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The Big Red One (1980)

R  |   |  Drama, War  |  28 May 1980 (France)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 14,672 users   Metascore: 77/100
Reviews: 114 user | 69 critic | 20 from

The story of a sergeant and the inner core members of his unit as they try to serve in and survive World War II.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Bobby Di Cicco ...
Underground Walloon fighter at asylum (as Stephane Audran)
Siegfried Rauch ...
Schroeder (German sergeant)
Serge Marquand ...
Charles Macaulay ...
General / captain
Alain Doutey ...
Broban (Vichy sergeant)
Maurice Marsac ...
Vichy colonel
Colin Gilbert ...
Dog Face POW
Joseph Clark ...
Pvt. Shep (soldier on troop transport)
Ken Campbell ...
Pvt. Lemchek (#2 on Bangalore torpedo)
Doug Werner ...


The story of a hardened army Sergeant and four of his men from their first fight at the Kasserine Pass after the invasion of North Africa through to the invasion of Sicily, D-Day, the Ardennes forest and the liberation of a concentration camp at the end of the war. As the five of them fight - and survive to fight yet again in the next battle - new recruits joining the squad are swatted down by the enemy on a regular basis. The four privates are naturally reluctant to get to know any of the new recruits joining the squad, who become just a series of nameless faces. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The real glory of war is surviving. See more »


Drama | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for war violence and some language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| | |

Release Date:

28 May 1980 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The Big Red One: The Reconstruction  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (reconstructed)

Sound Mix:

(reconstruction)| (original release)


| (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to a review in the 'Variety Movie Guide', this movie was "Based on [the] writer-director's [i.e. Samuel Fuller] own experiences as a GI, pic was announced as a John Wayne starrer in the late 1950s and came close to realization on many other occasions, but only came together when producer Gene Corman found means to make it almost entirely in Israel." See more »


During the battle at the cross the Sergeant is firing the tank machine gun. From the front the restricter, a metal plug with a small hole in it used to permit machine guns to fire blanks, is clearly visible in the muzzle. See more »


Zab: [narrating] Those Sicilian women cooked us a terrific meal. I'ts too bad they were all over fifty. We were more horny than we were hungry.
See more »


Featured in The Typewriter, the Rifle & the Movie Camera (1996) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Among the greatest WWII epics
8 November 2004 | by (somerville, ma) – See all my reviews

A lot of people hate The Big Red One. They call it farcical, uneven, clichéd. They find it farcical, I believe, because the film revels in the absurdity of war rather than gloss over it. They would rather watch a film, like Saving Private Ryan, which ignores absurdity in favor of violence. These people find it uneven because the "important scenes" (like the D-Day and North African invasion) take only a minute or two to conclude, while other scenes, less typical of a war movie, spread out before us. They call it clichéd because the movie is unsubtle in its treatment of character development and plot.

I cannot agree with these beliefs. The Big Red One is not only one of the greatest WWII films, it is also one of the greatest war movies.

Sam Fuller's film, which was butchered by the studio, is the picaresque tale of 5 members of the First Infantry, known, because of their shoulder patch, as the Big Red One. The film moves from one story to the next without spending too much time on any particular tale.

The individual vignettes, as they must, vary in quality, but on the whole are excellent. The Big Red One stirs within you a desire to run right out and tell your friends about this amazing scene or that.

There's the soldier who loses his testicle, the birthing scene in the belly of a tank, Lee Marvin, in Middle Eastern garb, traipsing across a beach, soldiers dug into holes over which a Panzer tank division travels, the entire Mad House segment... The list goes on.

Some people dislike the absurdest nature of several of this film's stories, but, for me, those surreal touches make this film great.

Without them (and there are a lot), you would be left with a very normal and very boring film. Using bandoleers as stirrups is genius, as is the woman faking crazy as she whirls through a monastery, slicing German throats.

The performances are solid, for this type of film, but if you are looking for subtlety, go elsewhere. Each character is drawn in broad strokes; you never learn too much about them, but you learn enough to understand who they are and why. Lee Marvin, as usual, is amazing. He is one of the great, gruff actors of our time, bringing a special, intangible quality to every film in which I've seen him. He makes every movie he's in better just by showing up. There are too few actors about whom you can say that.

Like the acting, the direction is masculine, but, for a war movie, that's a compliment. In some ways, Fuller's direction here and in his other films reminds me of Hemmingway's writing - terse and effective. Both men believe in an economy of shots or words, depending on their medium, but, through that economy, they attain a muscular sort of poetry akin to the beauty of a horse's rippling muscles as it races on a plain. Fuller's direction here, though not his best when compared to Underworld USA or Shock Corridor, is still better than most, especially considering that this was his first film in several years.

All in all, I find the Big Red One to be an exemplary war movie, even in its emasculated format (I cannot wait to see the restored, 140 minute print, which should improve upon scenes that feel to brief in this version). It's certainly no Apocalypse Now, but it puts to shame most World War II epics before or since.

41 of 64 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Recent Posts
Was this written by a 12-year old? izmatt18-1
Just a buck sergeant after 24 years? shadow1234
Big Red One - Restoration? wdavew3221
made in 1980? srmcaf
I liked it, but one thing bugged me... norskkontinentalsokkel
Any Good? DM-DAAN
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