33 user 17 critic

Soul Man (1986)

PG-13 | | Comedy, Romance | 24 October 1986 (USA)
1:00 | Trailer

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To achieve his dream of attending Harvard, a pampered teen poses as a young black man to receive a full scholarship.


Steve Miner


Carol Black





Cast overview, first billed only:
C. Thomas Howell ... Mark Watson
Rae Dawn Chong ... Sarah Walker
Arye Gross ... Gordon Bloomfeld
James Earl Jones ... Professor Banks
Melora Hardin ... Whitney Dunbar
Leslie Nielsen ... Mr. Dunbar
Ann Walker Ann Walker ... Mrs. Dunbar
James Sikking ... Bill Watson (as James B. Sikking)
Max Wright ... Dr. Aronson
Jeff Altman ... Ray McGrady
Julia Louis-Dreyfus ... Lisa Stimson
Maree Cheatham ... Mrs. Dorothy Watson (as Marie Cheatham)
Wallace Langham ... Barky Brewer (as Wally Ward)
Eric Schiff Eric Schiff ... Booey Fraser
Ron Reagan Ron Reagan ... Frank


Mark doesn't expect any problems in going to college: he and his friend have reserved places in Harvard and his parents have the money to pay for his education there. But suddenly his father's neurotic psychiatrist advises him to go on vacation in Hawaii instead of spending more money on his son. Since Mark wants to keep his lifestyle, including a fancy car and a flat shared with his friend, he seeks financial support. The only foundation which still accepts applications is for blacks only -- no problem, with lots of bronzing pills and "soul in his voice" he sets out to Harvard. Soon he has to realize that being black will cause some people to handle him differently. Written by Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


He didn't give up. He got down. See more »


Comedy | Romance


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

24 October 1986 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Imposter See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


C. Thomas Howell had to wear colored contacts when his skin was toned to look black. His eyes are normally a goldish color and really stood out once his skin was darkened. See more »


About fifteen minutes into the picture, Mark and Gordon are seen traveling up Mass. Ave. in Cambridge, adjacent to the Harvard campus, and suddenly, they're not on Mass. Ave. anymore, they're on Quincy St., a couple blocks away. Then, just as suddenly, they're right back on Mass Ave., again proceeding through Harvard Square, just as they were before. See more »


Mark: This is the Cosby decade. America loves black people.
See more »


Referenced in Murphy Brown: Soul Man (1989) See more »


California Girls
Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love (uncredited)
Performed by The Beach Boys
Courtesy of CBS Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Very controversial when it came out
2 December 2010 | by preppy-3See all my reviews

White man Mark Watson (C. Thomas Howell) wants to attend Harvard University but his rich parents won't pay for it. Desperate to get in he turns his skin black (don't ask) and poses as a black man to get a full scholarship. While attending college as a black man he meets beautiful Sarah Walker (Rae Dawn Chong) and falls in love. He also butts heads with Professor Banks (James Earl Jones) who expects him to do better than anyone else cause he's black.

There was some controversy when this was originally released. Some people (who never even saw the movie) labeled it as racist and demanded that it be banned. It lead to other people (who ALSO never saw it) overpraising it as others blasted it to pieces. Seriously--if it had been about a black man posing as a white man would there have been such a problem? I don't think so. Such a fuss over what is basically a silly comedy. All the predictable jokes come up and are done in a dull way. The movie is flatly directed and Howell looks pretty ridiculous as a black man. Also Howell DOES try to pull this movie off but fails. The only bright points are Chong and Jones who are great in their roles. This is only of interest to see what people thought was controversial. BTW--I saw this in a theatre in 1986. The audience was white and black. Most of the black people applauded at the end! That should tell you how racist this is.

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