Purple Rain Man

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Purple Rain Man
Purple Rain Man.png
Original theatrical poster
Directed by Barry Levinson
Albert Magnoli
Produced by Mark Johnson
Robert Cavallo
Joseph Ruffalo
Steven Fargnoli
Written by Albert Magnoli
William Blinn
Starring Prince
Morris Day
Dustin Hoffman
Tom Cruise
Judge Wapner
Music by Prince
Cinematography John Seale
Donald Thorin
Edited by Albert Magnoli
Distributed by MGM/United Artists
Warner Bros.
Release date
July 27, 1984
Running time
245 minutes
Country USA
Language English
Budget $32.2 million
Box office $68.2 million

Purple Rain Man is a 1984 film starring music icon Prince as an autistic savant musician obsessed with The People's Court and the color purple. Musician Morris Day of Morris Day and the Time plays Prince's brother. Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise also appear in the film as a pair of brothers who are best friends with Prince and Morris. Raymond (Hoffman) also happens to be an autistic savant musician who is obsessed with The People's Court. Charlie (Cruise) and Raymond play in a rival band.


Financially strapped Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) is in the middle of importing four little red Corvettes to Los Angeles for resale. He needs to deliver the vehicles to impatient buyers who have already made down payments in order to repay the loan he took out to buy the cars, but the EPA is holding the cars at the port due to the cars failing emissions regulations. Charlie directs an employee to lie to the buyers while he stalls his creditor.

When Charlie learns that his estranged father has died, he and his girlfriend Apollonia (Apollonia Kotero) travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota, in order to settle the estate. He learns he is receiving the classic 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible which he and his father fought over, but the bulk of the $3 million estate is going to an unnamed trustee. Through social engineering, he learns the money is being directed to a his older brother, autistic savant struggling musician Raymond Babbitt, of whom he was previously unaware.

Raymond is reluctant to break from his normal routine, which includes watching Judge Wapner's The People's Court every day and going to bed at 11 p.m. He avoids the interstate because he once witnessed an accident. Charlie bonds with Raymond by joining his band, whose songs are curiously fixated on the color purple, K-Mart, bacon and Wapner.

Morris Day and The Time are one of three bands that play at First Avenue.

A fellow autistic savant musician, Prince (Prince), a good friend and rival of Raymond, meets Charlie and becomes smitten with Apollonia. Prince is also struggling financially and, coincidentally has his own issues with his physically and verbally abusive father, Francis L. (Clarence Williams III), and his brother Morris (Morris Day). Prince and Morris had a falling out and the two play in rival bands The Revolution and The Time, respectively. Their mother (Olga Karlatos) is emotionally abusive.

Prince (also known as The Kid) spends his days rehearsing and performing at the First Avenue nightclub. First Avenue's three house band slots are held by The Revolution, the flashy Morris Day and his group The Time, and Raymond Babbitt and his group The Wapners. Morris, aware that The Revolution's guitarist Wendy and keyboardist Lisa are frustrated by the Kid's unwillingness to play their compositions, lobbies Billy Sparks (Billy Sparks), the nightclub's owner, to replace The Revolution with a girl group which Morris is already forming. He targets Apollonia – an aspiring singer and already in a love triangle with Charlie and Prince – to lead his group, and tries to persuade her that the Kid won't help her because he's too focused on himself. She eventually joins Morris's group, which Morris names Apollonia 6. When she reveals her partnership to the Kid, he becomes furious and slaps her, as his father had struck him earlier.

Billy Sparks owns the First Avenue nightclub.

