Major Payne

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For the webcomic character named Major Payne, see VG Cats.
Major Payne
Major Payne.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Nick Castle
Produced by
  • Eric L. Gold
  • Michael Rachmil
Written by
Screenplay by
  • William Roberts
  • Richard Alan Simmons
Music by Craig Safan
Cinematography Richard Bowen
Edited by Patrick Kennedy
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • March 24, 1995 (1995-03-24)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $30.1 million[1]

Major Payne is a 1995 American military comedy film directed by Nick Castle and written by and starring Damon Wayans. The film co-stars Karyn Parsons, Steven Martini and Michael Ironside. The film is a loose remake of the 1955 war film The Private War of Major Benson, starring Charlton Heston. The film was released in the United States on March 24, 1995.


U.S. Marine Corps Major Benson Winifred Payne (Damon Wayans), a hardened Marine, returns from a successful drug raid in South America, only to find out that he has again been denied his long hoped for promotion to the grade of Lieutenant Colonel. Instead, Payne receives an honorable discharge on the grounds that "the wars of the world are no longer fought on the battlefield", and that his killing skills are no longer required by the U.S. Marine Corps.

After leaving the military, Payne finds his life as a civilian unbearable. To help adjust, he applies for a job as a police officer. However, during a domestic violence exercise, Payne physically knocks out the "suspect," landing himself in jail. Payne's former General helps secure Payne's release and secures a military job for him.

Payne arrives at Madison Preparatory School in Virginia, and is informed by the principal (William Hickey) that his job is to train the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps. These "green boys" (as the principal calls them) are a disorderly group of delinquents and outcasts who have placed last in the Virginia Military Games eight years running. When Payne sees his own company, he declares his intention that they will win the Games at all costs, and immediately sets about establishing order and discipline, making no exceptions for various handicaps that the cadets have (deafness, obesity, extensive medical conditions including but not limited to heart condition, allergies, etc.). His punishment methods cause him to clash with Emily Walburn (Karyn Parsons), the School's counselor. Walburn tries to make Payne more empathetic, particularly towards six-year-old orphan Kevin "Tiger" Dune (Orlando Brown), but without much success.

Chafing under Payne's iron hand, the cadets, led by chief mischief Alex Stone (Steven Martini) make a series of attempts to get back at Payne, or force him to leave. Some of the schemes include giving him a laxative loaded cupcake, attempting to portray Payne in a photo sleeping with one of the boys, and hiring a biker to beat up Payne. None of the cadets' plots succeed. Things come to a head when Payne makes Stone Cadet Sergeant and Squad Leader, replacing Dotson. He then offers to leave if they bring him the Military Games trophy. The cadets assume he means for them to steal the trophy from rival Wellington Academy, and they attempt to do so, except Dotson and Tiger. However, Payne places an anonymous call to Wellington, leading to the boys' being ambushed by Wellington cadets before they can collect the trophy.

The next day, Payne is confronted by Stone about the sabotaged trophy mission, but Payne tells him it wasn't about fair or unfair, but about achieving the objective. Payne asks Stone if he wants the trophy, and Stone replies that he does. However, Payne then tells Stone that he will show him how to earn it, and starts training the cadets for the games. Finding motivation in the prospect of winning the trophy and finally to get rid of Payne, the cadets will throw themselves into Payne's grueling training program. Meanwhile, Payne begins to earn some grudging respect from the corps by saving Stone from his abusive stepfather (Michael Ironside) by beating him up and sending him away from the school's premises, and saving Tiger from his nightmares and a "bogeyman" in the closet by taking his gun and shooting the closet.

The day before the Games, the corps is in good form and ready for the competition. However, Payne's former General arrives with a request for Payne to return to the U.S. Marines so he can assist in Bosnia. His proposed deployment means he will miss the Military Games. This has a demoralizing effect on the cadets, but they decide to compete anyway. However, Payne initially follows his orders and sets off for his new engagement, but changes his mind after experiencing a vision of himself starting a family with Walburn, Tiger, and even a Golden Retriever.

At the Games, the Madison Corps are holding their own until Dotson, now a cadet in the Wellington Corps, trips Stone during a race, and injuring Stone's leg. However, Stone manages to get to his feet and hobble across the finish line, finishing in second place. This foul play angers Stone's best friend, Cadet Dwight "D." Williams (Damien Wayans), and leads him to knocking Dotson out as retribution. This sparks an all-out brawl between the teams that threatens to get them disqualified. Payne arrives at the last minute and sticks up for his team. Because Stone is seriously injured and D is out of the competition, Payne appoints Tiger to lead the squad. The group executes an unorthodox but entertaining routine which wins them the trophy, with Tiger at the front, and Stone is personally awarded the Individual Cadet Achievement trophy.

Three months after the competition, Payne has resumed being an instructor to the cadets, with Stone as squad leader. He married Walburn and they adopted Tiger as their son. However, Payne's demeanor has softened a bit, declaring himself not only their commanding officer but also their friend, but when a new blind cadet and his service dog give Payne an attitude, he orders Tiger to tell "Mom" to get his "field knife" which he uses to shave the cadet – and his dog – bald. Afterward, Payne laughs.



Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 33% approval rating based on 12 reviews.[2] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "While "Major Payne" is too predictable for most adults, it's an ideal entertainment for youthful audiences that allows Damon Wayans to be at his best in a dream part."[3] Caryn James of The New York Times wrote, "Though the movie is rarely more clever than its title, Mr. Wayans gives the dark cartoonish comedy an irreverent edge."[4] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated it 3/4 stars and called it a smart and funny satire of military films.[5]

Box office[edit]

The film debuted at No. 2 behind Outbreak with a gross of $7 million on its opening weekend.[6] Major Payne went on to gross $30.1 million worldwide.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Major Payne". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2016-01-07. 
  2. ^ "Major Payne". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  3. ^ "MOVIE REVIEW : Wayans' 'Major Payne' Orders Up Laughs". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  4. ^ "FILM REVIEW; Giving Lessons in Low Jinks". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  5. ^ "Major Payne". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  6. ^ "Weekend Box Office : 'Major Payne' Marches to the Bank". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-04. 

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