7.2/10
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42 user 23 critic

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.

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(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

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Julie Anne Haddock ...
Brian Andrews ...
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Arrabella Smalls
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Red Petus
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Col. Virgil Hedgepath
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Bennett Liss ...
Joe Dorsey ...
David Frankham ...
Capt. Weber
Jan Stratton ...
Mrs. Weber
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

26 October 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Ace  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie was originally released directly to cable and airlines, under the title "The Ace". When the NY Times reviewed it very favorably, it was pulled from cable, and released to theaters under the title "The Great Santini". See more »

Goofs

In the opening dogfight scene, Colonel Mullinax (the flight leader) announces, "This is Marines versus Navy, 1 v 1." He is leading a flight of three Marine fighters against two Navy fighters, so by definition, this mission is 3 v 2. See more »

Quotes

Bull Meechum: There's those that has got 'em, Ben, and those that don't!
Ben Meechum: What?
Bull Meechum: Gonads, Son! Big brass ones!
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Connections

Referenced in Psych: You Can't Handle This Episode (2010) See more »

Soundtracks

Moon River
(uncredited)
Music by Henry Mancini
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User Reviews

 
a wonderful movie with wonderful performances
21 October 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Imagine a man who considers winning to be absolutely everything. He is like the coach of a sports team, yet he encompasses a far greater reach of authority. And yet, he wants even more authority and always seems to be getting it, because of his natural air of authority and others' natural air of backing down in the fright of his presence. He is a coach, a military man, a patriot, abusive, and to make things even more shocking: a father who just doesn't really know how to be one except his own way. And you have a picture of the type of character that Academy Award-winning actor Robert Duvall plays in this film. He got another nomination for the Academy Award in this film, although he unfortunately did not win it.

"The Great Santini" is a dramatic film near to perfection and one of the finest great movies of the 70s. Majority of the screen time is devoted to the relationship between Robert Duvall and his screen son, portrayed by Michael O'Keefe, also in an Oscar-nominated performance. The whole point of this is that O'Keefe is the oldest out of four children who have spent their whole life being raised, bullied, and commanded by Duvall. He runs their lives like a boot camp. There is no mercy, no generosity, and all you get for a good job, is a slap on the back. Duvall is trying to raise them in the best way he knows. He wants them to succeed in life, but the only method he knows that is effective is to be rough. And O'Keefe's character has decided he's had enough of being treated like a soldier in war.

Every aspect in "The Great Santini" is developed and executed perfectly to a magnificent entertaining level. The varsity basketball game depicted in the film is just like watching a real high school ball game. It's not full of tough, imaginative lines. Nothing remarkable happens during it, and yet it is a powerful sequence and highly entertaining, almost as if you were sitting with the cheering and jeering friends and family members of the characters. There are also powerful messages about racism and violence in the film, performed through a friendship between the characters portrayed by Michael O'Keefe, Stan Shaw, and David Keith. It is an excellent subplot that is the next-to-most-important aspect of the story and it involves pretty much all of the characters in some way, shape, or form. It's not just an in-the-background tragedy.

"The Great Santini" plays out as a magnificent story, mostly revolving around the character played by Robert Duvall. As we see him, he goes on an off with his temper and general-like behavior, and we come to like and dislike him over the course of the film, respecting him as if he were a real person before us. While he's really nothing more than a fictional character being portrayed by a magnificent and talented actor, he is in his own way, one of the greatest heroes of film history. And he just wants everybody to see things his way.

Recommended.


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