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The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Approved  |   |  Adventure, Drama, War  |  14 December 1957 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 137,827 users  
Reviews: 264 user | 117 critic

After settling his differences with a Japanese PoW camp commander, a British colonel co-operates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors - while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it.



(novel), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Top Rated Movies #127 | Won 7 Oscars. Another 23 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Geoffrey Horne ...
Colonel Green (as Andre Morell)
Peter Williams ...
John Boxer ...
Harold Goodwin ...
Heihachirô Ôkawa ...
Captain Kanematsu (as Henry Okawa)
Keiichirô Katsumoto ...
Lieutenant Miura (as Keiichiro Katsumoto) (as K. Katsumoto)
M.R.B. Chakrabandhu ...
Yai (as M.R.B. Chakrabandhu {Col. Broome})


The film deals with the situation of British prisoners of war during World War II who are ordered to build a bridge to accommodate the Burma-Siam railway. Their instinct is to sabotage the bridge but, under the leadership of Colonel Nicholson, they are persuaded that the bridge should be constructed as a symbol of British morale, spirit and dignity in adverse circumstances. At first, the prisoners admire Nicholson when he bravely endures torture rather than compromise his principles for the benefit of the Japanese commandant Saito. He is an honorable but arrogant man, who is slowly revealed to be a deluded obsessive. He convinces himself that the bridge is a monument to British character, but actually is a monument to himself, and his insistence on its construction becomes a subtle form of collaboration with the enemy. Unknown to him, the Allies have sent a mission into the jungle, led by Warden and an American, Shears, to blow up the bridge. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Adventure | Drama | War


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Parents Guide:






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Release Date:

14 December 1957 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El puente sobre el río Kwai  »

Box Office


$3,000,000 (estimated)


$27,200,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints) (RCA Sound Recording)| (35 mm prints) (RCA Sound Recording)| (Linear PCM)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Historically the real Kwai river ran parallel to the real railroad line, and the WWII bridge was actually built over the Mae Klong river next door. This river was renamed the Kwai a few years after the movie, some believe because of its newly found fame. See more »


Many of the extras are clearly Sri Lankan/Ceylonese, not Thai. See more »


Colonel Saito: Let me remind you of General Yamashita's motto: be happy in your work.
See more »

Crazy Credits

And introducing Geoffrey Horne See more »


I Give My Heart To No One But You
Music by Malcolm Arnold
Lyrics by Dave Shand
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Nothing less than a masterpiece...
5 April 2003 | by (U.S.A.) – See all my reviews

About as Oscar-worthy as any film made in the '50s is David Lean's gripping BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. Based loosely on a real-life incident, it tells the story of an imprisoned British officer (Alec Guinness) who loses sight of his mission when forced to build a bridge for the Japanese that will enable the enemy to carry supplies by train through the jungle during World War II. Guinness plays the crisp British officer to perfection, brilliant in all of his scenes but especially in his confrontations with Sessue Hayakawa. William Holden has a pivotal role as one of the prisoners who escapes and enjoys his freedom for awhile before being asked to return with a small squadron to destroy the bridge. Jack Hawkins and Geoffrey Horne have colorful roles too and all are superb under David Lean's direction.

The jungle settings filmed in Ceylon add the necessary realism to the project and there is never a suspension of interest although the story runs well over two-and-a-half hours. The film builds to a tense and magnificent climax with an ending that seems to be deliberately ambiguous and thought provoking. Well worth watching, especially if shown in the restored letterbox version now being shown on TCM.

Some of the best lines go to William Holden and he makes the most of a complex role--a mixture of cynicism and heroism in a character that ranks with his best anti-hero roles in films of the '50s. He brings as much conviction to his role as Alec Guinness does and deserved a Best Actor nomination that he did not get.

51 of 65 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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