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Taps (1981)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  25 December 1981 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 11,688 users  
Reviews: 53 user | 28 critic

Military cadets take extreme measures to insure the future of their academy when its existence is threatened by local condo developers.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Brendan Ward ...
Charlie Auden
Edward West
John P. Navin Jr. ...
Derek Mellott
Billy Harris
Tim Wahrer ...
Cadet Major John Cooper
Tim Riley ...
Jeff Rochlin ...
Rusty Jacobs ...


An announcement that the venerable Bunker Hill Military Academy, a 141 year old institute, is to be torn down and replaced with condos sets off the young cadets led by their stodgy commander. Under the command of a student cadet major, the cadets seize the campus, refuse entry of the construction crews and ultimately confront the real military. Written by John Sacksteder <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


School's out See more »




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

25 December 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Capstrzyk  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$14,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Most of the battle names mentioned during the film are well-known. Two lesser-known ones are from the Viet Nam War. The first, Pleiku, is a town in the central highland region of Vietnam, the site of an USA base during the Vietnam War. It was the scene of a major Viet Cong attack in early 1965. The second, Plei Me, was a camp, 40 km south of Pleiku city, attacked and besieged in October 1965 by 33rd Regimant of the North Viet Namese Army. See more »


At morning formation, reveille was the bugle call proper for that formation. However, the long tradition of respect for when the flag is raised, the proper bugle call is "To the Colors." See more »


Brian Moreland: Honor doesn't count for shit when you're looking at a dead little boy.
See more »


Referenced in Animaniacs: Video Review/When Mice Ruled the Earth (1993) See more »


Glory Be
Heard during the initial church scene
See more »

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User Reviews

Honor Without Purpose
26 September 1999 | by (Tacoma, Washington) – See all my reviews

Bunker Hill Military School-An institution males ("Taps" was made in 1981, adapted from an original novel written prior) ages 12 through 18 attend to teach them academics, character and leadership in anticipation of the graduates attending West Point.

Retired U.S. Army General Harlan Bache (George C. Scott) is the commandant of the school. His curiculum teaches his young charges teamwork, personal honor, courage and sacrifice. But something is lost in the translation.

General Bache answers to the schools board of trustees. They have decided to close the 141 year old institution for the purpose of realizing the full potential of the real estate. The news is devastating to Bache and his student body.

Operating on the lessons he has been taught by his mentor, General Bache, Cadet Major Brian Moreland (Timothy Hutton), Student Body Corps Commander, decides there is courage and honor in defending the institution with their very lives if necessary. Together with Calvary Corps Commander Alex Dwyer (Sean Penn) and elite company commander David Shawn (Tom Cruise), they set about doing just that.

"Taps", directed with style and class by Harold Becker, is a study of misdirected honor and courage. The students involved are not much younger than those who would be sent to distant battlefields by the active duty military. They are impressionable and taken by uniforms and strict discipline. They are intelligent but inexperienced. They are the future leaders being molded by General Bache.

General Bache is a good, fatherly man who has forgotten one thing-personal honor and courage mean nothing unless these values are supported by the one ideal worth lives-freedom. This ideal is the reason our military exists and this is the one, most important lesson General Bache fails to teach his young future leaders of the United States military. His students overreact to a situation that does not warrant sacrificing lives for.

Timothy Hutton is outstanding as the misguided Cadet Commander. Even his father, a top sergeant in the U.S. Army, can't talk him out of the path he has chosen for himself and his fellow students. There is also a subtle hint that his relationship with his father was never the best. Sean Penn turns in a great performance as the Corps Cavalry Commander and Moreland's right hand man who doesn't believe things could spin out of control so badly and comes to realize there is something wrong with the path Moreland has chosen. And Tom Cruise is powerful as the ultra-disciplined elite company commander who seems to relish a fight more than anything he's been taught about honor and courage.

The principles receive wonderful support from Ronny Cox as the commanding colonel of an Army National Guard unit who desperately attempts to talk reason to Moreland.

"Taps" is not perfect. I couldn't understand why General Bache would take a loaded ceremonial pistol to a school military ball. But then again, I have witnessed one or two acts in my own real life active duty service which took less common sense than that.

Overall, "Taps" is a well directed story with strong characters and depth. The film warns us of the dangers of honor without purpose.

41 of 45 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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