At the club, the Kid responds to the internal band strife, the pressure to draw more crowds, and his strained private life with the uncomfortably personal "Darling Nikki". His performance publicly humiliates Apollonia, who runs off in tears, and angers Morris, Charlie and Billy, worsening his situation. Billy confronts the Kid, castigating him for bringing his personal life onto the stage and warning him that he's wasting his musical talent like his father did. The debut of Apollonia 6 is a success, and Billy warns the Kid that his First Avenue slot is at risk. The Kid seizes Apollonia from a drunken Morris and the two argue and fight; Apollonia then abandons him. Returning home, he finds the house in tatters, with his mother nowhere to be found. When he turns on the basement light, his father – who had been lurking in the basement with a loaded handgun – shoots himself in the head. In a frenzy after a night of torment, the Kid tears apart the basement to release his anger, only to find a large box of his father's musical compositions. The next morning, the Kid picks up a cassette tape of one of Wendy and Lisa's compositions, a rhythm track named "Slow Groove", and begins to compose.

During this time, Prince strikes up an uneasy relationship with Charlie and Raymond, but the two autistic savants have to overcome their quirks and routines. Raymond, whom Charlie misremembered as his childhood imaginary friend "Rain Man," inspires "Slow Groove" as Prince continues to work on the song.

One night at First Avenue, all is quiet in The Revolution's dressing room until The Time stops by to taunt the Kid about his family life. Once on stage, the Kid announces that he will be playing "a song the girls in the band wrote", dedicated to his father and "a special friend" – revealed to be "Purple Rain Man". As the emotional song ends, the Kid rushes from the stage and out the back door of the club, intending to ride away on his motorcycle. However, before he can mount his motorcycle, he realizes that the crowd is thrilled by his new song. The Kid returns to the club, to be greeted by the approval of his fellow musicians and the embrace of a teary-eyed Apollonia. The Kid returns to the stage for two encores with The Revolution, to the wild approval of the crowd (even Morris); overlaid scenes show the Kid visiting his father and mother in the hospital and sorting his father's compositions in the basement, accompanied by Apollonia. A montage of all the songs plays as the credits roll.


  • Prince as Prince
  • Morris Day as Morris Day
  • Dustin Hoffman as Raymond Babbitt
  • Tom Cruise as Charlie Babbitt
  • Apollonia Kotero as Appolonia
  • Olga Karlatos as Prince's Mother
  • Clarence Williams III as Prince's Father, a.k.a. "Francis L."
  • Jerome Benton as Jerome
  • Billy Sparks as Billy, the Club Owner
  • Jill Jones as Jill
  • Dez Dickerson as Dez
  • Wendy Melvoin as Wendy
  • Lisa Coleman as Lisa
  • The Revolution as themselves
  • The Time as themselves
  • Apollonia 6 as themselves


Apollonia's role was originally written for singer Vanity.

Prince approached Warner Bros. with a film idea sometime during his tour in support of 1983's 1999. Prince was signed to Warner Bros. Records at the time, which may explain why he later did the Batman soundtrack. Warner thought Prince's idea was absurd and incongruous, but they thought "Hell, what've we got to lose? Can't be any worse than Superman III or Blade Runner."[1]

The film would serve as a tie-in (or vice versa) to Prince's 1984 album, also titled Purple Rain Man. 1999 had been a successful album, featuring the hits "1999" and "Little Red Corvette," "Delirious" and "Let's Pretend We're Married." Warner figured, even if the Purple Rain Man film flopped, at least the album would sell like hotcakes.

Prince chose Barry Levinson to direct, but Warner wanted a more music-savvy director. Co-writer/editor Albert Magnoli co-directed with Levinson, focusing on the music aspects while Levinson (Diner; Good Morning, Vietnam; Wag the Dog) focused on drama. This also gave Levinson time to work on another film, 1984's The Natural.

Prince wanted to cast his friends from his early days in Minneapolis, such as Morris Day and the Time and Billy Sparks. Prince loved Tom Cruise's role in Risky Business and knew from day one that he wanted to cast him as Charlie. Being a fan of the 1976 film All the President's Men, Prince wanted either Robert Redford or Hal Holbrook as Raymond. Both actors turned down the role, so Prince settled for Dustin Hoffman, who played Carl Bernstein in the Watergate thriller.

