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Gettysburg More at IMDbPro »

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77 out of 90 people found the following review useful:

Gettysburg: All Time Top 10

Author: shermatz from Cedar Rapids, IA
23 November 2004

I've been reading all the other comments pro & con with great interest, and I just have to add my voice to the "pro" side for this ambitious and stirring epic. Gettysburg is indeed one of my "all time top 10" movies. I was especially curious to see it on initial theatrical release because of the casting of Martin Sheen as Lee; were I to cast a civil war movie, the name Martin Sheen would NEVER have entered my mind as an appropriate performer for this make-or-break role. To my astonishment, Sheen was MAGNIFICENT in his portrayal of Lee; in appearance, demeanor, and aura of command, Sheen COMPLETELY sold me. A stunning performance from an unexpected casting choice. I agree that "Gods & Generals" would have benefited from Sheen's re-casting, though Duvall did his best with the more limited part he was given.

Yeah, I agree that the script tended to a lot of bloviation and speechifying by the principals. I do think we need to make allowance for the fact that in this pre-technological 19th century era portrayed, people DID communicate in ways that seem artificial and awkward by our standards. This was a time when oratory, whether in churches, politics, or general discourse, was valued both as communication and entertainment. So even if the dialogue got a bit overblown, I was more than willing to cut the production some slack.

The beards were a problem for me also, especially poor Tom Berenger's. Still, he (like ALL the lead actors) transcended the limitations and delivered what resonated for me as a credible interpretation of the time and situation.

MANY details of the movie can be nit-picked, and of course, those determined to hate "Gettysburg" can always find a reason, rational or not. I was BLOWN AWAY by the quality and passion of this movie from my first theatrical viewing and it was one of the very first DVD's I purchased. After multiple viewings (all 4 hours) I'm still impressed and grateful that Ted Turner had the desire and ambition to tackle such a BIG project that would be sniped at from all corners for eternity. My goodwill extends to the much weaker (but still defensible) "Gods and Generals"; if they go ahead and produce "The Last Full Measure," I promise I'll be first in line at the movie theater AND pre-order the DVD!

10 out of 10!

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57 out of 63 people found the following review useful:

Gets Better Each Time

10/10
Author: J. Wellington Peevis from Malltown
2 November 2003

Utterly superb dramatization of the turning point battle of the Civil War. A clash so enormous in scale that whoever won, was destined to win the war. Brilliantly directed and screenwritten with top notch moving performances by all. Almost makes you understand why so many people are into those reenactment things.

I think to fully appreciate the more intelligent war films, you almost have to know the battle in detail going in. The movie uses dialogue to try and explain whats happening, but its extremely hard to conceptualize without the aid of graphics. I'm not saying you won't enjoy this film without a firm grasp of the battle details, only that you will enjoy it much more if you are able to do a little reading beforehand. Either way, see it. I am truly amazed by the depth of feeling all these guys were able to put into this project. Daniels and Berenger, in particular, give Oscar caliber performances. A total home run.

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54 out of 62 people found the following review useful:

Long, but Powerful Epic, Filmed on Location...

Author: Ben Burgraff (cariart) from Las Vegas, Nevada
14 March 2004

GETTYSBURG, based on Michael Shaara's bestseller, "The Killer Angels", is a truly remarkable film, in it's clear, if long, presentation of the Civil War's bloodiest, best-known, yet least understood battle, in it's 'humanizing' of the almost legendary characters of the period, and, most amazingly, for being filmed at the actual locations where the actions took place, in Gettysburg, itself. From Little Round Top to Seminary Ridge, you see the events where they actually occurred, 140 years ago. It is a singular achievement, and Ted Turner deserves credit for making it happen.

Two characters dominate the film; Jeff Daniels, in one of his finest performances, is a likable, totally believable Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the Maine ex-schoolteacher who would win the Congressional Medal of Honor; and Tom Berenger, sporting a huge, bushy beard, is a sympathetic 'voice of reason' as Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, successor to "Stonewall" Jackson as Robert E. Lee's field commander. Chamberlain and Longstreet provide the film it's focus, as honorable men attempting to fulfill their duty, while the carnage builds around each of them.

Other memorable performances include Sam Elliott, in a brief but memorable cameo as Brig. Gen. John Buford, the battle-hardened cavalry commander who initiates the battle after guessing the Confederates' objectives at Gettysburg; Richard Jordan, in one of his last appearances before his untimely death, as Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Armistead, facing his best friend in battle; Kevin Conway, as Chamberlain's gruff but likable Irish First Sergeant, Sgt. 'Buster' Kilrain; C. Thomas Howell as Lt. Thomas D. Chamberlain, Joshua's brother, who creates a sense of familial concern for Daniels; and Stephen Lang (who would go on to play Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson in GODS AND GENERALS), as an ever-confident, ebullient Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett.

