Battle of the Bulge (1998) - Rotten Tomatoes

Battle of the Bulge (1998)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

In December of 1944, the Allied high command is convinced that German forces in Belgium are in a low state of readiness, and perhaps even about to withdraw. Only one officer on the front lines, intelligence specialist Lt. Col. Kiley (Henry Fonda), believes otherwise -- that the Germans are actually planning an attack. His opinion is rejected by his immediate superior (Dana Andrews) and his commanding general (Robert Ryan). Kiley spots several suspicious signs of German activity behind enemy lines on a reconnaissance flight, and he is at the front looking for evidence when the German counter-offensive starts. Taking advantage of Allied unpreparedness and a weather front that grounds all aircraft, their heavy tank units, supported by infantry, roll over the American forces, assaulting the lines at five different points in an attempt to ultimately divide the Allied forces in the west. The German top tank officer, Colonel Hessler (Robert Shaw), has planned his operation perfectly, but he is in a race against time, to take as much territory as possible before the weather front moves out and American aircraft can fly again, and to capture the American fuel supplies so that the offensive can continue right to the port of Antwerp. He has the total dedication of his men, but engenders doubts from his aide, Conrad (Hans-Christian Blech), who is weary of the fighting and wonders what it is all for. Meanwhile, Kiley is trying to uncover the weak spot in the German offensive, and he crosses paths with several other key players in this drama: Charles Bronson as a combat officer charged with the defense of the collapsing American position, James MacArthur as a neophyte lieutenant who becomes a leader, and Telly Savalas as a conniving sergeant in command of a tank who unexpectedly finds a nobler, less mercenary side of himself.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Milton Sperling, Philip Yordan, John Melson, Bernard Gordon
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 3, 2005


Henry Fonda
as Lt. Col. Kiley
Robert Shaw
as Col. Hessler
Robert Ryan
as Gen. Grey
Dana Andrews
as Col. Pritchard
George Montgomery
as Sgt. Duquesne
Ty Hardin
as Schumacher
Werner Peters
as Gen. Kohler
James MacArthur
as Lt. Weaver
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Battle of the Bulge

Critic Reviews for Battle of the Bulge

All Critics (8) | Top Critics (1)

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

The most harrowing sequences in the show occur at the beginning and the end... It's the two-and-a-half hours in between that are the problem.

Full Review… | May 16, 2007
Movie Metropolis

when all the dust settles, Battle of the Bulge is a really long, really talky movie

Full Review… | May 16, 2005

Precise, compelling tale of one of WWII's biggest battles.

October 26, 2004
Kansas City Kansan

July 3, 2005

December 15, 2004
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Audience Reviews for Battle of the Bulge

A WWII story that is interesting more for it's characters rather than the visual spectacle of the battle itself. Several sub-plots are interlinked involving Nazi spies posing as allied soldiers, a race against time to prevent the germans reaching a fuel depot, a self centred operator's redemption and philosophical musings about the nature of war and the individuals who fight it. The many stories don't quite hang together as a whole, but Robert Shaw steals the movie as the cold-hearted professional soldier who commands the german tank column.

xGary Xx

Super Reviewer


"We took a little bacon and we took a little beans, and we caught the blood Germans in the town... or the bulge of"! Ah, yes, the battle of the bulge, one which all young men must face in public at some point in their life. ...Yeah, I wouldn't dignify that with a comment, either, although there were certainly some comments being placed against this Battle of the Bulge, according to Hollyweird. I love how Eisenhower came out of retirement, "just" to complain about historically inaccurate this film, although he might just be ticked off because the inaccuracies included not even featuring him in the film. I don't know about you, but I would just be mad when I saw that this film was directed by Ken Annakin, because as if "The Longest Day" wasn't exhaustingly overlong enough, here's an extra almost 170 minutes for you to stick in your corncob pipe and smoke, Douglas MacArther. One might find it weird that I'm randomly blurting out MacArthur's name like that, but as inaccurate as this film is, it may as well make its token historical figure character MacArthur... who was by no means involved in the Battle of the Bulge, by the ways. Yeah, who was involved in which WWII battle doesn't seem to be all that interesting to a lot of people, including Ken Annakin, apparently, which is fine, I suppose, seeing as how Annakin still ultimately crafted a reasonably interesting film, at least up to a point.

