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This complex war epic asks hard questions, resists easy answers, and boasts career-defining work from star Alec Guinness and director David Lean. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

Adaptation of the Pierre Bouelle novel about POWs in Burma forced to build a bridge to aid the war effort of their Japanese captors. British and American officers plot to blow up the structure, but the commander of the bridge's construction has different plans.

Cast & Crew

William Holden
Commander, Major Shears
Alec Guinness
Colonel Nicholson
Sessue Hayakawa
Colonel Saito
Jack Hawkins
Major Warden
James Donald
Major Clipton
Geoffrey Horne
Lieutenant Joyce
Andre Morrell
Colonel Green
Peter Williams
Capt. Reeves
John Boxer
Major Hughes
Pierre Boulle
Writer (Novel)
Michael Wilson
Writer (Screenplay)
Malcolm Arnold
Original Music
Jack Hildyard
Cinematographer
Peter Taylor
Film Editor
Donald M. Ashton
Art Direction
Stuart Freeborn
Makeup Artist
George Partleton
Makeup Artist
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News & Interviews for The Bridge on the River Kwai

Critic Reviews for The Bridge on the River Kwai

All Critics (60) | Top Critics (15) | Fresh (57) | Rotten (3)

  • It is a stirring drama of World War II, in which Spiegel has had the excellent help of British director David Lean, in charge of the action, and of a fine company of international players.

    February 23, 2015 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • Has no one else found it highly peculiar that damn near everybody's choice for the best movie of (let's say) the decade should be dedicated, inferentially but absolutely, to the proposition that Courage is Madness and Cowardice is Best?

    February 3, 2014 | Full Review…
  • Part of the success of The Bridge is that its courageous hero is shown from all angles, in all kinds of mirrors. He is strong, stubborn, fallible, maniacal, silly, and wise; and in the end he is pathetic, noble, and foolish.

    January 23, 2013 | Full Review…
  • From sky to ground in two shots, and it already feels like we've traversed a great distance, with two and a half hours of skillful, suspenseful WWII adventure to go.

    September 22, 2010 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai is David Lean's last film not to succumb to bloat.

    September 20, 2010 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • It is a whale of a story, and in the telling of it, British Director David Lean does a whale of a job.

    February 18, 2009 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Bridge on the River Kwai

  • Aug 05, 2015
    A big and excellent film with a near perfect beginning and ending. There are some incredible performances here, aided by an impeccably written cast of characters and story. The middle I found to be a bit overlong, though the payoff is massive.
    Paris S Super Reviewer
  • Jul 12, 2014
    A battalion of British POWs are forced to build a bridge while an American soldier is charged with blowing it up. Exquisitely plotted, this film is remarkably compelling from beginning to end. At almost three hours, the film's run time is typical of David Lean, who doesn't care how long a film is; he cares how long it's good. The performance by Alec Guinness is the strongest, as he's able to convey his character's journey subtly, and William Holden is as charmingly surly as William Holden has always been. The film's themes of ambition and the need for purpose come through, and the cinematography is beautiful. Overall, this film is a classic for good reason.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Dec 29, 2013
    Its an examination of madness disguised as an epic. The brilliance of the film is that it manages to appease audience expectations while also subverting them. The most important takeaway from the ending isn't the building of the bridge or the attempt to destroy it . . . it's how pointless everything ultimately was.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • May 05, 2013
    A film about confusion, moral dilemma and two sides working together, "The Bridge on the River Kwai" boasts stellar performances from its leads (Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins and Sessue Hayakawa), a memorable score and David Lean's typically sweeping direction. On top of being one of the best war films of all time, it also contains one of the best finales: a gripping, awe-inspiring combination of emotion and tension that slowly mounts towards an explosive climax and a fantastic closing line.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer

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