In the pivotal role of Robert E. Lee, Martin Sheen is less effective, lacking Lee's well-documented charisma, and substituting constant world-weary gazes for characterization. Robert Duvall, who assumed the role in GODS AND GENERALS, would be far more credible as Lee.

The sheer numbers of the battle are staggering; over 150,000 combatants, with 53,000 dead, more in a single three-day engagement than were lost during the entire war in Vietnam. The armies of actors, extras, and recreators could not nearly match those numbers, yet the film effectively conveys the immensity of the conflict. The tactical errors (Lee's decision, on the third day of battle, to order Pickett's suicidal charge into the Union guns; Meade's decision, drawing the fury of President Lincoln, to allow the Southern survivors to return home without further slaughter, while a humane gesture, probably lengthening the war) are presented within the context of of the overall conflict, providing the viewer with justification for their decisions.

Director Ronald F. Maxwell presents a complex, fascinating tapestry in GETTYSBURG, and it is not a film you will soon forget!

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59 out of 75 people found the following review useful:

Excellent, not perfect, but excellent

7/10
Author: F6Pilot (garyowen76@yahoo.com) from York PA
6 February 2000

With a few notable exceptions Schindler's List, Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan and Glory, history based movies usually die quick and quiet in the movie theater (The Messenger, Ride with the Devil, Cobb) History flicks cost a bundle to make with the costumes and the challenge of finding a place to shoot that's nowhere near highways, bridges, and cities, and they don't always appeal to mass audiences.

So it's not that often that really good historical film comes around. As a result, it's good not to be too fussy when one does. Both Gettysburg and the Killer Angels, the book it was based on, were stuffed with historical inaccuracies, the grossest of all being the presence of the 20th Maine regiment anywhere near Pickett's charge (this happens in both the movie and the book).

For all the lengthy soliloquies, historical misses, whitewashed violence, and the fact that only about 30% of the battle of Gettysburg is shown on film, Gettysburg remains as the best effort to capture the sprawling battle of July 1863 on film. Where the movie lacks in realism, it makes up for it's dialogue, and in the scope of the battle scenes, which are on a scale so grand, that the bloodless body count and the inaccurate tactics can be forgiven. The sheer numbers of soldiers taking part in Pickett's charge was breathtaking. Kudos to the reenactors.

Martin Sheen and Tom Beringer were they're usual excellent selves as Lee and Longstreet and for me, their ongoing debate of the strategy of Gettysburg helped make the movie. Other highlights include the disenchantment of Union soldiers at this stage of the Civil War, and the personal trauma Richard Jordan's Lewis Armistead felt at having to fight his friend Winfield Hancock not only in the same war, but in the same sector of the same battle of that war.

Much of Gettysburg has to be viewed with a grain of salt, but until a Stephen Speilberg or other directing genius with a knack for war footage comes along, it's one of the best we have. And it's pretty good.

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41 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

Vivid, well worth seeing, faithful to book,heartbreaking ending

Author: trpdean from New York, New York
22 February 2003

This movie picks up steam as it goes along - leading to its wrenching end, as did the battle.

The performance of Richard Jordan as Lo Armistead must be singled out for praise - his anguish was very moving. I'd loved the actor in The Friends of Eddie Coyle and what a job he does. (It helps that he's given the best lines in the movie). Martin Sheen as Robt. E. Lee is not the first name that would come to mind - but I think he gave a fine performance - his accent was entrancing. Sam Elliott is perfectly chosen as (and wonderfully played) the western General John Buford. I also think Jeff Daniels was absolutely wonderful - conveying so well the different manner of someone who until a year before, had been a civilian professor, not a colonel. Unfortunately although I'm generally a fan of Tom Berenger, I wasn't particularly moved by any scene he was in - he kind of walks through it.

The movie is written so well - and its pace just fine. There are so many interesting scenes, touching on many different aspects of life and war - from the nature of man and race to the paradox of a general loving his army yet having to sacrifice it. Jordan brought home so well the closeness of the senior officers to those on the other side.

I loved how well they showed the varied purposes for fighting of the different armies, and the occasional reference to a perceived resentment by the Union soldiers over what they saw as Confederate pretensions to higher social class. ("They're so arrogant", etc.).

The music is first rate - and definitely enhances the drama. The depiction seems quite authentic.

Some niggling criticisms: aside from the map at the start of the movie, there is none. Maps would definitely have helped to undeerstand the overall picture. People commonly refer to directions (from the norht, from the west, etc.) or "we must flank them to the right" and it's hard to understand if you haven't read about the battle.

