The Dirty Dozen


The Dirty Dozen

Critics Consensus

Amoral on the surface and exuding testosterone, The Dirty Dozen utilizes combat and its staggering cast of likable scoundrels to deliver raucous entertainment.



Total Count: 34


Audience Score

User Ratings: 41,324
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The Dirty Dozen Photos

Movie Info

Director Robert Aldrich took what he considered a hopelessly old-fashioned script by Lukas Heller and Nunnally Johnson and fashioned The Dirty Dozen into one of MGM's biggest moneymakers of the 1960s--and the sixth highest-grossing film in the studio's history. Lee Marvin plays Major Reisman, assigned to coordinate a suicide mission on a French chateau held by top Nazi officers. Since no "normal" GI can be expected to volunteer for this mission, Reisman is compelled to draw his personnel from a group of military prisoners serving life sentences. This "dirty dozen" includes a sex pervert (Telly Savalas), a psycho (John Cassavetes), a retarded killer (Donald Sutherland), and the equally malevolent Charles Bronson, Trini Lopez, Jim Brown, and Clint Walker. On the dim promise of receiving pardons if they survive, the criminals undergo a brutal training program, then are marched behind enemy lines dressed as Nazi soldiers, the better to overtake the chateau and kill everyone in it--including the innocent wives and mistresses of the German officers. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Lee Marvin
as Maj. Reisman
Ernest Borgnine
as Gen. Worden
Charles Bronson
as Joseph Wladislaw
Jim Brown
as Robert Jefferson
John Cassavetes
as Victor Franko
Richard Jaeckel
as Sgt. Bowren
George Kennedy
as Maj. Max Armbruster
Trini Lopez
as Pedro Jiminez
Ralph Meeker
as Capt. Stuart Kinder
Robert Ryan
as Col. Everett Dasher-Breed
Telly Savalas
as Archer Maggott
Donald Sutherland
as Vernon Pinkley
Clint Walker
as Samson Posey
Robert Webber
as Gen. Denton
Tom Busby
as Milo Vladek
Ben Carruthers
as Glenn Gilpin
Stuart Cooper
as Roscoe Lever
Robert Phillips
as Cpl. Morgan
Colin Maitland
as Seth Sawyer
Al Mancini
as Tassos Bravos
George Roubicek
as Pvt. Arthur James Gardner
Thick Wilson
as Worden's Aide
Dora Reisser
as German Officer's Girl
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Critic Reviews for The Dirty Dozen

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (8)

  • Robert Aldrich dissects the underlying ideas with just enough craft and thoughtfulness to make the implications of this gritty 1966 war drama unsettling in not entirely constructive ways.

    Aug 3, 2015 | Full Review…
  • he lopsided interpretation works largely because of a fine cast and a taut plot that closes the credibility gap.

    Aug 3, 2015 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • Lee Marvin heads a very strong, nearly all-male cast in an excellent performance.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • Overriding such nihilism is the super-crudity of Aldrich's energy and his humour, sufficiently cynical to suggest that the whole thing is a game anyway, a spectacle that demands an audience.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…

    Chris Petit

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Right up to the last scene the movie is amusing, well paced, intelligent.

    Oct 23, 2004 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • A raw and preposterous glorification of a group of criminal soldiers who are trained to kill and who then go about this brutal business with hot, sadistic zeal is advanced in The Dirty Dozen, an astonishingly wanton war film.

