Get on the Bus

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This article is about the 1996 film. For the Destiny's Child song, see Get on the Bus (song).
Get on the Bus
Get on the Bus.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Spike Lee
Produced by Reuben Cannon
Barry Rosenbush
Bill Borden
Written by Reggie Rock Bythewood
Music by Terence Blanchard
Cinematography Elliot Davis
Edited by Leander T. Sales
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • October 16, 1996 (1996-10-16)
Running time
120 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,400,000

Get on the Bus is a 1996 drama[1] film about a group of African-American men who are taking a cross-country bus trip in order to participate in the Million Man March. The film was directed by Spike Lee and premiered on the one-year anniversary of the march.[2][3] For Spike Lee, this was the first time that he did not act in one of his own films.


Fifteen disparate African American men board a bus in Los Angeles bound for Washington, D.C., where they plan on attending the Million Man March. Other than their race, destination, and gender, the men have nothing in common: George is the trip organizer; Xavier is an aspiring filmmaker hoping to make a documentary of the March; Flip is an openly racist and sexist actor; Kyle and Randall are a homosexual couple; Gary, a police officer, is the sole biracial man on the bus; Jamal is a former gang banger turned devout Muslim who has evaded prosecution for the murders he committed; Evan Jr., is a petty criminal who has been permitted to break probation to attend the march on the condition that he remain handcuffed to his father, Evan Sr.

As the bus travels across country, Xavier conducts interviews with the various attendees, allowing them to express their views on race, religion, and politics. The interviews often provoke outbursts from other men on the bus, invariably leading to confrontations; the only topic of unity is the O.J. Simpson trial, with the men agreeing that, while Simpson is probably guilty, his acquittal is justified as his victims were a white woman and a Jew. Peace is kept through the various verbal arguments and physical altercations that occur by Jeremiah, the eldest member of the group. Jeremiah, an 80-year-old former alcoholic who lost his job and family, has found new meaning in life by embracing his African heritage; his philosophies on the black experience and stories of precolonial Africa serve to unite the men and ease tensions and the infighting among them.

En route the bus breaks down and the men are forced to board another bus, driven by a ethnically Jewish white man named Rick. Several of the passengers harass Rick with antisemitic remarks and jokes; Rick ultimately refuses to drive any further, citing the group's prejudice and his opposition to antisemitic remarks made by the leader of the march, Louis Farrakhan. George, himself a bus driver, accuses Rick of racism, but begrudgingly agrees to let Rick resign without incident. George takes over driving for the remainder of the trip, with help from Evan Sr.

As the bus passes through the American south, the men are surprised to find that they are greeted hospitably by several white southerners at various restaurants and rest stops. At one stop, the men pick up Wendell, a wealthy African American Lexus salesman who sees attending the march as a way to make business connections. After Wendell makes disparaging remarks about lower-class African Americans, the rest of the men forcibly eject him from the bus and abandon him on the side of the road.

In Knoxville, Tennessee, the bus is pulled over by a pair of racist state troopers, who accuse the men of using the bus to smuggle drugs. The bus and its passengers are checked by a drug-sniffing police dog, turning up no evidence of drugs; the troopers then allow the bus to resume its journey.

As the bus nears Washington, Jeremiah passes out and is rushed to a hospital. The doctors there discover that Jeremiah is suffering from advanced coronary artery disease, which made the stress of the trip potentially deadly for him. Evan Sr. and Jr., Gary, Jamal, and Xavier opt to stay with Jeremiah at the hospital and watch the march on television while the rest of the men leave in the bus to attend. Shortly after they leave, Jeremiah dies. The rest of the group returns to the hospital, saying that, to stay true to the spirit of the March, they chose not to attend the march but to return and be with Jeremiah.

As the bus prepares to return to Los Angeles, the men find a prayer that Jeremiah wrote with the intention of praying it when the bus arrived at Washington, D.C. The men drive to the Lincoln Memorial, where George leads the men in Jeremiah's prayer, and Evan Jr. and Sr. remove their handcuffs.


Other passengers[edit]

Three additional bus passengers are shown observing the action. They are credited but are not introduced nor are they given dialogue:

  • Jadi McCurdy as Ja-Dee, a young man with dreadlocks.
  • Hosea Brown III as Doc. Brown, a real-life M.D. who served as the set doctor during filming.
  • Guy Margo as Khalid, a member of the Nation of Islam.

Additional cast[edit]


The soundtrack to the film, Get on the Bus: Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture, which was available on 40 Acres and a Mule Musicworks and Interscope Records, only had one charting single, which had a music video with clips from the film: "New World Order" by Curtis Mayfield.

Track listing:

No. Title Artist Length
1. "Shabooyah (Roll Call)" The Bus Crew: Mike (Steve White), Evan, Jr. a.k.a. "Smooth" and Evan (De'Aundre Bonds and Thomas Jefferson Byrd), Gary (Roger Guenveur Smith), Xavier (Hill Harper), Jamal (Gabriel Casseus), and Jeremiah a.k.a. "Pop" (Ossie Davis) 1:43
2. "Destiny Is Calling" Guru featuring Permanent Revolution 4:14
3. "Tonite's the Nite" Doug E. Fresh 4:26
4. "The Remedy" A Tribe Called Quest featuring Common 4:32
5. "Girl You Need a Change of Mind" D'Angelo 4:08
6. "Redemption Song" Stevie Wonder 3:46
7. "New World Order" Curtis Mayfield 6:34
8. "Over a Million Strong" The Neville Brothers 4:40
9. "My Life Is in Your Hands" God's Property featuring Kirk Franklin 5:36
10. "I Love My Woman" Marvin Davis 4:28
11. "Cruisin'" Earth, Wind & Fire 5:42
12. "Welcome" Marc Dorsey 5:05
13. "Coming Home to You" BLACKstreet 4:48
14. "Ayinde's Speech" Ayinde Jean-Baptiste 3:22


The film received generally positive reviews. On the website Rotten Tomatoes the film scored an 87% fresh on the tomatometer. Critic Roger Ebert gave the film a perfect four star rating, stating "What makes Get on the Bus extraordinary is the truth and feeling that go into its episodes".[4] The film was entered into the 47th Berlin International Film Festival where it won an Honourable Mention.[5]


  1. ^ "Get on the Bus Genre". July 4, 2016. Retrieved 4 July 2016. 
  2. ^ New York Times
  3. ^ Los Angeles Times
  4. ^ "Get on the Bus". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  5. ^ "Berlinale: 1997 Prize Winners". Retrieved 2012-01-08. 

External links[edit]