Even in concept, this film's intrigue is limited, because, even more so than such films of its type as, say, the particularly weighty "A Bridge Too Far", the dramatic value of this warfare is underplayed for the sake of, of all things, extensive military talk and strategizing, thus, when the action comes into play, its sense of momentum and consequence is shaken from the get-go, let alone after a while. Natural shortcomings are certainly there in war "epics" of this type, but there's always been that common misstep of dragging plotting's feet, and sure enough, running but a hair over two hours and three quarters, this film runs into that exact same issue, dragging repetitious ramblings and action in order to achieve a sprawling runtime with an aimlessness that is exacerbated by some somber dull spells in atmospheric storytelling. If the bloating doesn't merely bore, then it at least convolutes storytelling something fierce, as this narrative, despite being so draggy, still features branch, upon branch, upon branch as an ensemble piece which fails to keep consistent with its layered focus, partly because it barely puts all that much effort in fleshing out the characters and their side of the story as distinguished. Yes, as if the underplaying of dramatic resonance isn't distancing enough in concept, this film's storytelling doesn't have much in the way of heart, and although it compensates about as much as it can with charismatic performances and often pretty solid entertainment value, if not the occasional dramatic highlight, the retardation of dramatic momentum secures the final product's blandness. Considering that the strengths are all but substantial, I'd be a little more willing to look through the natural shortcomings, dragging, unevenness and dramatic underdevelopment if the film didn't commit the great lazy sin of falling into conventions, doing little to change up its formula, and making matter all the worse with clichés to dialogue, if not what characterization there is. I find that there is plenty to praise here, and it's almost as though the film gets a little better the more you get used to it, but you have a lot to get used to here, perhaps too much, to where the final product unfortunately falls as yet another extensive realist war drama that could have gone far, but doesn't even reward. With that said, the film comes close enough to endear plenty and often genuinely compel, just not as much as it perhaps could have.

Aiming to take a great deal of historical liberties, this film's story concept has the potential to manufacture a meaty dramatic narrative that is ultimately toned down for the sake of military mumbo-jumbo and action of limited resonance, but as an extensive study on the plotting and execution of a major battle, from many various angles, this idea is still thoroughly intriguing and promising, with an interpretation that is itself both sloppy and intriguing. To be so immense, a scripting team consisting of Bernard Gordon, John Melson, Milton Sperling and Philip Yordan doesn't do much to flesh out its narrative, - despite much fat around the edges - or avoid conventions, but it has its colorful highlights, whether it be in snappy, if cliched dialogue, or in some subtly memorable set pieces, neither of which quite as consistently colorful as certain other aspects, aesthetic ones. Benjamin Frankel's score is also conventional, and it's not even played with all that frequently in this often subdued pseudo-epic, but when it is utilized, its grand sweep compliments a sense of scope that is truly captured by art direction by Eugene Lourie that designs military property and scorching warzones surprisingly convincingly, and unsurprisingly grandly. Artistic and technical value stand pretty firm as important factors in the final product's entertainment value, which is truly defined by how director Ken Annakin orchestrates this style in the context of substance, so, despite being either too stylized or too dry, Annakin hits more than a few realized moments in immersive storytelling which entertain adequately, sometimes even grip thoroughly, especially during the heat of battle. With technical proficiency, a biting atmosphere and often remarkably immersive cinematography by Jack Hildyard, all behind staging that is both tensely tight and near-awe-inspiringly sweeping, the film's action is nothing short of outstanding, and while it's lacking in a sense of dramatic consequences, its flash makes up for a lot of narrative limitations. Of course, when the smoke clears and we turn back to ramblings, it's not as though engagement value is entirely lost, because if nothing else anchors a sense of humanity to this film, it's the performances, which are charismatic across the board, with Robert Shaw standing out in my opinion with an effortlessly impeccable presence of authority and corruption as a brutal German colonel. Of course, everyone plays a part in carrying the film until it hits its highlights, which are kind of frustrating, because so many of them are so good in a film that, on the whole, can't even keep a firm grip on a rewarding status, yet still cannot be taken away from the final product as heights in a consistent degree of entertainment value, challenged though it may too often be.

When the battle is done, the final product collapses just shy of rewarding under the overwhelming weight of an already dramatically thin narrative's being interpreted with exhausting dragging, a convoluted focus, and conventions, which is still well-challenged enough by colorful scripting highlights, solid technical value, flashy direction, outstanding action and charismatic performances - particularly by Robert Shaw - for Ken Annakin's "Battle of the Bulge" to stand, maybe not as particularly gripping, but as reasonably entertaining and sometimes effective as a dramatization of a major WWII clash between the Allies and Germans.

2.75/5 - Decent

Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron Johnson

Super Reviewer

While not quite in the same league as the greatest war epics (such as the brilliant Patton), Battle of the Bulge is still a solid all around showing. Historical inaccuracies aside, the cast is strong, and the characterizations are especially well done, particularly with Robert Shaw's character, showing a willingness of the film to try and show some complexity of the conflict. This, combined with clever humor and good action make it a strong classic war film.

Jeffrey Meyers
Jeffrey Meyers

Super Reviewer

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