Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Private Benjamin (1980)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Private Benjamin (1980)

In Howard Zieff's upbeat comedy about military life for a misfit female - the feminist, fish-out-of-water tale had the tagline: "The Army was no laughing matter until Judy Benjamin joined it":

  • the film's opening statement: "When Judy Benjamin was eight years old, she confessed her life's desire to her best friend. 'All I want,' Judy whispered, 'is a big house...nice clothes, two closets, a live-in maid, and a professional man for a husband.' Today, all of Judy’s dreams come true"
  • the opening sequence - a Jewish wedding between the title character - pampered, sheltered, 28-year old, widowed, naive socialite 'princess' Judith "Judy" Benjamin (Goldie Hawn), and lawyer Yale Goodman (Albert Brooks)
  • the unfortunate circumstance that Judy's new husband died on her wedding night during sex (as he was saying "I'm coming" on the bathroom's tile floor); after the funeral, Judy sat solemnly in a room full of wedding presents, clutching onto one of the gifts - a brand new food processor ("Look what we got!")
  • the exaggerated description of the comforts of military life (including yachts at Fort Ord's Army Base in Monterey, California, condos with private rooms, a glamorous job, possibly in Europe, with paid training, free housing, free food and medical, and a 30-day paid vacation, etc.) - all promised by unscrupulous Army recruiter Sgt. First Class James Ballard (Harry Dean Stanton); everything he claimed convinced the vulnerable Judy to enlist: "The Army is the best-kept secret in the world, Judy....You can forget that old brown boot image of the Army. It's the Army of the 80's, you'd love it, all the ladies do. All 89,000 of 'em. Here, check out this list of jobs. There's over 300 jobs there, and there's only a couple of 'em not offered to the ladies. Trained killers, stuff like that..."; when she asked: "What if I hate it once I get there?", she was falsely told: "Quit! It's a job like anything else"
  • upon her bus' arrival at the Army's Reception Station at Fort Biloxi (Mississippi) for six weeks of boot camp, everyone else was being processed while Judy remained asleep on the bus, where she was reprimanded by harsh drill instructor Sergeant L. C. Ross (Hal Williams) ("Get your ass up and out on the company street!"); she was punished with a series of 10 push-ups and then she asked: "What is this? Hell Week?"; when she was lined up to receive her uniform, she cluelessly asked: "Excuse me, sir, is green the only color these come in?"
Asleep on the Bus
"Is green the only color these come in?"
  • the scene in the barracks of Judy's hysterically-brash comments: "I joined up, but I'm not staying. There's been a mistake. I'll straighten it out when the manager gets here"
  • she made further clueless complaints to her harsh, strict commanding officer Capt. Doreen Lewis (Oscar-nominated Eileen Brennan), a 5-year veteran: ("I think they sent me to the wrong place....See, uh, I did join the Army, but I joined a different Army. I joined the one with the condos and the private rooms... Look, to be truthful with you, I can't sleep in a room with 20 strangers...And I mean look at this place. The Army couldn't afford drapes? I mean, I'll be up at the crack of dawn here! And I have to tell you, I am frankly a little shocked....This place is a sty. (she picked up a pillow) Look, look at these stains. God knows where this has been!")
  • Pvt. Benjamin also commented on the dirty bathroom: ("It's disgusting! There are urinals in there!"), Lewis responded: "That's because this is the Army, Benjamin. It's not a sorority house" -- Pvt. Benjamin was forced to scrub everything with only her electric tooth-brush all night long; and when she finally collapsed early the next morning on her bunk, she was immediately awakened by the Sgt. - she cried out: "Oh God, you can't make me. I worked the night shift! Go check out the bathroom, it's FABULOUS"
  • the joke line delivered when Private Benjamin had enough and attempted to run away, but was caught on the barbed wire fence; Capt. Lewis drove up and told her: "Benjamin, you are not fit to wear that uniform," and the Private agreed very simply: "No S--t!"
Failed Attempt to Run Away
Marching in the Rain
Campfire Sex Stories While Smoking Pot