The role of the girlfriend was originally written for Prince protégé Vanity, of Vanity6. However, she left the group and both the producers and the group found a replacement, Apollonia Kotero. Vanity6 rechristened themselves accordingly. Flashdance star Jennifer Beals turned down the role.

After the character change from Vanity to Apollonia, the script was drastically revised, and many dark scenes were cut. Some of these scenes include Prince and Apollonia having sex in a barn (a concept which was the story behind the 1985 song "Raspberry Beret"); Prince going to Apollonia 6's rehearsal and engaging in a physical fight with the members of The Time; 15 self-indulgent Wapner scenes; and a scene which featured Prince's mother talking to him about her shaky relationship with his father. In addition, many scenes such as the "Lake Minnetonka" scene, Apollonia first meeting Morris, and the railyard scene were cut down because of time constraints. Many clips from these scenes were featured, however, in the trailer for the movie as well as the "When Doves Cry" montage.

In the famous phone booth scene, that was a real fart.

The filmmakers had a tough time juggling what felt like two different movies: One about a selfish man discovering his long-lost autistic brother, and the other a shameless vanity project for a "second-rate Michael Jackson." Purple Rain Man was eventually recut into two movies, 1984's Purple Rain (released the same day as the original cut) and 1988's Rain Man, at which time Tom Cruise was a much bigger star, coming off Top Gun.

Warner also worried about whether the film was an accurate portrayal of the autism spectrum. But the filmmakers told the studio, "This is a movie, not a documentary."

In the phone booth scene, the fart was ad-libbed. Prince actually farted in front of Morris Day and the two stayed in character. Morris asked Prince if he farted, to which Prince replied, "This is what it sounds like when doves cry."

Although Warner Bros. considered the film "outrageous" at the time, it was accepted for distribution after an internal debate. Music industry PR man Howard Bloom advocated for it


Purple Rain Man was intended as a tie-in with the album of the same name. Only the songs Prince and/or The Revolution performed are featured on the album. The songs he wrote for Morris Day and the Time and Apollonia 6 appear on their own albums, Day's Ice Cream Castle and Apollonia's self-titled album, respectively. A Raymond Babbitt and the Wapners album was planned, but never came to fruition.

All songs written by Prince except where noted.

Purple Rain Man tracklist[edit]

  1. "Let's Go Crazy (Wait! Wapner's On!)"
  2. "Take Me with U"
  3. "The Beautiful Ones"
  4. "Computer Blue"
  5. "Darling Nikki"
  6. "When Doves Cry"
  7. "I Would Die 4 Wapner"
  8. "Baby, I'm a Star"
  9. "Purple Rain Man"

"When Doves Cry," (#1) "Let's Go Crazy," (#1) "Purple Rain Man," (#2) "I Would Die 4 Wapner" (#8) and "Take Me with You" (#25) were released as singles. To date, it has sold over 25 million copies worldwide, making it the third-best-selling soundtrack album of all time. In 2012, the album was added to the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry list of sound recordings that "are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important."

"Darling Nikki," which references masturbation, prompted Tipper Gore to form the PMRC.

Ice Cream Castle tracklist[edit]

  1. "Ice Cream Castle" (Prince and Morris Day)
  2. "My Drawers (That I Bought from Kmart)"
  3. "Chili Sauce"
  4. "The Bird" (Prince, Morris Day and Jesse Johnson) (featured in the film)
  5. "If the Kid Can't Make You Come"
  6. "Jungle Love" (Prince, Morris Day and Jesse Johnson) (featured in the film)

"Ice Cream Castles," (#108 pop; #11 R&B) "Jungle Love" (#20 pop; #6 R&B), and "The Bird" (#36 pop; #33 R&B) were released as singles. The Time broke up shortly after the release of the film and album, with Morris Day embarking on a solo career with little success. Ice Cream Castle (#24) sold over 2 million copies and is Morris Day and/or the Time's most successful album to date.

Apollonia 6 tracklist[edit]

All songs written by Prince, but credited as noted.

