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Breaker Morant (1980)

'Breaker' Morant (original title)
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Three Australian lieutenants are court martialed for executing prisoners as a way of deflecting attention from war crimes committed by their superior officers.



(play), (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 13 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Capt. Alfred Taylor
Lt. Col. Denny (as Charles Tingwell)
Terence Donovan ...
Capt. Simon Hunt
Vincent Ball ...
Col. Ian 'Johnny' Hamilton
Ray Meagher ...
Sgt. Maj. Drummond
Cpl. Sharp
Russell Kiefel ...
Christiaan Botha
Lt. George Ramsdale Witton
Rod Mullinar ...
Maj. Charles Bolton
Alan Cassell ...
Rob Steele ...
Capt. Robertson
Chris Smith ...
Sgt. Cameron


During the Boer War, three Australian lieutenants are on trial for shooting Boer prisoners. Though they acted under orders, they are being used as scapegoats by the General Staff, who hopes to distance themselves from the irregular practices of the war. The trial does not progress as smoothly as expected by the General Staff, as the defence puts up a strong fight in the courtroom. Written by Kasper Sevaj <kaspsev@dorit.ihi.ku.dk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


HERO OR VILLAIN ...his exploits shook an empire...and made him a legend. See more »


Drama | History | War


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

3 July 1980 (Australia)  »

Also Known As:

Breaker Morant  »

Box Office


AUD 650,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The military trial in this film has been described by some as being a "kangaroo court". A kangaroo court is however a sham judicial proceeding, usually designed to arrive at a prearranged result. While the court martial in the film may have reached the verdict required by the Army hierarchy, it seems to have been conducted correctly and in accordance with regulations. See more »


During the Morant trial, a military band is heard playing Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1." The march was premiered in England in October 1901, and it is very unlikely that an arrangement for military band was available less than two months later when the trial took place. It wasn't until later in 1902 that the words "Land of Hope and Glory" became permanently wedded to the tune. See more »


Peter Handcock: [after helping repel a Boer attack on the prison where he and Morant are being held] Well that broke the monotony.
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Crazy Credits

Introducing Lewis Fitz-Gerald as George Witton See more »


Referenced in 20 to 1: 80's Good, Bad & Ugly (2010) See more »


Cock of the North
Traditional - Irish
Arranged by Bill Brown
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Intelligent Drama About Military Morality
28 October 2003 | by (Isle Of Bute , Scotland) – See all my reviews

We don't see very many films or dramas on the history channel here in Britain . I know the American version shows them because American reviewers have mentioned this on this very website , but I'm not very keen on this happening over here because before you know it we might be seeing THE GREEN BERETS , BRAVEHEART and WE WERE SOLDIERS appearing on the channel , poor movies and poor history to boot in my opinion . At the weekend we were treated to BREAKER MORANT . As I said I'm not keen on the history channel transmitting feature films but I'll forgive them this time because it's a very good movie and very good history .

BREAKER MORANT is the dramatisation of a real life incident during the Boer war , the first " dirty war " of the 20th century , where three Australian officers Harry Morant , John Handcock and George Witton are on trial for their lives for the murder of boer POWs and of a German missionary . What I love about this film is that unlike a lot of other movies with an anti-war / anti- military injustice agenda is that it shows the difficult situations soldiers will always find themselves in . The men on trial are victims , victims of politics and of a wider picture . With the killing of the missionary Germany wants to intervene in the conflict on the side of the boers , not to protect the noble South African farmers from British aggression but to get their hands on the region's gold and diamond mines . In order to stop this happening the British government needs scapegoats in order to hang and Morant , Witton and Handcock were to be hung out to dry so it's the politicians of the time who are to blame for this miscarriage of justice , not the military , and it'd be interesting to note what people who campaign for pardons for the British soldiers shot for " cowardice " during the first world war make of this tale . The three characters on trial here are victims of a grave injustice but you can't help feeling because they " were only obeying orders " sympathy for them will be in short supply from a modern day perspective . I'm probably correct in saying that anyone who's served in the military can see far more clearly the injustice done than any of the " professional anti-war brigade " . BREAKER MORANT isn't a movie than can be used for anyone's hidden agenda , and for that we should be grateful

It's fairly obvious BREAKER MORANT is based upon a stage play . The central setting is a military court room with much of the story told in flashback . Director Bruce Beresford handles the action scenes very well but in this type of story the most important aspect is the cast and their acting , and the director gets the best out of his cast especially Edward Woodward ( Normally an actor I don't like ) who gives a career best performance and Jack Thompson . My only criticism of the casting is that a couple of actors playing British characters let their Aussie accents slip a little , but I'm nitpicking .

Just to sum up this is a very intelligent story of a dirty war , dirty politics and dirty justice which will appeal to serious historians and former servicemen rather than professional pacifists

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