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All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)



Average Rating: 8.8/10
Reviews Counted: 37
Fresh: 36 | Rotten: 1

Director Lewis Milestone's brilliant anti-war polemic, headlined by an unforgettable performance from Lew Ayres, lays bare the tragic foolishness at the heart of war.


Average Rating: 8.1/10
Critic Reviews: 7
Fresh: 7 | Rotten: 0

Director Lewis Milestone's brilliant anti-war polemic, headlined by an unforgettable performance from Lew Ayres, lays bare the tragic foolishness at the heart of war.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 17,107

My Rating

Movie Info

One of the most powerful anti-war statements ever put on film, this gut-wrenching story concerns a group of friends who join the Army during World War I and are assigned to the Western Front, where their fiery patriotism is quickly turned to horror and misery by the harsh realities of combat. Director Lewis Milestone pioneered the use of the sweeping crane shot to capture a ghastly battlefield panorama of death and mud, and the cast, led by Lew Ayres, is terrific. It's hard to pick a favorite


Drama, Classics

Jan 5, 1999

MCA Universal Home Video

Watch It Now



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All Critics (37) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (36) | Rotten (1) | DVD (8)

The despair-and the artistry-is breathtaking.

May 22, 2012 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
Top Critic IconTop Critic

From such grisly materials the popular cinema is rarely drawn. The film is monumental in the courage that risked its manufacture.

February 17, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A harrowing, gruesome, morbid tale of war.

October 16, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Deserves its reputation as a classic.

October 16, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film's strength now derives less from its admittedly powerful but highly simplistic utterances about war as waste, than from a generally excellent set of performances (Ayres especially) and an almost total reluctance to follow normal plot structure.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Messrs. Milestone, Abbott and Anderson in this film have contributed a memorable piece of work to the screen.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The performances are also exemplary, but it is primarily a film of great moments -- the climactic sequence of the young conscript reaching out for a butterfly in the sun -- that, once seen, are never forgotten.

January 13, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

The production values are incredibly high and not just for the time. And as the movie has aged and the film has gone grainier and the flickers increased, it almost adds to the effect.

February 11, 2013 Full Review Source: Three Movie Buffs
Three Movie Buffs

[A] fascinating, innovative early talkie.

February 11, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

The rawness of the audio eradicates any lingering notion that war is romantic or exciting, and at times suggests the very battered eardrums of those engaged in combat.

May 25, 2012 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Took an opportunity to question warfare and its civility long before the war protest film became popular in the 70s. It's dated, obviously, but still powerful.

February 27, 2012 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

A movie of timeless relevance and effects. Lew Ayres would never again equal his performance in this film version of the well-known anti-war novel.

August 1, 2010 Full Review Source: ReelTalk Movie Reviews
ReelTalk Movie Reviews

Despite a little dating around the edges this is a truly superb example of its genre and a cinema classic.

October 16, 2007 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

A film that remains one of the most powerful screen comments on the horrors of war.

October 16, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4

The film made Ayres a star.

March 22, 2007 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

...a bitter indictment of the insulated powers that induce naive young men to kill one another.

February 9, 2007 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

An ambitious epic of tremendous sweep and scope.

February 4, 2007 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

This uncompromising drama makes a bleak statement of war fighting in trenches, stressing the inanity of WWI (or any war) for both sides; perhaps the most memorable moment is the one in which Lew Ayres reaches out for a butterfly to disastrous effect.

December 25, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

There are few war films that can match the brilliance of Lewis Milestone's anti-war classic. It's a feast for the ears with a passionate soul.

October 5, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

Heavy stuff, especially for 1930.

August 25, 2005 Full Review Source:

Classic early talkie is still anti-war effective.