    May 20, 2003 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Dirty Dozen

  • Feb 25, 2019
    A dream scenario for boy soldiers everywhere: train some social rejects to kill and then let 'em loose on the enemy. We never enter reality in this story. It's more like a video game where you choose your character and your favorite idiosyncrasy, and then go killing. What did your granddad dream about before videogames? And like a good videogame, eminently rewatchable.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Jul 05, 2014
    The Wild Bunch goes to war, you know, before "The Wild Bunch" even came out. I understand that Lee Marvin was supposed to be one heck of a Marine in really life, but it's hard to see Lee Marvin and not think of westerns, especially when he's paired up with an ensemble that features Ernest Borgnine. Man, with Marvin, Borgnine, George Kennedy, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, Donald Sutherland, Ben Carruthers, Milo Vladek, Al Mancini, Colin Maitland, Trini López and Telly Savalas, this isn't a particularly pretty Hollywood cast, and then John Cassavetes, Clint Walker and Stuart Cooper show up, probably so this can actually be called a Hollywood cast. Even the looks of the stars in this film are nitty and gritty, so you know that there is going to be some dirty fighting in this flick, and plenty of it. Hey, there better be, if this film is going to run two-and-a-half hours, which is a lot of time spent towards one mission in one film. That barely worked in "The Guns of Navarone", although I might just be mentioning that because as often as this has been ripped off, I can't believe that there is an older film for it to rip off. I'm kidding, because it's not fair to call this a rip-off if it is better than "The Guns of Navarone", which was still good, despite issues that aren't completely washed away this time around. The film is fairly well-known for its audacious originality in quite a few areas as a Hollywood war film of the time, but the uniqueness is a little subtle, and yet prominent enough to make it all the more glaring when the film does fall into formula, whose reinforcement of predictability is problematic enough. The ambition to have an edge which is ultimately limited in the long run also makes it a little difficult to embrace the grime of the characters, all of whom are intentionally thoroughly flawed in a manner that is forgivable for only so long, before your investment begins to become a little loosened because of the characters' being, in a way, a touch obnoxious and occasionally limited in dimension. Perhaps there would be more consistency to a sense of humanity in this film if the story itself had more depth, because no matter how entertaining, this "drama" is more action-oriented than anything, and you can do only so much to flesh out an "epic" of that type. Really, the issues discussed up to this point, as far as being serious enough to hold the film back, pale in comparison to mere natural shortcomings that go stressed by an ambition to flesh out this film, with a series of somewhat episodic segments who shifts feel a smidge jarring, due to each segment being fleshed out for way more than a smidge too long. I've already touched upon how there's not much in the way of conceptual dramatic consequence to this film, yet the final product still comes out clocking in at a whopping two-and-a-half hours, on the dot, and it doesn't get there as organically as it probably should, meandering along with a lot of fat around the edges that doesn't really add as much to this narrative as it wants to. Again, there's little to really complain heavily about, with even the bloating not being as excessive as it could have been, but the film's reward value is still threatened by those subtle hiccups and prominent natural shortcomings, in addition to limitation in the quantity of things to praise. Of course, what there is to praise is all but worth lauding in its crafting a thoroughly entertaining war flick of solid intrigue, even in concept. Under the weight of natural dramatic limitations which are stressed by a hint of conventionalism, overly grimy characterization, unevenness and fat around the narrative edges, the final product ultimately comes to the brink of underwhelmingness, ultimately overcome by an intriguing story's being done enough justice by sharp writing, lively direction, tense action and, most of all, sparkling charisma and chemistry throughout a solid ensemble cast to make Robert Aldrich's "The Dirty Dozen" an ultimately rewardingly entertaining war thriller. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Mar 23, 2013
    It takes close to two hours for "The Dirty Dozen" to reach its explosive, awe-inspiring climax, and in all of that time it doesn't bore for a single second. Much of this can be attributed to excellent pacing and Robert Aldrich's direction, but the cast is also held chiefly responsible; celebrated actors like Lee Marvin, Jim Brown, Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, George Kennedy and Donald Sutherland all have tremendous chemistry with one another. "The Dirty Dozen" is exciting, funny and excellent entertainment, and it's the kind of film that'll hold up to countless repeat viewings.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer
  • Oct 12, 2012
    In the 1960's and 1970's so many action films have grace the big screen, providing some truly classic and thrilling moments for the viewer. With an all star cast, director Robert Aldrich crafts a thrilling and exciting action picture that delivers some stunning performances, thrills, humor and memorable action that not even today's action flicks can top. The cast here is brilliant and each brings something to the screen that makes this such a great film. As an action film, The Dirty Dozen ranks as a classic of the genre. The pacing of the film is good and lets the action steadily build up to a killer climax. As far as classic action films are concerned, you have got to see The Dirty Dozen. This is a fun, entertaining film that should please either action fans or war film fans, even though this is not a straight forward war film. Richard Aldrich directs a solid piece of cinematic intensity that will certainly appeal to die hard action fans. This is action to its bare bones, with no fancy special effects, and that's why it is a terrific flick to watch. Brilliant and well acted this is a solid entertaining classic that still is fun to watch even today. The actors chosen play their parts well, and each shine on-screen. Lee Marvin is terrific in the lead role as the Major who commands the Dirty Dozen. Little flaws, but you don't care because this is a nonstop testosterone driven action picture that has great performances, and enough thrills to satisfy the most demanding viewer.
    Alex r Super Reviewer

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