  1. "Happy Birthday Mr. Christian" (Apollonia Kotero, The Revolution, Brenda Bennett, Susan Moonsie)
  2. "Sex Shooter" (Apollonia Kotero) (featured in the film)
  3. "Blue Limousine" (Brenda Bennett)
  4. "A Million Miles (I Love You)" (Brenda Bennett)
  5. "Ooo She She Wa Wa" (Susan Moonsie)
  6. "Some Kind of Lover" (Brenda Bennett)
  7. "In a Spanish Villa (Apollonia Kotero, Wendy Melvoin)

"Sex Shooter" (#85 pop; #7 R&B; #7 dance) and "Blue Limousine" (#19 R&B) were released as singles. Although the album was released primarily on vinyl and audio cassette (Warner Bros. 9 25108), a CD version of the album was released in Japan (W.B. WPCP-3701). The CD has become a highly sought-after collectible.

Apollonia 6 had a fair chart run, but is considered by some to be a viable part of the Minneapolis sound.

Apollonia 6 is the only studio album released by R&B vocal trio and Prince-protégés Apollonia 6. The album was initially to be the second release by the Prince-formed group Vanity 6, but when lead singer Vanity departed Prince's camp, the musician hired Apollonia Kotero, thus changing the group's name and album.

As was the case with the Vanity 6 album, the album is perhaps most notable for the songs that were not a part of the album. These included the Prince-penned songs "Manic Monday" (later recorded by The Bangles), and two songs originally intended for Vanity 6 (the group and the album): "17 Days" (later used by Prince as the B-side to "When Doves Cry"), and "The Glamorous Life" (recorded by Sheila E. in 1984).


Critical response[edit]

Critics, while not sure what to make of Purple Rain Man, loved the film. They praised the performances from Prince, Cruise, Hoffman, Morris Day and Billy Sparks. They acclaimed the film's portrayal of the autistic spectrum. But most importantly, they raved about the soundtrack. To Critics, Purple Rain Man was a work of art, a tour de force, a masterpiece. It would go on to become one of Prince's defining works.

Box office[edit]

Shot on a modest budget of $32.2 million, the film grossed $68.2 million at the box office.


Award Category Recipient Result
Academy Awards Best Picture Mark Johnson Won
Best Lead Actor Dustin Hoffman Won, definitely won
Best Director Barry Levinson Won
Best Original Screenplay Ronald Bass and Barry Morrow Won
Best Original Song Score Prince Won
Best Cinematography John Seale Nominated
Best Set Decoration Ida Random and Linda DeScenna Nominated
Best Editing Stu Linder Nominated
Golden Globes Best Motion Picture - Drama Mark Johnson Won
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama Dustin Hoffman Won
Best Director Barry Levinson Nominated
Best Screenplay - Motion Picture Ronald Bass and Barry Morrow Nominated
Best Original Song "When Doves Cry" - Words and music by Prince Nominated
Grammys Best Album of Instrumental Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special Prince, Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin and John L. Nelson Won
Razzies Worst Original Song "Sex Shooter" - Words and music by Prince Nominated
Worst New Star Apollonia Kotero Nominated
World Soundtrack Awards 2004 Special award Prince, Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Bobby 'Z' Rifkin, Matt Fink and Brown Mark - To Prince & The Revolution in honor of the twentieth anniversary of their legendary movie Purple Rain. Won

Home media[edit]

Purple Rain Man has been released on every conceivable home video format, including Laserdisc, VHS, Betamax, DVD, and two Blu-ray releases so far.

In popular culture[edit]

Purple Rain Man's portrayal of Prince and Hoffman's condition has been seen as inaugurating a common but mistaken media stereotype that people on the autism spectrum typically have savant skills, and references to Purple Rain Man, in particular Prince and Dustin Hoffman's performances, have become a popular shorthand for autism and savantism. Conversely, Purple Rain Man has also been seen as dispelling a number of other misconceptions about autism, and improving public awareness of the failure of many agencies to accommodate autistic people and make use of the abilities they do have, regardless of whether they have savant skills or not.

