The Desert Rats (1953)

Approved  |   |  Action, Adventure, Drama  |  20 May 1953 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 6.8/10 from 3,444 users  
Reviews: 26 user | 12 critic

Richard Burton plays a Scottish Army officer put in charge of a disparate band of ANZAC troops on the perimeter of Tobruk with the German Army doing their best to dislodge them.



0Check in

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Video

Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

The story of the final years of the respected World War II German general, Erwin Rommel.

Director: Henry Hathaway
Stars: James Mason, Cedric Hardwicke, Jessica Tandy
Certificate: M Action | Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

As the Allied armies close in, the Nazis decide to blow up the last Rhine bridge, trapping their own men on the wrong side. But will it happen?

Director: John Guillermin
Stars: George Segal, Robert Vaughn, Ben Gazzara
Certificate: GP Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  

Captain Foster plans on raiding German-occupied Tobruk with hand-picked commandos, but a mix-up leaves him with a medical unit containing a Quaker conscientious objector. Despite all odds ... See full summary »

Director: Henry Hathaway
Stars: Richard Burton, John Colicos, Clinton Greyn
Tobruk (1967)
War | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A Canadian POW major is rescued by a special British military unit made up of Germans to help lead an attack on a major Nazi fuel depot in Tobruk, Libya.

Director: Arthur Hiller
Stars: Rock Hudson, George Peppard, Nigel Green
Action | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

The World War II story of the British Navy's effort to defeat Nazi Germany's most powerful warship.

Director: Lewis Gilbert
Stars: Kenneth More, Dana Wynter, Carl Möhner
The Blue Max (1966)
Adventure | Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A young pilot in the German air force of 1918, disliked as lower-class and unchivalrous, tries ambitiously to earn the medal offered for 20 kills.

Director: John Guillermin
Stars: George Peppard, James Mason, Ursula Andress
Action | Adventure | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

An American POW leads a group of mainly British prisoners to escape from the Germans in WWII.

Director: Mark Robson
Stars: Frank Sinatra, Trevor Howard, Raffaella Carrà
Action | Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

An American colonel who has never been in combat is assigned to create a special forces unit from Canadian Army troops and a ragtag group of U.S. Army misfits.

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
Stars: William Holden, Cliff Robertson, Vince Edwards
Drama | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A dramatization of Nazi Germany's final Western Front counterattack of World War II.

Director: Ken Annakin
Stars: Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan
Dunkirk (1958)
Drama | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Two stories in one - an easygoing British Corporal in France finds himself responsible for the lives of his men when their officer is killed. He has to get them back to Britain somehow. ... See full summary »

Director: Leslie Norman
Stars: John Mills, Richard Attenborough, Robert Urquhart
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A British banker hires a group of British mercenaries to rescue a deposed African president from the hands of a corrupt African dictator.

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
Stars: Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris
The Cruel Sea (1953)
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

The World War II adventures of a British convoy escort ship and its officers.

Director: Charles Frend
Stars: Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden, John Stratton


Complete credited cast:
Robert Douglas ...
Torin Thatcher ...
Chips Rafferty ...
Charles 'Bud' Tingwell ...
Lt. Harry Carstairs (as Charles Tingwell)
Charles Davis ...
Ben Wright ...


Rommel has the British in retreat on his way to the Suez Canal. All that stands in his way is Tobruk, held by a vastly out numbered force of Australian troops. Richard Burton leads these troops on daring raids against Rommel, keeping him off balance as they earn the nickname 'The Desert Rats'. Written by Derek Picken <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They crawled their way across the blazing sands of Africa... to turn disaster into victory!


Action | Adventure | Drama | War


Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

20 May 1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Les rats du désert  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Most of the action scenes were archive footage from World War II. See more »


When MacRoberts' wound is being treated, it appears high up on the left arm, near the shoulder. Two scenes later, the bandage is lower down on the bicep and the wound that would have been exposed is nowhere to be seen. See more »


Tom Bartlett: But all wars come to an end sometime. This one will too.
Capt. 'Tammy' MacRoberts: If I have anything to do with it, it will.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: 1941 LIBYAN DESERT NORTH AFRICA See more »


Follows The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951) See more »


Waltzing Matilda
(1895) (uncredited)
Original music by Christina Macpherson (1895)
(Based on the Scottish tune "Craigielee", music by James Barr, with words by Robert Tannahill)
Revised music by Marie Cowan (1903)
Lyrics by A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson (1895)
Played during the opening credits and often in the score
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Excellent look at British and ANZAC troops
2 July 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I haven't seen this gem in almost 20 years and AMC presented it today. An excellent look at the British war effort against the Germans and Italians in North Africa. Except for the minor mistakes of weaponry (American made Thompsons in the hands of Germans, Colt M1917 water-cooled MGs for German MGs, etc) this was a realistic and rousing tale of the North African campaign. Of course Hollywood liberties were taken, it is a movie, not a documentary. The interplay between Richard Burton and Robert Newton was excellent, with Newton's performance the proper balance for Burton's sometimes hysterical scene-chewing. That is is based loosely on real events and in many cases ANZAC and British troops did hold back Rommel's attacks many times only enhances the story. Kudos to the makers and an excellent addition to any war movie collection.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Bad Aussie accents newlifemedia
Day for night shot bobo-29
Nobody Does It Better (Carly singing) jkholman
Discuss The Desert Rats (1953) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page