenario.

Red Dawn unfolds in an alternate reality where the United States finds itself invaded by Soviet and Cuban forces, sparking a guerrilla war against the occupiers. The story primarily revolves around a group of high school students from the fictional town of Calumet, Colorado, who form a resistance movement known as the Wolverines.

Red Dawn cast: Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen and C. Thomas Howell (1984)
Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen and C. Thomas Howell (1984)

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Led by brothers Jed (portrayed by Patrick Swayze) and Matt Eckert (played by Charlie Sheen), the Wolverines engage in guerrilla warfare against the invading forces, fighting for their survival and the freedom of their homeland.

The mastermind behind Red Dawn, John Milius, infused the film with his trademark blend of patriotism and action, crafting a tale of bravery and defiance in the face of overwhelming odds. Sidney Beckerman and Buzz Feitshans provided invaluable production support, ensuring that Milius’s vision translated effectively to the silver screen.

Upon its release, Red Dawn struck a chord with audiences, tapping into prevalent fears and anxieties surrounding the Cold War. The film’s depiction of ordinary citizens rising up against foreign invaders resonated deeply with viewers, earning it a dedicated fanbase and solidifying its status as a cult classic. It didn’t hurt that it was a success at the box office.

In 2012, there was a remake of Red Dawn starring Chris Hemsworth.

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Here we look at the cast members of the original 1984 Red Dawn and where they are today.

Patrick Swayze as Jed Eckert

Patrick Swayze as Jed Eckert (Red Dawn)
1984/2005; / Michael Loccisano/Staff/Getty

Born on August 18, 1952, in Houston, Texas, Patrick Swayze played the role of Jed Eckert, the courageous leader of the Wolverines.

Swayze got his film start in the 1979 film Skatetown U.S.A. Then in 1983, Swayze played Darrel, the eldest of the three Curtis brothers in The Outsiders. He was also tapped for six episodes on the TV series, The Renegades. In 1984, Swayze got the starring role as Jed Eckert in Red Dawn opposite his future Dirty Dancing co-star Jennifer Grey.

In 1987, Swayze and Grey found themselves together again in the romantic drama, Dirty Dancing, where Swayze not only showed off his killer moves but also sang the film’s hit single, She’s Like the Wind, which climbed to number three on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

Following the success of Dirty Dancing, Swayze went on to star in the romantic drama Ghost, alongside Demi Moore. He also acted in cult movies like Road House, Point Break and Too Wong Foo, and Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. In 1991, People named Swayze The Sexiest Man Alive.

Tragically, in 2009 Swayze died of cancer at the age of 57.

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Charlie Sheen as Matt Eckert: Red Dawn cast

Charlie Sheen as Matt Eckert
1984/2023; Amanda Edwards / Contributor/Getty

Born on September 3, 1965, in New York City, Charlie Sheen played the role of Matt Eckert, Jed’s younger brother and a key member of the Wolverines.

Charlie Sheen is the son of the famous actor Martin Sheen and he followed his father into the business. Charlie Sheen starred in a slew of successful films such as Platoon (1986), Wall Street (1987), Eight Men Out (1988), Young Guns (1988), The Rookie (1990), The Three Musketeers (1993), and The Arrival (1996).

He also was very successful in TV. He replaced Michael J. Fox as the star of Spin City, and Sheen was nominated for a Golden Globe award for his portrayal for that role. He then starred as Charlie Harper on the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men (2003–2011), for which he received multiple Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy nominations.

He also played the role of Dr. Charles “Charlie” Goodson on the FX series Anger Management (2012–14).  Most recently he’s made guest appearances on the 2023 TV series Bookie.

C. Thomas Howell as Robert Morris

C. Thomas Howell as Robert Morris (Red Dawn)
1984/2023; Jason Mendez / Contributor/Getty

Born on December 7, 1966, in Los Angeles, California, C. Thomas Howell played the role of Robert Morris, a member of the Wolverines and a close friend of Jed and Matt.

Prior to Red Dawn, Howell appeared in E.T. (1982) and along with Patrick Swayze, he was in the mega-hit teen coming-of-age epic The Outsiders (1983). Howell then went on to star in films including the comedy Grandview, U.S.A. (1984), alongside Jamie Lee Curtis. In 1986 he starred in Soul Man, where he met and fall in love with his co-star, Rae Dawn Chong, whom he later married.

