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The Army of Shadows (1969)
"L'armée des ombres" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, War  |  12 September 1969 (France)
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 13,792 users   Metascore: 99/100
Reviews: 86 user | 117 critic | 24 from

An account of underground resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied France.


(novel), (adaptation)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Meurisse ...
Jean François Jardie
Claude Mann ...
Claude Ullmann dit 'Le Masque'
Felix Lepercq
Christian Barbier ...
Guillaume Vermersch dit 'Le Bison'
The hairdresser
André Dewavrin ...
Alain Dekok ...
Alain Mottet ...
Commander of the camp
Alain Libolt ...
Paul Dounat
Jean-Marie Robain ...
Baron de Ferte Talloire
Albert Michel ...
Denis Sadier ...
Gestapo's doctor


France, 1942, during the occupation. Philippe Gerbier, a civil engineer, is one of the French Resistance's chiefs. Given away by a traitor, he is interned in a camp. He manages to escape, and joins his network at Marseilles, where he makes the traitor be executed... This non-spectacular movie (do not expect any Rambo or Robin Hood) shows us rigorously and austerely the everyday of the French Resistants : their solitude, their fears, their relationships, the arrests, the forwarding of orders and their carrying out... Both writer Joseph Kessel and co-writer and director Jean-Pierre Melville belonged to this "Army in the Shadows". Written by Yepok

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Betrayal. Loyalty. Collaboration. Resistance.


Drama | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




| |

Release Date:

12 September 1969 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Army of Shadows  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$12,620 (USA) (28 April 2006)


$741,733 (USA) (20 April 2007)

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| (2006 restoration)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Cinematographer Pierre Lhomme claimed that the last surviving, watchable print of the movie had turned completely pink with age. He later supervised the 2k resolution, digital restoration of the film at the Eclair Laboratories in Paris. See more »


In the London WWII sequence, we see double yellow lines on the road. These were only introduced in the UK in 1956 and didn't become common until the 1960s. Same goes for a couple of the street signs, of a style not known before the 1960s. See more »


Philippe Gerbier: See you later, Comrade.
Legrain: ...You're a communist?
Philippe Gerbier: No. But I can still have comrades.
See more »


Referenced in Léon: The Professional (1994) See more »


Stompin' at the Savoy
Music by Edgar M. Sampson aslo co-credited to Benny Goodman and Chick Webb
Played at the serviceman's club in London
See more »

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User Reviews

A masterpiece by the book
12 July 2004 | by (Lomé) – See all my reviews

Never before (and after) a movie on French Resistance has been so "glamourless". Jean-Pierre Melville has been hailed as the father of the French gangster film. Certainly, his gangster films are probably the films for which he is best known (Le Doulos, Deuxieme Soufflé, Le Samourai, Le cercle rouge, Bob le flambeur) on par if not better than anything which Hollywood produced. Yet the world of the anonymous gun-toting hoodlum occupies only a part of his oeuvre.

'L'armee des ombres' (aka The Shadow Army) is Jean Pierre Melville 1969 masterpiece and does not deal with gangsters. The film is a mix of the director's war time experiences in the French Resistance and Joseph Kessel successful wartime novel. What is remarkable about this film is that Melville turned a mosaic of anecdotes that Kessel's novel is all about into a great, dark epic.

From the chilling opening shot of Germans marching down the Champs-Elysées to the final scene involving the fellow Resistant Mathilde (the great Simone Signoret) the film seems to demonstrate that fighting for an ideal often leads towards death and solitude. What Melville does successfully is to show those dead-ends the way they occur to their protagonist (very simply and minimalist), however more than showing them Mr. Melville managed to make these realities (death and solitude) an equally tragic experienced for the audience...

'L'armee des ombres' is Melville's most moving film, a monument to the spirit of the Resistance rather than its actuality. A poignant drama with a strong performance from not only Lino Ventura but also Simone Signoret, Paul Meurisse, Jean Pierre Cassel, Claude Mann, Paul Crauchet to name a few.

This is probably Melville's greatest cinematographic achievement and, when fiction becomes reality, when actors leave behind their egos to resurrect into heroes, when the colors of the film mirror the one of the soul and when silence becomes music, true cinema has been achieved… 'L'armee des ombres' is a terrible yet powerful experience in which the words duty, courage, abnegation get charged with meaning…

75 of 85 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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what a way to spend a resistance vramesh
Women over 45 really hate this?!?!? vailrulestheworld
Why did Felix not want to wear the bowler hat? ozma-of-oz
Gerbier's Escape from Interrogation DrNick1
This film was suprisingly moving... Goldmund1710
Great Movie, But............... Berdowns2
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