Major Payne (1995)


Major Payne is a 1995 American comedy film directed by Nick Castle and starring Damon Wayans, who wrote with Dean Lorey and Gary Rosen.

The film co stars Karyn Parsons, Steven Martini and Michael Ironside. It is a loose remake of the 1955 film The Private War of Major Benson, starring Charlton Heston. Major Payne was released in the United States on 24 March and grossed $30 million. Wayans plays a military officer who, after being discharged, attempts to lead a dysfunctional group of cadets to victory in a competition.


US Marine Corps Major Benson Winifred Payne, a hardened Marine, returns from a violent but successful drug raid in South America, only to find out that he was once again not promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Payne receives an honourable discharge on the grounds that “the wars of the world are no longer fought on the battlefield”, and that his military skills are no longer needed. Payne tries to adjust to civilian life through an application to the police academy. He hits a man repeatedly during a training scenario, causing him to be arrested for assault after the man was rendered unconscious. His former general visits him and informs Payne that he has secured a job for him that will get him back in the military.

Payne arrives at Madison Preparatory School in Virginia and is informed by the principal that his job is to train the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps “green boys”, a disorderly group of delinquents and outcasts who have placed last in the Virginia Military Games eight years running. When Payne sees his company, he immediately tells them that, under his direction, they will win the games at all costs, regardless of their various shortcomings: being overweight, sickly, deaf, cross-eyed, orphaned, or from a dysfunctional home. Afterward, he shaves all their heads bald. Payne also meets and clashes with Emily Walburn, the Academy counsellor, who tries to soften Payne’s discipline with understanding and feelings, especially towards six year old orphan Tiger.

Payne’s training and punishments are harsh, which force the cadets to execute a series of failed schemes to get rid of Payne. Things come to a head when Payne to quit if they bring the Military Games trophy to Madison. The boys set out one night to Wellington Academy, the current trophy holder, to steal it. However, the Wellington cadets ambush them after being tipped anonymously by Payne, and the boys return to school badly beaten.

Outside of the academy, Payne bonds with Emily and Tiger. Returning to the Academy, Payne is confronted by lead misfit Alex Stone about his deception, but Payne claims it was to show them what the real prize was. With their desire to honestly earn the trophy added to their desire to be rid of Payne, the boys train hard. When Stone’s alcoholic, obnoxious stepfather appears unannounced and harasses Alex, Major Payne orders him away, earning Payne respect among the cadets. Stone and his friends want to win the Military Games trophy, if just to have Payne gone. The cadets band together under Payne’s regimen. Weeks later, Major Payne says they have graduated the program and are fit to compete in the games.

Payne is asked to return to the Marines to fight in Bosnia, but his deployment means he will miss the Military Games and disappoint the boys and Emily. As he waits for his train, he sees a family together, realising that Tiger saw him as a father figure and that Payne is falling in love with Emily. At the games, the boys hold their own until Dotson, now a Wellington cadet, trips Alex during the race, and Alex sprains his ankle. Madison comes in second, but Alex’s injury renders him unfit for the final event, a drill competition. The Madison cadets angrily fight with the Wellington cadets. The fight is broken up, and the judges deliberate having Madison disqualified for conduct unbecoming.

Payne gives up his commission and shows up at the last minute, smooths things over with the referees and tells Tiger to lead Madison in drill. The group executes an unorthodox but entertaining routine which wins them the trophy. On the first day of the new school year, Madison displays the Military Games trophy, along with another one for Alex Stone, who won best individual participant. Payne resumes being an instructor, having married Emily and adopted Tiger. Stone resumes his role as a squad leader. Payne has softened quite a bit, telling the new recruits he is not only their commanding officer but also their friend. When a new, disrespectful blind cadet shows up with his service dog, Payne shaves both him and his dog bald with his “field knife” and laughs.


  • Damon Wayans as US Marine Corps Major Benson Winifred Payne.
  • Karyn Parsons as Emily Walburn.
  • William Hickey as Dr. Phillips.
  • Steven Martini as Cadet Alex J. Stone.
  • Michael Ironside as Lieutenant Colonel Stone.
  • Orlando Brown as Cadet Kevin “Tiger” Dunn.
  • Albert Hall as General Decker.
  • Andrew Harrison Leeds as Cadet Dotson.
  • Damien Dante Wayans as Cadet Dwight “D.” Williams.
  • Chris Owen as Cadet Wuliger.
  • Stephen Coleman as Cadet Leland.
  • Mark Madison as Cadet Fox.
  • Peyton Chesson-Fohl as Cadet Sergeant Johnson.
  • Scott Bigelow as a Biker.
  • George Cheung as a Vietcong guerrilla from Major Payne’s daydream.
  • R. Stephen Wiles as Cadet Heathcoat.
  • R. J. Knoll as Blind New Cadet.


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

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Nick Castle.
  • Producer(s):
    • Tracy Carness … co-producer.
    • Eric L. Gold … producer.
    • Michael Rachmil … producer.
    • Harry Tatelman … executive producer.
    • Damon Wayans … executive producer.
  • Writer(s):
    • Joe Connelly … (story).
    • Bob Mosher … (story).
    • William Roberts … (earlier screenplay).
    • Richard Alan Simmons … (earlier screenplay).
    • Dean Lorey … (screenplay).
    • Damon Wayans … (screenplay).
    • Gary Rosen … (screenplay).
  • Music: Craig Safan.
  • Cinematography: Richard Bowen.
  • Editor(s): Patrick Kennedy.
  • Production:
    • Universal Pictures.
    • Wife ‘n’ Kids.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Universal Pictures (1995) (USA) (theatrical).
    • American Broadcasting Company (ABC) (1999) (USA) (TV) (broadcast premiere).
    • Argentina Video Home (1996) (Argentina) (VHS).
    • CIC Victor Video (1996) (Japan) (VHS).
    • CIC Video (1995) (Germany) (VHS).
    • CIC Video (1996) (Greece) (VHS).
    • MCA/Universal Home Video (1996) (USA) (VHS).
    • United International Pictures (UIP) (1996) (Argentina) (all media).
    • Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE) (1999) (USA) (DVD).
    • Universal Pictures (2005) (Netherlands) (DVD).
    • Universal Pictures (2006) (Germany) (DVD).
  • Release Date: 24 March 1995.
  • Running Time: 95 minutes.
  • Rating: 12.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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