The Golden Child

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The Golden Child
A man wearing a black leather beenie hat and matching leather jacket over a grey hoodie. He has one raised eyebrow. The rising sun is in the background behind him, and on side there is a city with palm trees and on the other a snow covered mountain scene.
Theatrical release poster by John Alvin
Directed byMichael Ritchie
Written byDennis Feldman
Produced by
CinematographyDonald E. Thorin
Edited byRichard A. Harris
Music by
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • December 12, 1986 (1986-12-12)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$12-24.5 million[1][2][3]
Box office$149.4 million[4]

The Golden Child is a 1986 American dark fantasy action comedy film directed by Michael Ritchie. The film stars Eddie Murphy as Chandler Jarrell, a Los Angeles social worker who is informed that he is "The Chosen One", and is destined to save "The Golden Child", a kidnapped Tibetan boy with mystical powers who is said to be the savior of all humankind. Alongside Murphy, the film's cast includes Charlotte Lewis and Charles Dance.

Rated PG-13, Murphy's first film not to be rated R by the Motion Picture Association (MPA), The Golden Child was produced and distributed by Paramount Pictures[5] and received a total gross of $79,817,937 at the United States domestic box office.[1][6]


In a remote temple in Tibet, a young boy with mystical powers – the Golden Child – receives badges of station and demonstrates his power to the monks of the temple by reviving a dead eastern rosella, which becomes a constant companion and familiar. A mysterious man, Sardo Numspa, has his men break into the temple, slaughter the monks and abduct the boy.

A young woman, Kee Nang, watches a Los Angeles TV show in which social worker Chandler Jarrell talks about his latest case, a missing girl named Cheryll Mosley. Kee seeks him out and informs him of the kidnapping of the Golden Child and that he is the "chosen one" who would save the Child. Chandler does not take this seriously, even after a bird begins following him, and him seeing an astral projection of the Child. The next day, Cheryll Mosley is found dead near an abandoned house smeared with Tibetan graffiti and a pot full of blood-soaked oatmeal. Kee reveals to Chandler that this house was a holding place for the Child and introduces him to Doctor Hong, a mystic expert, and Kala (a creature half dragon, half woman, who remains hidden behind a screen).

Chandler and Kee track down a motorcycle gang, the Yellow Dragons, which Cheryll had joined, and Chinese restaurant owner Tommy Tong, a henchman of Numspa, to whom Cheryll had been "sold" for her blood, a way to make the Child vulnerable to earthly harm. However, Tong is killed by Numspa as a potential traitor. Numspa then communes with his master, a unseen powerful demon, who informs him of how to kill the child. Still not taking the case too seriously, Chandler is drawn by Numspa into a controlled dream, where he receives a burn mark on his arm. Numspa presents his demands: the Ajanti Dagger (a mystic weapon capable of killing the Child) in exchange for the boy. Chandler finally agrees to help, and he and Kee spend the night together.

Chandler and Kee travel to Tibet, where Chandler is swindled by an old amulet seller, later revealed as the High Priest of the temple where the dagger is kept hidden (and, subsequently, Kee's father). In order to obtain the knife, Chandler has to pass a test: an obstacle course in a bottomless cavern whilst carrying a glass of water without spilling a drop. With luck and wits, Chandler recovers the blade and even manages to bring it past customs into the United States.

That night, Numspa and his henchmen attack Chandler and Kee. The Ajanti Dagger is lost to the villains, and Kee takes a crossbow bolt meant for Chandler, dying in his arms while confessing her love for him. Doctor Hong and Kala offer him hope: as long as the sun shines upon Kee, the Child might be able to save her. With the help of the Child's familiar, Chandler locates Numspa's hideout, retrieves the dagger with the help of Til, one of Numspa's men converted to good by the Child, and frees the boy. When Chandler confronts Numspa, he reveals himself as a winged demon. Chandler and the Child escape, only to be trapped inside a warehouse. Chandler loses the dagger when the warehouse collapses, with Numspa buried under falling masonry.

Chandler and the Child head to Doctor Hong's shop, where Kee is being kept. As the two approach Kee's body, a badly injured but berserk Numspa attacks Chandler, but the amulet the Old Man sold Chandler protects him, then blasts the dagger from Numspa's hand. The Child uses his magic to place the dagger back into Chandler's hands, and Chandler stabs Numspa through the heart, destroying him. The Child then uses the last rays of sunlight and his powers to bring Kee back from the dead. The three later they take a walk discussing the Child's return to Tibet.


J. L. Reate, the actor who played the "Golden Child", the male titular character, was actually a girl: Jasmine Lauren Reate, who was seven years old when filming began. This was her one and only theatrical performance,[7] but she wound up in the movie industry anyway: as of 2019, Reate was executive director of events at the Toronto Film Festival.


Dennis Feldman, a professional photographer whose only writing credit was Just One of the Guys, wrote a script called The Rose of Tibet, which he planned as "a Raymond Chandler movie with supernatural elements."[8] It attracted Hollywood's attention and after a bidding war Paramount Pictures purchased the script for $330,000.[9] Feldman had intended it to be a detective story rather than a comedy and thought of Mel Gibson for the lead role.[10] John Carpenter was offered the chance to direct the film, but he preferred to instead work on Big Trouble in Little China (1986) starring Kurt Russell.[10] Murphy met with George Miller to direct the film.[11]

For special effect the team used both CGI,[12] traditional stop motion and go motion.[13]



The Golden Child: Music from the Motion Picture
Film score by
ReleasedJuly 12, 2011
ProducerLukas Kendall

Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future) was originally sought to provide the film's score, but turned the project down. Paramount then turned to John Barry, who had just come off his award-winning score for Out of Africa. Barry composed a score for the film. However, during post-production, Barry also left the project, when both differences with the producers and test screening feedback presented considerable challenges for the composer.[2][3] The test audience reaction led the producers to replace Barry's score with a second score, by Michel Colombier that, in contrast to Barry's work, was mostly "synthpop" (although there were some brief orchestral passages throughout). Some of Barry's musical cues remain in the final cut of the film and one track, "Wisdom of the Ages", appeared on the first soundtrack release issued by Capitol Records.