Howell then went on to make dozens of film appearances including in Side Out (1990), Gettysburg (1993), Baby Face Nelson (1996), Fatal Affair (1998), Asylum Days (2001) and Hoboken Hollow (2006).

He also appeared on the small screen as Officer Bill “Dewey” Dudek in the TNT drama series Southland (2009) and as the sadistic serial killer “The Reaper” on CBS’s Criminal Minds (2005). Howell has also directed a number of films including The Big Fall (1997), Pure Danger (1996), The Land That Time Forgot (2009), and The Day the Earth Stopped (2008).

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Lea Thompson as Erica Mason: Red Dawn cast

Lea Thompson as Erica Mason
1984/2024; Vivien Killilea / Stringer/Getty

Born on May 31, 1961, in Rochester, Minnesota, Lea Thompson played the role of Erica Mason, a resourceful member of the Wolverines who joins the fight against the invaders.

Prior to Red Dawn, Thompson was in the movies All the Right Moves, opposite Tom Cruise, and Jaws 3-D opposite Dennis Quaid. She continued to act after Red Dawn and landed the career-defining role in Back to the Future (1985). She then appeared in Some Kind of Wonderful in 1987 and Back to the Future II in 1989.

She continued to do a slew of films, Dennis the Menace (1993), The Beverly Hillbillies (1993), Stolen Babies (1993), The Little Rascals (1994), and The Substitute Wife (1994), before moving to TV. In 1995 she landed the lead in the NBC sitcom, Caroline in the City (1995), where she won the People’s choice Award for best actress in a new sitcom. After that, from 2000-2002 she was a regular on the TV series For the People. Then from 2011-2017 she was on Switched at Birth playing the role of Kathryn Kennish. Most recently, she was a regular in the 2023 TV series The Spenser Sisters.

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Jennifer Grey as Toni Mason

Jennifer Grey as Toni Mason (Red Dawn)
1984/2024; Neilson Barnard / Staff/Getty

Born on March 26, 1960, in New York City, Jennifer Grey played the role of Toni Mason, Erica’s younger sister and another member of the Wolverines.

After Red Dawn, Grey landed the role of another famous sister, this time in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in 1986, which also include a memorable scene with Charlie Sheen.

But it was her 1987 film (opposite Patrick Swayze) Dirty Dancing that made her famous. Who doesn’t love the line: “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

Unfortunately, after plastic surgery, she became unrecognizable to many people and her career stalled.  She told People magazine that her mom pressured her to have a nose job, but after she did, “In the world’s eyes, I was no longer me and the weird thing was that thing that I resisted my whole life, and the thing I was so upset with my mother for always telling me I should do my nose.”

Grey dated many famous actors including Matthew Broderick and Johnny Depp. She talks about that and career highs and lows in her memoir Out of the Corner.

In terms of Dirty Dancing, she told People, “We’re working on this sequel, I’m working on it with Lionsgate and working on the script. We’ve been working on it for a couple of years. And I know in my heart, I would love to give fans or a young, new audience an experience that would never replicate that, but has the same kind of underpinnings.”

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Powers Boothe as Lt. Col. Andrew Tanner: Red Dawn cast

Powers Boothe as Lt. Col. Andrew Tanner
1984/2016 Red Dawn; Phillip Faraone / Contributor/Getty

Born on June 1, 1948, in Snyder, Texas, Powers Boothe played the role of Lt. Col. Andrew Tanner, a downed Air Force pilot who aids the Wolverines in their fight against the invaders.

Prior to Red Dawn, Boothe won an Emmy for his portrayal of Jim Jones in Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (1980). After Red Dawn, he continued to act in several movies including Tombstone (1993), Blue Sky (1994), Nixon (1995), Frailty (2001), and Sin City (2005).

He was also active on the small screen. He played saloon owner Cy Tolliver on Deadwood from 2004 to 2006, President Noah Daniels on 24 in 2007, and Lamar Wyatt in Nashville from 2012 to 2014. From 2015-2016 he was in the ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He also did quite a bit of voice work including being the voice of Gorilla Grodd in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.

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