The Chocolate War (film)

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The Chocolate War
Chocolate war post.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Keith Gordon
Produced by Jonathan D. Krane
Saul Zaentz
Written by Keith Gordon
Based on The Chocolate War
by Robert Cormier
Cinematography Tom Richmond
Edited by Jeff Wishengrad
Distributed by MCEG Sterling (theatrical), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (2007, DVD)
Release date
November 18, 1988
Running time
104 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $500,000
Box office $303,624

The Chocolate War is a 1988 American drama film written and directed by Keith Gordon. It is based on Robert Cormier's novel of the same name, about a young man who rebels against the ingrained hierarchy of an elite Catholic school. It was Gordon's directorial debut, and stars John Glover, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Wallace Langham and Doug Hutchison. Jonathan D. Krane produced it after seeing Static, a short film Gordon wrote.


The film offers a portrait of the hierarchical structure, both formal and informal, of a Catholic boys' school. New student Jerry Renault (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) must submit to the bizarre rituals of his peers and the expectations of the school's administration by selling chocolates as a fundraiser. A secret student society, The Vigils, assigns Jerry the task of refusing to sell chocolates, drawing the ire of the school's interim headmaster, Brother Leon (John Glover). However, after Jerry's assignment is over, he continues to refuse, resulting in torment, bullying, and alienation from his peers.



  • Doug Hutchison, who portrayed 18-year-old Obie Jameson, was 27 when this movie was filming.
  • The film had a paltry music budget of about $15,000. Most of the artists featured on the soundtrack allowed the filmmakers to use their songs inexpensively. David Bowie, however, asked for $100,000 to utilize his song "Heroes" during the final scene and credits, so Kate Bush's "Running Up that Hill" was substituted.

Differences from the novel[edit]

While the film generally adheres to the plot of the novel, the ending of the film contains significant changes that diverge from the novel's plot and themes. These changes have commonly been seen as negative, and have been strongly criticized for compromising the messages of the novel and attempting to force a more uplifting "Hollywood ending" to the story.

  • In the novel, Jerry Renault must box Emile Janza, the school bully. In the film, Janza's place is taken by Archie after he draws a black marble, as opposed to the book, where he draws two white marbles.
  • Jerry wins the boxing match in the film, pummeling Archie and winning the praise of his classmates, much to his own chagrin, as he has now played into the Vigils' manipulations. In the novel, Jerry is beaten to semi-consciousness by Janza, and taken to the hospital, having lost the war.
  • Archie maintains his control of the Vigils in the novel, whereas in the film, he is physically beaten by Jerry and ultimately replaced by Obie, who, as Assigner, creates less thoughtful, more simplistic assignments.


On a $500,000 budget, The Chocolate War grossed a mere $303,624, and is considered a box office flop.

The film received positive reviews from critics, and currently has a score of 82 on Rotten Tomatoes based on 11 reviews with an average rating of 6.9/10."[1]

DVD release[edit]

The film was released on DVD on April 17, 2007. The special features consist of:


  1. ^ "The Chocolate War". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 2, 2016. 

External links[edit]