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The Big Red One (1980)

R | | Drama, War | 18 July 1980 (USA)
A hardened sergeant and the four core members of his infantry unit try to survive World War II as they move from battle to battle throughout Europe.


Samuel Fuller


Samuel Fuller

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2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lee Marvin ... The Sergeant
Mark Hamill ... Pvt. Griff - 1st Squad
Robert Carradine ... Pvt. Zab - 1st Squad
Bobby Di Cicco ... Pvt. Vinci - 1st Squad
Kelly Ward ... Pvt. Johnson - 1st Squad
Stéphane Audran ... Underground Walloon Fighter at Asylum (as Stephane Audran)
Siegfried Rauch ... Sgt. Schroeder
Serge Marquand Serge Marquand ... Rensonnet
Charles Macaulay Charles Macaulay ... General / World War I Captain
Alain Doutey ... Sgt. Broban - Vichy Soldier
Maurice Marsac ... Vichy Colonel
Colin Gilbert Colin Gilbert ... Dog Face POW - Tunis Hospital
Joseph Clark Joseph Clark ... Pvt. Shep - Soldier on Troop Transport
Ken Campbell Ken Campbell ... Pvt. Lemchek - #2 on Bangalore Torpedo
Doug Werner Doug Werner ... Switolski


The story of a hardened army sergeant and four of his men, from their first fight at the Kasserine Pass after the invasion of North Africa through to the invasion of Sicily, D-Day, the Ardennes forest and the liberation of a concentration camp at the end of the war. As the five of them fight - and survive to fight yet again in the next battle - new recruits joining the squad are swatted down by the enemy on a regular basis. The four privates are naturally reluctant to get to know any of the new recruits joining the squad, who become just a series of nameless faces. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Only chance could have thrown them together. Now, nothing can pull them apart. See more »


Drama | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »





English | French | Italian | German

Release Date:

18 July 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Big Red One: The Reconstruction See more »

Filming Locations:

Israel See more »


Box Office


$4,500,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$7,206,220, 31 December 1980
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (reconstructed)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital (reconstruction)| Dolby (original release)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Many critics felt that Lee Marvin was too old at 54 to play the sergeant. See more »


In the ambush scene, with the German hiding behind the cross, the sun is shining on the cross and the German's face. However, in the same sequence the cross casts a shadow across the field in the opposite direction to the first scene. See more »


Zab: [narrating] You know how you smoke out a sniper? You send a guy out in the open and you see if he gets shot. They thought that one up at West Point.
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Alternate Versions

In 2004, film critic Richard Schickel restored this film to a new director's cut length of approximately 160 minutes. Using Samuel Fuller's production notes and the full-length, unexpurgated script, Schickel restored the footage that was forced to be cut by the studio upon its original 1980 release (which runs 116 minutes). The restored version's DVD release date is 3 May 2005. This longer, epic-length version is closer to Fuller's original vision for the film. See more »


Referenced in Beauty (1981) See more »


Nocturne in E Flat Major No. 2
Written by Frédéric Chopin
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Disjointed And With Poor Production Values
22 June 2003 | by Theo RobertsonSee all my reviews

When I first saw THE BIG RED ONE in the early 80s I was fairly impressed especially with the twist at the end tying in with the start though I wouldn`t have gone so far to have called it a classic . However I was about 15 when I saw it and many teenagers of my generation still enjoyed feature films about the second world war . Alas a lot has happened in the film world not to mention my life so when I saw it again at the weekend I was very much underwhelmed by the movie

First of all I found it rather disjointed and episodic . In many ways THE BIG RED ONE laid the foundations for BAND OF BROTHERS but whereas that acclaimed mini series dedicates the first episode to jump school training followed by nine one hour episodes from June 1944 to the Summer of 1945 , this movie has a running time of less than two hours featuring a timeframe that lasts from Spring 1942 to May 1945 which seems a bad idea with hindsight: Cut to Algeria 1942 , cut to Sicily 1943 , cut to Normandy 1944 etc . Also THE BIG RED ONE lacks a budget big enough to make the film convincing ( Well it was made by Lorimar the company who brought us DALLAS ). No matter where the action takes place the landscape resembles sunny California especially the beaches of Western france which looks suspicously like the same place BAY WATCH is filmed , every expense has been saved where location filming is concerned . I`m also surprised I didn`t notice something from my first viewing and that`s the German tiger tank not being a tiger tank at all but it being an American Sherman , and strange that you never see two tanks side by side . No doubt the production team couldn`t afford to hire more than one tank . And looking back on this film 20 years later after seeing APOCALYPSE NOW , A BRIDGE TOO FAR , CROSS OF IRON , SAVING PRIVATE RYAN , THE THIN RED LINE and BLACK HAWK DOWN I can`t say the battle scenes in THE BIG RED ONE are all that impressive to me in 2003.

THE BIG RED ONE does have a few good points . First of all it does make mention of the British contribution to the war which is something you don`t see in American films in recent times . There`s an interesting subplot ( Though it`s painfully underwritten ) about Mark Hamill`s character being a coward . There`s also a great line about it " Being okay to kill sane people but not insanes ones ? " . But the best part of the movie is a moving segment featuring Lee Marvin`s tough Sarge befriending a child who`s just been liberated from a Nazi death camp , though once again this is skated over far too quickly in a film that`s got too many negatives and not enough positives . As I said I waited 20 years between seeing it for the first and second time and could happily wait for another 20 years before seeing it a third time

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