A Few Good Men (1992) Poster


Add to FAQ
Showing all 18 items
Jump to:


  • While Marines are often the butt of intelligence-based jokes, being labeled "Jarheads", they do have to achieve a minimum of 32 on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) for enlistment. We don't really know how smart Downey was (or not), because his character was lower in rank to virtually everyone else in the film. His place would be to "shut up and follow orders," which may have made him appear less intelligent. Interestingly, while one must achieve at least a 32 on the ASVAB to become a Marine, both the Army and Air Force will accept a score of 31. The Navy has a higher standard: 35 Edit

  • To demonstrate how incredibly disciplined and skilled one has to be in the Marine Corps. It sets the tone for the movie. Edit

  • Pretty sure it's the National Defense Service Medal, the tiny blue stripes might have been too small for the camera to pick up. Kaffee would have earned it simply for being in the Navy during the Gulf War (1990-1995). Edit

  • When Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) based marine PFC William Santiago is killed, Lance Corporal Harold Dawson (Wolfgang Bodison) and PFC Louden Downey (James Marshall), are accused of sneaking into Santiago's barracks, tying his arms and legs with tape, and forcing a poisoned rag down his throat, causing a chemical reaction called "lactic acidosis" that made his lungs bleed. Subsequently, three military lawyers-naval Lt Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), Lt Cmdr Joanne "Jo" Galloway (Demi Moore), and LTJG Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollak)-are appointed to defend them. As Kaffee and his crew investigate, it becomes apparent that there is a conspiracy that goes much higher, possibly involving Colonel Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson), who may have issued a "code red" on Santiago. Edit

  • A Few Good Men is based on a play of the same name first produced on Broadway in 1989 by American screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin also wrote the screenplay for the movie. The original play was inspired by an actual Code Red at Guantanamo Bay. Lance Corporal David Cox and nine other enlisted men tied up a fellow Marine and severely beat him for snitching to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Cox was acquitted and later honorably discharged. In 1994, Cox mysteriously vanished, and his bullet-riddled body was found three months later. His murder remains unsolved. Edit

  • A code red is an undocumented hazing order issued against a marine who isn't performing to the unit's standards. Hazing typically involves harassment, abuse, or ridicule. In the case of Willy Santiago it resulted in his unintentional death. Edit

  • When muscles and other cells of the body burn sugar in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic respiration), lactic acid is produced. This is a normal bodily process and is what causes a person's muscles to cramp when performing strenuous exercise. In the healthy individual, oxygen will quickly metabolize the lactic acid (aerobic respiration). In Santiago's case, however, he was shown to have a heart condition, which may have reduced the amount of oxygen reaching his cells, leading to the condition called 'lactic acidosis'. Edit

  • Kaffee's obviously a regular customer at Luther's newsstand and the two have worked up a friendly rapport together. One of their regular exchanges is a game they like to play where they speak only in clichés: "A rolling stone gathers no moss", "No flies on you", "Never rains but it pours", etc. When Kaffee tells Luther "You can say that again!" Luther repeats his last phrase and wins the game. Edit

  • Lt. Col. Markinson (J.T. Walsh) clearly felt guilt over Santiago's death and blamed himself because he wasn't able to stop Jessep from ordering the Code Red. Doing the right thing (telling Kaffee the truth), however, has put him in a position where he could lose everything: his job, his rank, his respect among his peers, and, most importantly, his honor. Unable to do the right thing without destroying his own life and consumed with guilt over the murder, Markinson sees no way to go other than to shoot himself. Edit

  • It's a classic technique, especially with a difficult witness. Kaffee was trying to methodically chip away at Jessep himself. If the jury hears that Santiago hadn't made any attempt to pack his things, even though Jessep kept insisting (and lying) that Santiago was going to be transferred off the base, the jury would see that Jessep is a ruthless officer. Don't forget that Kaffee also presented the letters that Santiago wrote, asking ("In fact, begging.") to be transferred. Kaffee was trying to convince the jury that Jessep couldn't have cared less for the health of Santiago and only cared about his own reputation. In the end, Kaffee managed to work up the courage to stand up to Jessep, prosecuting attorney Captain Ross (Kevin Bacon), and Judge Randolph (J.A. Preston) and to get Jessep to admit his crime, so the evidence, though intricate, didn't really matter. Edit

