M*A*S*H (1970)



Critic Consensus: Bold, timely, subversive, and above all funny, M*A*S*H remains a high point in Robert Altman's distinguished filmography.

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Although he was not the first choice to direct it, the hit black comedy MASH established Robert Altman as one of the leading figures of Hollywood's 1970s generation of innovative and irreverent young filmmakers. Scripted by Hollywood veteran Ring Lardner, Jr., this war comedy details the exploits of military doctors and nurses at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in the Korean War. Between exceptionally gory hospital shifts and countless rounds of martinis, wisecracking surgeons Hawkeye Pierce (Donald Sutherland) and Trapper John McIntyre (Elliott Gould) make it their business to undercut the smug, moralistic pretensions of Bible-thumper Maj. Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) and Army true-believer Maj. "Hot Lips" Houlihan (Sally Kellerman). Abetted by such other hedonists as Duke Forrest (Tom Skerritt) and Painless Pole (John Schuck), as well as such (relative) innocents as Radar O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff), Hawkeye and Trapper John drive Burns and Houlihan crazy while engaging in such additional blasphemies as taking a medical trip to Japan to play golf, staging a mock Last Supper to cure Painless's momentary erectile dysfunction, and using any means necessary to win an inter-MASH football game. MASH creates a casual, chaotic atmosphere emphasizing the constant noise and activity of a surgical unit near battle lines; it marked the beginning of Altman's sustained formal experiments with widescreen photography, zoom lenses, and overlapping sound and dialogue, further enhancing the atmosphere with the improvisational ensemble acting for which Altman's films quickly became known. Although the on-screen war was not Vietnam, MASH's satiric target was obvious in 1970, and Vietnam War-weary and counter-culturally hip audiences responded to Altman's nose-thumbing attitude towards all kinds of authority and embraced the film's frankly tasteless yet evocative humor and its anti-war, anti-Establishment, anti-religion stance. MASH became the third most popular film of 1970 after Love Story and Airport, and it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. As further evidence of the changes in Hollywood's politics, blacklist survivor Lardner won the Oscar for his screenplay. MASH began Altman's systematic 1970s effort to revise classic Hollywood genres in light of contemporary American values, and it gave him the financial clout to make even more experimental and critical films like McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), California Split (1974), and Nashville (1975). It also inspired the long-running TV series starring Alan Alda as Hawkeye and Burghoff as Radar. With its formal and attitudinal impudence, and its great popularity, MASH was one more confirmation in 1970 that a Hollywood "New Wave" had arrived. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi
PG (adult situations/language, violence)
Classics , Comedy
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
20th Century Fox

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Donald Sutherland
as Hawkeye Pierce
Elliott Gould
as Trapper John
Sally Kellerman
as Hot Lips Houlihan
Robert Duvall
as Maj. Frank Burns
Tom Skerritt
as Duke Forrest
Jo Ann Pflug
as Lt. Hot Dish
Rene Auberjonois
as Father John Patrick "Dago Red" Mulcahy
Roger Bowen
as Col. Henry Blake
Gary Burghoff
as Radar O'Reilly
David Arkin
as Sgt. major Vollmer
Fred Williamson
as Spearchucker Jones
Michael Murphy
as Capt. 'Me Lai' Marston
Kim Atwood
as Ho-Jon
Timothy Brown
as Cpl. Judson
Indus Arthur
as Lt. Leslie
John Schuck
as Painless Pole
Ken Prymus
as Pfc. Seidman
Dwayne Damon
as Capt. Scorch
Carl Gottlieb
as Ugly John
Tamara Horrocks
as Capt. Knocko
G. Wood
as Gen. Hammond
Bobby Troup
as Sgt. Gorman
Bud Cort
as Pvt. Lorenzo Boone
Danny Goldman
as Capt. Murrhardt
Corey John Fischer
as Capt. Bandini
J.B. Douglas
as Col. Douglas
Yoko Young
as Japanese Servant
Ben Davidson
as Football Player
Fran Tarkenton
as Football Player
Howard Williams
as Football Player
Jack Concannon
as Football Player
John Myers
as Football Player
Tom Woodeschick
as Football Player
Tommy Brown
as Football Player
Buck Buchanan
as Football Player
Nolan Smith
as Football Player
Monica Peterson
as Pretty WAC
Cathleen Cordell
as Nurse Corps Captain
Sumi Haru
as Japanese Nurse
Susan Ikeda
as Japanese Caddy
Masami Saito
as Japanese Caddy
John Mamo
as Japanese Golf Pro
Samantha Scott
as Nurse/Pin-up Model
Tom Falk
as Corporal
Harvey Levine
as 2nd Lieutenant
Dianne Turley
as Correspondent
Weaver Levy
as Korean Doctor
Dale Ishimoto
as Korean Doctor
Jerry Jones
as Motor Pool Sergeant
Stephen Altman
as Hawkeye's 5-Year-Old Son
Hiroko Watanabe
as Korean Prostitute
H. Lloyd Nelson
as Offstage Voice (voice)
Ted Knight
as Offstage Dialog (voice)
Marvin Miller
as Offstage Dialog (voice)
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Critic Reviews for M*A*S*H

All Critics (45) | Top Critics (7)

M.A.S.H., one of America's funniest bloody films, is also one of its bloodiest funny films.

Full Review… | March 3, 2015
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

For me, M*A*S*H contains as much depression as humor.

Full Review… | January 18, 2013
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

This is still watchable for the verve of the ensemble acting and dovetailing direction, but some of the crassness leaves a sour aftertaste.

Full Review… | June 27, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

In the end M.A.S.H. succeeds, in spite of its glaring faults.

Full Review… | June 27, 2007
Top Critic

It shows Altman's stylistic signature in embryonic form.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

One of the reasons M*A*S*H is so funny is that it's so desperate.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for M*A*S*H


Robert Altman's film about wartime Korea actually has very little to do with Korea and everything to do with the counterculture revolution, circa 1968 or so, going on in the good old U.S. of A. So its the squares against the hippies more or less, with the backdrop being the blood and guts of that nigh forgotten "police action" (that mainly presaged our other police actions all across the globe). Practically the best thing about this film is how, while capturing the zeitgeist of the times, the swing of the societal pendulum towards liberalism, it also predicted the fall of that same as well because none of the "cool" and "smart" guys actually have anything better to offer in terms of an answer to societal woes.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Altman's anti-war classic is a delicious satire - irreverent, subversive and downright hilarious -, with a perfect episodic structure for the sort of anti-establishment vibe it aims for and making the most of its compositions (the Last Supper gag is hysterical) and overlapping improvised dialogue.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

While certainly the humor is dated, M*A*S*H is still witty and smart, and has an episodic format that works well.

Matthew Samuel Mirliani
Matthew Samuel Mirliani

Super Reviewer

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