Major Payne

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Major Payne Movie Poster Image
Silly slapstick movie has some violence, salty language.
  • PG-13
  • 1995
  • 95 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 6 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Even the most hard-bitten, militaristic killers can learn some sensitivity. Payne abuses all the recruits equally, with no regard for race, age, or ability.  

Positive Role Models & Representations

Payne shows loyalty to his recruits when he turns down a job with the Marines to see them compete for the junior ROTC trophy. Members of the squad train hard to become part of a tight-knit competitive unit.


Payne comically helps a wounded, suffering soldier by breaking his finger to help alleviate leg pain. References to bloody war scenarios for comic effect, but none seen. Squad members get into a fistfight in the dark and are later seen with minor bruises. Recruits are buried up to their necks and made to train while wearing dresses. There's plenty of comic verbal abuse: "You want sympathy? Look in the dictionary between 's--t' and 'syphilis.'"


Payne looks intently at the attractive school counselor and daydreams of domestic bliss with her, but there is no overt sexual content.


"S--t," "puke," "hell," "turd," "worm," "chubby," "tubby," "butt," "maggots," "pee," "scrotum sac," "piss," "bitch," "t-ts," "pimp," "crap," "ass," "screw," and "fart."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults moderately drink alcohol at a dinner.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Major Payne is an edgy 1995 send-up of military training that features a hard-boiled major who routinely humiliates his recruits, ranging in age from 6 to 16. His calls them such names as "ladies," "turd," "worm," "maggot," and "scrotum sac." Other profanity includes "s--t" and "t-ts." Humor derives from frequent comic references to the violence of war and how some enjoy the rush of wartime killing. He describes violent acts -- he drove a man's nose into his brain -- but no real gore is shown. He breaks a wounded man's finger to get his mind off a serious leg injury. Expect some diarrhea and fart jokes.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6-year-old Written byMayaK April 21, 2019

A hilarious classic

Major Payne is simply a fun movie from a nearly by-gone era that follows a standard military "boot camp" theme. I have been through a boot camp and th... Continue reading
Adult Written byLowe's man July 29, 2016

torture for fun

Why anyone would watch this movie, or why any parent would allow their child to watch it, is troubling and hard to understand. The Major humiliates his kids fa... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bypicklebob March 7, 2017

The best movie ever

Major Benson Winifred Payne played by Damon Wayans is depicted as a foul mouthed soldier that is always threatening his students and he does tell a story abou... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old November 15, 2020

Little Bit of swears, Hard Core, AMAZING SHOW

so there is swearing it is like this guy who comes from the military to teach kids i mean there is some crazy parts like when he says you are like deaf when he... Continue reading

What's the story?

MAJOR PAYNE is a send-up of formulaic movies about sadistic drill sergeants who whip pathetic recruits into shape for their own good. The Payne of the title is a career Marine (a self-described "trained killing machine" played by Damon Wayans) shocked to find himself passed over for promotion and pushed out of the Corps. He reluctantly accepts a position as commander of a junior ROTC program at a prep school. The humor derives from Payne's over-the-top denigration and humiliation of his squad, comprised mostly of prepubescent boys (age 6 to one who shaves). He sets out to terrorize the boys into winning a prestigious ROTC competition, a prospect that seems unlikely given the lack of unity and drive in the motley crew. But in rebellion against Payne's insensitivity, name-calling, and punishment, the boys gain self-confidence, skills, and a kind of respect for their leader. Along the way, Payne's narrow-mindedness broadens as he gains enough affection for the recruits to inspire him to stay on and teach more cadets.

Is it any good?

Damon Wayans plays Payne with outrageous conviction, giving a stock character a kind of wacky truth and credibility and, in turn, pumping an old story with new comic life. The script he cowrote never betrays the killing machine's basic insanity, but it also shows that his insanity has an internal logic that lives alongside Payne's deep intelligence, goofy humor, and basic humanity. That's no small accomplishment.

Older tweens and teens will find plenty of laughs in Major Payne, and parents may find themselves enjoying the humor at times as well.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether authoritarian leaders are good people or monsters. Give some examples. Are there good leaders in Major Payne?

  • What is the movie's point of view? What is it saying about military training?

  • Even if a teacher is mean, can he or she teach something important to his or her students?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love goofy humor

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate