A Soldier's Story (1984) - Rotten Tomatoes

A Soldier's Story1984

A Soldier's Story (1984)



Critic Consensus: A meticulously-crafted murder mystery with incisive observations about race in America, A Soldier's Story benefits from a roundly excellent ensemble and Charles Fuller's politically urgent screenplay.

A Soldier's Story Photos

Movie Info

Inspired by the Herman Melville novel Billy Budd, writer Charles Fuller created the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Soldier's Play, which he then adapted into this film drama in 1984, for socially conscious, liberal director Norman Jewison. In the racially-divided 1940s, Fort Neal, Louisiana, is a military base where black soldiers are sent not to fight in WWII but to play baseball against other armed forces teams. The murder of a black sergeant, Waters (Adolph Caesar) brings an investigator, Captain Davenport (Howard E. Rollins, Jr.) to the base. Davenport, the first black officer that most of the men have ever met, suspects that a pair of white men were responsible for Waters' death, but his probe reveals that nearly everyone, regardless of skin color, had ample reason to kill the loathsome but pitiable Waters. The cast of A Soldier's Story features early supporting performances from several African-American actors who would go on to greater prominence, including Denzel Washington, David Alan Grier, and Robert Townsend. The film was nominated for three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Caesar) and Best Adapted Screenplay.

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Howard E. Rollins Jr.
as Capt. Davenport
Adolph Caesar
as Sgt. Waters
Dennis Lipscomb
as Capt. Taylor
Art Evans
as Pvt. Wilkie
David Harris
as Pvt. Smalls
Larry Riley
as C.J. Memphis
Robert Townsend
as Cpl. Ellis
Denzel Washington
as Pfc. Peterson
Patti LaBelle
as Big Mary
Wings Hauser
as Lt. Byrd
Scott Paulin
as Capt. Wilcox
John Hancock
as Sgt. Washington
Trey Wilson
as Col. Nivens
Carl Dreher
as Bus Driver
Vaughn Reeves
as Capt. Estes
Robert Tyler
as Pvt. Seymour
Warren Clements
as Sgt. Hooks
Traftin E. Thompson
as MP in Barracks
Roy Wells
as Training Field Sergeant
Tommy G. Liggins
as Soldier Painting
Pat Grabe
as Lieutenant #1
Terry Dodd
as Lieutenant #2
Calvin Franklin
as Barracks Soldier
Kevin T. Mosley
as Barracks Soldier
Michael Anthony Williams
as Barracks Soldier
David Ashley
as Barracks Soldier
Charles Howard Thomas
as Barracks Soldier
Bobby McGaughey
as Barracks Soldier
Rick Ramey
as Barracks Soldier
Lacarnist Hiriams
as Barracks Soldier
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Critic Reviews for A Soldier's Story

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (6)

In showing a woman in training and preparing for a fight, Kusama defamiliarises boxing as a subject, and makes us see afresh its drama of brutality and vulnerability.

March 24, 2021 | Full Review…

Fuller's writing and Caesar's performance, the power of this Soldier's Story is impressive.

July 25, 2018 | Full Review…

Did this movie have to be so lockstep, so trapped by its mechanical plot, so limited by a murder mystery?

October 23, 2004 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Mr. Rollins gives an arresting performance under volatile dramatic circumstances.

September 18, 2004 | Full Review…

Jewison's lack of interest in developing anything other than his rather debatable ideological point relegates the film to the realm of moderately competent TV drama.

January 1, 2000

Everyone has motive and opportunity and, under Norman Jewison's tight direction, the supporting cast, led by Denzel Washington and the Oscar-nominated Adolph Caesar, give next to nothing away.

March 24, 2021 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for A Soldier's Story

This earlier Jewison confirms that solid film making is a constant theme throughout the year. It is mildly ideological but nonetheless powerful.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer


A great soundtrack by Herbie Hancock featuring Patti LaBelle. An outstanding cast including a young Denzel Washington, and a strong and emotional story. You put all those together and you have one of the best films I had never heard of until about a week ago when I spotted a poster for the film at my local Cinema. A fantastic piece of filmmaking from Norman Jewison who has brought us some timeless classics including The Cincinnati Kid and In The Heat of the Night and he would go on to direct Denzel Washington again in The Hurricane.

Jason Reneau
Jason Reneau

Super Reviewer

Courtroom drama, written by Charles Fuller from his Pulitzer Prize-winning, "A Soldier's Play", was nominated for Best Picture. Great ensemble cast features early supporting performances from Denzel Washington, David Alan Grier, and Robert Townsend.

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer

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