Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Based on a true WWII story, this film follows the first American attack on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The movie boasts an all-star cast, led by Spencer Tracy, who plays General Doolittle, the leader of the American air-raid.
Action & Adventure , Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
MGM Home Entertainment

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Van Johnson
as Capt. Ted Lawson
Spencer Tracy
as Lt. Col. James Doolittle
Robert Walker
as David Thatcher
Phyllis Thaxter
as Ellen Jones Lawson
Tim Murdock
as Dean Davenport
Scott McKay
as Davey Jones
Gordon McDonald
as Bob Clever
Don DeFore
as Charles McClure
Robert Mitchum
as Bob Gray
John R. Reilly
as Shorty Manch
Horace McNally
as Doc White
Stephen McNally
as Doc White
Donald Curtis
as Lt. Randall
Louis Jean Heydt
as Lt. Miller
Douglas Cowan
as Brick Holstrom
Paul Langton
as Capt. Ski York
Leon Ames
as Lt. Jurika
Moroni Olsen
as General
Benson Fong
as Young Chung
Ann Shoemaker
as Mrs. Parker
Alan Napier
as Mr. Parker
Ching Wah Lee
as Foo Ling
Jacqueline White
as Emmy York
Jack McClendon
as Dick Joyce
Peter Varney
as Spike Henderson
Morris Ankrum
as Capt. Halsey
Selena Royle
as Mrs. Jones
Blake Edwards
as 2nd Officer
Will Walls
as Hoss Wyler
Jay Norris
as Hallmark
Robert Bice
as Jig White
Bill Williams
as Bud Felton
Kay Williams
as Girls in Officers' Club
Wally Cassell
as Sailor
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Critic Reviews for Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

All Critics (5)

After an overly mushy first half, the movie redeems itself with a second act that is decidedly dark and dreary and an extended air combat sequence that's still amazing nearly 70 years later.

Full Review… | May 8, 2011
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

It's winsome because of its sincerity, painting a sympathetic portrait of the men who carried out this dangerous mission.

Full Review… | February 4, 2006
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

wonderful WWII propaganda drama with sincere performances by the cast. Special effects bombing sequence of Tokyo isn't bad either.

January 28, 2006
Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN)

Mervyn LeRoy's fact-based WWII action-drama was extremely popular due to subject matter, star power (Spencer Tracy), Oscar-winning effects, and intelligent script by Dalton Trumbo, later blacklisted and one of the Hollywood Ten.

Full Review… | June 29, 2005

Quote not available.

