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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 131,291 users   Metascore: 78/100
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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
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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 <>

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:





| | |

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
See  »

Did You Know?


Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall and Tom Cruise were sent scripts for the film. See more »


In the village at the beginning, a naval vessel that was clearly built after 1980 is seen in the background. 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 99 francs (2007) 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 poem of a picture
19 April 1999 | by (Sydney, Australia) – See all my reviews

This film is three hours of movie poetry. "Saving Private Ryan," though brilliantly made, is a jingoistic cartoon by comparison. "Thin Red Line" follows a company of American rifleman brought in to consolidate the Allied grip on the Pacific island of Guadalcanal in 1942 in the face of Japanese invasion, but the place could be just about anywhere where war is fought.

The company is not made up of conscripts but regular soldiers. Some of them have been in the Army more than 10 years. Some of them however have never seen real action before and this is a hot and uncomfortable location, despite the lovely tropical scenery. Some crack up, some die, some do heroic deeds. Their leaders are not particularly admirable; one is quite happy to get his men killed if he can come out of the action looking good.

Out of sight for most of the film are the Melanesian inhabitants, the Solomon Islanders, who are carrying on living as best they can while the war rages around them. Their serenity is in sharp contrast to the frenetic military activity. Of course, there is nowhere for them to go.

There is some action excitingly filmed but as in real wars much of the time is spent preparing and waiting. Personal stories unfold but at the end it is survival that matters.

The lighting and photography is quite superb, the lighting in particular fitting the mood perfectly. Filming was not actually on Guadalcanal but near Port Douglas in Northern Queensland where there is similar tropical rainforest and fauna but with much easier logistics. It took ages apparently but seems more than worth the effort.

This is probably one of the four or five greatest war films ever made, right up there with "All Quiet on the Western Front, " "Paths of Glory," "Bridge on the River Kwai" and "The Longest Day." Never has a movie better portrayed what it's like to be a frontline soldier.

Terrence Malick has the reputation of being an eccentric, difficult director

  • Kubrick without the fear of flying. Yet this is not a particularly

unconventional movie - it's just that everything hangs together - the story, dialogue, performances, photography and settings. On thing is clear - this is a better interpretation of James Jones' novel than the 1964 version.

143 of 190 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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