The General

Critics Consensus

Brilliantly filmed and fueled with classic physical comedy, The General captures Buster Keaton at his timeless best.



Total Count: 51


Audience Score

User Ratings: 11,446
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Movie Info

Buster Keaton plays Johnny Gray, a Southern railroad engineer who loves his train engine, The General, almost as much as he loves Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack). When the opening shots of the Civil War are fired at Fort Sumter, Johnny tries to enlist -- and he is deemed too useful as an engineer to be a soldier. All Johnny knows is that he's been rejected, and Annabelle, thinking him a coward, turns her back on him. When Northern spies steal the General (and, unwittingly, Annabelle), the story switches from drama and romance to adventure mixed with Keaton's trademark deadpan humor as he uses every means possible to catch up to the General, thwart the Yankees, and rescue his darling Annabelle -- for starters. As always, Keaton performs his own stunts, combining his prodigious dexterity, impeccable comic timing, and expressive body language to convey more emotion than the stars of any of the talkies that were soon to dominate cinema. ~ Emru Townsend, Rovi

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Buster Keaton
as Johnnie Gray
Marion Mack
as Annabelle Lee
Charles Smith
as Annabelle's Father
Frank Barnes
as Annabelle's Brother
Glen Cavender
as Capt. Anderson
Jim Farley
as Gen. Thatcher
Fred Vroom
as Southern General
Joe Keaton
as Union General
Mike Donlin
as Union General
Tom Nawn
as Union General
Ray Thomas
as Raider
Edward Hearn
as Union Officer
Budd Fine
as Raider
Frank S. Hagney
as Recruiting Officer
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Critic Reviews for The General

All Critics (51) | Top Critics (10)

Audience Reviews for The General

  • Apr 29, 2018
    Very simply a genius execution, filled with variety, purpose, and most of all, humor, as the diminutive hero does his utmost to stand amongst the big boys as wartime calls. Unbelievable stuntwork, of course, that'll have you wondering aloud, but as well, a treatment of the heroine that only some eighty years ahead of its time. A train as the third major character, two armies battling it out, and a train crash that couldn't've been faked. Simply incredible stuff.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Oct 14, 2017
    There are some truly wonderful scenes in this film, which is full of adventure, comedy, and some pretty impressive stuntwork on moving trains by Buster Keaton and the other actors. The premise is that Keaton, a train conductor, has volunteered to fight for the South at the outset of the Civil War, but been turned down. When his train is stolen by Union soldiers, he immediately gives chase, on foot, then a handcar, briefly a bicycle, and then finally another train, not knowing quite yet that his girlfriend (Marion Mack) was inadvertently also kidnapped. In one of the memorable early scenes, Keaton is sitting on the connecting rod of the locomotive, lost in thought, when it starts up, bobbing him up and down. In another, he packs a cannon on his train with a massive charge, and as its angle slowly descends before firing, it appears he's going to blow himself up, until his train at the last minute hits a curve and he nearly hits his intended target. It's just wonderful. There is also of course the scene with a Union train going out onto a burning bridge which then collapses, one of the most iconic (and expensive) scenes of the era. In addition to those "big" moments, there are also innumerable little things Keaton does which highlight his genius. He is just so lovable and talented. He uses one of the large railroad ties intended to derail him to knock another off the track, as his train is moving. When he's hiding under a table surrounded by Union officers, he's subtly kicked and jostled in funny ways. As he makes his escape with Mack, he stuffs her into a large sack that he had emptied of shoes, only to lose his own shoe in the process and struggle to locate it. I also thought I saw bits of Woody Allen in the scene where he urges her to be quiet, only to knock things over and make noise himself. Ambitious, awe-inspiring, influential, clever, and still funny 90+ years later. Is it the best ever? I don't know, I liked 'The Cameraman' (1928) even more, but still - damn good.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 12, 2017
    The General is Buster Keaton's most memorable work. It utilised some incredible stunts and good comical tricks, but I find it rather distasteful to make a comedy about the civil war.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Dec 28, 2014
    The only problem is that Keaton was in the wrong side of the war.
    Lucas M Super Reviewer

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