bugle call; musical piece sounded at dusk, and at funerals (American version)

Taps is a 1981 film about a group of teenage military school cadets who take extreme measures to ensure the future of their academy when its existence is threatened by local condo developers.

"We're here. And the condos aren't. We have a foothold. You boys are my purpose. You're my family. And I'm not going to let them take you away from me."
"We won't either, sir. We won't let them."
Directed by Harold Becker. Written by Robert Mark Kamen, James Lineberger and Darryl Ponicsan, based on the novel Father Sky by Devery Freeman.
This school is our home, we think it's worth defending.
I tell you what. Let’s drink to the one thing that never changes, to the one permanent part of a man’s life...honor, indeed. Burglar proof, weather proof, fool proof, one hundred-proof! Honor. Everything else is subject to the... powers that be. To the caprices of often inferior men. But your honor is your own, inviolate. So then- to honor.
Brian, I'm no fancy negotiator with a PhD in psychology. That's not what I do for a living. I'm the Governor's muscle. I get called when he gets nervous.
I get it. They want us to be good little boys now so we can fight some war for them in the future. Some war they'll decide on. We'd rather fight our own war right now.

Brigadier General Harlan Bache edit

  • I tell you what. Let’s drink to the one thing that never changes, to the one permanent part of a man’s life... honor, indeed. Burglar proof, weather proof, fool proof, one hundred-proof! Honor. Everything else is subject to the... powers that be. To the caprices of often inferior men. But your honor is your own, inviolate. So then- to honor.
  • Now, they'll respect the rank. But God knows- they won't respect the man, unless he earns it. And the loyalty of men is always hard to earn.

Cadet Captain David Shawn edit

  • [Last words, firing a machine gun] It's beautiful, man! Beautiful!

Dialogue edit

Brian Moreland: Sir, how can they do this?
General Bache: With the stroke of a pen, sir. Their field of honor was a desktop. They didn't consult me. Never hinted at what their plans were. They just papered it and penciled it and went ahead and did it because that's what the numbers said.
Brian Moreland: Sir, all they want is money. Let them raise the tuition. We'll pay it.
General Bache: I'm afraid it's not quite that simple, son. There's a feeling on the outside that schools like this are anachronistic, and leaders of men like you and me are dinosaurs.
Brian Moreland: Sir?
General Bache: Well, you go to the movies, you read books. A military leader is always portrayed as slightly insane. Very often more than slightly. That's because it is insane to cling to honor in a world where honor is held in contempt.
Brian Moreland: Sir, I don't know if I really deserve the rank of major. My first thought was for myself. I didn't think about the others or the school...
General Bache: Sit down, Mr. Moreland.
Brian Moreland: Sir. [Sits]
General Bache: Never be ashamed of being human. Without humanity, a leader becomes a tyrant.
Brian Moreland: I was relieved. I figured I had another year. I could graduate and go on to West Point.
General Bache: So you will. And the others too. I haven't spent a lifetime fighting just to turn over and play dead now. I came to Bunker Hill when I was twelve years old. Just like you. With the exception of those twelve years, I've been in uniform all my life. I know men younger than myself who take their pensions and put on stupid little white shirts with cut-off sleeves, alligator on the tit, and spend the rest of their days beating the hell out of a little white ball with an iron club. My God! The thought of it makes me want to puke.
Brian Moreland: They like it like that, civilians.
General Bache: Well, the one thing civilians know is their rights. And it was within their rights to push us out, to make way for their... goddamned... condominiums! But we have one little advantage on them.
Brian Moreland: What's that, sir?
General Bache: We're here. And the condos aren't. We have a foothold. You boys are my purpose. You're my family. And I'm not going to let them take you away from me.
Brian Moreland: We won't either, sir. We won't let them.

