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A Few Good Men (film)

This article is about the film. For the play, see A Few Good Men (play). For the Vampire Diaries episode, see A Few Good Men (The Vampire Diaries).

A Few Good Men
File:A Few Good Men poster.jpg
Original theatrical release poster
Directed by Rob Reiner
Produced by David Brown
Rob Reiner
Andrew Scheinman
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Starring Tom Cruise
Jack Nicholson
Demi Moore
Music by Marc Shaiman
Cinematography Robert Richardson
Editing by Robert Leighton
Studio Castle Rock Entertainment
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s)
Running time 138 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40,000,000[1]
Box office $243,240,178[1]

A Few Good Men is a 1992 American drama film directed by Rob Reiner and starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore. It was adapted for the screen by Aaron Sorkin from his play of the same name. A courtroom drama, the film revolves around the court martial of two U.S. Marines charged with the murder of a fellow Marine and the tribulations of their lawyer as he prepares a case to defend his clients.


The film covers the court-martial of two U.S. Marines, Lance Corporal Dawson and Private Downey, who killed a fellow Marine, Private Santiago, at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Santiago compared unfavorably to his fellow Marines, had poor relations with them, and failed to respect the chain of command in attempts of being transferred to another base. An argument evolves between base commander Colonel Jessup and his officers: while Jessup's executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Markinson advocates that Santiago be transferred immediately, Jessup regards this as akin to surrender and orders Santiago's commanding officer, Lieutenant Kendrick, to train Santiago into a better soldier.

When Dawson and Downey are later arrested for Santiago's murder, naval investigator and lawyer Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway suspects that they carried out a "code red" order, a violent extrajudicial punishment. Galloway requests to defend them, but instead the case is given to Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, an inexperienced and unenthusiastic U.S. Navy lawyer. There is initial friction between Galloway, who resents his tendencies to plea bargains, and Kaffee, who resents her interference. Kaffee and his friend, Captain Jack Ross, who represents the prosecution, negotiate a bargain but Dawson and Downey refuse to go along. They insist that they were ordered by Lieutenant Kendrick to shave Santiago's head, minutes after Kendrick publicly ordered the platoon not to touch the would-be victim, and did not intend their victim to die. Kaffee is finally won over by Galloway and takes the case to court.

In the course of the trial, the defense manages to establish the existence of "code red" orders at Guantanamo and that Dawson specifically had learned not to disobey any order, having been denied a promotion after helping out a fellow Marine who was under what could be seen as a "code red". However, the defense also suffers setbacks when a cross-examination reveals that Private Downey wasn't actually present when he and Dawson supposedly received the "code red" order. Lieutenant Colonel Markinson reveals to Kaffee that Jessup never intended to transfer Santiago off the base but commits suicide rather than testify in court.

Without Markinson's testimony, Kaffee believes the case lost and returns home in a drunken stupor, having come to regret that he fought the case instead of arranging a plea bargain. Galloway, however, convinces Kaffee to call Colonel Jessup as a witness despite the risk of being court-martialled for smearing a high-ranking officer. Jessup initially outsmarts Kaffee's questioning but is unnerved when the lawyer points out a contradiction in his testimony; Jessup had stated that he wanted to transfer Santiago off the base for his own safety but if he ordered his men to leave Santiago alone and if Marines always obey orders, Santiago would have been in no danger. Under heavy pressure from Kaffee and unnerved by being caught in one of his own lies, Jessup finally snaps, extols his own importance to national security and ultimately confesses to ordering the "code red". As he angrily justifies his actions, Jessup is arrested.

Soon afterwards, Dawson and Downey are cleared of the murder charge but found guilty of "conduct unbecoming a United States Marine" and dishonorably discharged. Dawson accepts the verdict but Downey does not understand what they had done wrong. Dawson explains that they had failed to stand up for those too weak to fight for themselves, like Santiago. As the two prepare to leave, Kaffee and Dawson, who had a difficult relationship before, express their respect for one another.



Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin got the inspiration to write the source play, a courtroom drama called A Few Good Men, from a phone conversation with his sister Deborah, who had graduated from Boston University Law School and signed up for a 3-year stint with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps. She was going to Guantanamo Bay to defend a group of Marines who came close to killing a fellow Marine in a hazing ordered by a superior officer. Sorkin took that information and wrote much of his story on cocktail napkins while bartending at the Palace Theatre on Broadway.[2] He and his roommates had purchased a Macintosh 512K, so when he returned home he would empty his pockets of the cocktail napkins and type them into the computer, forming a basis from which he wrote many drafts for A Few Good Men.[3]

In 1988 Sorkin sold the film rights for his play A Few Good Men to producer David Brown before it premiered, in a deal reportedly "well into six figures."[4] Brown had read an article in The New York Times about Sorkin's one-act play Hidden in This Picture, and he found out Sorkin also had a play called A Few Good Men, that was having Off-Broadway readings.[5]

William Goldman did an un-credited rewrite of the script that Sorkin liked so much, he incorporated the changes made into the stage version.[6]

Brown was producing a few projects at TriStar Pictures, and he tried to interest them in making A Few Good Men into a film, but his proposal was declined due to the lack of star actor involvement. Brown later got a call from Alan Horn at Castle Rock Entertainment who was anxious to make the film. Rob Reiner, a producing partner at Castle Rock, opted to direct it.[5]

The film had a production budget of $33,000,000.[7]

Nicholson would later comment of the $5 million he received for his role, "It was one of the few times when it was money well spent."[8]

The film starts with a recital of "Semper Fidelis" by a U.S. Marine Corps marching band, and a Silent Drill (performed by the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets Fish Drill Team). [9]

Several former Navy JAG lawyers have been identified as the basis for Tom Cruise's character of Lt. Daniel Kaffee. These include Don Marcari (now an attorney in Virginia), former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, Chris Johnson (now practicing in California) and Walter Bansley III (now practicing in Connecticut.) However in a September 15, 2011 article of The New York Times, Sorkin was quoted saying, “The character of Dan Kaffee in ‘A Few Good Men’ is entirely fictional and was not inspired by any particular individual.”[10][11][12][13][14]

Wolfgang Bodison was a film location scout when he was asked to take part in a screen test for the part of Dawson.[15]

Awards and honors

Academy Awards nominations

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards:[16]

Golden Globe nominations

The film was nominated for five Golden Globe Awards:

AFI 100 Years… series

The film was recognized twice by the AFI 100 Years... series. In 2005, Nicholson's reading of the line "You can't handle the truth!" was voted the twenty-ninth greatest American film quote of all time[17] and in 2008 the film was voted the fifth best Courtroom Drama.[18]


The film opened on December 11, 1992 in 1,925 theaters. It grossed $15,517,468 in its first weekend and was the number one film at the box office for the next 3 weeks. Overall it grossed $141,340,178 in the U.S. and $95,159,822 in International markets, giving a total of $236,500,000.[20]

The film was a big success, both with critics and at the box office.[21][22] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine said "That the performances are uniformly outstanding is a tribute to Rob Reiner (Misery), who directs with masterly assurance, fusing suspense and character to create a movie that literally vibrates with energy."[23] Richard Schickel in Time magazine called it "an extraordinarily well-made movie, which wastes no words or images in telling a conventional but compelling story."[24] Todd McCarthy in Variety magazine predicted, "The same histrionic fireworks that gripped theater audiences will prove even more compelling to filmgoers due to the star power and dramatic screw-tightening."[25] The film has a 81% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[26]

See also


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Rotten Tomatoes
  • Metacritic
  • A Few Good Men on AnyClip
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