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Get on the Bus (1996)

 -  Drama | History  -  16 October 1996 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 3,775 users  
Reviews: 35 user | 26 critic

A disparate group of African-American men travel by bus to Washington, DC for the Million Man March.


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2 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Junior, aka 'Smooth'
Thomas Jefferson Byrd ...
Evan Thomas Sr.


Get on the Bus follows several Black men on a cross country bus trip to the Million Man March. On the bus are an eclectic set of characters including a laid off aircraft worker, a former Gang Banger, a Hollywood actor, a cop who is of mixed racial background, and a White bus driver, all make the trek discussing issues surrounding the march, manhood, religion, politics, and race. Written by Robert Drake <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


On October 16, 1996, the one year anniversary of the Million Man March, Spike Lee invites you to lift your head, raise your voice, and...get on the bus.


Drama | History

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »




Release Date:

16 October 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Auf engstem Raum  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$2,400,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$2,837,711 (USA) (18 October 1996)


$5,731,103 (USA) (15 November 1996)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Hill Harper played a 19 year old in the movie although he was 30 in real life. See more »


By evening on the second day of driving, the bus had gone from Los Angeles, CA to Memphis, TN (almost 1,800 miles). Despite driving through the night, by evening on the third day they had only traveled as far as Knoxville, TN (almost 400 miles). See more »


Flip: Oh my God, a gay black republican. Now I've seen everything!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Recumbent riders: Carol and Ken Lyon, who just happened to ride through the set on their Cross-Country Ramble from Ventura, CA, to Galveston, TX. See more »


Featured in The Directors: The Films of Spike Lee (2000) See more »


Written by Phillip Bailey, Roxanne Seeman, Sonny Emory and Morris Pleasure
Used by Permission of Sir & Trini (ASCAP), Noa-Noa Music (ASCAP), Sonnyside Up Music (BMI) and Moplay Music (ASCAP)
Produced by Maurice White
Performed by Earth Wind & Fire
Courtesy of Kalimba Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Spike's paean to the black man in America, 1996
15 February 2008 | by (Korea) – See all my reviews

I'm not a black man in America, but I've loved all of Spike's films and quite frankly, I wish people (not, by and large, the commenters on this film, refreshingly) would attempt to make films "black" or "white" or "Latino" or any other social or political or religious demeaner. This is a wonderful film and all people should be able to appreciate it. I would like to respond to those who think this is a "white-berating" movie or something. One word: please.

The vast majority of the dialogue in this film is African-American focused and there is very little criticism of The White Man. Those of you who claim otherwise, well, to quote Shakespeare, "I think thou doth protest too much."

Lee has given the black man, as they like to say in liberal arts grad school programs, agency. He has presented the wide range of black circumstances. These are not victims of drive-by shootings, gang-bangers, or basketball players. I did find the characters a bit stock in their very attempts to convey such distinctly different elements of the black experience. It was as though Spike ticked off boxes saying, OK, we have a conservative black man, we have a struggling middle-class black man, we have an egomaniacal black man..but having said that, it is only possible for that to be a criticism because as viewers, we are so unused to seeing black men depicted in complex ways.

As a white guy who's worked in largely minority schools for a decade and was The White Guy who'd attend all the functions of the minority student association events in college-that is to say, I enjoyed learning about all manner of racial diversity, I don't think, that as a white person, it's appropriate to judge the fitness of folks of another ethnicity to use words which might seem a little coarse. If people want to use those words, when they do not refer to me, what is it to me? If white folks hadn't been using those words back in the day, the use of those words would not even be an issue now. Anyway, I'm rambling, but it seems that this film was made, essentially, as one of those rare vehicles which allows people (not that many people saw this film, of course.....) to see black men as humans.

We see an egomaniacal, sexually-insecure man named Smooth (the fantastic Andre Braugher). We see a light-skinned African American (the very talented Roger Guenver Smith) who must answer barbed criticisms from Smooth about his claim to a legitimate place in the African-American community, Charles Dutton, criminally underemployed in modern movies as the organizer of the bus journey to the Million Man March and the glue who holds (as best he can) the trip together. We see two gay men (Isaiah Washington (ya really think the man is homophobic?)) and Henry Lennix as Randall (also excellent) whose relationship is challenged by Randall's insecurity about it. Ossie Davis is brilliant as an older man who largely keeps his counsel but when needed to keep the train from coming off the tracks, seems to know just how to calm the storm. A hard-working middle-class man named Evan (the reliable Thomas Byrd Jr., a regular in Lee's movies) is struggling with how best to raise his son. His heart is in the right place but the job is not easy. His son, Jamal (Gabriel Casseus giving a nuanced performance communicating all range of depth and yet at the same time, the simplicity which only a young person can convey). The black man who turns out to be self-hating, and who joins the bus (for a short time, in Memphis), Wendell, is amusingly and with a great deal of satisfaction, I would imagine, to all positive and forward-thinking blacks (and folks of other colors) dealt with quite appropriately. His behavior is quite disgraceful and as I watched him I hoped that he would get the harsh comeuppance which he did indeed receive.

The cinematography of the bus travelling through the American west is bleached out in order to convey the starkness of the landscape and in order that the focus remains on these rich, wonderfully human characters. Lee does a fantastic job directing. I'm not willing to say this is his best film when the man has directed "Do The Right Thing", and "When the Levees Break" which is all you need to know about Hurricane Katrina. But saying this film is worse than those two is not saying anything bad about this film. It is excellent and it is a tribute to black men which more people should see so that in America more people understand that black men are as diverse as there are grains of sand on the ocean.

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