The Big Red One (1980) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Big Red One1980

The Big Red One (1980)



Critic Consensus: The reconstruction of Samuel Fuller's epic account of his days in North Africa in World War II elevates the film into the pantheon of great war movies.

The Big Red One Photos

Movie Info

Samuel Fuller's valedictory war picture, The Big Red One follows the First Infantry Division from Africa to Europe during the years 1942 through 1945. Lee Marvin portrays the division sergeant; he's tough and experienced, to be sure, but he takes on his job with cool professionalism rather than Hollywood bravado. Based on Fuller's own experiences, the film is a loosely constructed series of anecdotes. Among them are an insane asylum under bombardment while the inmates applaud and a climactic vignette in which a very young concentration camp internee dies while a friendly soldier plays piggy-back with the boy.

Watch it now


Lee Marvin
as The Sergeant
Mark Hamill
as Pvt. Griff
Bobby Di Cicco
as Pvt. Vinci
Kelly Ward
as Johnson
Siegfried Rauch
as Schroeder
Serge Marquand
as Ransonnet
Charles Macaulay
as General/Captain
Maurice Marsac
as Vichy Colonel
Colin Gilbert
as Dog Face POW
Doug Werner
as Switolski
Perry Lang
as Kaiser
Marthe Villalonga
as Madame Marbaise
Giovanna Galetti
as Woman in Sicilian Village
Shimon Barr
as German Male Nurse
Matteo Zoffoli
as Sicilian Boy
Avraham Ronai
as German Field Marshal
Galit Rotman
as Pregnant Frenchwoman
View All

News & Interviews for The Big Red One

Critic Reviews for The Big Red One

All Critics (49) | Top Critics (18)

It's a terrific war yarn, a picture of palpable raw power which manages both Intense intimacy and great scope at the same time.

March 26, 2009 | Full Review…

Visually and philosophically, it's Fuller's equivalent of Kurosawa's Kagemusha, although Fuller's film is more complex, more absurd and more haunted.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Although these are the stock characters of war drama - the sage, grizzled Sarge, the farm boy, the street kid, the nice guy who doesn't want to kill anyone and the witness - Fuller's are particularly credible ordinary people.

May 11, 2005 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

'The Reconstruction,' which clocks in at 2 hours, 43 minutes, with not a single extraneous frame, elevates the work from a robust genre film to a full-blown epic.

January 20, 2005 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Even though it has gained more than 45 minutes, it doesn't feel longer. Scenes that were choppy or half-baked are now allowed to play out as Fuller intended.

December 10, 2004 | Rating: 3/4

The director's gift for bare-knuckles lyricism rescues scene after scene.

December 3, 2004 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Big Red One

We follow a squad of five guys throughout the American drive of WWll. Beginning in North Africa and ending in (what used to be) Czechoslovakia, a wizened Lee Marvin leads his men in an episodic overview of the typical War Is Hell quilt patchwork, the undertone being the comraderie of unit holding them together. It's a big war though, the amount of time given to each portion feeling rushed, and therein are the strings of the puppeteer made readily apparent. Saving Private Ryan does it all better, but this one ain't a bad substitution.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Sam Fuller's The Big Red One is a fine war film with stunning direction, a great story and exceptional acting. This ranks as one of the genre's finest achievements, a film that shows the harrowing nature of war, which is based on the experience of the director during his years fighting the war. I thought that this was an exciting piece of cinema. The Big Red One may have outclassed by other war films, but its impact is unmatched. This is a highly engrossing picture that is definitely going to appeal to genre fans, and there are several standout performances here as well. I've seen two previous Lee Marvin films, and I very much enjoy his work, however here, he really shines and delivers a standout performance that ranks as one of the finest I have seen of him. He really brings his character to life. Another performance is that of Mark Hamill, aside from fresh of the success of Star Wars, he had some momentum going for him, and he delivers something terrific here, I found him to be that type of character in a war film that steadily become alienated from war, and he really brought a vulnerability that was necessary to the film. With effective storytelling, Fuller crafts a picture that connects with the audience on so many levels, and in turn, it's one of the few genre classics to really thrill, and engage the viewer. Some war films tend to never get the story right, but here, considering the director was a WWII veteran; we get a different picture, a side of war that we've never seen. The Big Red One may seem a little dated by today's standards, but it's a classic war film that every film freak should view. I've watched the longer reconstruction because that was meant as the complete vision of Samuel Fuller's original work, since 50 minutes of footage were cut from the film, and it's a broad, ambitious version that really stands out among the older war pictures. The film may look dated, but it's definitely one of the finest war films ever made, and the fact that the director based it on his wartime experience makes this a definite must watch.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

I saw this movie because Mark Hamill is in it, and he gives a good performance, but other than that, I didn't like this movie. It's just another WWII movie, and it's slow and boring too. I didn't care for it.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

The Big Red One Quotes

News & Features