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Ragtime (1981)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  8 January 1982 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 6,223 users   Metascore: 57/100
Reviews: 51 user | 28 critic | 8 from

A young black pianist becomes embroiled in the lives of an upper-class white family set among the racial tensions, infidelity, violence, and other nostalgic events in early 1900s New York City.



(based on the novel by), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Title: Ragtime (1981)

Ragtime (1981) on IMDb 7.3/10

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Nominated for 8 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Willie Conklin
Houdini (as Jeff Demunn)


The story runs in the 1910's New York. Coalhouse Walker Jr. is a black piano player. He has won fame and fortune playing with a jazz band. Some white men do not like this situation, and one day they assault him and spoil his brand new car. Walker tries by all means to get justice, without an answer... Written by Michel Rudoy <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was Ragtime See more »




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

8 January 1982 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bir Zamanlar  »

Box Office


SEK 3,022,477 (Sweden)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


James Cagney objected to saying the word "nigger" in reference to Walker, so the less pejorative term "buck" was substituted. See more »


Charles W. Fairbanks was not the Vice President of the United States when he was running with Theodore Roosevelt in 1904. He was a Senator from Indiana and was chosen as Roosevelt's running mate that year. Roosevelt was Vice President when he succeeded to the presidency upon William McKinley's assassination and he had no Vice President for his first term of office. See more »


Rheinlander Waldo: Where is J. P. Morgan?
Vernon Elliott: Oh, he's on an expedition down the Nile... in Egypt.
Rheinlander Waldo: Hmmm... Lucky him!
[Looks at the Captain]
Police Captain #1: Yes, sir!
Rheinlander Waldo: And contact some colored big shots to talk to us in case we need to negotiate.
Police Captain #1: Very good, sir. Anything else?
Rheinlander Waldo: Yeah, he said something about a car and a fire chief.
Police Captain #1: Conklin. Willie Conklin.
Rheinlander Waldo: Get him. I want to meet him.
See more »


Referenced in Le bourreau des coeurs (1983) See more »


Words & Music by Randy Newman
Sung by Jennifer Warnes
See more »

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User Reviews

Now clearly a classic
18 October 1999 | by (New York, NY) – See all my reviews

Ragtime has emerged as a classic film. Its astonishing array of great performances--literally a score of them, from Howard Rollins's truly tragic stand for human dignity at the film's center to James Cagney's historic return to film at the end of his life and the end of this motion picture--would almost alone qualify this as a great motion picture. But Michael Weller's breathtakingly complex and complete dramatization of Doctorow's sprawling novel, the gorgeous production and costume designs and the superb direction of Milos Forman seal the deal. This is a magnificent tapestry of American life at the beginning of the American century.

Lavishly entertaining, genuinely heartbreaking and a dandy history lesson to boot, Ragtime has joined the pantheon of great, epic movies.

42 of 50 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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