Midnight Madness is an Overlooked Classic Eighties Film

In the days before the Internet, your primary source for movie information was the TV Guide. I perused my copy every week to find airings of both movies I loved and movies I’d never heard about.

One of the later was Midnight Madness, which was coming up on The Disney Channel. I had never heard of this movie before, but the TV Guide listing made it sound cool. I can’t remember exactly what it said. I just know it made it sound so cool that I had to see it. The fact that Back To The Future’s Michael J. Fox was in it sealed the deal.

So I waited. Then I watched. And I wasn’t disappointed. I loved every minute of Midnight Madness.

A few days ago, the movie came to mind and I decided to give it another watch (on YouTube through my Roku via the Plex app). I was a little apprehensive, fearing that it might not be as good as I remembered. And it wasn’t. It was better.

Midnight Madness is basically It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World or Rat Race or any of those movies where a large cast of people have to race each other to achieve some goal. In this case, the large cast is 20+ college students, and they are playing a game devised by Leon (who apparently was some big brain on campus) in hopes of getting revenge against each other. Michael J. Fox is (alas) not the star. David Naughton, whom I recognized from My Sister Sam, is. He even drinks a Dr. Pepper at one point. That’s right. Midnight Madness was meta before meta was cool.

So what’s so great about this movie? The plot itself is awesome. City-wide, multi-team scavenger hunt games with clues and challenges are about as good as it gets. The characters are good. They are stock, yes: jocks, nerds, feminists. But good nonetheless. The humor still works three decades later. And there is hardly a dead spot in the film. Every second is packed with some gag, some of which were hokey, but many of which had me laughing out loud.

And the cast and cameos! There’s this guy…

and this guy…

and this guy…

Plus tons of other people you have seen (and heard; the voice of Maude Flanders is in there) in tons of other things.

When I originally watched this as a younger teen, I thought Midnight Madness is what college would be like. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. I realize now that it can’t be. But I still think it should be.

Fan of Midnight Madness? Why not check out the Retroist Midnight Madness podcast…


Doug is a child of the 80s who was raised in Ohio and is now living the life of oblivion in the bay area of California.

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