June 2, 2005

Audience Reviews for All Quiet on the Western Front

A group of German schoolboys enlists to serve in the Great War.
As vital, disturbing, and powerful now as it was when it was written and filmed, All Quiet on the Western Front is an excellent film about war and both its inhumanity -- the moments when people are turned into monsters and pawns -- and its humanity -- the moments when despite the contexts people attempt to regain their decency. Very few war films are able to conflate so much of war's aspects. The film also serves as a visual representation of much of the poetry that came out of WWI. "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon's poems are reminiscent of this film, or vice versa. I particularly liked the scene in which soldiers, one of them pretending to be the kaiser, debate the necessities of war in a conversation that is wise in its simplicity.
The final scene get a little maudlin; there's a line where a film deserves its sentimentality, I think this film dances around it.
Overall, this is a profoundly effective war film that rivals anything current.
October 21, 2013
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Based on a novel and probably one of the most realistic war films I have ever see. WW1 is the setting for this unusual look at life for German troops at the front line. Unusual because its a 30's American film focusing on German soldiers and not the more obvious Allies of Britain, France and Russia.

Starting off much like 'Full Metal Jacket' the film covers a group/class of young German lads ready to join the ranks and fight for their country. From here on we follow them through harsh training and into battle where they very quickly realise the horrors of war, one by one they are killed off as the film becomes more and more tragic, and all this in a 1930's film!

The first thing that must hit you is the amazing look and work put into the film, its incredible!. The realism of the trenches, war torn nomansland, the uniforms for both sides and the brilliant special effects, mainly revolving around some pretty big explosions near actors, are all superbly created. By today's standards everything still looks good whilst the black and white only helps the film look more realistic. The film could easily be the 'Saving Private Ryan' of its day, its almost as good as real footage.

Of course the actors are of a different age so one can expect performances without the type of 'grit' that we are used to today. Some scenes are almost slightly pantomime with some slightly funny moments of comedy and slapstick which lighten the mood (mainly at the start before the characters enter the war) but we all know moments like this add to the charm of old films.

Make no mistake though this film is a history lesson and seeing as it was made about 12years after WW1 actually ended its amazing people watched, especially as it followed the Central Powers. Being so close to the war is obviously why its so accurate, the harrowing sequences of men being mown down by machine gun fire, one after another without a chance, the screams of the young troops as they go crazy from the constant shelling, the mud, barren landscapes, bodies, barbwire and of course the famous bleak depressing ending for the main lead, nailing home how cheap life was.

I think the main point in the film is how the main lead 'Paul Baumer' starts off, like his friends, as a patriot young German wanting to go off and fight for his country, pushed onwards and practically lied to by his school teacher 'Professor Kantorek' into 'doing whats right', to 'save the Fatherland'. 'Baumer' then returns to his home town towards the end of the film only to find his school teacher spouting the same nonsense to more young boys, trying to get them to recruit. He is invited in to speak of the glory of war but instead rages how its all lies and there is nothing but misery and death for all who join up. He is shunned by his old teacher and branded a coward by the young boys, so he returns to the front line. Not long after this the film ends with his pointless needless death.
September 17, 2012

Super Reviewer

Not only is this a great adaptation of a wonderful book, but it holds up as just a great film in its own right.

I don't know what other films were nominated, but I can see why this won Best Picture way back in the day. It's a very powerful and haunting anti-war film that looks at World War I through the eyes of an (at first) idealistic young German student.

This film is over 80 years old, but it holds up remarkably well, Not only is the message timeless, but, aside from the quality of the print, this could pass for something far younger than what it is. The battle scenes are well staged (complete with some speeding up to give them a disorienting, chaotic quality), and the black and white cinematography really adds to the starkness and devastation that comes hand in hand with war.

The performances are pretty good, and desite having to tone down the content, there's still several very unforgettable sequences and images, and the film still manages to get its point across and be very unsettling at times.

You should really give this film a watch. It's a fine adaptation, and just excellent filmmaking in general. It is old, but it's still relevant and is one of the finest war-related films to ever be released.
July 30, 2011
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

    1. Paul Baumer: You still think it's beautiful to die for your country. The first bombardment taught us better. When it comes to dying for country, it's better not to die at all.
    – Submitted by Rebecca B (3 months ago)
    1. Paul Baumer: And our bodies are earth. And our thoughts are clay. And we sleep and eat with death.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (2)

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Foreign Titles

  • Im Westen nichts Neues (DE)
  • All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) (CA)
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