A Few Good Men

1992 film directed by Rob Reiner

A Few Good Men is a 1992 film about the trial of two U.S. Marines accused of murder while serving at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In the heart of the nation's capital, in a courthouse of the U.S. government, one man will stop at nothing to keep his honor, and one will stop at nothing to find the truth.
Directed by Rob Reiner. Written by Aaron Sorkin, based on his play of the same name.
In the heart of the nation's capital, in a courthouse of the U.S. government, one man will stop at nothing to keep his honor, and one will stop at nothing to find the truth. (taglines)
You can't handle the truth!
Don't call me 'son'. I'm a lawyer, and an officer in the United States Navy. And you're under arrest, you son of a bitch. The witness is excused.

Lieutenant Junior Grade Daniel Kaffee

  • I want you to know that I think the whole fucking bunch of you are certifiably insane. This code of honor of yours makes me want to beat the shit out of somebody.

Colonel Nathan R. Jessup

  • We're in the business of saving lives, Matthew. That is a responsibility that I think we have to take pretty seriously. And I believe that taking a Marine who's not quite up to the job and shipping him off to some other assignment puts lives in danger. [Markinson rises to leave] Sit down, Matthew. We go back a while. We went to the Academy together, we were commissioned together, we did our tours in Vietnam together. But I've been promoted up the chain with greater speed and success than you have. Now, if that's a source of tension or embarrassment for you, I don't give a shit. We're in the business of saving lives, Lt. Col. Markinson. Don't ever question my orders in front of another officer.
  • I run my unit how I run my unit. You want to investigate me, roll the dice and take your chances. I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me, so don't think for one second that you can come down here, flash a badge, and make me nervous.
  • There is nothing on this earth sexier, believe me, gentlemen, than a woman you have to salute in the morning. Promote 'em all, I say, because this is true: if you haven't gotten a blow-job from a superior officer, well, you're just letting the best in life pass you by. 'Course, my problem is, I'm a colonel, so I guess I'll just have to keep taking cold showers until they elect some gal president.
  • [to Galloway] Take caution in your tone, Commander. I'm a fair guy, but this fucking heat is making me absolutely crazy.


Jessup: Who the fuck is Pfc. William T. Santiago?
Kendrick: Private Santiago is a member of Second Platoon Bravo.
Jessup: Apparently he's not very happy down here in Shangri-la because he's written letters to everyone but Santa Claus asking for a transfer and now he's telling tales about a fence line shooting, Matthew?
Markinson: I'm appalled, sir.
Jessup: You're "appalled". This kid broke the chain of command and ratted on a member of his unit. To say nothing of the fact that he is a US Marine, and it would appear that he can't run from here to there without collapsing from heat exhaustion. What the fuck is going on in Bravo Company?
Markinson: Colonel, I think it would be better to hold this discussion in private.
Kendrick: That won't be necessary, I can handle the situation.
Markinson: The same way you handled the Curtis Bell incident? [Kendrick starts to speak] Don't interrupt me, Lieutenant! I'm still your superior officer.
Jessup: [to Markinson] And I am yours, Matthew. I want to know what we're going to do about this.
Markinson: I think Santiago should be transferred off the base immediately.
Jessup: He's that bad, huh?
Markinson: Not only that, but word of this letter's bound to get out. Kid's gonna get his ass whipped.
Jessup: Hmm... Transfer Santiago? Yes, I'm sure you're right. I'm sure that's the thing to do. Wait, I've got a better idea. Let's transfer the whole squad off the base. On second thought, Windward. Let's transfer the whole Windward Division off the base. John, tell those boys to get down off the fence. They're packing their bags. [calling out to his assistant] Tom?
Tom: [Enters office] Sir?
Jessup: Get me the President on the phone. We're surrendering our position in Cuba.
Tom: Yes, sir. [starts to leave office]
Jessup: Wait a minute, Tom. Don't get the President yet. Maybe we should consider this for a second. Dismissed, Tom.
Tom: Yes, sir. [Departs office]
Col. Jessup: Maybe, and I'm just spit balling here, maybe, we have a responsibility as officers to train Santiago. Maybe we as officers have a responsibility to this country to see that the men and women charged with its security are trained professionals. Yes, I'm certain that I read that somewhere once. And now I'm thinking, Colonel Markinson, that your suggestion of transferring Santiago, while expeditious and certainly painless, might not be, in a matter of speaking, the American way. Santiago stays where he is. We're gonna train the lad!

