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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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The 'reconstruction' the title refers to is the re-working, re-editing, restructuring of Sam Fuller's The Big Red One brining it closer to the film Fuller had originally envisioned It ... See full summary »

Director: Samuel Fuller


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:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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?


The film is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list. See more »


When Pvt. Zab is talking to a fellow soldier who is reading the book "The Dark Deadline" they both drink from a triangular-shaped Grants whiskey bottle. Grants didn't sell triangular-shaped whiskey bottles until 1957. See more »


[the Sergeant affixes a cloth red '1' to his uniform. The Captain is drinking from a bottle of booze]
The Sergeant: What do you think?
The Captain: What the hell is it?
The Sergeant: It's a "one". First Infantry Division. The Red One; think General Pershing will like it?
The Captain: Oh, sure.
The Sergeant: I got the idea from the cap of a Hun I killed.
The Captain: When?
The Sergeant: About an hour ago
The Captain: Did he yell out anything?
The Sergeant: Oh, the same old Kaiser stuff, you know, "the war's over," all that junk.
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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 L.A. Without a Map (1998) See more »


Written by Horst Wessel
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

8 September 2001 | by ehreSee all my reviews

Pure cheese. Not bad cheese, mind you -- though no international prize-winning selection either -- just that it's cheese. I know there are worse war movies out there (or so-called war movies; these types are so bad they should be reclassified as comedies), even of the serious variety (i.e., those with such pretensions anyway)...but this movie's just cheesey.

It's not as shamefully and blatantly super-patriotic and simple-minded like "Saving Private Ryan," but the dumb war-as-personal-growth-experience ethos is still the defining theme of the movie. I could could just go on and on about how absurd "The Big Red One" is, but here are a few which I remember off the top of my head:

* This is supposed to be a "serious" war movie (not like "Rambo" or some Chuck Norris BS), and one based on the director Sam Fuller's real-life experiences, ostensibly, but how in hell do these boys go through combat behind enemy lines talking so much?? Real soldiers don't yap like that -- if they did, they wouldn't have lived to talk about it. I kept wishing for some Nazi to shoot these talking heads already. The dialogue is just so banal and corny and cheesey in any case.

* The German tanks used in the movie ARE NOT German tanks! They're American M4 Shermans, painted gray and given the German cross identification marker on their turrets. At least the almost equally laughable "Saving Private Ryan" got the tanks right! Talk about insulting the viewer's intelligence! And tank/infantry tactics are definitely not portrayed accurately at all!

* The Germans are just so stupid, aren't they, lining up to get shot by these good ol' boys, passing off a RECYCLED AMERICAN TANK as a German "88" AA/AT gun, and just not knowing how to return accurate fire at close ranges!

* War-ravaged Italian "paisans" have the wherewithal to do an al fresco luncheon for the good ol' boys? Hello!

* Really, everything is just so predictable about this film, nothing surprises you -- right down to the cheap one-liners and comebacks. This film is more like a comic book -- actually, I think the old '70s DC Comics "Sgt. Rock" is more realistic!

This film just feels so lame. For a much better serious war film (though none is perfect, admittedly), try Sam Peck's "Cross of Iron" -- but DO NOT get the Region 1 Hen's Tooth DVD version, which is terribly done; screen the Region 2 French (with English dub) version instead!

"The Big Red One" is "Saving Private Ryan" without any of the special effects or modern action and pacing which made the latter at least marginally redeemable. "The Big Red One" is in the bargain bin of K-Mart for a reason.

Put it this way -- I ain't no genius, but even as an eleven-year old I didn't like this movie. Now, as an adult, I'm reminded why all over again. Again, not total schlock like "Plan 9 from Outer Space" or something like that, but it falls quite short of its own apparent goal of being a gritty no-nonsense recollection of late WW II Western Front combat. Too many "best of times, worst of times" conventions employed here. The actors seem fine in their roles, and I was especially impressed with Mark Hamill, though Lee Marvin did a very good job as many others here have noted...but something's defintely missing overall even without all my whining. Sure I can cut a film some slack, but when it is supposed to be "serious," "for real," and not just some popcorn crowd shoot-em-up, then the bar's much higher -- and this movie falls rather too short of its own mark.

I'm actually so frustrated because I do sense that this movie could have been really great. As it is, it ain't even good....

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