Alex Dwyer: What the hell were you doing back there?
David Shawn: At least I had your ass over the grinder and it's okay enough to thank me, shithead!
Alex Dwyer: I could kick your ass from here to Albany.
David Shawn: You try!
Brian Moreland: What's going on?
Alex Dwyer: He rammed a sheriffs car.
Brian Moreland: [entering] What's the problem?
Alex Dwyer: This asshole just shot up the town! I didn't buy into this to blow people away.
Edward West: We're here! We're not sitting in jail, we're here!
Brian Moreland: Did you get the food?
Edward West: Half of it.
Brian Moreland: Half is better than nothing.
Alex Dwyer: The guy's a maniac. He rammed a sheriff.
David Shawn: Damn right. Saw my duty and I did it!

Brian Moreland: I don't ever want to see what I just saw. We didn't train to go spastic at the first sign of trouble. Goddamn! I'm glad the General didn't see that. These cadets will follow you only if they respect you! All right. Sit down. At ease. How'd we lose the truck?
J.C. Pierce: It stalled. We were in a hard place.
Alex Dwyer: Shawn grabbed the chance to use his weapon.
David Shawn: We were in an explosive situation which jeopardized the mission. I defused it.
Alex Dwyer: Beautiful. You really have a way with words.
J.C. Pierce: Alex, y still be getting thrown around by those townies if he hadn't cut loose a few rounds.
Brian Moreland: I don't like the idea of gunplay, but the mission was successful.
Alex Dwyer: That's my whole point! Now, I don't call what happened a successful mission.
Brian Moreland: Naturally. We have to show we're serious. And we don't want to hurt anyone. What are we asking? That the school be kept open. That's all. Other kids are vandalizing their school. We want ours to stay open. If we behave like soldiers and not kids in a riot, we can win this.
Alex Dwyer: It's gotta be done by the book. That's all I ask.
Brian Moreland: It'll be done by the book. We stick together, we go the whole nine yards.

[after the meeting of cadet officers, Shawn blocks Dwyer from leaving the room]
David Shawn: When this is over, you and me are gonna to go round and round.
Alex Dwyer: Yeah. But first, you're gonna move your goddamned arm.

Brian Moreland: When my mother died, I was sitting in the hallway in the army hospital. I was worried as hell. I knew she was real sick. She had this bad kidney thing. So I'm sitting there and my father comes out of the room and tells me that she's dead. He led me to this little chapel they had there, and he sat me down and he told me I could cry for fifteen minutes. He gave me fifteen minutes to cry, and after that I wasn't supposed to cry again. So he left me alone in the chapel and came back... he came back fifteen minutes later.
Alex Dwyer: Jesus. What did you do?
Brian Moreland: Well, I did what I was told. I cried for fifteen minutes. She was a beautiful woman... my mother. She was crazy about the old man. I don't know, I guess he loved her too.

[Master Sergeant Kevin Moreland, leading a delegation of other Bunker Hill Military Academy parents, is meeting with his son, accompanied by Shawn and Dwyer, under flag of truce]
Kevin Moreland: [looking around] The old place looks different...
Father: Come on, Moreland. Get to the bottom line.
Kevin Moreland: Hold your water! Bottom line. The truth is these folks are worried about their kids. They think some of them are being held against their will.
Brian Moreland: Everyone's here because they want to be here.
Mother #2: Our son would never be involved in something like this!
Kevin Moreland: Lady, if my son can be involved in it, your son can be involved in it. Let's not get holier than thou.
Mother #1: Let us see our children, and hear it from them!
Mother #3: Yes.
Brian Moreland: Ma'am, I can't call my soldiers away from their posts just to calm down their parents; I'm sorry.
Mother #4: My God, you're only children!
Kevin Moreland: They're going to try to add kidnapping to the rest of it, kid. You oughta know that.
Father: We want to see our kids.
Brian Moreland: I'll try to arrange something.
Mother #2: Well, good, now we're getting somewhere!
Brian Moreland: It'll be done under my terms.
Mother #1: I hope you're very proud of yourself, Sergeant Moreland. You have fathered a perfect son of a bitch!
Kevin Moreland: Will you people shut up?! I can't think through all your static!
Father: We aren't in the Army, Sergeant.
Kevin Moreland: No apologies necessary. Just keep the hell quiet and let me take care of this.

