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

Release Year: 1981

Rating: 6.5/10 (7,484 voted)

Harold Becker

Stars: George C. Scott, Timothy Hutton, Ronny Cox

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.

Writers: Devery Freeman, Robert Mark Kamen


George C. Scott

General Harlan Bache

Timothy Hutton

Cadet Major Brian Moreland

Ronny Cox

Colonel Kerby

Sean Penn

Cadet Captain Alex Dwyer

Tom Cruise

Cadet Captain David Shawn

Brendan Ward

Charlie Auden

Evan Handler

Edward West

John P. Navin Jr.

Derek Mellott

Billy Van Zandt


Giancarlo Esposito

Cadet Captain J.C. Pierce

Donald Kimmel

Billy Harris

Tim Wahrer

Cadet Major John Cooper

Tim Riley


Jeff Rochlin


Rusty Jacobs


This school is our home, we think it's worth defending.

Release Date: 20 December 1981

Filming Locations: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Opening Weekend: $93,005
(13 December 1981)
(3 Screens)

Gross: $35,856,053
(14 March 1982)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?


The film was originally developed at Columbia Pictures by Producer Stanley R. Jaffe, but ran into a series of creative problems with the studio and it was one of many projects that went into "turnaround" under their banner. Jaffe was passionate about the project and then took it to Twentieth Century-Fox, who bought the script and immediately green-lit the project.


Factual errors:
During the commencement parade one of the cadets in Company C is wearing sunglasses. This would not be allowed.


General Harlan Bache:
[Bache is talking with Moreland and the outgoing Cadet Major, on the occassion of Moreland's ascendancy to the same rank for the next class]
Honor. Burglar-proof, fool-proof, weather-proof, one hundred-proof.

User Review

Honor Without Purpose


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

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

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.