Kaffee: It had to be Professor Plum, in the library, with the candlestick.
Galloway: I'm gonna talk to your supervisor.
Kaffee: Go straight up the Pennsylvania Avenue. It's the big white house with the pillars.
Galloway: Thank you.
Kaffee: I don't think you'll have much luck though.

[after hearing a reference to Danny's father]
Col. Jessup: Lionel Kaffee?
Danny: Yes, sir.
Col. Jessup: Well, what do you know? [to Kendrick] This man's dad once made a lot of enemies in your neck of the woods. Jefferson v. Madison County School District. Folks down there said a little black girl couldn't go to an all-white school. Lionel Kaffee said, "Well, we'll just see about that." How the hell is your dad, Danny?
Danny: He passed away seven years ago, sir.
Jessup: Don't I feel like the fucking asshole.
Danny: Not at all, sir.

Kaffee: Colonel, I'll just need a copy of Santiago's transfer order.
Jessup: What's that?
Kaffee: Santiago's transfer order. You guys have paperwork on that kind of thing, I just need it for the file.
Jessup: For the file...
Kaffee: Yeah.
Jessup: [pause] Of course you can have a copy of the transfer order. For the file. I'm here to help anyway I can.
Kaffee: Thank you.
Jessup: You believe that, don't you? Danny? That I'm here to help in anyway I can?
Kaffee: Of course.
Jessup: The Corporal will take you by Personnel on your way back to the flight line and you can have all the transfer orders you want.
Kaffee: [to Weinberg & Galloway] Let's go.
Jessup: But you have to ask me nicely.
Kaffee: I beg your pardon?
Jessup: You have to ask me nicely. You see, Danny, I can deal with the bullets and the bombs and the blood, ask around. I don't want money and I don't want medals. What I do want is for you to stand there in your faggoty white uniform and your Harvard mouth and extend me some fucking courtesy! You gotta ask me nicely.
[a beat, as Kaffee swallows his disbelief]
Kaffee: Colonel Jessup, if it's not too much trouble, I'd like a copy of the transfer order, sir.
Jessup: [politely, and with a triumphant smile] No problem.

Kaffee: Oh, Harold? You see what I'm getting at? If Santiago didn't have anything on you... why did you give him a Code Red?
Dawson: He broke the chain of command, sir.
Kaffee: I'm sorry, he what?
Dawson: He went outside of his unit.
Kaffee: Harold, I can't be hearing this right. He what?
Dawson: [with a challenging look] He went outside of his unit, sir.

Dawson: After six months we'll be dishonorably discharged. Right, sir?
Kaffee: Probably.
Dawson: Well, what do we do then, sir? We joined the Marines because we wanted to live our lives by a certain code and we found it in the Corps. Now you're asking us to sign a piece of paper that says we have no honor. You're asking us to say that we're not Marines. If a court decides that what we did was wrong, then I'll accept whatever punishment they give. I believe I was right. I believe I did my job. But I will not dishonor MYSELF, MY UNIT, OR THE CORPS SO THAT I CAN GO HOME IN SIX MONTHS! Sir.

Capt. Ross: You have proof?
Kaffee: I have the defendants.
Capt. Ross: And I have 23 Marines and a lieutenant with four letters of commendation.
Kaffee: Why did Markinson go U.A.?
Capt. Ross: We'll never know.
Kaffee: Wait, I can't subpoena Markinson?
Capt. Ross: You can try, but you won't find him. You know what Markinson did for 17 years? Counterintelligence. Markinson's gone. There is no Markinson.

Weinberg: I strenuously object? Is that how it works? Objection. Overruled! No, no, no... I strenuously object! Oh, I should reconsider then!
Galloway: I got it on the record.
Weinberg: You got the court thinking we're afraid of the doctor. Christ, you even had the judge saying he was an expert! You object once, so we can say he's not a criminologist. You keep after it, our cross looks like a bunch of fancy lawyer tricks. It's the difference between paper law and trial law!
Galloway: Why do you hate them so much?
Weinberg: They beat up on a weakling. The rest of this is just smoke-filled-coffeehouse crap. They tortured and tormented a weaker kid! They didn't like him. So? They killed him. And why? Because he couldn't run very fast!
Weinberg: [turning back to face Galloway] Why do you like them so much?
Galloway: [with a confident tone] Because they stand on a wall and say, "Nothing's gonna hurt you tonight. Not on my watch."