Kevin Moreland: What am I gonna tell those people?
Brian Moreland: I never thought this would involve you.
Kevin Moreland: Let me tell 'em it was growing pains - the wrong execution of the right idea.
Brian Moreland: "The wrong execution of the right idea"?
Kevin Moreland: Yeah. They'll understand that. Look, Brian. All the men in our family have been soldiers.
Brian Moreland: Yeah, I know.
Kevin Moreland: Just plain old dogfaces with a knack for surviving. But I was hoping somebody along the line would break into brass, kid.
Brian Moreland: I have my command, Dad.
Kevin Moreland: I don't think you're thinking straight. What you have here is a bad way to lose a pretty bright future, kid.
Brian Moreland: [Coldly] Stop calling me "kid".
Kevin Moreland: [Stares silently for a few moments] Do you expect me to call you "Major"? You can forget it. Look at this operation. You got all your strength nose to nose with the cops. I mean, eventually even those bullhorn yo-yo's are gonna figure out you've got a vulnerable rear flank, and they're gonna sneak in there. [Points off to his right] Maybe over there! Over there, behind the cover of the trees, and they're just gonna throw a net over your little pink asses!
Brian Moreland: You can say that all you want, it doesn't matter.
Kevin Moreland: First canister of tear gas that pops, half your troops will wet their pants and run like rabbits! For that matter, how bright was it to let this delegation in here, huh? Look at me! Within five seconds I could break your neck, and you wouldn't be able to do a thing about it!
Brian Moreland: You'd be shot. My next in command would take over.
Kevin Moreland: I read that book, too.
Brian Moreland: On the other hand, we could take you all as prisoners or hostages. But we won't; we have a code of honor here!
Kevin Moreland: Oh, sweet Jesus, a code of honor. Is that what this is all about? Somebody's lofty load of shit about honor? Yours?
Brian Moreland: Yes, mine, and I learned it here. General Bache lives it, breathes it-
Kevin Moreland: [Interrupting] Bache! Are you kidding me! Bache is here 'cause there's no place left-
Brian Moreland: He's the example we all try to follow! The finest man, the finest officer-
Kevin Moreland: Bache has been passed over for promotion so many times...he's got a permanent stiff neck from the draft! I'll tell you about Bache! Bache is living proof that horses' asses outnumber horses!
Brian Moreland: Captain Shawn, escort my... escort the Sergeant off the base! [MSgt. Moreland then slaps his son in the face while he's getting to leave]
Brian Moreland: Muster the men on the quad. [Leaves]
David Shawn: Yes, sir.

Brian Moreland: [addressing the boys] We've pulled together well, haven't we?
All: Yes, sir!
Brian Moreland: General Bache would be proud of us. If he were here, I know he'd tell us to hold out. To finish what we've started and not to be halfway about anything. They're saying some of you are being held against your will, you don't want to be here. Either they're right or we're right. Nobody's gonna cut you down if you don't believe in what we're doing, or if you're afraid of parents or the cops. Anybody who isn't 100 percent sure of why we're here and what we're doing, take one step forward.
[No one moves]

Brian Moreland: Alex, you've been picking at this from the beginning. What's wrong with you? Things are going beautifully. We're in better shape now. Now we're a corps. General Bache used to talk about men under pressure. How they act as one. We're seeing it.
Alex Dwyer: Thus spake Saint Bache.
Brian Moreland: OK.
Alex Dwyer: He's only a man, Brian. Like your father, my father. Just a man. Not every word out of his mouth is some holy nugget.
Brian Moreland: Right. Whatever you say.
Alex Dwyer: Don't let that display of loyalty go to your head. It won't mean beans to anybody out there. They'll say it was brainwashing. Maybe they're right.
Brian Moreland: I half expected you to be the one to break ranks. Head for the comforts of home.
Alex Dwyer: The thought crossed my mind.
Brian Moreland: What stopped you?
Alex Dwyer: My sense of honor may be a little ragged, but I don't walk out on a friend.

[Colonel Kerby of the Army National Guard is meeting with Moreland and an accompanying escort of armed cadets under flag of truce]
Col. Kerby: So you're the fellow who started all this.
Brian Moreland: Major Moreland, sir, the ranking cadet.
Col. Kerby: Yes. I understand you're quite a leader, Major Moreland.
Brian Moreland: Sir, we were all well trained here at Bunker Hill. That's part of why we won't give it up.
Col. Kerby: I can understand that. What's another 50 condominiums, more or less?
Brian Moreland: Condominiums are more easily built than leaders.
Col. Kerby: Yeah. Exactly. Only... you and I don't have the last word on that subject.
Brian Moreland: But I do have something to say about it.
Col. Kerby: Mr. Moreland... you know and I know that it's never gonna go your way. You do know that, don't you?
Brian Moreland: You got something to tell me, Colonel?
Col. Kerby: I'm telling you. Brian, I'm no fancy negotiator with a PhD in psychology. That's not what I do for a living. I'm the Governor's muscle. I get called when he gets nervous.
Brian Moreland: Don't try to scare us. The police already tried that.
Col. Kerby: I know, and your parents didn't fare any better. But I've got to let you know what's going on out there. They don't see you guys as rebels with a good cause. They think you're home-grown terrorists, and it's got 'em scared shitless. Nice American boys don't act like this.
Brian Moreland: We have a home here. Something we think is worth defending. I mean, why is that so tough to understand?
Col. Kerby: Sure, and you have the right to defend it, in all the accepted ways. Hell, I'll help you. But you can't start by stealing government property.
Brian Moreland: I've seen what happens when you go the other way. We'd get up to bat and the game would be over.
Col. Kerby: At least you would all be alive, which at this point is all I give a damn about.
Brian Moreland: Don't worry about us.
Col. Kerby: How many kids do you have here? [Moreland hesitates to answer] Come on, for Christ's sake. It's not classified information. 30? 100? I've seen ten create a fearful momentum and you have over 100 here. With weapons. And some really don't want to be here.
Brian Moreland: You saw the muster yesterday. They had a chance to leave, they stayed.
Col. Kerby: Eleven kids did leave. [referring to cadets who climbed over the brick wall running along the school perimeter overnight]
Brian Moreland: Sounds like eleven boys who weren't much good to us anyway.
Col. Kerby: I don't care what happened here. I don't wanna see scared kids crawling over the wall in the middle of the night.
Brian Moreland: You won't. [to the cadet guards] Escort the Colonel back to the gate.

Alex Dwyer: [pretending to be a reporter] I'm here inside the walls of Bunker Hill...
Brian Moreland: [to all] On your feet! Let's go!
Alex Dwyer: ...with Major Brian Moreland, commander of the rebellious youths. Correction. Defending cadets.
Brian Moreland: Let's go. Come on.
Alex Dwyer: There seems to be some dissension...
Brian Moreland: No, this is a military operation.
Alex Dwyer: A military operation. I see. No dissension, no desertion and no...
Brian Moreland: Knock it off! Those of you not on station should sleep.
Alex Dwyer: You can't escape the press that easily.
Brian Moreland: Knock it off! It's not funny any more! It's getting to be a real pain in the ass! Drop it!
Alex Dwyer: Back to you, Walter. The Major's getting pissed off.
Brian Moreland: Come on. Move out.
Alex Dwyer: And we don't want to piss off the Major. Piss off the Major, you find yourself escorted out between two of Shawn's Red Berets.
Brian Moreland: You just keep going and going, don't know when to stop.
Alex Dwyer: Think with your brain, you'll piss off the Major. Piss off the Major and you find yourself escorted out just like the Major's father.
Brian Moreland: Leave my father out of this.
Alex Dwyer: Reason with the Major, out you go.
Brian Moreland: Let's go.
Alex Dwyer: Pretty soon there'll be nobody left but one pissed-off Major.
Brian Moreland: Knock it off! We've had enough!
Alex Dwyer: You don't wanna save this school for posterity! You wanna wear it like your own cocoon! Just you and Bache, snug as two bugs queer for each other-
[Brian hits him and they begin fighting]