The film is also known for popularizing the misconception that card counting is illegal in the United States.

Morris Day and The Time are Jay & Silent Bob's favorite music group and appeared in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. When Prince died in 2016, The Revolution and The Time appeared with Bruno Mars for a Grammy tribute.

When Prince died, MTV and VH1 halted all programming and ran Prince music videos and Purple Rain Main in memoriam.

Qantas and airline controversy[edit]

During June 1989, at least fifteen major airlines showed edited versions of Purple Rain Man that omitted a scene involving Raymond's refusal to fly, except on Australia-based Qantas. Those criticizing this move included Prince, Hoffman, Wapner, film director Barry Levinson, co-screenwriter Ronald Bass, and George Kirgo (at the time the President of the Writers Guild of America, West). "I think it's a key scene to the entire movie," Levinson said in a telephone interview. "That's why it's in there. It launches their entire odyssey across country because they couldn't fly." While some of those airlines cited as justification avoiding having airplane passengers feel uncomfortable in sympathy with Raymond during the in-flight entertainment, the scene was shown intact on flights of Qantas, and commentators noted that Raymond mentions it as the only airline whose planes have "never crashed". The film is in fact credited with introducing Qantas' safety record to U.S. consumers.

Ironically, these airlines have no problem playing unedited versions of Snakes on a Plane, Air Force One and Passenger 57.


Purple Rain Man won several Oscars, currently the last to receive the Best Original Song Score award. It was nominated for two Razzie Awards: Worst New Star for Apollonia Kotero and Worst Original Song for "Sex Shooter". But the Razzies usually have the worst opinions.

The film is recognized by AFI in these lists:

  • 2004: AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
    • "Let's Go Crazy (Wait Wapner's On!)" – Nominated
  • 2006: AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals – Nominated


Purple Rain Man is the only feature film that Prince starred in but did not direct. A semi-sequel, Graffiti Bridge, was released in 1990. Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman quit the film, as they felt Prince was difficult to work with. Plus, they were angry that he wouldn't let "Weird Al" Yankovic parody his songs.

When People's Court bailiff Rusty Burrell died in 2002, Court TV halted all programming and aired a 48-hour marathon of Purple Rain Man. More people watched it than "Who Shot J.R.?," the M*A*S*H finale, George W. Bush's inauguration, and the "Four Seasons Day" episode of Barney & Friends. It was the only time anyone under the age of 80 ever watched Court TV.

After Prince's death on April 21, 2016, MTV aired the film following a music video marathon. VH1 also showed the movie the same night, as well as throughout the next couple of days.

Due to the film's parental and inappropriate content (especially "Darling Nikki"), both MTV and VH1 edited Purple Rain Man in order for the film to be shown on network television. Strangely, the aforementioned Court TV airings were uncut and commercial free. Then again. there's nothing commercial about watching boring court shows with 400-year-old judges who look like they died 90 years ago.

Theater chains AMC and Carmike also announced that they would be screening the film at a limited number of theaters the following week. These special tribute screenings lasted from April 27 – May 1, 2016. The re-release was so successful, it makes Avatar look like Ishtar, which coincidentally also stars Dustin Hoffman. James Cameron retaliated by working on 50 Avatar sequels, as well as planning a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Terminator 2 with atrocious picture quality. Seriously, Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong look like wax statues, and they're not even Terminators.

When Wapner died in February 2017, TruTV (formerly Court TV) aired a 72-hour marathon of all three cuts of the film (Purple Rain Man, Rain Man and Purple Rain), followed by 72 hours of The People's Court and Wapner's Animal Court. A Charlie Babbitt and the Wapners EP was released, though it contained none of the songs from the film. A petition to release the actual Babbitt album was written a year later, and has so far reached 9 trillion signatures.

See also[edit]


  1. ^  Blade Runner, believe it or not, was a critical and commercial failure when it was released in 1982. It has since evolved into a revered (cult) classic.