8.2/10
20,463
154 user 141 critic

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003)

The story of America as seen through the eyes of the former Secretary of Defense under President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara.

Director:

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

ON DISC
Won 1 Oscar. Another 11 wins & 16 nominations. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Documentary | Biography | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Former United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, discusses his career in Washington D.C. from his days as a congressman in the early 1960s to planning the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Donald Rumsfeld, Errol Morris
Documentary | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas.

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Randall Adams, David Harris, Gus Rose
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A cinematic portrait of the life and career of the infamous American execution device designer and holocaust denier.

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Fred A. Leuchter Jr., Robert Jan Van Pelt, David Irving
Documentary | Crime | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Errol Morris examines the incidents of abuse and torture of suspected terrorists at the hands of U.S. forces at the Abu Ghraib prison.

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Megan Ambuhl Graner, Javal Davis, Ken Davis
Documentary | Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A documentary about a pet cemetery in California, and the people who have pets buried there.

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Lucille Billingsley, Zella Graham, Cal Harberts
Documentary
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

What do an elderly topiary gardener, a retired lion tamer, a man fascinated by mole rats, and a cutting-edge robotics designer have in common? Both nothing and everything in this ... See full summary »

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Dave Hoover, George Mendonça, Rodney Brooks
Tabloid (2010)
Documentary | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A documentary on a former Miss Wyoming who is charged with abducting and imprisoning a young Mormon Missionary.

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Joyce McKinney, Peter Tory, Troy Williams
Horror | Thriller | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.8/10 X  

John Millhouse has just returned home after four years of service in The United States Army. He wants nothing more than to return to a 'normal' life, but the horrors of war and his never ... See full summary »

Director: Les Norris
Stars: Benhur Sito Barrero, Adam Fortner, Katie Mackey
Documentary | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Early Errol Morris documentary intersplices random chatter he captured on film of the genuinely eccentric residents of Vernon, Florida. A few examples? The preacher giving a sermon on the ... See full summary »

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Albert Bitterling, Roscoe Collins, George Harris
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A film about the life and work of the cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, who despite his near total paralysis, is one of the great minds of all time.

Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Stephen Hawking, Isobel Hawking, Janet Humphrey
Documentary | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A comprehensive look at the Bush Administration's conduct of the Iraq war and its occupation of the country.

Director: Charles Ferguson
Stars: Campbell Scott, Gerald Burke, Ali Fadhil
Documentary
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A documentary about the Enron corporation, its faulty and corrupt business practices, and how they led to its fall.

Director: Alex Gibney
Stars: John Beard, Tim Belden, Barbara Boxer
Edit

Cast

Cast overview:
...
Edit

Storyline

Former corporate whiz kid Robert McNamara was the controversial Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, during the height of the Vietnam War. This Academy Award-winning documentary, augmented by archival footage, gives the conflicted McNamara a platform on which he attempts to confront his and the U.S. government's actions in Southeast Asia in light of the horrors of modern warfare, the end of ideology and the punitive judgment of history. Written by Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for images and thematic issues of war and destruction | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

5 March 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Fog of War  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Edit

Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$41,449, 21 December 2003, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$4,193,943, 16 May 2004
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

The "Eleven Lessons" listed in the film are as follows:
  • 1. Empathize with your enemy.
  • 2. Rationality will not save us.
  • 3. There's something beyond one's self.
  • 4. Maximize efficiency.
  • 5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war.
  • 6. Get the data.
  • 7. Belief and seeing are both often wrong.
  • 8. Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning.
  • 9. In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.
  • 10. Never say never.
  • 11. You can't change human nature.
See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
[Per contact at the Errol Morris Foundation, the date is 8/5/1964, and the clip is from Press Conference on The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, National Archives #111-LC-48220]
Robert McNamara: [archival footage from the press conference on the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, 5 August 1964] Is this chart at a reasonable height for you? Or do you want it lowered? All right. Earlier tonight - first let me ask the TV, are you ready? All set?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Director of Officeland Security: Jackpot Junior See more »

Connections

Featured in The 50 Greatest Documentaries (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

Behind the Moon
(uncredited)
by Philip Glass
Ocean Mountain Music
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Lessons Learned
11 July 2004 | by See all my reviews

For his award-winning documentary, `The Fog of War' – a study of the moral complexities of war and those who wage it - Errol Morris has found the perfect subject in Robert S. McNamara, the man who served as Secretary of Defense in the early days of the Vietnam War. McNamara is astute, articulate, lively and thoughtful, and as a wizened man of 85, he is able to look back on the events of his life with the kind of analytical clarity and sober-minded judgment that only old age can provide.

Wisely, Morris allows McNamara to speak for himself, providing very little in the way of poking and prodding as interviewer and filmmaker. McNamara looks at his long and varied career through the prism of eleven lessons he's learned about life and human nature. Each of these revelations is tied into a specific chapter of that career and life. We see McNamara taking stock of his actions as they relate to World War II, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and most notably, of course, the Vietnam War, in each case ruminating aloud about the moral imperatives and ethical decisions he faced on a daily basis as his crucial role in all of these events played itself out. Some may find his comments to be a bit self-serving, an attempt to whitewash the facts and minimize his own responsibility, particularly as concerns his involvement in the Vietnam War. Yet, in many instances, McNamara accepts the judgments of history and admits his culpability, even if he generally does so in a broader war-is-a-necessary-evil context. There are moments during his reminiscence when McNamara actually wells up with tears, thinking about the immense loss of life and personal tragedy that inevitably result from man's insane obsession with destroying his fellow man – while all the time acknowledging that at times wars must be fought and casualties endured for a greater cause. All throughout the film, McNamara returns to this refrain, additionally warning us that, in the nuclear age in which we live, the human propensity for warfare could very easily lead us over the precipice to global devastation and annihilation as a species. We have little reason to believe that McNamara is not being sincere in his comments, although some more cynical viewers may wonder if he isn't merely saying what he thinks he should be saying in order to secure a more favorable reputation and image for himself as his life comes to a close. If that is, indeed, the case, Morris seems blissfully unaware of it, since he basically accepts McNamara's statements at face value. As an added – and perhaps unintended bonus – much of what McNamara says has a pertinent, timely, almost prescient ring to it, as the U.S. struggles through yet another foreign engagement, this time in Iraq.

As a documentary filmmaker, Morris demonstrates his usual skill at combining archival footage with one-on-one interviews as a way of bringing his subject matter to life. The caveat here is that Morris provides no counter voices to challenge any of McNamara's statements or his interpretation of events. Yet, as McNamara relates the story of his life, a fascinating history of 20th Century American foreign policy emerges in the background. We see many of the seminal figures from McNamara's time playing out the roles history and the fates assigned to them, from John Kennedy to Lyndon Johnson to Nikita Khrushchev to a whole host of other key players on the world stage. In addition, Philip Glass and John Kusiak have provided a haunting score to go along with the haunting images.

As the title suggests, this is a complex film on a complex subject and McNamara and Morris leave us with no pat or easy answers. That is as it should be.


35 of 40 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?
Review this title | See all 154 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

IMDb's Top 10 Stars of 2017

"The IMDb Show" connects the dots between IMDb's Top 10 Stars of 2017 and unwraps some of the most memorable and festive animated holiday specials.

Watch now