The scene with the runaway slave is too abbreviated from the book - it doesn't have much impact in the movie.

Kevin Conway's dialogue and accent was a bit over the top, and the English military attache was rather clicheed.

For all that General Hancock is referenced, we see very little of him.

We see the diatribe by General Trimble against General Ewell - but without seeing anything of that battle (or Ewell ever), it just hangs there - rather than being part of any continuous story. (In the book, Ewell's and Early's conduct is more discussed - including a wonderful scene by the two with Lee). If they weren't going to discuss that side of the battle, they should have left Trimble's (well-played) trembling anger out of the story - it doesn't belong in this movie.

Gen. Longstreet is the star of the book and movie - yet I never sensed from Berenger the great brooding quality (and he wasn't given any reference to the fact that his thre children had just died) that he has throughout the battle - according to the book. Similarly, Gen. Lee's health (his heart and headaches, etc.) is a constant factor - not shown in the movie.

Despite the criticisms, this is a wonderfully done movie - from a Pulitzer Prize winning book. It's long - but quite clear, and very deeply moving. I defy anyone to see the last 1/2 hour and not have tears in their eyes. I'd very strongly recommend this.

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43 out of 54 people found the following review useful:

One of the Great War Films of All Time

10/10
Author: dbborroughs from Glen Cove, New York
12 June 2004

Its over four hours long,but doesn't feel it. Any while its not gory you do get a sense of the hell of war.

What can I say that hasn't been said already?

The film works mostly because at its center its the story of Jeff Daniel's Joshua Chamberlain, a well educated man who goes off to do his duty even though he knows he may end up dead. Daniel's gives a performance that should have been noticed by the Oscars but wasn't. Its through Daniel's interaction with all the other characters that we come to understand what the war was about.

Even if the odd facial hair makes you crazy, its a great film. I can't recommend this film enough.

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34 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

Not the best, but a great representation of the epic battle of the Civil War

7/10
Author: Hancock_the_Superb from United States
10 July 2002

All I hear is people griping about how long this film is. That's not the point. The point is it represents what is considered by historians to be the most important battle of the American Civil War.

I will admit that the length of the film kinda takes away from it, but it is nonetheless good.

Save a few historical gaffes (eg. Chamberlain and the 20th Maine at Picket's Charge - in reality, they were being held in reserve near the Round Tops with the rest of the V Corps), this film is very realistic, using thousands of professional re-enactors to fight the battle scenes, which adds to it.

Many battles and side notes were left out (eg. Vincent was mortally wounded on Little Round Top; or did they mention this, I don't remember), but that is okay, given the film focuses on Joshua L. Chamberlain and the 20th Maine, who saved the day at Little Round Top on July 2.

Skirmishes at the Herr Tavern, McPherson's Hill, Little Round Top, and Picket's Charge were all the fighting I remember. But, again, this doesn't really take anything away.

The sweep and grandeur is helped by the superb cinematography (by Kees Van Oostrum) and great acting on the part of Tom Berenger (Longstreet), Martin Sheen (Lee), Jeff Daniels (Chamberlain), C. Thomas Howell (Tom Chamberlain), Sam Elliot (Buford), and the rest of the superb cast. A standout is the late Richard Jordan as Lewis Armistead, the brigade commander in Picket's division who was killed leading his troops "over the top" against Union artillery.

The battle scenes are excellent; Picket's Charge, in real time, is superb, but the furious battle for Little Round Top is one of the most desperate battle scenes ever filmed. You can feel the fear and tension of the 20th Maine as the 44th Alabama (I believe this is correct) charges up the hill again and again. When Chamberlain and his men finally sweep their opponents off the hill?

I think that it may have been good to portray the charging Confederates as well, since they had many interesting stories among them (e.g., the commander of the 44th, William Oates, had a brother, John, who had been ill with a fever and refused to stay behind, and was mortally wounded in the carnage), and the heroics of such people as Vincent himself, and Patrick O'Rourke (who led his New York regiment in a counterattack that saved Vincent's right flank and was killed in the charge) are neglected, but I'm not complaining.

Despite the length and a few overdramatic speeches, this is a great movie.

Seven out of ten.

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35 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

No Civil War Buff, But I Still Enjoyed It

8/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
23 March 2006

At four hours-plus, this is one of the longest movies I own but is well-made and worth owning, and I'm not a "Civil War buff," either. I would probably appreciate this movie even more if I did know more about that horrible conflict. Being familiar with all the small towns surrounding Gettsyburg wouldn't hurt.

