The Great Santini (1979) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Great Santini1979

The Great Santini (1979)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Great Santini Photos

Movie Info

Bull Meechum (Robert Duvall) loves fighting almost as much as he loves the Marine Corps. Profane, cocky, and arrogant, he's a great fighter pilot -- and he knows it. His boss hates his guts, but knows that if he's going to straighten out his lagging squadron, Meechum is the man to do it. The story and irony of The Great Santini is in Meechum's total intolerance of family life and fatherhood. Meechum has a lovely, supportive wife, Lillian (Blythe Danner), an earnest, likeable son, Ben (Michael O'Keefe), three smaller children, and a good home, but Meechum finds the pastoral nature of peacetime totally incompatible with his gung-ho nature. So he begins to drink. He drills his family unmercifully, like recruits. He hammers his son relentlessly until, in a basketball game, his son fights back, and the family cheers Ben's efforts. Tension builds in the household until, during one drunken night, Meechum breaks down. Based on a best-selling novel by Pat Conroy, The Great Santini earned critical raves but fared poorly at the box office. Duvall's performance as Meechum is generally regarded as one of his greatest.

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Robert Duvall
as Lt. Col. Bull Meechum
Michael O'Keefe
as Ben Meechum
Blythe Danner
as Lillian Meechum
Lisa Jane Persky
as Mary Anne Meechum
Stan Shaw
as Toomer Smalls
Theresa Merritt
as Arrabelle
Paul Mantee
as Col. Hedgepath
Michael Strong
as Colonel Varney
Bennett Liss
as Corporal Atcherly
Joe Dorsey
as Coach Spinks
David Frankham
as Captain Weber
Jan Stratton
as Mrs. Weber
Paul Gleason
as Lieutenant Sammy
Lew Horn
as Captain Brookout
Michael Rougas
as Colonel Muillnax
Bill Nelson
as 1st Cousin
Ronnie Cross
as Honor Guard Sergeant
David Simmons
as Basketball Player
Nancy Black
as Cheerleader
Lisa Collins
as Cheerleader
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News & Interviews for The Great Santini

Critic Reviews for The Great Santini

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (1)

The Great Santini is a movie to seek out and to treasure.

October 23, 2004 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

The Great Santini is great. It's a raw, uncompromising film which leaves the audience emotionally drained but richer for the experience.

August 19, 2021 | Full Review…

By all means, see The Great Santini, one of the most rewarding film experiences this or any other year.

May 27, 2020 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

This is one of those special films that moves effortlessly between tension, tears and laughs ... Robert Duvall's performance runs neck-and-neck with his Lonesome Dove turn as his career best.

August 17, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Two-dimensional and minor.

April 9, 2007 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

An emotionally devastating drama with a first rate performance from Robert Duvall.

October 27, 2006 | Rating: 4/5

Audience Reviews for The Great Santini

Duvall embodies cockiness to the nth degree as he sets unrealistic expectations for his offspring in living up to the greatness of Santini. It borders on annoying by the end but it is nonetheless a great character created.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer


I thought the kid who played Benny was a bit much. It was a bit unbelievable. Otherwise, the movie was pretty good. Duvall's character was funny. Sad though!

Erin Collins
Erin Collins

Super Reviewer

Underrated classic. Robert Duvall at his best.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

The Great Santini Quotes

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