The Great Santini (1979)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Bull Meechum (Robert Duvall) loves fighting almost as much as he loves the Marine Corps. Profane, cocky, and arrogant, he's a great fighter pilot -- and he knows it. His boss hates his guts, but knows that if he's going to straighten out his lagging squadron, Meechum is the man to do it. The story and irony of The Great Santini is in Meechum's total intolerance of family life and fatherhood. Meechum has a lovely, supportive wife, Lillian (Blythe Danner), an earnest, likeable son, Ben (Michael O'Keefe), three smaller children, and a good home, but Meechum finds the pastoral nature of peacetime totally incompatible with his gung-ho nature. So he begins to drink. He drills his family unmercifully, like recruits. He hammers his son relentlessly until, in a basketball game, his son fights back, and the family cheers Ben's efforts. Tension builds in the household until, during one drunken night, Meechum breaks down. Based on a best-selling novel by Pat Conroy, The Great Santini earned critical raves but fared poorly at the box office. Duvall's performance as Meechum is generally regarded as one of his greatest.
PG (adult situations/language)
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Warner Home Video

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Robert Duvall
as Lt. Col. Bull Meechum
Michael O'Keefe
as Ben Meechum
Blythe Danner
as Lillian Meechum
Lisa Jane Persky
as Mary Anne Meechum
Stan Shaw
as Toomer Smalls
Theresa Merritt
as Arrabelle
Brian Andrews
as Matthew
Paul Mantee
as Col. Hedgepath
Michael Strong
as Colonel Varney
Bennett Liss
as Corporal Atcherly
Joe Dorsey
as Coach Spinks
David Frankham
as Captain Weber
Jan Stratton
as Mrs. Weber
Paul Gleason
as Lieutenant Sammy
Lew Horn
as Captain Brookout
Michael Rougas
as Colonel Muillnax
Bill Nelson
as 1st Cousin
Ronnie Cross
as Honor Guard Sergeant
David Simmons
as Basketball Player
Nancy Black
as Cheerleader
Lisa Collins
as Cheerleader
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Critic Reviews for The Great Santini

All Critics (18) | Top Critics (1)

This is one of those special films that moves effortlessly between tension, tears and laughs ... Robert Duvall's performance runs neck-and-neck with his Lonesome Dove turn as his career best.

Full Review… | August 17, 2013
Creative Loafing

Two-dimensional and minor.

Full Review… | April 8, 2007

An emotionally devastating drama with a first rate performance from Robert Duvall.

October 27, 2006

Robert Duvall and Michael O'Keefe turn in powerful, Oscar nominated performances in this familiar family melodrama about tyrannical marine-father who bullies his sensitive son so that he can become a real man.

Full Review… | July 4, 2005


December 20, 2004
Greenwich Village Gazette

Duvall as rough, tough Marine in downer story of family conflict

October 23, 2004
Kansas City Kansan

Audience Reviews for The Great Santini

Duvall embodies cockiness to the nth degree as he sets unrealistic expectations for his offspring in living up to the greatness of Santini. It borders on annoying by the end but it is nonetheless a great character created.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer


I thought the kid who played Benny was a bit much. It was a bit unbelievable. Otherwise, the movie was pretty good. Duvall's character was funny. Sad though!

Erin Collins
Erin Collins

Super Reviewer

Underrated classic. Robert Duvall at his best.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

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