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The Great Santini (1979)

PG | | Drama | 26 October 1979 (USA)
As he approaches manhood, Ben Meechum struggles to win the approval of his demanding alpha male father, an aggressively competitive, but frustrated marine pilot.



(novel), (written for the screen by)

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lt. Col. 'Bull' Meechum
Lillian Meechum
Mary Anne Meechum
Julie Anne Haddock ...
Karen Meechum
Brian Andrews ...
Matthew Meechum
Toomer Smalls
Arrabella Smalls
Red Petus
Col. Virgil Hedgepath
Col. Varney
Bennett Liss ...
Cpl. Atcherly
Joe Dorsey ...
Coach Spinks
David Frankham ...
Capt. Weber
Jan Stratton ...
Mrs. Weber


In 1962, the Marine Corps family, the Meechums - parents Lieutenant Colonel Wilbur "Bull" Meechum and Lillian Meechum, and their four children Ben Meechum, Mary Anne Meechum, Karen Meechum and Matthew Meechum - are moving like they do most years, this time to Beaufort, South Carolina. Bull - nicknamed "the Great Santini" - is known as a great pilot, but has gotten into much trouble in the past for his sophomoric behavior. He runs his family much as a military commander, where they are all to obey his orders without question. Everything he does within the family context he reasons is to build character, but in reality everything ends up being about him. The oldest Ben, approaching manhood, is the one of his offspring who has the greatest issue with his father. Ben wants his respect, but isn't sure if he really loves him. As Ben goes through his senior year in high school, his attempts to play varsity basketball and an incident between black Toomer Smalls - his friend and their cook ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The bravest thing he would ever do was let his family love him.




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

26 October 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Great Santini  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


In 2013, Pat Conroy added a sequel to the family story he told in the "Santini" book and movie with his new memoir "The Death of Santini:The Story of a Father and His Son". In it he describes ho his mother Peg, dying of leukemia, asked to be portrayed by Meryl Streep in any future movie. See more »


The film takes place in 1962, but the aircraft are F-4J Phantom II's, an aircraft that was manufactured in 1966. The aircraft have ECM antennas on the intake shoulders, which were added in 1975. Finally, the planes are gull-gray on the bellies and noses. This was a paint scheme mandated in 1978. See more »


Bull Meechum: You're probably wondering why I attacked you right?
Cpl. Atcherly: Yes, sir
Bull Meechum: What's your name Corporal?
Cpl. Atcherly: Atchley, sir.
Bull Meechum: Atchley do you realize that several Marines were killed by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor while taking craps?
Cpl. Atcherly: No, sir.
Bull Meechum: A fighting man must be vigilant to surprise attack no matter where he is. The survival of our nation depends on the readiness of Marines all over the world. Also more importantly, you only wiped yourself twice - grossly insufficient. Right now, germs with names you can't even ...
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Spoofed in Roseanne: Punch and Jimmy (1994) See more »


Music by F.D. Marchetti
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User Reviews

This IS the "way it was"!!!!!!!!!
8 November 2003 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

More common than not, even though it looks rather mean in these "politically correct" times, this is the way many families were back in the 50s.

The racial conflicts shown were very realistic and I'm sad to say did happen in the southern state in which I grew up. This movie does a good job of showing how the head of a family, the Dad, was "expected" to act.

Even though we are lead to believe he was a monster, we never found out that his son grew up to be a doctor of highest esteem.

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

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