A Few Good Men opened twenty years ago this week, which seemed like a perfect occasion to revisit Aaron Sorkin's first movie. Join us for this trip down memory lane. And tangent lane. And feelings lane. And the Sorkin superhighway.
1. I can't remember the last time I saw this movie from the beginning. I feel like I've seen it dozens of times, but A Few Good Men's status as a cable staple means I've seen chunks of it dozens of times. Start to finish, probably closer to five or six. (I like to re-watch things.) I forgot that the movie actually opens at Guantanamo Bay, and we watch Downey and Dawson bind and gag Santiago.
2. Last night's Scandal had a tiny shout-out to A Few Good Men. Olivia said she was going to need to talk to "Colonel Jessup," which is Jack Nicholson's character.
3. There are only two women with speaking roles in this movie. Demi Moore as Lieutenant Commander Galloway and Aunt Ginny.
4. When the movie came out, Gene Siskel said it was "really refreshing" that Tom Cruise and Demi Moore's characters "do not have a love affair." "[Moore's] character was originally a man, I'm convinced of that," Ebert countered. "And they made it into a woman without rewriting it in any way." I don't think that's true.
5. Has Tom Cruise ever looked better than he looks in Men? He has not.
6. Has Kevin Pollak ever looked more like Bradley Whitford than he looks in Men? Again, no. (Maybe those two can join up on another Aaron Sorkin project down the road.)
7. When we first see Colonel Jessup, he tells a story about Kaffee's father. "This man's dad once made a lot of enemies down in your neck of the woods," he tells Keifer Sutherland's Kendrick. "Jefferson vs. Madison County School District. The folks down there said a little black girl couldn't go to an all-white school; Lionel Kaffee said we'll just see about that." It sounds like a Jed Bartlet speech or a Casey McCall folksy-ism; it's a strange moment because Jessup's telling this casual, inspirational anecdote, but he's obviously so evil from the moment we meet him.
8. Sorkin's style is obvious through the movie, and you can physically spot him around 56 minutes into it, as a lawyer at a bar complaining about the Delaware insurance code. Having re-watched this movie three times for this story, my new wish is that Aaron Sorkin would write a legal procedural. Every episode would have a glorious monologue about justice, but it would be totally reasonable and appropriate considering the venue. More banter about the Delaware insurance code! Less blathering about the tragic state of cable news.
9. There are a few Sorkin hallmarks that make their first appearances in A Few Good Men. Is someone named Danny? Yes. Does someone have a serious complex about disappointing their powerful father? Yes. (Bonus: Is that person a Danny? YES.) Is someone not taken seriously because they appear to be too young to do their job? Yes.
10. Another Sorkin marker would be the names. The guy likes a hard-K sound in last names: Men has Kaffee and Kendrick, American President has Kodak, Sports Night has Casey McCall, West Wing has Cregg, Studio 60 has Killington and Kenwright, and Newsroom has Keefer. Somewhere, a fundamentalist family in search of a TLC show just figured out what they want to name their nine children.
11. Stephen Sondheim says that certain K sounds can feel like little jabs and that the word quick should feel like a key in a lock. That's how the word crystal works in the final courtroom seen in A Few Good Men:
And Kendrick was clear on what you wantedJESSEP
…JESSEPWe follow orders, son. We follow orders or people die. It's that simple. Are we clear?KAFFEE
Are we clear?KAFFEE
I know "you can't handle the truth" is the famous line, but it's these two "crystal"s that really knock me out in this scene. I am ready to throw all of your shit right back in your face.
12. Another Sorkin hallmark: Sam Weinberg (Pollak) says that in college he wrote a paper about Danny's father. Sam on West Wing has a similar experience in the episode "Somebody's Going to Emergency," where he meets a woman whose grandfather he wrote about in law school.
13. There's a Nintendo sitting on top of Danny's TV. I bet that guy played a lot of Q'Bert.
14. I don't usually think of Christopher Guest as being in this, but he is! He's the doctor who didn't detect Santiago's heart condition.
15. A lot of the music in A Few Good Men sounds like the music in The American President (Marc Shaiman wrote the scores for both), but the rest of the music in Men sounds like funky suspense jams that were originally composed to be the opening song for Law & Order.
16. Someone told me once that they considered the line "Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg?" to be the most anti-Semitic phrase they'd ever heard.
17. Wolfgang Bodison, who plays Dawson, was Rob Reiner's assistant on Misery.
18. Noah Wyle was apparently the second choice for this role, at least according to Sorkin's reused convocation remarks. Wyle seems so much beefier here than he looks two years later on the premiere of ER.
19. For all of its snazzy legal glory, Men has a seriously by-the-book Law & Order judge. Maybe they weren't courtroom clichés at the time — L&O premiered in 1990, though it was hardly the first TV legal drama — but lines like "you better get somewhere fast with this" sound incredibly cheesy now.
20. This movie really makes me want to watch American President.
Watch our new series!
Vulture’s Secret History of Television
‘Lesbian Kiss Episodes’ Were So, So TerribleView all videos
Most Viewed Stories
Bobbi Kristina Brown, Pop Superstar Whitney Houston’s Only Child, Has Died
So, What’s Going On Between Nic Pizzolatto and Cary Fukunaga?
Kanye West, Steve McQueen's Short Film for 'All Day/I Feel Like That' Is Here
Watch Amy Schumer Bristle at This Interviewer’s Unnecessary ‘Skanky’ Question
The Best Movies of 2015 (So Far)
BoJack Horseman Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg on the Show’s Second Season
The Strain Recap: Dutch Lovin’
Halt and Catch Fire Recap: She’s Lost Control
Masters of Sex Recap: Jesus, Masters, and Johnson
The Best Books of 2015 (So Far)
Latest News from VultureChanning Tatum's Gambit Could Be in Trouble
The actor might be leaving, according to a new report.Yes, Chris Pine Will Co-star in Wonder Woman
Rev your pun engines.Seth Rogen Indulges in Holiday Depravity, Pets Jesus' Dogs in The Night Before Trailer
"Oh, hi, I love you!"Watch the Explosive, Robot-less Trailer for Michael Bay's Fiery Benghazi Project, 13 Hours
Come for the politics, stay for the beards.The 6 Trippiest Things in Kim Kardashian's Crazy New Energy Drink Commerical
Things get weird quick.Toronto Film Festival Lineup: The Martian, Demolition, Legend, and More
Prestige season is almost here.Tig Notaro, Louis C.K., and Diablo Cody Are Making an Amazon Comedy Together
Diablo Cody will co-write the show with Tig.You Know Who Really Hates UnREAL? Bachelorette Host Chris Harrison
The shade.Christopher Nolan’s Next Movie Is Already Done
It's a short documentary about the Quay twins.Shawn Mendes and Hailee Steinfeld Are Here to Melt Teen Hearts With Their Acoustic Duet of ‘Stitches’
Cuteness overload.9 Best New Songs of the Week
New Order returns!Little Mix Take Us to Mash-Up Heaven With Jason Derulo and Whitney Houston
"Want You to Want Me" meets "I Wanna Dance With Somebody."I Am Cait Debuts Strong, Brings New Eyeballs to E!
Its male demo ratings might be the best numbers of all.The Weeknd Is So Hot Right Now, He Literally Gets Set on Fire in His ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ Video
Flame emoji.Here’s Your First Look at Lex Luthor, Tech Bro, in Batman v Superman
"If you guys were the destroyers of Metropolis, you would have destroyed Metropolis."Jill Soloway Calls for ‘Matriarchal Revolution’ in Film
The Transparent creator says there's an "all-out attack" on female filmmakers.Aziz Ansari Is a Master of None for His New Netflix Show
He plays Dev.Netflix Renews BoJack Horseman for Season 3 (and Announces a Bunch of Other Stuff)
Chelsea Handler! Keith Richards!How Netflix’s Original Programming Is Poised to Outpace the Top Cable Networks, in One Chart
The HBO vs. Netflix battle heats up.Macklemore Reveals That He Suffered a Relapse Last Year
"Everyone knew, but they didn’t necessarily know."Jon Stewart Just Made Faces and Grunted for a Whole Segment Because With 9 Daily Shows Left, F*ck It
It's really great.TV’s Best Coming-of-Age Story Is a German Spy Drama
Plus, when "docuseries" is a misnomer.Heath Ledger Hated That ‘I Wish I Knew How to Quit You’ Became a Meme
"He was extraordinarily serious about the political issues."UnREAL’s Prince Charming, Freddie Stroma, on Adam’s Pathological Narcissism and Why He Doesn’t Think He’ll Be Back Next Year
He's not signed up for a second season yet.Mr. Turner Finally Showed Up on Girl Meets World: He’s Still Alive (and Smokin’ Hot)
Get ready to awwwww.Rachel McAdams Is in Early Talks for Marvel’s Doctor Strange
"It's still super-early days."Rihanna Was Reportedly Blocked by Baltimore Police From Playing a Free Concert for Freddie Gray
She also had planned to walk with protesters back in May.UnREAL Recap: Cutting Out the Middleman
The many jealous faces of Rachel.The Bachelorette Recap: Oh, Honey, the Final Rose
Kaitlyn approaches life like a child looking at Golden Corral’s chocolate fountain.Do Characters Belong to Their Fans or Their Creators?
A married Han Solo, a racist Atticus Finch, and our impending canon crisis.