In 1943, the crew of a B-17 based in UK prepares for its 25th and last bombing mission over Germany before returning home to the USA.


Monte Merrick
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Matthew Modine ... Capt. Dennis Dearborn
Eric Stoltz ... Sgt. Danny "Danny Boy" Daly
Tate Donovan ... 1st Lt. Luke Sinclair
D.B. Sweeney ... Lt. Phil Lowenthal
Billy Zane ... Lt. Val "Valentine" Kozlowski
Sean Astin ... Sgt. Richard "Rascal" Moore
Harry Connick Jr. ... Sgt. Clay Busby
Reed Diamond ... Sgt. Virgil Hoogesteger (as Reed Edward Diamond)
Courtney Gains ... Sgt. Eugene McVey
Neil Giuntoli ... Sgt. Jack Bocci
David Strathairn ... Col. Craig Harriman
John Lithgow ... Lt.Col. Bruce Derringer
Jane Horrocks ... Faith
Mac McDonald ... Les (as Mac Macdonald)
Jodie Brooke Wilson Jodie Brooke Wilson ... Singer (as Jodie Wilson)


It's May 1943 at a US Army Air Corps base in England. The four officers and six enlisted men of the Memphis Belle - a B-17 bomber so nicknamed for the girlfriend of its stern and stoic captain, Dennis Dearborn - will soon start their twenty-fifth mission, having completed their previous twenty-four successfully with nary an incident, while fewer and fewer other planes are coming back from their missions at all. If they complete their next mission successfully, they will be the first Army Air Corps B-17 Crew to complete their tour of duty. Visiting communications officer Lt. Col. Bruce Derringer wants to publicize and highly tout their accomplishment, even before it happens, as a long term good news campaign at a time when there is little good news to report. Derringer's plan is against the wishes of the base commander, Col. Craig Harriman, who would prefer to treat the ten as any of his other hard working men. The previous success of the Memphis Belle is despite the disparate natures ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Brave young men who rode on the wings of victory.


Action | Drama | War


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The top turret gunners of the real Memphis Belle were Leviticus "Levy" Dillon, Eugene Adkins, and Harold Loch. See more »


In Memphis Belle the bomber force is ordered to circle back to the Initial Point when the Primary Target is obscured by smoke or cloud cover. In reality, this would not have happened. First, it is very hard to have a formation of 300-plus Forts make a 360 degree turn. Second, such a maneuver would alert all flak batteries as to the actual target. Third, such a maneuver would keep the force under fighter attack longer than need be. In actuality, bomber crews were briefed on a primary, a secondary, a tertiary and targets of opportunity. If the primary target was unable to be hit, the primary became the IP to set up on the secondary. If the secondary were unable to be hit, it became the IP for the tertiary, and if that were unable to be hit, the force commander (NOT the pilot of the lead aircraft) would issue an order to go after targets of opportunity. Failing that, the mission would be aborted and the crews would dump their ordnance in either the North Sea or the English Channel. The mission would count toward tour completion, as the crews would have been in combat, and were over enemy territory. See more »


Richard Rascal Moore: Hey is that your new plane out there?
Stan the Rookie: Yeah, Mother and Country.
Richard Rascal Moore: Mother and Country?
[everyone together]
Richard Rascal Moore: Awwww!
Stan the Rookie: We had our first practice today.
Richard Rascal Moore: Oh yeah? How'd it go?
Stan the Rookie: Well, we need a couple more. If you guys have any advice...?
Sgt. Jack Bocci: Yeah, get a gun, shoot yourself in the foot, and go home!
Eugene McVey: Now, that's good advice!
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Alternate Versions

The UK cinema version was rated 12, and was uncut. The video release was rated PG, and removed the use of "all fucked up". See more »


Featured in Motormouth: Episode #4.8 (1991) See more »


The Chestnut Tree
Written by Tommie Connor, Jimmy Kennedy and Hamilton Kennedy
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User Reviews

Curiously Old-Fashioned
9 April 2010 | by The_Other_SnowmanSee all my reviews

I first saw this movie on video round about 1991, when I was about seven years old or so. I enjoyed it then, because it had airplanes in it, and there was nothing particularly offensive or difficult for a seven year old boy to understand.

Watching it again some nineteen years later, I'm struck by the exact same things. It's a very family-friendly war movie, earnestly trying to show us the difficult lives of American bomber pilots in Europe in 1943. The cast of characters come out of a guidebook for writing war movies, complete with The Religious One ("There's always a religious one," says John Lithgow's character), The Scared One, The Good-Luck Charm, The Smartass, and The Captain. The screenplay hits all the familiar notes: the crew pulling together for one last mission, overcoming obstacles, bonding as a surrogate family.

The actors all do a good job. Reed Diamond, Sean Astin, Matthew Modine, and Eric Stoltz are the most noteworthy (and how young they all were in 1990!), plus Lithgow and David Strathairn on the ground. Modine is almost funny as the straight-laced pilot who seems uncomfortably aware of just how boring he really is. Stoltz stands out in the thankless role of the all-around nice guy who gets wounded.

The flying scenes are exceptional. Real B-17s were filmed at real wartime airfields, and there's a bare-bones authenticity about a lot of it. The scenes inside the Memphis Belle, where most of the movie takes place, do an excellent job of showing you how cramped, cold, and noisy a place like that could be. Not to mention dangerous: the action scenes when German fighters attack the bombers flick by at a very fast pace, which must be something like what the bomber crews experienced. All this, of course, has been cleaned up for movie audiences: real bomber crews would never have taken off their oxygen masks or engaged in the lengthy conversations and horseplay featured in the film.

So it's a sincere and generally harmless movie, saturated in nostalgia, motivated by a desire to pay tribute to its subjects. That leads it into clichéd territory, leaving me with the feeling that the producers dusted off a screenplay dating to the 1950s, only adding a few lines here and there for modern audiences. Not entirely a bad thing, mind you, but not all that it could have been. Notable, however, is the total absence of the sort of flag-waving patriotism we've come to expect from period war films: there's nary an American flag in sight, and the film is dedicated to all the pilots and aircrews who lost their lives in the war -- not just the Allies.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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UK | Japan | USA



Release Date:

12 October 1990 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Memphis Belle See more »

Filming Locations:

England, UK See more »


Box Office


$23,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,026,846, 14 October 1990

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| Dolby (35 mm prints)


Color | Black and White (archive footage)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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