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The Sand Pebbles (1966)


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Release Date: Jan 1, 1966 Wide



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Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 5,456

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Movie Info

Steve McQueen received his only Academy Award nomination for his performance in this epic-scale war drama, based on the novel by Richard McKenna. In 1926, as China teeters on the edge of political revolution in the midst of a civil war, the USS San Pablo, is ordered to patrol the Yangtze River to represent and protect American interests. While the San Pablo may be an American ship, much of the labor is actually performed by Chinese locals willing to work for American money, while stern but

May 15, 2001

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

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Latest News on The Sand Pebbles

September 15, 2005:
Hollywood Giant Robert Wise Passes Away at 91
Master filmmaker and 4-time Oscar winner Robert Wise has died at the age of 91. Probably best known...


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All Critics (19) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (14) | Rotten (2) | DVD (10)

Steve McQueen gives a dominant performance in Robert Wise's ambitious but flawed period drama, which offers interesting parallels to the US involvment in Vietnam.

March 15, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

The drama wavers between being compelling and reaching too far for greater historical significance, that it loses its bearings.

December 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Underrated Robert Wise classic starring McQueen in his finest acting role.

November 3, 2008

A fine old-school picture...elevated further by its progressive themes. [Blu-Ray]

June 2, 2008 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

Steve McQueen is great, and Candace Bergen is breathtakingly beautiful.

January 17, 2008

There are hints and parallels in this period drama set in 1926 with what was still happening in Vietnam, but writer Richard Anderson and director Robert Wise weren't sure what kind of message they wanted to send; Steve McQueen is good, though.

December 20, 2006 Full Review Source: Screendaily | Comment (1)

Steve McQueen Rocks!!!!!!!!!

December 12, 2003
Greenwich Village Gazette

Overlong, moderately entertaining "epic"

August 14, 2002
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Classic war tale suffers from unwieldly running time.

September 11, 2001 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

Audience Reviews for The Sand Pebbles

This is further proof that Robert Wise was one of the most versatile and diverse directors out there.

Set in China in 1926, this is the story of a burnt out and apathetic sailor who gets transfered to a ragged American gunboat whose main mission is to protect U.S. interests in China without causing an international incident, something not all that easy given how China is in the midst of all kinds of turmoil and revolution.

The main things the movie deals with are imperialism, the impact of nationalism and protesting, race relations, and cultural traditions, etc. It's full of substance and thought, but also contains lots of human drama and action as well. Considering the long running time, the fact that this is all so jammed packed is good, because there's plenty of time for everything to get fleshed out and dealt with.

For the most part, this is all pretty successful too. The action seems really disjointed given how the bulk of it is saved for the third act, but the build up to it does have some suspense and tension, as you get the feeling throughout that eventually things will finally boil over. It's also nice to see the rather sensitive way racism and cultural issues are dealt with, especiually how in the mid 60s this sort of thing could have gone really bad. It is Robert Wise though, so I don't think you need to be too worried.

The sets, costumes, and locations are great, there's wonderful cinematography, the music is thrilling, and there's a little bit of everything here, so this can be appreciated by a wide audience.

Performance wise, it's all top notch. It's surprising that Steve McQueen only got one Oscar nomination during his career, but that it happened here is fine. He's great as always, and not once is he ever boring to watch. Rochard Attenborough is likewise great as rthe one sailor who is able to look past the flaws of McQueen's character and be his only real friend and ally. It's awesome seeing Richard Crenna in a pre-Rambo related role, even though he's still playing a military part. Mako is also great here, though I really wanted more of him. What presence he does have is splendid though, and his Oscar nod was also quite deserved.

All in all, this is a really good movie. It is quite long, and occasionally it is uneven and runs out of steam from time to time, but even then it always has something good going for it, and has a lot to offer.
November 9, 2012
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Wonderful film with a wonderful story.
October 27, 2012

Super Reviewer

An apathetic American sailor gets caught in the crossfire between ill-fated western colonialism and the Chinese revolution. A compelling drama full of passion and raw human decency, expertly directed by the legendary Robert Wise.
November 21, 2009
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

Really really okay. Some great parts, but overall it's another one of those melodramatic war films that were popular in the 50's & 60's
May 4, 2009

Super Reviewer

    1. Jake Holman: I was home. What happened? What the hell happened?
    – Submitted by G Thomas B (16 months ago)
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Foreign Titles

  • Kanonenboot am Yangtse-Kiang (DE)
  • The Sand Pebbles (1966) (UK)
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