[on whether or not they should call Col. Jessup to testify]
Galloway: He ordered the Code Red!
Kaffee: [sarcastically] He did? Well, that's great! Why didn't you say so? And of course, you have proof of this, right? Oh, I'm sorry, I keep forgetting, you were sick the day they taught law in law school!

Kaffee: I think my father would've enjoyed seeing me graduate from law school. I think he would've liked that an awful lot.
Weinberg: I ever tell you I wrote a paper about your father in college?
Kaffee: Yeah?
Weinberg: One of the best trial lawyers ever.
Kaffee: Yes; he was.
Weinberg: ... and if I were Dawson or Downey and I had a choice between you or your father to represent me in this case, I'd choose you any day of the week and twice on Sunday. You should've seen yourself thunder away at Kendrick.
Kaffee: Would you put Jessup on the stand?
Weinberg: No.
Kaffee: You think my father would've?
Weinberg: With the evidence we got? Not in a million years. But here's the thing and there's really no getting around this: neither Lionel Kaffee nor Sam Weinberg are lead counsel in the matter of US versus Dawson and Downey. So there's really only one question: what would you do?

[Col. Jessup chuckles while on the witness stand]
Kaffee: You think this funny?
Col. Jessup: [face falls to a look of disgust] No, it isn't. It's tragic.
Kaffee: Do you have an answer to the question, Colonel?
Col. Jessup: Absolutely. My answer is I don't have the first damn clue. Maybe he was an early riser and liked to pack in the morning. And maybe he didn't have any friends. I'm an educated man, but I'm afraid I can't speak intelligently about the travel habits of William Santiago. What I do know is that he was set to leave the base at 0600. Now, are these really the questions I was called here to answer? Phone calls and foot lockers? Please tell me that you have something more, Lieutenant. These two Marines are on trial for their lives. Please tell me their lawyer hasn't pinned their hopes to a phone bill.
[Kaffee hesitates, dumbfounded]
Col. Jessup: Do you have any more questions for me, Counselor?
Judge Randolph: Lt. Kaffee? [pause] Lieutenant, do you have anything further for this witness?
[Jessup defiantly gets up to leave the courtroom]
Col. Jessup: Thanks, Danny. I love Washington.
Kaffee: Excuse me. I didn't dismiss you.
Col. Jessup: I beg your pardon?
Kaffee: I'm not through with my examination. Sit down.
Col. Jessup: Colonel.
Kaffee: What's that?
Col. Jessup: I would appreciate it if he would address me as "Colonel" or "sir." I believe I've earned it.
Judge Randolph: Defense counsel will address the witness as "Colonel" or "sir."
Col. Jessup: [to Judge] I don't know what the hell kind of unit you're running here.
Judge Randolph: And the witness will address this court as "Judge" or "your Honor." I'm quite certain I've earned it. Take your seat, Colonel.

