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The Great Santini (1979)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  26 October 1979 (USA)
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Reviews: 38 user | 20 critic

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), 1 more credit »
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Title: The Great Santini (1979)

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 2 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
Matthew Meechum
Toomer Smalls
Arrabella Smalls
Red Petus
Paul Mantee ...
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

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Technical Specs


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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The South Carolina house where much of the movie takes place is the same house in Beaufort used in The Big Chill (1983). It is known as the "Edgar Fripp Home" as well as "Tidalholm." See more »


In the opening dogfight sequence you hear the lead pilot call "Okay, it's Marines verses Navy"; and you see a F-4J Phantom with the word Navy on the side. However, the squadron designation is VMFA-251. At the time, only Marine Phantoms carried the "VMFA" designation, Navy Phantoms were "VF" . The "Marine" squadron was in fact VMFA-251 Thunderbolts, who now fly the F/A-18C. See more »


Coach Spinks: I want us to win and win big. I want us to make our school proud, I want us to make our parents proud, our grandparents proud, our first and second cousins proud, our POONTANG proud and ourselves proud.
See more »


References Gone with the Wind (1939) See more »


Twist and Shout
Written by Phil Medley and Bert Berns
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User Reviews

A powerful film
6 May 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This film is one of the finest ever made, in my humble opinion, and the greatest display of Robert Duval's acting abilities. This film is powerful and moving. An "era" piece, it's message resounds regardless.

The cinematography is beautifully done. The acting is top notch. The scenes between Metchum and his son are the most riveting, of course but the scenes between the son and mother are also quite touching and tender, and contrast wonderfully with the other scenes. And while this is a gripping drama, with very well acted round characters, there is humor too, and handled brilliantly.

Truly every movie library should have this film in it's collection.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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