4 user 1 critic

Women of Valor (1986)

Story of a group of U.S. Army nurses in the Philippines during World War II who are captured and imprisoned by Japanese troops during the invasion of the Philippines.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Col. Margaret Ann Jessup
T.J. Nolan
Lt. Helen Prescott
Lt. Katherine R. Grace
Suzanne Lederer ...
Lt. Gail Polson
Patrick Bishop ...
Capt. Matome Nakayama
Maj. Tom Patterson
Lady Judith Eason
Capt. Rader
Paraplegic soldier
Capt. Chris Wyatt
Marilyn Redfield ...
Mrs. Carstairs
Gô Awazu ...
Sgt. Takijiro Kodama (as Go Awazu)
Rey Malonzo ...
Sgt. Ramos
Ken Metcalfe ...
Col. Sidell


Col. Jessup (Susan Sarandon), an American military nurse, presents a case for a bronze medal with Valor to a military hearing. She tells her story of being taken prisoner in the Phillipines by the Japanese during WWII. Having survived a death march from Bataan Col. Jessup is put into a POW camp run by the enemy. She and her fellow prisoners struggle for survival, working 14 hour days with limited food and no medical supplies. After almost three years the prisoners are liberated by American forces. Written by kwedgwood@hotmail.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In the Phillipines, 1942, a group of American Army nurses survived the horrors of war. The real battle was the terror and abuse of enemy captivity. This is a story of their courage and triumph.


Drama | War


PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

23 November 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Women of Valour  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


| (archive footage)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This tele-movie's opening dedication stated: "This film is dedicated to the one hundred and four Army and Navy nurses who served in the Philippines during World War II, and especially to those who were incarcerated by the Japanese." See more »


I'm Waiting for Ships That Never Come In
Written by Jack Yellen and Abe Olman
Performed by Eddy Arnold
Courtesy of RCA Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Nothing Fresh to Say
1 November 2013 | by (Tunbridge Wells, England) – See all my reviews

Traditional World War II movies were not common in the eighties, but "Women of Valor" is one of the few exceptions. ("The Big Red One" and "Memphis Belle" are others). Films about life in wartime prisoner-of-war camps ("The Colditz Story", "Bridge on the River Kwai", "The Wooden Horse", "The Great Escape", "King Rat", etc.) had been popular in the fifties and sixties, but the genre declined in popularity after that, with the semi-comic "Escape to Athena" being a rare example from the late seventies. What makes "Women of Valor" different, of course, is that the prisoners are female rather than male, although the film-makers may have been influenced by the British TV series "Tenko" which ran between 1981 and 1984 and also dealt with the experiences of women captured by the Japanese during the war.

The story of "Women of Valor" is told using a "framework technique". The opening and closing scenes show Lt Margaret Jessup, a senior army nurse, giving evidence to a United States Congressional subcommittee about her experiences as a POW in the Philippines between 1942 and 1945. The remaining part of the film shows what Lt Jessup and her fellow nurses went through during their internment in the camp.

One thing which surprised me about the film was how anti-Japanese it was. "Bridge on the River Kwai", made thirty years earlier, little more than a decade after the end of the war itself, takes a much more balanced view, with a certain respect growing up between the British Colonel Nicholson and his captor Colonel Saito. Here, however, the Japanese soldiers are simply shown as ugly, brutal little men who delight in tormenting their captives. (There was a lot of anti-Japanese feeling in America during the eighties, mostly rooted in trade rivalry, and I wondered if this might have had something to do with the way the Japanese are portrayed here). Only their commandant, Captain Nakayama, seems capable of showing any humanity, something the film attributes to his having grown up in San Francisco, and as despite his American upbringing he still believes implicitly in the code of Bushido and the divinity of the Emperor there is a limit even to Nakayama's liberalism. (It is, in fact, doubtful whether the idea of the Japanese worshipping their Emperor as a living god was ever more than a Western misunderstanding- or fabrication- but the film does not delve too deeply into Shinto theology).

The film is generally a fairly dull one, repeating all the standard prisoner-of-war situations familiar from the movies listed above and others without adding very much that is new. Merely changing the sex of the prisoners does not really amount to originality. There is no real attempt to develop the personalities of the various nurses and none of them emerge as memorable individuals. The one character who is given more individuality is, oddly enough, Nakayama, whose American background and greater sense of decency set him apart from the other Japanese. The film does much to show just why the war film went into a decline in the years after 1970. A loss of American patriotism and self-confidence after the traumas of Vietnam and Watergate was only part of the reason; by the Reagan years of the mid-eighties America had largely recovered those qualities. A more important reason was that so many war films had been made that it was becoming increasingly difficult to say anything fresh about the conflict. "Women of Valor" certainly does not do so. 4/10

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