Ragtime (1981) - Rotten Tomatoes

Ragtime (1981)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Milos Foreman's cinematic adaptation of E.L. Doctrow's sprawling pop-culture epic Ragtime follows a variety of characters whose lives intertwine during the earliest years of the 20th century. Brad Dourif plays the meek young brother in a wealthy family who ends up helping Coalhouse Walker Jr. (Howard E. Rollins) when the proud black man stands up to the racism that surrounds him with a criminal act that leads to a standoff with a police commissioner (James Cagney - making his return to the big screen after fifteen years away). Secondary characters include a street artist (Mandy Patinkin) who gets his foot in the door of the nascent film business, and a flighty young woman (Elizabeth McGovern) who inspires men who desire her to violence. Randy Newman composed the score, which included a song that earned him his first Oscar nomination.more
Rating: PG (adult situations/language, nudity, violence)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Michael Weller, E.L. Doctorow, Bo Goldman
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 16, 2004
Paramount Pictures


James Cagney
as Rheinlander Waldo
Howard E. Rollins Jr...
as Coalhouse Walker Jr.
Elizabeth McGovern
as Evelyn Nesbit Thaw
Brad Dourif
as Younger Brother
Moses Gunn
as Booker T. Washington
Kenneth McMillan
as Willie Conklin
Donald O'Connor
as Evelyn's Dance Teach...
Jeffrey DeMunn
as Harry Houdini
Robert Joy
as Harry K. Thaw
Norman Mailer
as Stanford White
Bruce Boa
as Jerome
Edwin Cooper
as Grandfather
Jeff Daniels
as O'Donnell
Frankie Faison
as Gang Member No. 1
Hal Galili
as Police Captain No. 1
Eloise O'Brien
as Mrs. Thaw
Richard Griffiths
as Delmas Assistant No....
Samuel L. Jackson
as Gang Member No. 2
Michael Jeter
as Special reporter
Calvin Levels
as Gang Member No. 3
Bessie Love
as Old Lady
Christopher Malcolm
as Police Captain No. 2
Herman Meckler
as Vernon Elliott
Billy J. Mitchell
as Delmas Assistant No....
Jenny Nichols
as Little Girl
Max Nichols
as Little Boy
Zack Norman
as Gent No. 2 - Manager
Don Plumley
as Inspector McNeil
Ted Ross
as Black Lawyer
Billy Mitchell
as Delmas's Assistant
Dorsey Wright
as Gang Member No. 4
Robert Arden
as Foreman of the Jury
Robert Boyd
as President Theodore R...
Thomas A. Carlin
as Vice President Charl...
John Clarkson
as Plainclothes Detecti...
Norris Mailer
as Woman with Stanford ...
Harry Ditson
as County Clerk
Robert Dorning
as Gent with Stanford W...
Douglas Lambert
as Police Sergeant
Geoffrey Greenhill
as Police Guard
Ray Hassett
as Policeman No. 12
Joel Cutrara
as Policeman
Robert Hitt
as Plainclothes Detecti...
Jeff Harding
as Policeman
Rodney James
as Sleek Male Dancer
George Harris
as Band Leader, Clef Cl...
George J. Manos
as Novely Shop Storeman
Anthony Powell
as Policeman
Val Pringle
as Clef Club Manager
Joe Praml
as Policeman
Ron Weyand
as Doctor Muller
Bill Reimbold
as Gent No. 3 - Lawyer
Bob Sherman
as Policeman
Josh Clark
as Fireman
Jake Dengel
as Fireman
Sonny Abagnale
as Evelyn's Driver
Donald Bisset
as J.P. Morgan
John Alderson
as Waldo's Aide
Patrick Connor
as Waldo's Aide
Derek Martin
as Waldo's Aide
Robert Coffin
as Desk Clerk
Guy Gregory
as Black Butler
Britt Walker
as Black Butler
Barry Dennen
as Stage Manager
Tony Sibbald
as Stock Reporter
Peter Witman
as Stock Reporter
Daniel Foley
as Stock Reporter
Richard Oldfield
as Stock Reporter
Gretchen Franklin
as Elderly Woman
Robert Henderson
as Elderly Man
Pavel Landovsky
as Solomon Peretz
Al Matthews
as maitre d'
Colette Hiller
as Lawyer's Female Comp...
Elaine Ives-Cameron
as Ina, Lawyer's Female...
Nelly Polissky
as Woman in Window
Ethan Phillips
as Guard at Family Hous...
John Sterland
as Library guard
Jan Triska
as Special reporter
Ed Wiley
as Conductor
Norris Mailer
as Woman with Stanford ...
Colette Hiller
as Lawyer's Female Comp...
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Ragtime

Critic Reviews for Ragtime

All Critics (14) | Top Critics (4)

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | August 30, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Sporadically engaging, Milos Forman's chronicle of American society and culture in the beginning of the twentieth century is too sprawling and dramatically diffuse, though some of the acting is excellent.

Full Review… | July 10, 2011

Great to see very late Cagney in solid Milos Forman film.

March 22, 2008

Audience Reviews for Ragtime


It drags here and there but mostly a fine epic film

jay nixon

Super Reviewer

The problem with most of the reviews I've read about this film is they worry too much about the source material and what was left out. They lament how the film varies from the book, omitting details that, had they been included, would have pushed Ragtime to miniseries length, not a stand alone movie.

Taking the movie on its own merits, it is a masterfully coordinated collection of many characters (mostly fictional) whose lives intertwine in multiple ways. Where other movies beat you over the head pointing out such coincidences, Ragtime presents them with a subtlety you don't often experience in American cinema. All actors in the film deliver -- from legends like James Cagney to bit part players like Fran Drescher (of all people) -- and none quite so brilliantly as Howard Rollins who shines brightly here at the height of his short career.

I've always thought Ragtime is one of those special films -- underrated upon its release and a thing popular movie audiences don't quite know what to do with -- that will one day be considered a masterpiece. After recently watching it again after many years, I have no reason to think otherwise.

Mark F.
Mark Feggeler

i saw this movie when i was a kid and watch it briefly tonight on TV, its still a great movie even today. The quality of film is amazing and this movie really made everything look original for its time. Fantastic movie

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