September 21, 2005
International Press Academy

Audience Reviews for Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo


I suppose the brother of the "Lord of War" will show up when the pilots of this war film get closer to be 30 seconds to mar. ...Die-hard Jared Leto fans ought to get all of that, and for everyone else interested enough in what I'm talking about to read that, it shouldn't be entirely over your head if you know enough about film to remember this film. Yeah, for you moviegoers who are all about war film tension, get ready for 30 seconds over Tokyo... and 137.5 minutes of build-up, y'all! Say what you will about "Tora! Tora! Tora!", especially considering that it's even longer, but it was heavy on the action, whereas this film is heavy on training exercise nonsense and what have you. Well, this film is still more exciting than "Tora! Tora! Tora!", and honestly, that might be because of the length of the Doolittle Raid, because where it took those Japs, like, four hours, or however long "Tora! Tora! Tora!" is, to put some dents in us, we came in and got our job done in thirty seconds. ...Mind you, the Doolittle Raid didn't do much again the Japanese military, but still, it boosted morale, so you Japs can go on and on with your, "Tora! Tora! Tora!", and we'll be over here with, "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!". Yeah, I doubt those jerks who exclaim that have the attention span for a film like this, not necessarily because this film is of great quality, but because this film is just so bloated, and doesn't even drag its feet along refreshing ground. Not much is unique with this film, which could perhaps been refreshing for the time, yet ends up shamelessly collapsing into clichéd plotlines, dialogue and characterization, in addition to the worst kind of tropes of all: Hollywood ones at the time. By that, I mean that much of the film's dramatic meat succumbs to overtly '40s Hollywood superficialities, which draw thin characters and tap dance around a sense of intensity and conflict, typically for the sake of too much comic relief which has only so much tension to relieve, due to other superficialities, as well as a certain aspect that is actually consistent in this near-inconsequential fluff piece: cheese. Ostensibly trying to make up for the safeness in genuine tensions, Hollywood manages to manufacture some cloyingly histrionic subplots and trite characters, all backed by an almost profound cheese to cornball dialogue, maybe even fall-flat performances (John R. Reilly does virtually everything perfectly wrong as the colorful filler character). The film gets to be aggravating in its getting so cheesy and dated, at the very least because all of the overbearing corn is particularly reflective of the final product's being lazy, taking on worthy subject matter that it handles with an adequate deal of color, but in such a 1940s Hollywood fashion that would be easier to forgive if the final product wasn't also so blasted overlong. I've joked about how this film's subject matter dealing simply with the build towards and execution of the Doolittle Raid shouldn't be interpreted into a pseudo-epic, but at just shy of 140 minutes, this film's runtime is hardly reasonable, bloated with all of that filler I was alluding to earlier, if not material and plot elements which aren't realized enough for the eventual shifts in focus to feel organic. Overblown, yet still superficial in so many ways, this film has by no means aged gracefully, but even for its time, it's kind of lacking, taking on an ambitious project, and ultimately fumbling just enough with its dramatics and structure to fall as underwhelming, perhaps even as yet another forgettable Hollywood affair of the '40s. Needless to say, this film is overrated, but it's still not a total misfire, being plenty entertaining in its fluffy interpretation of a story that is pretty interesting in concept, at the very least. Maybe this subject matter was a little more interesting at the time, seeing as how the Doolittle Raid had occurred only three years before the release of this interpretation of it, but no matter what, with its extensive study on those involved in and the overall conceiving of the Doolittle Raid, this story concept has a certain intrigue to it on a dramatic and historical level, done something of an injustice by a flimsy scripted interpretation, but only up to a point. Dalton Trumbo's script is way too blasted Hollywood with its superficialities, fluff and clichés, so much so that it, alone, does a lot to hold the final product so far back, and yet, it has its respectable elements, at least in its sheer audacity to be extensive with so much of its actually historically accurate material, which gets to be excessive, sure, but keeps up just enough dynamicity and comprehensiveness to sustain a degree of intrigue. Of course, it's not as though the developmental attributes which are carried away, rather reasonably realized, fail to endear, for although the characterization is rather thin in its subtlety and depth, there are plenty of colorful roles drawn here to keep forgettability at bay, with the help of colorful performances. Granted, most all performances are dated just enough to fail to be all that endearing, with some being pretty faulty (Ahh, John R. Reilly!), but on the whole, whether it be the underused Robert Mitchum, or the lovely, if often hammy Phyllis Thaxter, or Tim Murdock, or Robert Walker, or the surprisingly effective lead Van Johnson, there's plenty of charisma to bring some life to the human heart of this fluffy flick. Well, honestly, neither the acting nor the highlights in writing are particularly commendable, but they do enough to neutralize the messy elements with color that helps guide an entertainment value that wouldn't be so firmly established if it wasn't for Mervyn LeRoy's direction. LeRoy's direction is largely held back by Trumbo's writing missteps, and should also earn some scorn for its own missteps, as well as its neglect to do much in a number of areas, but on the whole, through subtle style and tight scene structuring, LeRoy keeps entertainment value consistent, occasionally punctuated by some dramatic realization that is arguably more than this film deserves, and provides to truly memorable highlights. Alas, these highlights are few and far between, but between them in indeed plenty of entertainment value, which may not compensate for near-aggravating issues, but endears adequately as a fluffy war flick. When the seconds are up, the film falls as underwhelming, maybe even forgettable, under the weight of conventions, Hollywood superficiality and cheese, and an overlong, sometimes even uneven structure, but through colorful highlights in writing, acting and direction, intriguing subject matter is done enough justice for "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" to stand as a fair, if flimsy interpretation of America's first response to Japan's proposition of war. 2.5/5 - Fair

Cameron Johnson
Cameron Johnson

Super Reviewer


A bit on the long side (I would have cut some of the initial training footage), this film is typical of 1940s/50s war movies, complete with the leaving of one's loved ones and their eventual reunion after the fight. However, like all those similar films, it manages to strike a chord and makes you realize the realities of war and what these soldiers sacrificed, doing so in a unique way and story.

Nick Krolikowski
Nick Krolikowski

The second half of 'Pearl Harbor'... If you watched Michael Bay's romantic threesome flick 'Pearl Harbor', than you've already got the premise of the film. Now, you just need to watch the better version of it. 'Thirty Seconds' is easily one of the best WWII films of the 40's, released just prior to the surrender of the Japanese Empire. It remains true to the original story, based upon the memoirs of the man who flew the mission. In 'Pearl Harbor', we see Alec Baldwin, here we upgrade slightly to Spencer Tracy. Both play the Colonel Doolittle role well, but Tracy is the original and the best. Though the pacing isn't brisk, the film is worth it and can qualify as WWII epic. Bring popcorn and no bathroom breaks.

K. C.
K. C.

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