Critics Consensus

Subsequent war epics may have borrowed heavily from the original Best Picture winner, but they've all lacked Clara Bow's luminous screen presence and William Wellman's deft direction.



Total Count: 41


Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,502
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Movie Info

Wings, the first feature film to win an Academy Award, tends to disappoint a little when seen today. Too much time is afforded the wheezy old plotline about two World War I aviators (Buddy Rogers, Richard Arlen) in love with the same woman (Jobyna Ralston), while the comedy relief of El Brendel is decidedly not to everyone's taste. But during the aerial "dogfight" sequences, the film is something else again: a grand-scale spectacular, the likes of which has never been duplicated, not even by more expensive efforts like Hell's Angels (1930) and The Blue Max (1965). Twenty-eight-year-old director William Wellman, himself a wartime aviator, was fortunate enough to have the full cooperation of the US War department at his disposal (even though his legendary temper nearly lost him that cooperation on more than one occasion!) Brilliantly handled though the aerial scenes may be, they are matched by the Earthbound combat sequences, including the now-famous shot of a long trench caving in on hundreds of unfortunate doughboys. The storyline is as follows: Jack Powell (Rogers) and David Armstrong (${Powell}) hate each other during basic training, grow to like each other, and fall out again while competing for the affections of Sylvia Lewis (Ralston). Mary Preston (Clara Bow) sacrifices her own nursing career to save a drunken Powell from disgrace, Powell goes on a rampage when he believes his pal Armstrong has been killed, inadvertently shoots down Armstrong while decimating the German air corps, and is finally reunited with the nurse. Wrapped up in nurse's garb throughout most of the film, the ebullient Clara Bow is permitted a sequence in which, disguised as a Parisian floozie while trying to rescue a revelling Rogers, she displays a great deal of epidermis. One of the film's chief claims to fame is its "introduction" of Gary Cooper (who'd actually been in films since the early 1920s), in a brief but crucial role as veteran flyer with a cheerily fatalistic attitude. When originally released, Wings included a sequence lensed in the wide-screen "Magnascope" process; even when seen "flat", however, the film contains some of the best flying sequences ever captured on celluloid. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Critic Reviews for Wings

All Critics (41) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (38) | Rotten (3)

  • It is, in fact, the masterpiece of war production.

    Feb 17, 2015 | Full Review…
  • The audience gulped down the plot as conventional but reliable stuff, watched with waning interest while spinning, swerving, dodging planes grew into confused monotony against a background of unpicturesque ether.

    Feb 17, 2009 | Full Review…
  • There not being so much of Clara Bow in the picture, or a straining for her to turn on that 'it' personality, she gives an all around corking performance.

    Feb 19, 2008 | Full Review…

    Sid Silverman

    Top Critic
  • It won the first Academy Award for best picture back in 1927, establishing a tradition of silliness that hasn't been broken to this day, but there is some thrilling flying footage and impressively expensive spectacle.

    Dec 12, 2006 | Full Review…
  • Long touted as a classic by cinema historians, and justifying almost every adjectival extravagance.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…

    Paul Taylor

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • This feature gives one an unforgettable idea of the existence of these daring fighters.

    May 12, 2001 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Wings

  • May 28, 2014
    Wings is something to behold only because it holds the distinction of being the very first Oscar winner for Best Picture. Unfortunately it doesn't hold up anything more than being an historic curiosity. This tale of WWI eventually is done much better in subsequent Hollywood offerings.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 21, 2011
    So this was the original Best Picture winner...not a bad start. Some of the special effects in this film were very well made, and the story isn't bad either, as far as war epics go.
    Dillon L Super Reviewer
  • Jun 13, 2011
    I can't believe I forgot to rate this movie! I saw it a long time ago on TV, and I just loved it. I want to see it again, though, since I don't remember much of it.
    Aj V Super Reviewer
  • Mar 14, 2011
    Part of what makes this film so important is that it was the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Since I haven't seen the other films it was up against, I can't really say if it deserved it or not, but it is still a decent film. Part of its impact is lost on modern audiences, namely because this is from 1927, it's silent, and in sepia tones, as opposed to being modern, cgi-heavy, in color, and loaded up with balls to the wall sound effects. It's got a nicely hauntng and appropriate pipe organ score, but that's it as far as sound goes. The story is really basic, and something of a Top Gun for the 20s. it follows two WWI aviators and the girl they're leaving behind as they go off to fight the war. The plot isn't what makes this film special. That honor belongs to the awesome (even now) aerial combat scenes. They are staged well, look cool, and really make you appreciate the ahrd work and effort that goes into practical effects, as well as the touch of movie magic that is all but absent in this day and age. This is sappy and overlong, but still very entertaining and overwhelmingly charming. Clara Bow, the "It" girl of that era gets top billing, but that's misleading sicne she's not really the focus. She does good with what she's given though. The film belongs to Richard Arlen and Charles "Buddy" Rogers, and they're decent. THere's also a nice and important cameo from Gary Cooper, so that's cool. All in all, a good film, but maybe not the epic masterpiece some have hailed it as being. Well, maybe not a masterpiece in this day and age, but still pretty good.
    Chris W Super Reviewer

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