Kaffee: A moment ago, you said that you ordered Lt. Kendrick to tell his men that Santiago wasn't to be touched.
Jessup: That's right.
Kaffee: And Lt. Kendrick was clear on what you wanted?
Jessup: Crystal.
Kaffee: Any chance Lt. Kendrick ignored the order?
Jessup: Ignored the order?
Kaffee: Any chance he forgot about it?
Jessup: No.
Kaffee: Any chance Lt. Kendrick left your office and said, "the old man is wrong"?
Jessup: No.
Kaffee: When Lt. Kendrick spoke to the platoon and ordered them not to touch Santiago, any chance they ignored him?
Jessup: You ever served in an infantry unit, son?
Kaffee: No, sir.
Jessup: Ever served in a forward area?
Kaffee: No, sir.
Jessup: Ever put your life in another man's hands and asked him to put his life in yours?
Kaffee: No, sir.
Jessup: We follow orders, son. We follow orders or people die. It's that simple. Are we clear?
Kaffee: Yes, sir.
Jessup: Are we clear?!
Kaffee: Crystal. Colonel, I just have one more question before I put Airman O'Malley and Airman Rodriguez on the stand. If you gave an order that Santiago wasn't to be touched, and your orders are always followed, then why would Santiago be in danger? Why would it be necessary to transfer him off the base?
[Jessup hesitates]
Jessup: Santiago was a substandard Marine. He was being transferred...
Kaffee: That's not what you said. You said he was being transferred, because he was in grave danger.
Jessup: That's correct.
Kaffee: You said he was in danger. I said "grave danger"? You said...
Jessup: I recall what I said.
Kaffee: I could have the court reporter read back to you...
Jessup: I know what I said! I don't have to have it read back to me, like I'm...
Kaffee: Then why the two orders? Colonel?
Jessup: [hesitates] Sometimes men take matters into their own hands.
Kaffee: No, sir. You made it clear just a moment ago that your men never take matters into their own hands. Your men follow orders or people die. So Santiago shouldn't have been in any danger at all, should he have, Colonel?
Jessup: You snotty little bastard.
Ross: Your Honor, I'd like to ask for a recess.
Kaffee: I'd like an answer to the question, Judge.
Judge Randolph: The court will wait for an answer.
Kaffee: If Lieutenant Kendrick gave an order that Santiago wasn't to be touched, then why did he have to be transferred? Colonel? Lieutenant Kendrick ordered the Code Red, didn't he? Because that's what you told Lieutenant Kendrick to do!
Ross: Objection!
Kaffee: And when it went bad, you cut these guys loose!
Ross: Your Honor--
Kaffee: You had Markinson sign a phony transfer order, and you doctored the log book!
Ross: Damn it, Kaffee!
Kaffee: You coerced the doctor!
Judge Randolph: Consider yourself in contempt!
Kaffee: Now I'm asking you!
Kaffee: Colonel Jessup! Did you order the Code Red?!
Judge Randolph: You don't have to answer that question!
Jessup: I'll answer the question. You want answers?
Kaffee: I think I'm entitled to it!
Jessup: You want answers?!
Jessup: You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don't want the truth, because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like "honor", "code", "loyalty". We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline! I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then QUESTIONS the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said "thank you", and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a DAMN what you think you are entitled to!
Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?
Jessup: I did the job that—-

Col. Jessup: [Judge dismisses the jury] What is this? Colonel, what's going on? I did my job, I'd do it again! [stands up defiantly] I'm gonna get on a plane and go on back to my base.
Judge Randolph: You're not going anywhere, Colonel. MPs... guard the Colonel!
Marine MP: Yes, sir.
[MPs take post]
Judge Randolph: Captain Ross?
Col. Jessup: What the hell is this?
Capt. Ross: Colonel Jessup, you have the right to remain silent. Any statement you make...
Col. Jessup: [while Ross continues reading his rights] I'm being charged with a crime? Is that what this is? I'm being charged with a crime? This is funny. That's what this is. This is... [turns to Kaffee and lunges at him while MPs hold him back] I'm gonna rip the eyes out of your head and piss into your dead skull! You fucked with the wrong Marine!
Capt. Ross: Colonel Jessup, do you understand these rights as I have just read them to you?
Col. Jessup: You fuckin' people. You have no idea how to defend a nation. All you did was weaken a country today, Kaffee. That's all you did. You put people's lives in danger. Sweet dreams, son.
Kaffee: Don't call me "son". I'm a lawyer, and an officer in the United States Navy. And you're under arrest, you son of a bitch. The witness is excused.

Downey: I don't understand... Colonel Jessup said he ordered the Code Red.
Galloway: I know, but...
Downey: Colonel Jessup said he ordered the Code Red! What did we do wrong?
Galloway: It's not that simple...
Downey: What did we do wrong? We did nothing wrong!
Dawson: Yeah, we did. We were supposed to fight for people who couldn't fight for themselves. We were supposed to fight for Willie.

Kaffee: Harold?
Dawson: Sir?
Kaffee: You don't need a patch on your arm to have honor.
Dawson: [Salutes] Ten-hut! There's an officer on deck!


  • In the heart of the nation's capital, in a courthouse of the U.S. government, one man will stop at nothing to keep his honor, and one will stop at nothing to find the truth.


Wikipedia has an article about: