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.
Most Viewed Stories
Here’s Where We Stand on True Detective Season 2
Pimp My Ride, Like Your Entire Childhood, Was a Lie
How to Get Away With Murder Season Finale Recap: Murder, With a Twist
Simpsons Showrunner Al Jean Remembers Leonard Nimoy
7 Steps to Living a Bill Murray Life, by Bill Murray
Kanye Publicly Apologized to Beck
House of Cards Season 3: The Power-Hungry Duo Turns Inward
Will Forte Spiced Up Seth Meyers’s Wedding Toast
James Van Der Beek on ‘Debooting’ Power Rangers and Being Caught With a Gay-Porn Version of Dawson’s Creek
So Who Killed Lila on How to Get Away With Murder?
Latest News on VultureSecrets and Lies Is As Unoriginal As They Come
Who did it? I think you did it.Tyrion Stares Down a Dragon in Game of Thrones Season 5’s Poster
Tyrion and a dragon.President Obama Says He ‘Loved’ Spock in Touching Statement on the Death of Leonard Nimoy
"I loved Spock."20 Cool Things Leonard Nimoy Did Other Than Star Trek
From poetry to "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins."Eddie Redmayne As Transgender Pioneer Lili Elbe in His Upcoming The Danish Girl
"I think it's the most sensitive role I have played."Who Was the Better Tocqueville? Karl Ove Knausgaard, Bernard-Henri Lévy, or Stephen Fry?
All hail Stephen Fry.Remembering Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock, One of History’s Greatest TV Characters
Trek and Nimoy built Spock, the Vulcans, and their entire history out of bits and pieces of lived experience, which is why their world continues to exert such powerful fascination.Simpsons Showrunner Al Jean Remembers Leonard Nimoy
He had some of the show's best cameos.TV Review: The Last Man on Earth Makes a Lasting Impression
Let's hear it for Will Forte.The Lazarus Effect Is a Dopey Thriller That Wastes a Good Cast
The Lazarus Effect is simultaneously too much and not enough.Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green Make the Western The Salvation Worthwhile
There’s nothing surprising about The Salvation, which is the most surprising thing about it.Leonard Nimoy Explains Spock’s Secret Jewish Origins
From synagogue to Starfleet.Leonard Nimoy Dead at 83
He died at his home in Bel Air.Archer Recap: Mashed-Potato Party
Who remembers Bullitt? Archer does!Will Smith Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Outfit or a Blanket? A Quiz
Is this a picture of something Will would've worn to impress the honeys or something you'd sleep under?Iggy Azalea Gets Arrested (!) in Her Very Bonnie and Clyde–Inspired New Video
In the Bonnie and Clyde–inspired "Trouble" video with Jennifer Hudson.Why You Can’t Stream Björk’s New Album on Spotify
“It’s not about the money, it’s about respect.”Jack O’Connell Suffers (Again) and Shines in Northern Ireland Thriller ’71
"'71 doesn't always work, but when it does, it's a blistering, gripping tale."Pussy Riot Speak Out Against Russia’s President (Again) on House of Cards
Watch them bad-mouth Russia's president in a new clip.What Video Game Is Frank Underwood Playing on House of Cards?
Watch him play Monument Valley.So Who Killed Lila on How to Get Away With Murder?
And then what happened?House of Cards Season 3: The Power-Hungry Duo Turns Inward
Conquest is the easy part; it's the occupation that always gets you.House of Cards Showrunner Beau Willimon on Frank Underwood’s Worldview, the Nature of Power, and the Singularity
"He would say ideology or morality is a form of cowardice."William H. Macy on Shameless, Directing Sex Scenes, and Winning a SAG Award
“I’m hoping winning this SAG [award] means some of my co-stars will start to get recognition.”James Van Der Beek on ‘Debooting’ Power Rangers and Being Caught With a Gay-Porn Version of Dawson’s Creek
"It feels like a battle for the soul of the internet, in a way."How to Get Away With Murder Season Finale Recap: Murder, With a Twist
The HTGAWM season finale answers a lot of questions, but leaves us with a huge one.How Robert Fairchild Riffs on Gene Kelly in Broadway’s An American in Paris
Opening at the Palace Theatre this April.Maps to the Stars Is a Hollywood Psychodrama Played to Perfection
David Cronenberg and Bruce Wagner’s collaboration is a portrait of inbreeding — metaphorical and literal.Kanye Publicly Apologized to Beck
Finally. And Bruno Mars.Skrillex and Diplo Got Justin Bieber and Missy Elliott to Appear on Their New Album: Stream It Here
The ten-song project is titled Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü.Will Forte Spiced Up Seth Meyers’s Wedding Toast
As Hamilton, the bad guy with a heart of gold.Denis Villeneuve Will Direct the Blade Runner Sequel
With Harrison Ford confirmed to come back.Empire Co-creator Danny Strong Addressed Lingering Rumors About the Show
And shared some fun tidbits.Kanye West Breaks Down in Tears in New Interview, Discusses Drake, Paul McCartney, and More
"That's never happened to me in an interview before."What Should Happen Next Season on How to Get Away With Murder
More murder, one hopes.Banksy’s Gaza Kitten Is Shaming Your Internet Habits
"On the internet people only look at pictures of kittens."Watch the Visually Remarkable Trailer for Bill Plympton’s Cheatin’
It might be the prettiest, most unusual thing you see today.Here’s Where We Stand on True Detective Season 2
It's not just a meme!Jay Z on Jay Pharoah’s Jay Z Impression: Hahaha, Yep!
According to Jay Pharoah.Empire Continues to Surge, Breaks On-Demand Record
Empire is on pace to be broadcast TV’s fastest-growing drama since the first season of House, in 2004.A Timeline of the Abuse Charges Against Bill Cosby [Updated]
Twenty-nine women have now publicly accused the comedian.What TV Will Cubans Watch on Netflix?
American fantasy shows are popular, for one.Pimp My Ride, Like Your Entire Childhood, Was a Lie
Xzibit, how could you?Baz Luhrmann Tells Us All About His New Netflix Show, The Get Down
And it sounds kind of like an Empire prequel.Conan O’Brien, America’s Comic Diplomat to Cuba
“It’s a form of humility to make yourself the butt of a joke with another culture.”Nashville Recap: Boardroom Blitz!
Oops, I destroyed your empire.New Accuser Says Bill Cosby Assaulted Her in 1984
Heidi Thomas claims Cosby assaulted her at a mentoring session.Do You Ever Intend to Actually Buy an Album Ever Again? If So, It’ll Come Out on a Friday Now
Tuesday release dates are dead.In the Age of Hacking, Is the Con-Artist Movie Genre Dying?
Focus is a giddy love letter to a lost art.The Americans Recap: Age Is Just a Number
Philip grows closer to two teenage girls: his daughter ... and the asset he's seducing.