  • as a result of Pvt. Benjamin's attempt to run away, her entire troop was punished by a forced march in circles in the rain - and she tried to apologize to tough female private Wanda Winter (P.J. Soles): "What do you want from me? I didn't ask her to punish everybody! Do you think I like schlepping in the rain all day and all night?...Oh, okay, I took my life in my own hands, I made a mistake, fine, I'm sorry! I'll never do it again! I wanna wear my sandals. And I wanna go out to lunch. I wanna be NORMAL again!"
  • during mock war game training exercises in a swamp between two teams (Red and Blue), Judy's campfire reflections with her fellow soldiers as they smoked marijuana and talked about their sexual experiences; Judy confessed she had only experienced one mediocre orgasm in her entire life and also told her friends about her newly-wedded husband's death during sex ("My husband had a heart attack and died on our wedding night while we were making love"); during the exercise, they discovered Pvt. Winter having sex with Captain Lewis' lover, Cpt. Wooldridge (Craig T. Nelson) in a tent; Pvt. Benjamin led her Blue team into fooling rival soldiers and single-handedly capturing the entire Red team, and humiliating Capt. Lewis; in retaliation, she became drunk and took it out on the recruits
  • the practical joke revenge against Capt. Lewis that night - Pvt. Benjamin put blue dye in her showerhead nozzle; the next day, Capt. Lewis was forced to wear clown-white makeup during the enlisted soldier parade and graduation from boot camp
  • Pvt. Benjamin's rapid romance with French gynecologist and suave artist Henri Alan Tremont (Armand Assante in his first major film role); after love-making, she told him that she had experienced her first pair of orgasms: "Now I know what I've been faking all these years"; when he asked: "That was your first?," she replied: "And second"
  • the sequence of elite paratrooper training, when Pvt. Benjamin was fearful about jumping with a parachute from an airplane during Thornbird training ("I'm afraid to die!"); she had to rebuff the unwanted sexual advances of post commander Colonel Clay Thornbush (Robert Webber) who approached ominously and forced a kiss: ("You don't have to jump...There are other ways in which you can serve...Well, you want it, Benjamin! You know you do...I can smell fear in any man and passion in any woman!..I'm gonna take you now, Benjamin...Come to papa"); she was forced to jump to escape his grasp
Parachute Jump: "I'm afraid to die"
Unwanted Sexual Assault:
"Well, you want it, Benjamin!"
  • while serving in Europe with Pvt. Benjamin, Capt. Lewis' insult one-liner: "If Patton were alive, he would slap your face!" when she was investigating the Private's association with Henri - who was suspected to be a Communist
Leaving the Wedding Altar
  • over the Army's objections, Pvt. Benjamin decided to marry the chauvinistic French artist Henri; however, she decided at the last minute to abort the ceremony and walk away from the altar; she explained why she was leaving: "Not so fast. Henri, I know this is a very awkward time to do this, but I want to break up"; Henri tried to convince her to stay, and apologetically admitted to an unfaithful one-night stand with his ex-lover Gabrielle (Denise Halma); she called him a "schmuck"; to make matters worse, he belittled her: "When I met you, you were in the Army, for God's sakes. You were nothing, you were picking up strangers in bars!...I'll give you a future, a home, and a name. For once in your life, don't be stupid!"; she punched him, and responded: "Don't call me stupid!"
  • in the final few moments of the film, she marched outside, threw off her veil (that floated away), and walked down a country road in her wedding dress to a new life - it was a famous closing shot of her liberation

Jewish Wedding

Honeymoon Sex on the Bathroom Floor

The New Reality - Widowhood Again

Recruitment Sales Pitch

Judy: "I think they sent me to the wrong place...I joined a different Army"

Punishment: Tooth-brush Scrubbing of Bathroom

Yawning During Line-Up

The Discovery of Pvt. Winter Having Sex with an Officer During War Games

Practical Joke on Capt. Lewis

White-Faced Cover-up Makeup

Pvt. Benjamin with Henri Tremont

Pvt. Benjamin's First Pair of Orgasms

Insult: "If Patton were alive, he would slap your face"


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