Ragtime (1981) - Rotten Tomatoes


Ragtime (1981)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Ragtime Photos

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.

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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 Teacher
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. 1
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. 2
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
Dorsey Wright
as Gang Member No. 4
Robert Arden
as Foreman of the Jury
Robert Boyd
as President Theodore Roosevelt
Thomas A. Carlin
as Vice President Charles Warren Fairbanks
John Clarkson
as Plainclothes Detective No. 1
Norris Mailer
as Woman with Stanford White
Harry Ditson
as County Clerk
Douglas Lambert
as Police Sergeant
Robert Dorning
as Gent with Stanford White
Geoffrey Greenhill
as Police Guard
Ray Hassett
as Policeman No. 12
Joel Cutrara
as Policeman
Robert Hitt
as Plainclothes Detective No. 2
Jeff Harding
as Policeman
Rodney James
as Sleek Male Dancer
George Harris
as Band Leader, Clef Club
George J. Manos
as Novely Shop Storeman
Anthony Powell
as Policeman
Val Pringle
as Clef Club Manager
Ron Weyand
as Doctor Muller
Joe Praml
as Policeman
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 Companion
Elaine Ives-Cameron
as Ina, Lawyer's Female Companion
Nelly Polissky
as Woman in Window
Ethan Phillips
as Guard at Family House
John Sterland
as Library guard
Jan Triska
as Special reporter
Ed Wiley
as Conductor
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Critic Reviews for Ragtime

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (1)

The great achievement of Ragtime is in its performances, especially Howard E. Rollins, Jr. and the changes he goes through in this story.

October 23, 2004 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

A most enjoyable and sometimes splendid movie, which blends its artistic and social concerns with assurance, ingenuity and an unfaltering sense of rhythm.

November 19, 2019 | Full Review…

The main attraction of this movie is its ability to surprise the public. [Full Review in Spanish]

August 22, 2019 | Full Review…

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.

July 10, 2011 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

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

March 22, 2008 | Rating: 4/5

a jumbled and largely uninteresting mess

November 15, 2004 | Rating: 3/5

Audience Reviews for Ragtime


Doctorow's novel is a tricky thing to adapt, especially with its deliberately elusive ideas about America. Inevitably a lot of materiel was cut or truncated in this movie but there is a lot to admire in Forman's vision here. His focus on the characters inspires a lot of empathy, more than usual in these kinds of period pieces.

Alec Barniskis
Alec Barniskis

Super Reviewer


It drags here and there but mostly a fine epic film

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

Ragtime Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

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