Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

A Few Good Men (1992)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

A Few Good Men (1992)

In Rob Reiner's courtroom/military drama about the difficult defense of two Marines (Dawson and Downey) accused of causing the death of another soldier at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who died during a questionable hazing ritual known as "Code Red":

  • the first confrontational meeting between passionate Navy lawyer and investigator Lt. Cmdr. JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) and inexperienced hot-shot US Navy lawyer Lt. J.G. Daniel Alistair Kaffee (Tom Cruise), while he was swinging at balls during softball practice; Kaffee was well-known for frequent plea bargains without ever going to trial; she delivered an extensive biographical account of Kaffee's past to intimidate him: "I do know you. Daniel Alistair Kaffee, born June 8th, 1964 at Boston Mercy Hospital. Your father's Lionel Kaffee, former Navy Judge Advocate and Attorney General of the U.S., died 1985. You went to Harvard Law, then you joined the Navy probably because that's what your father wanted you to do. And now you're just treading water for the three years you've gotta serve in the JAG Corps, just kinda layin' low 'til you can get out and get a real job. If that's the situation, that's fine, I won't tell anyone. But it's my feeling that if this case is handled in the same fast-food, slick-ass, Persian Bazaar manner with which you seem to handle everything else, then something's gonna get missed. And I wouldn't be doing my job if I allowed Dawson and Downey to spend any more time in prison than absolutely necessary because their attorney had predetermined the path of least resistance"; he insultingly responded: "Wow, I'm sexually aroused, Commander"
The Two Defense Lawyers
Lt. Cmdr. JoAnne Galloway
(Demi Moore)
Lt. J.G. Daniel Alistair Kaffee
(Tom Cruise)
  • the breakfast scene at the Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) Naval Base scene in which the two defense lawyers encountered and earnestly demanded information about an unofficial disciplinary (hazing) ritual-procedure termed "Code Red" (that resulted in the death of young Marine PFC William Santiago (Michael de Lorenzo) when a rag treated with a toxin was stuffed down his throat to gag him while they shaved his head, however he also could have died of heat exhaustion); next to a reluctant Kaffee, the out-ranking Galloway questioned the formidable, meal-eating base officer Col. Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson) with a simple question: "My point is that I think Code Reds still go on. Do they?"; deflecting her question, Jessup replied with a degrading sexual insult: "There is nothing on this earth sexier -- believe me, gentlemen -- than a woman that you have to salute in the morning. Promote 'em all, I say, 'cause 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'll just have to go on taking cold showers until they elect some gal President"; then he answered that he discouraged the practice of "Code Red" (on the record), but off the record, he claimed: "it is an invaluable part of close infantry training. And If it happens to go on without my knowledge, so be it"
  • as the two lawyers were leaving, Kaffee casually asked for Santiago's transfer order for his files (allegedly arranged by Jessup to have Santiago be transferred for his own safety's sake, although he died before it could happen); Jessup responded that he would comply, but demanded that Kaffee properly acknowledge his superior rank with a properly-phrased request: "You have to ask me nicely. You see, Danny, I can deal with the bullets, and the bombs and the blood. I don't want money and I don't want medals. What I do want, is for you to stand there in that faggoty white uniform and with your Harvard mouth extend me some f--king courtesy. You gotta ask me nicely"; Kaffee was completely cowed and obeyed Jessup's demand by repeating his request more courteously, and Jessup replied: "No problem"
  • later during the investigation when the case appeared lost and Kaffee gave up and became drunk, the scene of the still-optimistic Galloway ("I still think we can win") urging Kaffee to subpoena Col. Jessup to appear in court in order to confront him - and somehow have him admit that he personally ordered the "Code Red": "Now dammit, let's put Jessup on the stand and end this thing!"; Kaffee became incredulous and melted down at her - with sarcasm and a vicious tirade at what he imagined might happen as a result: "Well, for our defendants, it's a lifetime at exotic Fort Leavenworth! And for Defense Counsel Kaffee, that's right, it's a court-martial! Yes, Johnny! After falsely accusing a highly-decorated Marine officer of conspiracy and perjury, Lieutenant Kaffee will have a long and prosperous career, teaching typewriter maintenance at the Rocco Globbo School for Women! Thank you for playing Should We, or Should We Not Follow the Advice of the Galactically Stupid!"
  • during Kaffee's initial cross-examination questioning of Col. Jessup in the court-martial trial regarding Santiago's transfer order (about whether it was phony or not), Kaffee was quickly defeated and taken aback by Col. Jessup's clever out-smarting, but Kaffee wouldn't let the triumphant and smug Jessup leave the witness chair: "Excuse me, I didn't dismiss you. I'm not through with my examination, sit down"
  • in further questioning, Jessup asserted that the military's effectiveness was based upon discipline: "We follow orders or people die. It's that simple"; then, Kaffee asked a pertinent question that tripped up Jessup: "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?"; then after a flurry of accusations, Kaffee explosively confronted the tough-talking Col. Jessup with the central question: "Colonel Jessup, did you order the Code Red?"; the emotionally-riled up Colonel ferociously snarled: "You want answers?...You can't handle the truth!!"
Kaffee: "Did you order the Code Red?"
Col. Jessup: "You can't handle the truth! --- You're goddamn right I did!"
  • during the climactic conclusion to the questioning, Jessup became unnerved by Kaffee and spoke about his duty to his country by serving faithfully and loyally - something that Kaffee never did: "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!"; when Kaffee continued to press Jessup for an answer, he became so exasperated that he admitted that he personally ordered the "Code Red": "You're goddamn right I did!"
  • in the aftermath, Jessup was detained by MP and about to be arrested, as he incredulously asked: "I'm being charged with a crime?" and then he physically charged at Kaffee, but was restrained as he shouted out: "I'm gonna rip the eyes outta your head and piss in your dead skull! You f--ked with the wrong Marine!...You f--kin' 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 peoples' lives in danger. Sweet dreams, son"; Kaffee calmly responded with dignity: "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"

Galloway Questioning Col. Nathan Jessup

Kaffee's Casual Request for Santiago's Transfer Order

Jessup: "You got to ask me nicely"

Galloway: "Let's put Jessup on the stand"

Kaffee's Tirade: "Should We, or Should We Not Follow the Advice of the Galactically Stupid!"

Downey and Dawson on Trial

Kaffee to Jessup: "I didn't dismiss you"

Jessup: "We follow orders or people die. It's that simple"

Jessup's Unnerving by Kaffee's Intense Questioning

"I'm being charged with a crime?"

To Kaffee: "You f--ked with the wrong Marine!"

To Jessup: "Don't call me 'son'"


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