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The Desert Rats (1953)

Approved  |   |  Action, Adventure, Drama  |  20 May 1953 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 3,406 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.



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Title: The Desert Rats (1953)

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



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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?


Legendary Australian actor Chips Rafferty appears in this movie as Sergeant 'Blue' Smith. About a decade earlier, Rafferty appeared playing Milo Trent in another movie featuring "The Desert Rats" entitled The Fighting Rats of Tobruk (1944). See more »


During the raid on the German camp there is a sign on a building reading "Hauptquartiers". Although the English word "Headquarters" might suggest a plural s, in German there doesn't exist such a form. The correct word would be "Hauptquartier" and the plural "Hauptquartiere" See more »

Crazy Credits

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


Referenced in Modern Problems (1981) See more »


The Campbells Are Coming
Played on the bagpipes
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Burton on a roll
20 April 2005 | by (Tokyo, Japan) – See all my reviews

Desert Rats is a 'good old stiff upper lip' yarn with angry young man, Richard Burton, putting in a blinder. The film is set in WW2, North Africa and Rommel has swept across North Africa. The film is about Tobruk and how the German Army were held back. Burton leads ANZAC troops through the trenches of warfare. Good fighters those ANZAC's it appears and the film is a real tribute to them. This is reinforced by the movie being in black and white and quite informative.

The action is OK and I especially liked the black outfit Richard Burton dons for that gritty commando raid. There is also a top encounter between Burton and James Mason - Pacino and De Niro in Heat - but with Burton's angry young man act.

I would recommend it if only for Richard Burton.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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