[After West is severely burned while trying to start up an old school generator, the cadets and National Guard arrange for him to be sent out to the hospital under another truce]
Col. Kerby: You know you're responsible for that boy?
Brian Moreland: It was an accident.
Col. Kerby: I've gone to the mat with the civil authorities. I'm urging them to take into consideration your youth and the strain...
Brian Moreland: Cut the bullshit. Nobody in here's young any more.
Col. Kerby: [irritated] Excuse me if I don't shed tears over your lost youth. You've had your chances to toss it in. You've got this chance. The Governor is this close to ordering us to take you in by force. When that order comes, I'll do it and you won't ever be that unhappy again. I'll have to do it.
Brian Moreland: I get it. They want us to be good little boys now so we can fight some war for them in the future. Some war they'll decide on. We'd rather fight our own war right now.
Col. Kerby: Brian, we're talking about boys so young they haven't got hair one between their legs.
Brian Moreland: That's never been any qualification for a soldier.
Col. Kerby: Good Christ!
Brian Moreland: The final stage of any mobilization is the children, the seed corn.
Col. Kerby: [stares] What in God's name did they teach you in here? What did they turn you into?
Brian Moreland: A soldier! The only thing I ever wanted to be!
Col. Kerby: A soldier?! No, goddammit, I'm a soldier, with the career goal of all soldiers: staying alive in situations where it ain't all that easy to do, but you, my friend, you're a death lover. Yes, I know the species. Seventeen years old and some son of a bitch has put you in love with death. Somebody sold you on the idea that dying for a cause is oh, so romantic. Well, that is the worst kind of all the kinds of bullshit there is! Dying is only one thing. Bad. Don't find that out. Please.
Brian Moreland: We'll reduce our demands to just one.
Col. Kerby: I'm listening.
Brian Moreland: A meeting with General Bache. Let the order come directly from him. If it does, we'll obey it.
[Colonel Kerby hesitates]
Col. Kerby: ...General Bache died last night at six o'clock.
Brian Moreland: [flatly] You son of a bitch. You and I have nothing more to talk about.

Brian Moreland: I was thinking about that basketball game we played, one on one, last winter. It was so cold, hurt to breathe, and your fingers could barely feel the ball, you know. There was no net on the hoop. We were always arguing the other's shot didn't go in. Laughing and acting crazy It was so dark you couldn't see the ball against the backboard. I love that feeling.
Alex Dwyer: We'll have a rematch, one on one.
Brian Moreland: It's gonna hurt like hell to leave it all behind.
Alex Dwyer: No one leaves it all behind, Brian. We're gonna take it with us.
Brian Moreland: Were they just words? Honor, duty, country? I loved that man. Being in his presence made me feel privileged. But there had to be something missing in all that he taught us, or this wouldn't have happened. But there had to be something missing in all that he taught us, or this wouldn't have happened. I... I've done a terrible thing.
Alex Dwyer: You weren't alone. We were all in it together.
Brian Moreland: It was my command and I was in charge. When I knelt next to Charlie, I tried to find some justification. But honor! Honor doesn't count for shit when you're looking at a dead little boy! You don't think of the Book of Remembrance or bugles or flags or twenty-one-gun salutes. All you can think of is what a neat little kid he was... and how you're gonna miss him.
Alex Dwyer: Declare a victory, Brian. Let's say we won the war. Let's go home.

Cast edit

External links edit

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