The movie is well-acted, nicely filmed and has some memorable scenes. My only complaints are that some of the action scenes go on too long and I didn't appreciate the plug for Darwin's evolutionary theories, which had no place in this film. However, this is a Turner Pictures film and the "Turner" is outspoken atheist Ted Turner, it's no surprise we get this thrown in our faces.

Otherwise, they stuck to the war story. It was interesting how they portrayed Robert E. Lee. They make him look a little stupid in his strategy but also gave him a compassionate look, and you couldn't help but feel sorry for the man. Actually, all the officers on both sides were portrayed fairly as nothing but good and brave men.

Jeff Daniels, as Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, had the best role and came off looking the best. It may be Daniels' best work ever, too. Martin Sheen was outstanding as Lee. Kudos to Tom Berenger (Lt. Gen. James Longstreet) and Richard Jordan (Brig. Gen. Lewis Armistead) for their performances, too.

It's a quality show, filmed on the Gettysburg sites, too. Although there are a few long fight scenes, this is not a bloody film. Language-wise, this probably holds the record for the most usage of the word "damn" but that's it, profanity-wise.

I wouldn't let the length of this movie prohibit you from watching it. You can always break it up into segments over a couple of days.

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26 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Learn more about the Civil War than you ever knew.

Author: Doctor_Bombay from Lucas Buck, NC
7 May 1999

Wonderful depiction of the events leading to a pivotal battle of the Civil War, the battle of Gettysburg, with a focus on 3 key individuals: Confederate General Robert E. Lee (played brilliantly by Martin Sheen), Lee's second, Lt. General James Longstreet (Tom Berenger), and Union Col Joshua Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels).

Truly classic storytelling beautifully presented. Each key event is intelligently and gently depicted leaving little of the battles, the personalities, and the actions to be misunderstood. I felt much closer to the unfortunate events that were our Civil War than I ever imagined. I don't consider myself ignorant as a rule, but to tell the truth I never envisioned that the battles were basically fought hand-to-hand, face-to-face, long lines of fighting men falling, almost randomly, on both sides.

This movie, along with John Frankenheimer's "Andersonville" jump-started a serious interest for me in these historical docudramas, and the Civil War in particular. Thank you Mr. Frankenheimer, and Mr. Ronald Maxwell (director of "Gettysburg").

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33 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

Long, But Worth The Effort Of Watching

6/10
Author: sddavis63 (revsdd@gmail.com) from Durham Region, Ontario, Canada
1 November 2001

A very interesting take on the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, which is unfortunately marred by its excessive length (well over four hours), which could easily have been cut by at least an hour if unnecessary marching scenes were cut out. (I timed one point in the movie when a full six minutes went by showing nothing but troops marching. This was absolutely tedious!)

There isn't much "drama" involved in this. How can there be? Everyone knows the Battle of Gettysburg, we all know that the North won, and serious students of the Civil War know most of the military manoeuvres that were used, as well as the fates of the major combatants. So, it was up to the director (Ronald F. Maxwell) and the various actors to give us something of a unique spin to hold our attention through the long story. For the most part, they were successful.

I was quite intrigued by Martin Sheen's portrayal of General Robert E. Lee. Lee comes across almost in a mystical way - a man of vision and courage, and yet also very human. The debates between Lee and General James Longstreet (played by Tom Berenger) over strategy were realistic, and the fact that Longstreet was proved for the most part to be right demonstrate the fact that Lee - while a great General - was subject to human failings as well. Sheen portrays a Lee who is coming to terms with his hero status among his troops, but also shows him subtly uncomfortable with it.

Also interesting was the constant hearkening back to the pre-war relationship between Union general Winfield Hancock (Brian Mallon) and Confederate General Lewis Armistead (Richard Jordan). Good friends before the war (almost brothers, as both describe the relationship) they now find themselves on opposite sides of this great battle, wanting to see each other because they are friends and yet not wanting to see each other as enemies. Tears well up in both as they speak to fellow officers about the relationship. A believable portrayal of how many Americans must have felt in this conflict which divided friends and families.

Most interesting of all, though, was the portrayal of General Joshua Chamberlain (by Jeff Daniels), the colonel of the 20th Maine Infantry. I was only vaguely familiar with Chamberlain when I first saw this movie, and was motivated by it to become more familiar with a truly fascinating individual. Hardly a classic soldier (he was a university professor of English and Religion back in Maine) Chamberlain displays a solid grasp of tactics, and comes across as the great Northern hero in this account of Gettysburg.

So, there are a lot of good things in this movie. Don't let the length of over four hours put you off. Although there are a few tedious scenes (such as the marching scene I described earlier) it's worth hanging in through them to get a very realistic and largely historically accurate picture of perhaps the greatest battle of the US Civil War.

6/10

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