Stripes (1981): Reitman’s Anarchic, Irreverent Comedy

Tribute to Ivan Reitman

Stripes: Memorable Comedy

News broke Sunday that Reitman died in his sleep at the age of 75, but his legacy lives on with a library of titles that were known for their irreverent-bordering-on-anarchic style which drew from Reitman’s ability to evolve a comedy beyond its script on the fly.


Ivan Reitman attends Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood on September 12, 2019 in Universal City, California.

As Reitman said in 1993 profile, as a director his approach was “very controlled,” but he also gave his actors the option to run free for a take to see what they come up with. “There’s a moment when the actors can say anything they want, and then, part of the fun for me as a director is to take that raw work and just structure it and rework it and make it conform to the character work and to the plot, which is evolving as well,” Reitman said. “It’s a way of being a co-writer of a movie as it’s being shot.”


Ivan Reitman

Stripes was an anarchic movie, a celebration of the irreverent, reckless, foolhardy, and undisciplined.


Stripes is “the military one” with Bill Murray in full Bill Murray mode as a cab driver who enlists in the Army, and also featured the great Harold Ramis and John Candy in supporting roles.

Stripes stumbles a bit upon rewatch, but it was considered subversive in the hawkish Reagan era.