Wings (1927) - Rotten Tomatoes

Wings (1927)



Critic Consensus: Subsequent war epics may have borrowed heavily from the original Best Picture winner, but they've all lacked Clara Bow's luminous screen presence and William Wellman's deft direction.

Wings Photos

Movie Info

Wings, the first feature film to win an Academy Award, tends to disappoint a little when seen today. Too much time is afforded the wheezy old plotline about two World War I aviators (Buddy Rogers, Richard Arlen) in love with the same woman (Jobyna Ralston), while the comedy relief of El Brendel is decidedly not to everyone's taste. But during the aerial "dogfight" sequences, the film is something else again: a grand-scale spectacular, the likes of which has never been duplicated, not even by more expensive efforts like Hell's Angels (1930) and The Blue Max (1965). Twenty-eight-year-old director William Wellman, himself a wartime aviator, was fortunate enough to have the full cooperation of the US War department at his disposal (even though his legendary temper nearly lost him that cooperation on more than one occasion!) Brilliantly handled though the aerial scenes may be, they are matched by the Earthbound combat sequences, including the now-famous shot of a long trench caving in on hundreds of unfortunate doughboys. The storyline is as follows: Jack Powell (Rogers) and David Armstrong (${Powell}) hate each other during basic training, grow to like each other, and fall out again while competing for the affections of Sylvia Lewis (Ralston). Mary Preston (Clara Bow) sacrifices her own nursing career to save a drunken Powell from disgrace, Powell goes on a rampage when he believes his pal Armstrong has been killed, inadvertently shoots down Armstrong while decimating the German air corps, and is finally reunited with the nurse. Wrapped up in nurse's garb throughout most of the film, the ebullient Clara Bow is permitted a sequence in which, disguised as a Parisian floozie while trying to rescue a revelling Rogers, she displays a great deal of epidermis. One of the film's chief claims to fame is its "introduction" of Gary Cooper (who'd actually been in films since the early 1920s), in a brief but crucial role as veteran flyer with a cheerily fatalistic attitude. When originally released, Wings included a sequence lensed in the wide-screen "Magnascope" process; even when seen "flat", however, the film contains some of the best flying sequences ever captured on celluloid. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Clara Bow
as Mary Preston
Charles 'Buddy' Rogers
as John "Jack" Powell
Richard Arlen
as David Armstrong
Gary Cooper
as Cadet White
Jobyna Ralston
as Sylvia Lewis
El Brendel
as Herman Schwimpf
Richard Tucker
as Air Commander
Julia Swayne Gordon
as Mrs. Armstrong
Henry B. Walthall
as Mr. Armstrong
George Irving
as Mr. Powell
Hedda Hopper
as Mrs. Powell
Roscoe Karns
as Lt. Cameron
Charles Barton
as Doughboy Hit by Ambulance
Gloria Wellman
as Peasant Child
Carl von Hartmann
as German Officer
William Wellman
as A Doughboy
Dick Grace
as Aviator
Rod Rogers
as Aviator
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Critic Reviews for Wings

All Critics (59) | Top Critics (16)

A great deal of sentimental and weepy material is thrust into the tale here and there, along with long stretches of what may be termed for want of a better designation, "just war."

February 9, 2021 | Full Review…

Charles Rogers and Richard Arlen share honors as stars, with Clara Row as the feminine lead. While the picture is rather long, it holds the interest.

February 9, 2021 | Full Review…

Wings is unquestionably the dazzle and pyrotechnics of the screen fulfilled in a new sphere, and teems with twentieth century timeliness.

February 9, 2021 | Full Review…

The picture is almost too real. It brings war so terribly near and makes so fearsomely true the awfulness of combat in the air, even while it thrills and draws homage for those whose skill and courage accomplish such marvelous feats.

February 9, 2021 | Full Review…

It is brilliant, poignant, and honest work, close copy of the tragic, flaming tapestry woven in the skies "over there."

February 9, 2021 | Full Review…

Charles Rogers and Richard Arlen, who share joint honors for their remarkable acting and their more remarkable flying, ascend to the place of genuine heroes from the mere rank of the actor.

February 9, 2021 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Wings

Masterful and deeply moving.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

Part of what makes this film so important is that it was the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Since I haven't seen the other films it was up against, I can't really say if it deserved it or not, but it is still a decent film. Part of its impact is lost on modern audiences, namely because this is from 1927, it's silent, and in sepia tones, as opposed to being modern, cgi-heavy, in color, and loaded up with balls to the wall sound effects. It's got a nicely hauntng and appropriate pipe organ score, but that's it as far as sound goes. The story is really basic, and something of a Top Gun for the 20s. it follows two WWI aviators and the girl they're leaving behind as they go off to fight the war. The plot isn't what makes this film special. That honor belongs to the awesome (even now) aerial combat scenes. They are staged well, look cool, and really make you appreciate the ahrd work and effort that goes into practical effects, as well as the touch of movie magic that is all but absent in this day and age. This is sappy and overlong, but still very entertaining and overwhelmingly charming. Clara Bow, the "It" girl of that era gets top billing, but that's misleading sicne she's not really the focus. She does good with what she's given though. The film belongs to Richard Arlen and Charles "Buddy" Rogers, and they're decent. THere's also a nice and important cameo from Gary Cooper, so that's cool. All in all, a good film, but maybe not the epic masterpiece some have hailed it as being. Well, maybe not a masterpiece in this day and age, but still pretty good.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


For my first silent film ever, Wings more than met my standards, it blew me away. Winner of the very first Best Picture Academy Award, this film is one that every movie buff should see. It really is one of the gems of the silent-film era. I went into this this having never experienced a silent movie before and I absolutely loved it. For a simple story, this film still packs a powerful punch of emotion. The fact that the film has no dialogue makes the viewer have to try to connect to the story and characters. This makes the audience not only experience the emotion of the characters, but it also allows them to experience it in a way that modern film can't that often. The performances also added to this....Clara Bow, Charles Rogers, Richard Allen....they deliver good performances. The small appearance by Gary Cooper was also very nice. A thing that surprised me were the special effects. There was never a time in the film where I felt the battle scenes looked fake. They were in no way as real as in today's films, but for 1927, they were very nice. The music is very nice, too. Wings is a gem that everyone should see! See this film because it's the very first Oscar winner, but also because it represents one of the most influencial eras in film history. Do not let the 1927 release date keep you away, it's fantastic! I recommend this film to everyone.

Jameson Worley
Jameson Worley

Super Reviewer

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