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The Big Red One (1980)



Average Rating: 7.7/10
Reviews Counted: 44
Fresh: 40 | Rotten: 4

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.


Average Rating: 7.4/10
Critic Reviews: 15
Fresh: 13 | Rotten: 2

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.



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Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 8,622

My Rating

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


Drama, Action & Adventure

Apr 27, 1999

United Artists

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All Critics (51) | Top Critics (20) | Fresh (40) | Rotten (4) | DVD (17)

A big, impressive slab of drama -- maybe not a masterpiece or an epic, but a colorful story that sweeps you up and covers a lot of ground at a fast clip.

January 20, 2005 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

'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 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

To see this seamless 'reconstruction' -- consisting of some 15 entirely new sequences as well as augmentations to 23 others -- is to behold a masterpiece revealed.

January 20, 2005 Full Review Source: L.A. Weekly
L.A. Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

December 3, 2004 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If you don't elect to watch The Big Red One through the lens of Sam Fuller's mystique ... you'll realize that it has been celebrated in ways that essentially make virtues of its flaws.

December 2, 2004 Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

... if you want a World War II story from a real vet's perspective, Sam Fuller is still the man and The Big Red One, drawn from his own war experiences, is the film

April 12, 2009 Full Review Source:

Personal observation bleeds out of every scene, and somehow it feels like a true story in a way that most war movies can't achieve.

September 12, 2007 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

... displays both raw power and the hint of war's brutality.

October 2, 2006 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

meant to be the culmination of a life's work... It didn't come to pass.

May 10, 2005 Full Review Source:

The cast smartly underplays things, with Marvin being as charismatic as usual playing a man of few words. And Hamill, an actor given to over-the-top outbursts, reins it in here; this may be his best big-screen performance.

February 18, 2005 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

These places were where Fuller himself served during the war, and he imbues these stories with the same gritty detail he probably delivered telling them over a beer.

February 18, 2005 Full Review Source: Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune

Schickel's painstaking work elevates The Big Red One into the pantheon of the all-time great war films and gives it a fullness that the original only suggested.

January 21, 2005 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Daily News
Los Angeles Daily News

Fuller went a step further, baring not only his soul but the wartime scars inflicted upon it. For all its merits, the 1980 version of the film denied audiences that connection. The new version both restores and reaffirms it.

January 21, 2005
Boxoffice Magazine

Fuller wrote and directed The Big Red One with a reporter's respect for detail and a humanist's respect for the moments that shape lives.

January 20, 2005 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

It's sometimes so explicit, corny and odd that you can understand why a studio had second thoughts about it. But it also now has the feel of a true epic.

December 17, 2004 Full Review Source: Oregonian

The reconstruction is a bigger, longer and better movie than the one released in 1980, but is less than the revelation for which one might have hoped.

December 9, 2004 Full Review Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

It's a feast for World War II movie buffs and Fuller fans alike, as well as a fascinating companion piece to Steven Spielberg's more recent contribution to the genre.

December 3, 2004 Full Review Source: Boston Herald
Boston Herald

[Marvin's] understated authority and sincerity give the entire film a dignity it would otherwise lack.

December 2, 2004 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

Fuller's only A-budget movie is still among the lesser works of this frequently brilliant filmmaker.

November 18, 2004 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor

Audience Reviews for The Big Red One

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.
January 8, 2011

Super Reviewer

A rather clumsy and over-long war movie that contains all the usual "madness of war" messages, but they're delivered in a rather ham-fisted way, and it's directed like a TV show. The emotional drama is clumsy at best, and whenever the grittiness you'd expect in the depiction of violence in an anti-war movie should appear, the director shies away. Half-hearted.
August 3, 2007
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

[font=Century Gothic][color=darkslategray]"Fixed Bayonets"(1951) is a Korean War movie directed by Sam Fuller. In the midst of war, the main force of troops has to retreat. In order to convince the enemy that they have not moved, a small platoon of 48 men has to stay behind and convince them that they are a larger force. There are the usual amount of stock characters and it is predictable but Fuller has more things on his mind this time around. Notably, it is the psychological take on what makes for a good leader. Plus, there are several bravura sequences and an excellent performance from Richard Basehart.(Fixed Bayonets is not in the Rotten Tomatoes database. I'll give it an unofficial 7 out of 10.)[/color][/font]
[font=Century Gothic][color=#2f4f4f][/color][/font]
[font=Century Gothic][color=red]"The Big Red One"(1980) is a movie about a veteran sergeant(Lee Marvin) leading his troops in World War II from North Africa to the battlefields of Europe. This was Sam Fuller's dream project for many years based partially on his experiences in World War II. It was originally released in a truncated version. Last year, Richard Schickel led a team that restored most of the lost footage. I remember seeing the original version sometime in the 1980's, but I don't remember that much about it(somehow Lee Marvin chucking some poor guy's testicle over his shoulder has managed to stay with me) and couldn't really comment on what was added. It's episodic by its very nature and it does start awkwardly but it does get better as it goes along, ending on an emotionally powerful note. And this is the role that Lee Marvin was born to play. And before you deride Mark Hamill, check out Harrison Ford in Force Ten from Navarone(1979).[/color][/font]
[font=Century Gothic][color=#ff0000][/color][/font]
[font=Century Gothic][color=black]Throughout both movies, there is a consistency. Neither movie glorifies war.[/color][/font]
[font=Century Gothic][color=#2f4f4f][/color][/font]
[font=Century Gothic][color=#2f4f4f][/color][/font]
March 27, 2005
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

If Samuel Fuller had a bigger budget and bigger stars when he originally made the movie and if the newly Reconstructed version had been the one released in theaters I believe the film would have more of a classic status ascribed to it. The only big issue I had with the film is the small side plot of a German officer, who appears to fill some kind of a "villain" role, that seems to go nowhere. I did like the performances of Lee Marvin and mark Hamil and its really great to see a WWII movie made by someone who actually fought in that war. Fuller based much of what happened on his own experience and it gives The Big Red One a sense of authenticity that many war films do not have. Band of Brothers actually owes a lot to this movie.
July 4, 2010
Alec Barniskis

Super Reviewer

Movies Like The Big Red One

    1. Griff: I can't murder anybody.
    2. Sergeant Possum: We don't murder; we kill.
    3. Griff: It's the same thing.
    4. Sergeant Possum: The hell it is, Griff. You don't murder animals; you kill 'em.
    – Submitted by Nick S (2 years ago)
    1. Johnson: Would you look at how fast they put the names of all our guys who got killed?
    2. Sergeant Possum: That's a World War One memorial.
    3. Johnson: But the name's are the same.
    4. Sergeant Possum: They always are.
    – Submitted by George B (2 years ago)
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