Xanadu for Movies of the 80’s

Xanadu was Written by Richard Christian Danus and Marc Reid Rubel, and Directed by Robert Greenwald. The film was released in 1980, and its plot was inspired by the 1947 Movie Down to Earth.

The title “Xanadu” is a reference to the nightclub in the Movie, which takes its name from Xanadu, the Summer capital of Kublai Khan’s Yuan Dynasty, in China. This city appears in the poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, and Michael Beck star in Xanadu and the film’s soundtrack features music by Olivia Newton-John, ELO, Cliff Richard, and The Tubes. The movie also includes a segment which features animation by Don Bluth (known for the films The Secret of NIMH, Anastasia, and more).

The soundtrack did considerably better than the film, which was considered a box office flop. It earned mixed to negative reviews and is said to have been the inspiration for the Golden Raspberry Awards, an anti-Award show that “honors” the worst movies of the year. In contrast, the soundtrack became a huge hit around the world and was certified double platinum in the US. Olivia Newton-John’s song “Magic” was a # 1 Hit in the United States, and the title track by Olivia and ELO reached # 1 in the UK, and in several other countries around the world.

Xanadu for Movies of the 80’s


I was 11 years old when Xanadu came out in theaters. I saw it opening weekend with the daughter of one of my mother’s best friends. The girl was older. A teenager of 14, I think. She seemed so much older than me, cooler and knowledgeable and experienced from my perspective. She knew the significance of green M&M’s, she’d french kissed a boy before, and knew all the coolest bands. I looked up to her.

Xanadu Movies of the 80's

I looked up to Olivia Newton-John, too. Part idol, part hero, part crush, she was everything to pre adolescent me. I loved her music, her style, and everything about her (well, everything an 11-year-old girl could perceive about her).

I couldn’t wait to see Xanadu.

My teenage friend dressed me up for the occasion. She put lip gloss on over pink, sparkly lipstick, blue eyeshadow over each of my lids, and then rubbed glitter lotion all over my arms and shoulders. I wore a borrowed shirt of hers that she had to pin together in the back (I didn’t have the boobs to hold it up) and jeans (my own, not even half as cool, or as tight, as hers, but they did the trick).

The movie, oh my stars, I fell in love with it. I loved it more than Grease, most likely because I got to see Xanadu in the movie theater and with a teenage “friend”, making me feel older and cooler and all those great feelings you aspire for at 11.

Xanadu Movie of the 80's Skates

The music was EVERYTHING and I went out the very next day and bought the soundtrack – a double album that I still own today. I paid for it with my saved up allowance, all in change, carried to Montgomery Ward in a Raggedy Ann Bank.

I felt so much a part of the movie, and the movie felt so much a part of me.

It was romantic and fantastical and full of music and dancing. It was set in Los Angeles, around the beach and clubs. There was kissing, and dancing, and so much music. My friend had a mad crush on Sonny and wanted to be Kira, falling for him and having him demand that her parents let her be with him. I was torn between wanting to be

My friend had a mad crush on Sonny and wanted to be Kira, falling for him and having him demand that her parents let her be with him. I was torn between wanting to be

I was torn between wanting to be Kira and wanting to be loved by Kira, I couldn’t really decide which I wanted more (though I’d only admit to wanting to be her to my friend).

Xanadu Movies of 80's Kira ONJ

One thing for sure, I wanted to be grown-up and living in their world. I would have even enjoyed painting those giant replicas of album covers if I’d had any artistic talent like that (I’m a writer, not a visual artist).

I would have loved to have known, and roller skated, with Kira and her sisters, all around Venice and Santa Monica beach.

The movie was released recently on Blu-ray and I was super excited to get a copy for myself. I watched it recently, for the first time in years, and loved it just as much as that first time – just in different ways.

The music, well, my love for it never changes. But, the things I loved more this time were Gene Kelly (I really didn’t appreciate who he was back in 1980) and his dancing, and his overall presence in the movie.

Movie of the 80's X

I also appreciated Olivia in general – I love her still, and she was so delightful in this, she glows and shines, and has so much chemistry with both Gene Kelly and Michael Beck, and I also really love seeing the Los Angeles of 1980.

I love movies and books and music about Los Angeles, so that part of it really tugs at me in a good way. Some areas look so much the same (does Santa Monica ever really change?), and others look completely different. I wish the art deco building where Xanadu ends up being still existed, I’d love to go see it.

Movies of the 80's Don Bluth

I’d also forgotten all about the animated sequence in the middle of the movie, with the Don Bluth animation. What a fun surprise.

I also find Kira’s story interesting. A Muse who has never had feelings or love, or a dream of her own. What happens at the end? She is told she can go down to earth for a moment, or forever, so does she become mortal? Is she the bar-server at the end? She seems that she doesn’t recognize Sonny, so does that mean she’s mortal, but without her memories? Or is that just her playing at not remembering him?

I think I like the idea of her being mortal but with no memories, and having the chance to make her way in the world, on her own terms…but maybe still falling in love with Sonny, anyways (well, I am a romantic at heart, I am).

But, really, if Sonny gets to be part owner of Xanadu, Kira should, too. It was actually all her idea.

Official Trailer for Xanadu


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