In 2011, La-La Land Records released a limited-edition 3-CD soundtrack set containing the entirety of both Barry's mostly unused score (on disc one), and Colombier's final theatrical score (on disc two), in addition to an exclusive Barry-composed song, sung by emerging composer Randy Edelman. The songs that had been released on Capitol's first soundtrack in 1986 were also featured in the set.


The following pieces of music appear are on the soundtrack or in the film alongside Colombier's score:


Box office[edit]

Released in December 1986, The Golden Child was a box office success.[14] It earned US$79,817,937[6] in the United States alone, making it the eighth biggest film of the year. "My pictures make their money back," Murphy remarked in 1989. "No matter how I feel, for instance, about The Golden Child – which was a piece of shit – the movie made more than $100 million. So who am I to say it sucks?"[15] After The Golden Child, Murphy would participate in the writing of many of his films.[citation needed]

Despite its commercial success, the film did not meet Paramount's expectations when compared to Murphy's previous film, Beverly Hills Cop (1984), which garnered US$234,760,478 at the US box office.[16]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 21% based on 24 reviews, with an average rating of 4.2/10.[17] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 37 out of 100, based on reviews from 12 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[18] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[19]

Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and stated "The Golden Child may not be the Eddie Murphy movie we were waiting for, but it will do. It is funnier, more assured and more tailored to Murphy than "Beverly Hills Cop" and it shows a side of his comic persona that I don't think has been much appreciated: his essential underlying sweetness. Murphy's comedy is not based on hurt and aggression, but on affection and an understanding that comes from seeing right through the other characters."[20]

In his TV, Movie, & Video Guide, Leonard Maltin cited the film as a BOMB (his lowest possible rating): "A top candidate for the worst megahit of all time...Charlotte Lewis gives a wooden performance even for an ex-model; entire reels go by with hardly a chuckle. A box-office smash - but have you ever met anyone who says they liked it?"[21] Janet Maslin of The New York Times seemed to agree, describing the picture as a "comedy without laughs".[5]

Writer Dennis Feldman was disappointed with the film and thought they should have taken the script more seriously "but instead, everybody wanted to make an Eddie Murphy comedy" and was critical of director Michael Ritchie "it's not what the director should have done—and he didn't even do it that well, either."[8]

Charles Dance (who played the villain Sardo Numspa) said:

"I thought I'd quite like to do a film with Eddie Murphy because he makes me laugh. The character was villainous, but he was a comic villain as far as I was concerned, and I hadn't done a film like that before. I don't think as an actor you should back off from any experience, so I thought, 'OK, we'll try this.' And I did it, and I know that it’s played over and over again and a lot of devotees of that kind of thing say it's their favorite film. It was fun. I enjoyed doing it."[22]


  1. ^ a b "The Golden Child (1986) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  2. ^ a b Friendly, David T. (December 13, 1986). "'Golden Child's' New York Gala". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  3. ^ a b The Golden Child at the AFI Catalog of Feature Films
  4. ^ "The Golden Child (1986) - JPBox-Office".
  5. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (February 15, 1987). "COMEDIES WITHOUT LAUGHS MERIT CRIES OF PROTEST". The New York Times. Retrieved 2021-10-09.
  6. ^ a b "The Golden Child". Box Office Mojo., Inc. 7 May 2012. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  7. ^ “Eddie Murphy Reunites with His Golden Child & Trading Places Co-Stars” from Movieweb (September 8, 2019)
  8. ^ a b Bill Warren (1 September 1995). "In The Blood". Starlog Magazine Issue 218. The Starlog Group. pp. 78–79 – via Internet Archive.
  9. ^ Friendly, David T. (June 15, 1985). "Action-comedy Is Next For Murphy". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2021-09-11.
  10. ^ a b Cormier, Roger (12 December 2016). "14 Illuminating Facts About The Golden Child".
  11. ^ Friendly, David T. (1985-07-28). "MAD EDDIE". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2023-11-15.
  12. ^ Dirks, Tim. "Greatest Visual and Special Effects (F/X) - Milestones in Film, 1986-1988". Filmsite.
  13. ^ Mad Dreams and Monsters: The Art of Phil Tippett and Tippett Studio
  14. ^ "'Kong Lives' Dies At Box Office". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
  15. ^ Zehme, Bill (August 24, 1989). "The Rolling Stone interview: Eddie Murphy". Rolling Stone. p. 130. Archived from the original on 2018-07-12.
  16. ^ "Beverly Hills Cop". Box Office Mojo., Inc. 7 May 2012. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  17. ^ "The Golden Child (1986)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 19, 2023.
  18. ^ "The Golden Child". Metacritic. Retrieved 2020-04-04.
  19. ^ "GOLDEN CHILD, THE (1986) B". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  20. ^ Roger Ebert (1986-12-12). "The Golden Child (1986)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2018-10-01.
  21. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2008). Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide. New York: Plume/Penguin. ISBN 978-0-452-28978-9. OCLC 183268110.
  22. ^ Emily Zemler (June 3, 2016). "Charles Dance takes a look back at some of his biggest roles". Los Angeles Times.

External links[edit]