262 user 77 critic

1941 (1979)

1:47 | Trailer
Hysterical Californians prepare for a Japanese invasion in the days after Pearl Harbor.


Steven Spielberg


Robert Zemeckis (screenplay), Bob Gale (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
4,911 ( 256)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 3 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Dan Aykroyd ... Sgt. Frank Tree
Ned Beatty ... Ward Douglas
John Belushi ... Capt. Wild Bill Kelso
Lorraine Gary ... Joan Douglas
Murray Hamilton ... Claude Crumn
Christopher Lee ... Capt. Wolfgang von Kleinschmidt
Tim Matheson ... Capt. Loomis Birkhead
Toshirô Mifune ... Cmdr. Akiro Mitamura (as Toshiro Mifune)
Warren Oates ... Col. 'Madman' Maddox
Robert Stack ... Maj. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell
Treat Williams ... Cpl. Chuck 'Stretch' Sitarski
Nancy Allen ... Donna Stratton
Lucille Benson ... Gas Mama (Eloise) (as Lucille Bensen)
Jordan Cohen Jordan Cohen ... Macey Douglas (as Jordan Brian)
John Candy ... Pvt. Foley


Hysteria grips California in the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. An assorted group of defenders attempt to make the coast defensible against an imagined Japanese invasion, in this big budget, big cast comedy. Members of a Japanese submarine crew scout out the madness, along with a Captain in Germany's Kreigsmarine (Navy). Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


As They Roared Into Battle, Only One Thing Was Missing...The Enemy! See more »


Action | Comedy | War


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


For a while, there was going to be a scene where Wally (Bobby Di Cicco) is dancing along with a musical movie behind the screen, and ends up falling through it, out of Joe E. Brown's mouth. See more »


When Angelo pushes the anti-aircraft gun back towards the house with his car, he never puts the car into gear. See more »


[first lines]
Title Card: On December 7, 1941, the Naval Air Arm of the Imperial Japanese Fleet, in a surprise attack, struck the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor and hurtled an unsuspecting America into World War II.
Title Card: American citizens were stunned, shocked and outraged at this treacherous attack. On the West Coast, paranoia gripped the entire population as panic-stricken citizens were convinced that California was the next target of the Imperial Japanese Forces.
Title Card: Major General Joseph W. Stilwell, ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

At the end of the closing credits: For Charlise Bryant. See more »

Alternate Versions

The UK cinema version was cut by the BBFC to remove a groin kick during the scene where Wally confronts Sitarski and Betty. Later releases were uncut. See more »


Referenced in The Color Purple: The 'Musical' (2003) See more »


When I See an Elephant Fly
Music by Oliver Wallace
Lyrics by Ned Washington
Performed by Cliff Edwards, Jim Carmichael and the Hall Johnson Choir
See more »

User Reviews

A comic war epic snatched from real headlines!
23 February 1999 | by Cardinal-3See all my reviews

As outlandish and hysterical as the war insanity of 1941 may seem, the plot tracks almost exactly a real incident reported the night of Feb. 24, 1942, in Los Angeles that began when Navy intelligence reported an attack by unidentified objects on their radar could be expected within the next 10 hours. Early the morning of the 25, radar tracked objects 120 miles west of Los Angeles and a blackout was ordered, triggering a flood of reports about enemy planes. Planes wre reported by the coast artillery near Long Beach (25 of them at 12,000 feet). Four batteries of anti aircraft guns at Santa Monica opened fire on a balloon with a flare and all hell broke loose, with so much ack-ack and searchlights scanning the sky that utter confusion reigned for at least three hours with reports of swarms of planes (hundreds in some cases) flying in at every altitude imaginable. Some 1,440 rounds of ammunition were fired at airplanes that never dropped a single bomb. There were reports four enemy planes had been shot down, including one that supposedly landed in flames at a Hollywood intersection. If this all sounds familiar, read on. At dawn, the only damage found was caused by stray ack-ack fire and traffic wrecks during the blackout. The Navy said the next day there were no enemy planes. The Army interviewed people and decided there were at least one to five planes over LA. The War Department then announced the planes must have come from secret air fields in California or Mexico or from Japanese submarines. The next day the Los Angeles Times criticized the "considerable public excitement and confusion" caused by the alert that scared 2 million people. One California politician wanted to know if it was a calculated prank to move California's defense industries inland to other states. The Washington Post followed on Feb. 27 with condemnation of the military's stubborn silence on the issue and the New York Times jumped in on Feb. 28 by calling the entire episode "incredible" and a display of "expensive incompetence." The movie is a wonderful glimpse of this real hysteria, a real incident and with quotes pulled right out of newspaper articles. When Robert Stack wants to know "where are the bombs?" that is the same question the Air Force and Navy asked when reports came in about the thousands of planes attacking LA. All this information is available from government files on Air Force history from the Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C. The Japanese, by the way never flew planes over LA, but did fly over Seattle, they said after the war. I LOVE 1941. It got everything absolutely right. Right down to Belushi's plane crashing into the street and crazies going off searching for hidden airfields near Bakersfield or Barstow or where ever. This was NOT a comedy. It was just about comical people. It should have won an Oscar for BEST DOCUMENTARY.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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English | Japanese | German | Spanish

Release Date:

14 December 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Night the Japs Attacked See more »


Box Office


$35,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,701,898, 16 December 1979

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (director's cut) | (TV)

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (35 mm prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »

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