The Golden Child Is One of the Most Awesome Terrible Movies Ever

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Because God or whomever you pray to clearly has a sense of humor, The Golden Child comes on network television and cable way more often than it should. The movie, released in 1986, is the story of Chandler Jarrell, played by a super-bankable ’80s Eddie Murphy, who is dubbed the “Chosen One” to save a child kidnapped from a Tibetan temple who is the savior of mankind, the “Golden Child” (natch), from the clutches of evil in the form of Sardo Numspa (Charles Dance). To say that shenanigans ensue would be the understatement of the decade.


Look, this movie is terrible. Don’t let the fact that it made almost $80 million at the box office—a success in real terms, though Murphy brought in over $200 million with his previous film, Beverly Hills Cop—and that you probably own a copy of it on VHS convince you otherwise. The special effects were cheap and bad. The actual story is pretty dumb, and Murphy ONLY pulls this off because of the insane amount of charisma he has. That’s the ONLY reason it works in any capacity. We even had a 19-year-old non-Tibetan OR Chinese Charlotte Lewis playing a Chinese woman, before that kind of thing would tank your film. So much wrong with it.

Yet, ZOMG, is it so awesome. It’s almost in a so-bad-it’s-good way—I feel like the actors and editors realized they had trash on their hands but were like, “We’ve got Eddie Murphy and invested money in a fake Tibet up in Northern Cali; let’s just make it funny.”

And funny they did. This movie has so many quotables. Sardo Numspa has been name-checked by various rappers, and “I want the kniiiiiiiiiiiiife! Pleeeaassssse” while raising one’s hands was a family tradition for years.

We even have a damn dancing Pepsi can. Why do we have a damn dancing Pepsi can? I don’t know, man, but fuck it—why NOT have one? Good to keep the yang up? Bruh ... where can I find some of that yak loin? I mean, nothing’s wrong with my yang, either, but shit, every little bit helps, right? Bueller? Bueller?

Even the scene where Jarrell has to walk across the canyon of poles with no floor ... holding a glass of water that he has to drink to get the dagger. That shit makes no sense. Nobody else could have gotten in there? Ain’t no guards, bih? Are we to believe that Sardo had no clue where that shit was?

I know Google wasn’t a thing back then, but Sardo has evil on his side and is a fucking demon-dragon thing. I feel like demon-dragon things know where daggers that might kill them are, especially since they JUST kidnapped the kid from there and shit. Even in fucking Moana, Maui knew where his magic hook was because that shit mattered. All I’m saying is, there are some plot holes.


Also, Kee (non-Asian Charlotte Lewis) takes a major L, and the Golden Child can save her life as long as the sun doesn’t set on her, which is some romantic shit if you think about it. So this nigga Jarrell has to go find the kid, kill the forces of evil AND get back to Chinatown in Los Angeles traffic in, like, under seven hours? I ain’t saying it’s impossible—they do it, after all—but it seems highly unlikely.

NOT to mention that AFTER they finally kill Sardo Numspa while Kee is lying dead on the table UNDER A TIME CRUNCH, both Jarrell and the Golden Child decide to high-five and celebrate, even if only briefly, before bringing Kee back to life. I know it’s a movie and the outcome is fairly predetermined, but sheesh. But sheesh so good, right?


You know how A Vampire in Brooklyn is bad but, like, bad meaning bad? The Golden Child is bad but, like, bad meaning good, just in a terrible way. I can’t get enough of this movie. I use the quotes because they’re awesome. One might say that they’re ... golden? Do you see what I did there? I’m sure you do.

The Golden Child is a classic example of how charisma can save something terrible and make it watchable.


It is, indeed, good to keep the yang up.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.


Tony McMillen

I feel like this movie and Big Trouble in Little China were kindred spirits. A Split style team up back in the day with Jack Burton and Chandler Jarrell would have been a wonderful thing.