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The Thin Red Line (1998)

R  |   |  Drama, War  |  15 January 1999 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 132,463 users   Metascore: 78/100
Reviews: 1,444 user | 153 critic | 32 from Metacritic.com

Terrence Malick's adaptation of James Jones' autobiographical 1962 novel, focusing on the conflict at Guadalcanal during the second World War.



(novel), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 7 Oscars. Another 19 wins & 39 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Marty Bell
Pfc - Beade


In World War II, the outcome of the battle of Guadalcanal will strongly influence the Japanese advance into the Pacific theater. A group of young soldiers is brought in as a relief for the battle-weary Marines. The exhausting fight for a strategically-positioned airfield that allows control over a 1000-mile radius puts the men of the Army rifle company C-for-Charlie through hell. The horrors of war form the soldiers into a tight-knit group; their emotions develop into bonds of love and even family. The reasons for this war get further away as the world for the men gets smaller and smaller until their fighting is for mere survival and the life of the other men with them. Written by Julian Reischl <julianreischl@mac.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Every man fights his own war.


Drama | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:





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Release Date:

15 January 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La delgada línea roja  »

Box Office


$52,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$223,548 (USA) (25 December 1998)


$36,385,763 (USA) (7 May 1999)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Brig. Gen. Quintard says to (Lt.) Colonel Tall: "We've got good sergeants and good lieutenant colonels. But once a man gets those eagles he can't wait to get that star." Since he says that in respect to Talls own behavior and since the eagle is the Insignia of colonels, Tall must be one (unlike how it is written in the credits and also in the book.) See more »


[first lines]
Private Edward P. Train: What's this war in the heart of nature? Why does nature vie with itself? The land contend with the sea? Is there an avenging power in nature? Not one power, but two?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Composer Wrangler. . . Moanike'ala Nakamoto See more »


Referenced in Savage Harvest 2: October Blood (2006) See more »


The Unanswered Question
Composed by Charles Ives
Performed by The Orchestra of St. Luke's
Conducted by John Adams
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A different, enthralling war film.
30 December 1998 | by (San Jose, Ca) – See all my reviews

The Thin Red Line has no real hero and no real plot to speak of. Due to its release the same year as Saving Private Ryan it will forever be linked to Spielberg's anti-war opus. Yet, "TRL" deserves to be compared to Stanley Kubrick's 2001 due to it's style and distance from the audience. The film's only character is the Charlie Company and the conflict is between humankind itself. Director Terrance Malik asks profound questions and unlike "Ryan," doesn't expect them to be answered because they simply can't be answered. Like 2001, the viewer is left with more questions than answers at the end of the film and is told in stunning visual fashion. Some critics have pointed out various flaws in the film; however, these traits are what sets TRL apart form it's peers. The stars like John Travolta and George Clooney have little screen time. They are the officers who command attention and are larger than life to the simple GI's who do the real work (and most of the acting in the film.) The characters are mostly unrecognizable and you know little about them save the main characters like Pvt. Bell. But, the faces are meant to be unrecognizable; to paraphrase the film they are simply flesh and meat made from the earth simply to return back to it. Those who criticise the lack of violence in some scenes while labeling the other scenes intense don't realize the intensity the fight scenes generalize are due to the fact that the soldiers don't know when their next battle will be and when their last breath will take place. The main character, Charlie Company, is fighting to stay alive, the only real driving force of the plot. All of the characters have different views of the war, shown through the use of random spoken narrative. There is no easy conclusion to the war and the film starts off where it began, among the animals of the pacific. Life is one huge circle and one could guess the battle for the bunker on top of the hill could be fought again and there is no possible way to stop it, (At least that is what I was able to muster of the film itself.) For myself the most haunting image was the scene when the Americans stare at their Japanese enemy after capturing the hill. Both sides seem to realize that they could be on the other side of the battle and that in war there really is no good vs. bad scenario, just what nation you're from and who you are trying to kill. Yet the question asked is why war occurs and why we must fight each other. On that note, we still have no answers. The acting and sound are superb. The direction, editing, and score are all Oscar caliber. I don't shrink from saying that TRL is the best film of 1998 and one of the greatest war films of all time; (and contrary to what some are trying to say it is a war film, that is at its core.) TRL is the only film to ever make my knees tremble and haunt me days after I saw it. If you see it, I'm sure your opinions will be just as strong as mine.

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