  • When it looks like Kaffee has no where to go with his questioning, Jessep leaves the stand and begins to walk away, thinking he has outsmarted Kaffee, but Kaffee and Judge Randolph order him back. Against the advice of Jo and Sam, Kaffee continues to press Jessep regarding contradictions in his previous statements: "If you gave an order that Santiago was not to be touched, and your orders are always followed, then why would Santiago be in danger?" Jessep becomes visibly agitated at the question, realizing that he's been caught, but Kaffee continues to pressure him, shouting several times, "Did you order the Code Red?!" Enraged, Jessep finally bursts. "You're damn right I did!", he shouts, sealing his fate. Jessep is subsequently arrested, while Dawson and Downey are cleared of the murder charges but found guilty of "conduct unbecoming a United States Marine" and dishonorably discharged. As Dawson leaves the courtroom, he salutes Kaffee, finally showing him respect as an officer. In the final scene, Captain Ross announces on his way out that he's going to have Lt. Kendrick (Kiefer Sutherland) arrested for perjury. Kaffee takes one last affectionate look around the courtroom and walks out, too. Edit

  • When Jessep stood up to walk out, he did so in violation of the court's rules. Despite the fact that he's a Marine colonel, he's still a witness in the case and must abide by Kaffee's and the judge's authority. He wasn't given permission to leave by either of them and it seems to rattle Jessep's stoic and dignified manner. In that sense, it makes Jessep look less than favorable to the jury. He's built a tremendous career and reputation as a Marine officer and believes that the court has no authority over him, especially since he believes he did his job without committing a crime. Edit

  • The answer is very much cut and dried. Remember what Dawson says to Kaffee: "Unit. Corps. God. Country.", the code that the marines of Guantanamo Bay follow. Their first obligation is to the members of their unit, whether it means helping in their training to make them better soldiers and better members of their unit or punishing them for not meeting the high standards. Even though the military jury of their peers found them not guilty of murder, they still had an obligation to protect Marine PFC William Santiago, a member of their unit. Colonel Jessep had issued an unlawful order to commit assault and battery on their comrade. All service members, especially enlisted personnel in all branches of the US Armed Forces, have both an obligation and a duty to carry out lawful orders issued by either superior officers or non-commissioned (NCO) officers in the USMC, the US Army and the US Air Force and to carry out lawful orders given by officers or petty officers in the US Navy or US Coast Guard. Unlawful orders issued by superiors can legally be challenged by subordinates, especially if those orders directly jeopardize the health, safety or well-being of any enlisted person attached to any command/unit/ship/submarine. In essence, PFC Downey and Lance Corporal Dawson had the right to refuse and to challenge Colonel Jessep's authority when he gave the order to assault Santiago. All they had to do was to report him to another senior Marine officer who would have had the obligation to look into the matter. Instead, they carried out an unlawful order which resulted in their friend's death. Edit

  • It's a motto that's existed for the Corps since the late 1700s but was used in recruiting ads for the corps in a famous 1985 television. The ads would have a narrator saying in voiceover "We're looking for a few good men." It was likely dropped when more women started joining the corps. Edit



The FAQ items below may give away important plot points.

  • Presumably because ordering the Code Red was a criminal act and the judge was reminding Jessup that he had the Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself. The Bill of Rights generally applies to military courts-martial, though sometimes differently than in civilian courts. But the right against self-incrimination is fundamental enough that it undoubtedly applies, or at least Sorkin might well have thought it does.

    It could also have had something to do with the fact that when Kaffee was yelling at Jessep the Judge told Kaffee he was now in Contempt of Court. Meaning due to Kaffee's attitude toward Jessep a high ranking Marine officer and toward the court. Meaning he could be arrested and even tried for his Contempt. Thus due to the judge's decision he says he doesn't have answer since Kaffee is in Contempt of Court and thus the line of questioning is over. Though Kaffee does not have it count against him due to Jessep's willingness to answer and basically incriminate himself. Edit

  • It was likely because Colonel Jessep was winning to answer the question and admitted to ordering the code red. Thus it now makes sense to the court as to why Kaffee was so pushing and demanding with his questioning. Therefore the Judge likely ordered the Contempt of Court to be stricken from the record and allow Kaffee to not only go free, but finish the trial. Edit

See also

Awards | User Reviews | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed