The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara is the sole focus of documentarian Errol Morris' The Fog of War, a film that not only analyzes McNamara's controversial decisions during the first half of the Vietnam War, but also his childhood upbringing, his education at Berkeley and Harvard, his involvement in World War II, and his later years as president of the World Bank. Culling footage from almost 20 hours of interviews with the Secretary, Morris details key moments from McNamara's career, … More

Rating: PG-13 (for images and thematic issues of war and destruction)
Genre: Documentary, Special Interest
Directed By:
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 11, 2004
Box Office: $4.1M
Sony Pictures Classics - Official Site

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Critic Reviews for The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

All Critics (147) | Top Critics (40)

For those of my generation, the true resonance in the film may be in the constant juxtaposition between the then and the now of the McNamara life.

March 16, 2004
Washington Post
Top Critic

It's difficult to imagine anyone from George W. Bush's administration coming forth with such awe-inspiring, agenda-free candor, contrition, insight and misgivings about America's foreign policy. A documentary about morals, respect and blind luck.

Full Review… | September 24, 2010

A great and disturbing film.

Full Review… | July 7, 2009

This is the most culturally significant documentary imaginable and should be mandatory for repeated viewing by all public officials the world over.

Full Review… | May 10, 2009

Even handed, but never to a fault, this critical and at times even touching examination of Robert McNamara's life and role in the Cold War is as brilliant as I hoped it would be.

Full Review… | June 21, 2007
Film Scouts

[It] raise[s] complex questions about man's role in that most awful and inherent of human characteristics: our penchant for war.

Full Review… | September 29, 2006

Audience Reviews for The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara


A mesmerizing, slightly offbeat documentary from the great Errol Morris ("The Thin Blue Line") concerning former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and his experiences in both WWII and Vietnam, and looking back on his decisions and how to pertain to the days we live in now. McNamara appears to be a very likable, flawed individual (like we all are) who seems to be historically misunderstood given his reputation that he screwed up the Vietnam War quite badly. Instead we get an honest, genuine look at a man who gives a fair look at himself and his decisions, admits to his mistakes, but remains proud of his many accomplishments. Definitely a more humanizing look at a politician, in a day and age where people love to eat these people for lunch. One of the better documentaries I can recall, and anyone from the Kennedy-Johnson era should give this a look.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

Robert McNamara explains his life during the two World Wars and the Vietnam War.
For those of us who are students of history but didn't live during the times of the Vietnam War and WWII, this film doesn't have the resonance it might otherwise have. What I see is McNamara the apologist and McNamara the regretful soldier, personalities that he freely oscillates between almost at will. He wags his finger at the camera so many times that I felt like he was giving me, a small boy, a lecture on how to live. The film becomes a compilation of McNamara saying, "I did my best, but I fucked up, but damn it, I did my best!"
Overall, I think this film is a good introduction to people who know little about the wars, but it ultimately devolves into a talking head documentary.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Not a whole lot to say other than see it!

Ken Stachnik

Super Reviewer

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