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Stripes is a 1981 American comedy film starring Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, and P.J. Soles. The director was Ivan Reitman. Stripes also featured several noted actors in their first significant movie roles, including John Larroquette, Sean Young, and Judge Reinhold. It was one of Canadian comedian John Candy's early breakthrough film appearances. Dave Thomas, Bill Paxton and Timothy Busfield are also in one scene apiece. The film was among Oates' last films, as he died of a sudden heart attack the year after it was released.

John Winger (Bill Murray) is a cab driver in his late 20s who lives in New York City. He experiences the worst day of his life as, in the span of just a few hours, he loses his job, his car is repossessed, he drops his pizza on the street, and his girlfriend dumps him. Realizing that his life is a failure, he decides he needs a new direction. At that moment, a recruiting ad for the U.S. Army plays on the television, and he decides that is just what he needs to get in shape (and meet girls). Talking his best friend, English-as-a-second-language teacher Russell Ziskey (Harold Ramis), whose own life is not doing too well either, into joining, they quickly drive to the nearest recruiting office and are soon off to basic training.

Upon arrival at basic training at "Fort Arnold" (filmed at Fort Knox), they meet their fellow recruits. Moments after arriving, Winger has already offended their drill sergeant, Sergeant Hulka (Warren Oates), and stands out as a misfit throughout basic training. Their commanding officer is Captain Stillman (John Larroquette), a blowhard incompetent and suck-up. As basic training progresses, Ziskey and Winger become closer to a pair of attractive female MPs named Stella and Louise (P.J. Soles and Sean Young) on the base, and quickly become friends with the rest of their platoon. However, not long before graduation, Sergeant Hulka is injured in a freak mortar accident caused by Captain Stillman's incompetence.

On their first leave, the men go out to a seamy mud wrestling bar. When the club is raided by MPs, Stella and Louise cover for Winger and Ziskey, while the rest of the platoon is hauled back to base to face Captain Stillman. Stillman threatens to force them to repeat the entire course of Basic Training, as they are unlikely to pass muster at the graduation ceremony scheduled for the next day.

The situation looks bleak until Winger and Ziskey return (after having sex with their girlfriends in General Barnicke's home while he was away). Winger manages to motivate his platoon with a rousing speech, and begins to get them in shape for graduation. However, after a long night of drilling, they oversleep and almost miss the ceremony. Without time to even get dressed properly, they run to the parade grounds thoroughly out of uniform and give a highly unconventional, but nevertheless impressive, drill display led by Winger. When General Barnicke finds out that they had to complete training without a drill sergeant, he decides they are just the kind of "go-getters" he wants working on a secret project in Italy.

Once in Italy, their mission is to guard the EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle (disguised to look like a large recreational vehicle, specifically, a late 70s GMC motorhome). What would seem to be an easy assignment gets a little harsher when a recovered Sgt. Hulka arrives, but it remains fairly cushy. Bored with sitting around an empty hangar, John and Russell steal the top-secret EM-50 (by telling the MP guard they're taking it "to get it washed") to visit their MP girlfriends Stella and Louise, now stationed in West Germany. When Stillman finds the EM-50 missing (he was taking his date to show it off to her), he launches a questionable mission to get the vehicle back without his superiors knowing it was gone.

On a dark and stormy night, Stillman deliberately leads his platoon across the border into the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. Sgt. Hulka, who accompanied Stillman and the platoon and repeatedly warned Stillman not to proceed, jumps out of their truck before it is captured, having realized where they are and what has happened. When Hulka makes a Mayday radio broadcast explaining the situation, Winger and Ziskey in the EM-50 realize that their platoon came looking for them and that the U.S. Department of Defense will deny everything — their buddies are in big trouble behind the Iron Curtain. With no hope for rescue other than them, Winger, Ziskey, and their two MP girlfriends take the Urban Assault Vehicle and, with occasional help from the stealthy Sgt. Hulka, manage to break everyone out and trash the Soviet base (surprisingly, without killing anybody). In the end, Winger, Ziskey, Stella, Louise, and Hulka are each awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Sgt. Hulka retires with honor and begins the HulkaBurger franchise, Stella appears on the cover of Penthouse and Captain Stillman is reassigned to a weather station near Nome, Alaska; a promise made him by commanding officer Colonel Glass if he screwed up the mission.

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