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Fort Apache

Released Mar 9, 1948 2h 7m Western List
100% Tomatometer 21 Reviews 83% Audience Score 5,000+ Ratings When arrogant and stubborn Civil War hero Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday (Henry Fonda) arrives in Arizona with his daughter, Philadelphia (Shirley Temple), to assume command of the Fort Apache outpost, he clashes with level-headed Captain Kirby York (John Wayne). Viewing the local Native Americans through an ignorantly negative lens, Thursday is determined to engage them in battle for his own glory, despite the warnings of York -- an act of folly that will have dire consequences. Read More Read Less Watch on Fandango at Home Buy Now

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Critics Reviews

View All (21) Critics Reviews
Dave Kehr Chicago Reader The nonlinear narrative, with its infinite digressions and asides, is designed less to tell a story than to present a world-a world dense in physical detail and fraught with moral challenges. Nov 20, 2017 Full Review Keith Phipps AV Club [Balances] a respect for classic American frontier virtues with a less generous assessment of how those virtues were applied. Rated: A Nov 20, 2017 Full Review Variety Staff Variety Cast is as tremendous as the scope achieved by Ford's direction. Sep 2, 2008 Full Review Jacoba Atlas Los Angeles Free Press A particularly effective vehicle for Ford's vision of the world's conflicts. Nov 19, 2019 Full Review Tony Sloman Radio Times One of the highlights of American cinema. Rated: 5/5 Nov 20, 2017 Full Review Jeffrey M. Anderson Combustible Celluloid It's an odd film, consisting more of sidetracks than of an actual story, but it showed a new restlessness in Ford. Feb 24, 2012 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (240) audience reviews
Alec B Much more complex than you might assume at first glance (the ending is a less obvious riff on the "print the legend vs. tell the truth" theme Ford would return to years later) and it has a constant and oppressive feeling of melancholy that robs any of the "heroics" on display here of the usual triumph you get from most other cavalry westerns. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 02/20/24 Full Review Steve D The normal Wayne nonsense with cut by a good supporting cast. Rated 1.5 out of 5 stars 01/04/24 Full Review Red T A Western Classic. The highlights are the epic cinematography with amazing sweeping shots with massive scope to them. The fight scenes are just as epic and incredibly well done. I do wish this was shot in color though to take advantage of the sweeping landscape but the black and white works good. The only issue is the wagon chase is ripped right out of Stagecoach almost to a T but incredible nonetheless. The music is also amazing and really fits the sweeping shots and is very memorable. Everything else is really well done also. The only real issues is that while it keeps interest the whole way but doesn't ramp things up with the Apache's looming and kind of goes along as if nothing is wrong. There isn't a sense of dread or urgency until the actual battles which do make up for it. Also, as the younger Lt. and Thursday's daughter are and well acted, they really could've been cut and helped trim the runtime down quite a bit. They have a good arch but this should've focused more on the rivalry and different schools of thought with Wayne vs Fonda's by the book leadership. I wish Fonda would've been a little less wooden at times also. I know he's being firm and stoic but it can come across wooden a lot of times. He's still good though. It still does a good job making all the characters likeable and staying focused enough but it just needed to move faster at times and build more tension both with the Apache threat and with Wayne/Fonda. Anyone who is a big fan of Ford, Westerns, or any actors in this will still like this a lot. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 06/28/23 Full Review MacLane K There's probably nothing new to be said of this movie, but some things are worth repeating. Monument Valley is breathtaking. Henry Fonda's performance was stiff, but appropriate for what was being accomplished with the character. John Wayne's supporting performance was smaller than one might expect given his later super-stardom, but it was still a masterful turn on the screen, and the gaggle of familiar faces from his movies were perfectly fit into their various roles and gags. Perhaps the biggest surprise was a 20-year-old Shirley Temple, who was disturbingly attractive if one is only familiar with her child actor work and her appearance towards the end of her life. It was hard to believe it was her, but she occasionally fell back on using facial expressions form her earlier days, which jarringly made it clear it was, indeed, her. The various gags, in particular, those centered around drinking, connect with audiences because they ring surprisingly true to this day, or at least I've had similar experiences. Perhaps a more controversial statement would be that some of the historical aspects also ring surprisingly true. Specifically, the movie notes something that might surprise young viewers of today: some former confederate troops and officers served in the US military with honor after the Civil War's conclusion. The story also touches on issues of the elite vs the working class, officers who seek personal glory at the cost (often wasted cost) of their men's lives with not so subtle hints of Custer's last stand, the poor treatment of Indian tribes by many government officials, and the creation of complete fictions that become legends to further some "greater good" objectives (a theme Ford would revisit in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance). What's truly impressive by today's standards is the film manages to make its points on these issues without being too heavy handed or preachy, with the possible exception of John Wayne's Army-cheering monologue near the end. It's possible Ford's own military experience in WWII helped him to restrain the criticism or perhaps he just understood a 1948 audience wasn't going to put up with too much criticism of the accepted "patriotic" position on such issues. Regardless of however "progressive" the movie's take may have been on some issues at the time, the woke mob will still absolutely hate everything about this movie, which will make it all the more delightful for some to watch. Most reading this will already know they should watch this movie again and again, but if you're young, a fan of westerns, military movies, or some of the rest of John Wayne's work, and haven't yet seen this one, watch it and enjoy. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 06/23/23 Full Review Christopher B A very well done film, if a little over sentimental with regards to the army, by John Ford with solid performances from Wayne and Fonda. Fort Apache tells the tale of man't fate with regard to the time period and war. It also has lots of social commentary and was controversial in many ways concerning the questioning of heroes and legends as well as man's fate in the world, their legacy. Interesting to note is that the film was one of the first with superimposed credits during the opening, instead of the usual cards depicting the credits before the opening scene. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 11/20/22 Full Review ernst k A fine and tautly written saga that's effective on so many levels, depicting hubris, frailty, sacrifice, bravery, and human complexity. Henry Fonda is a particular standout and it's surprising that he didn't receive Academy recognition for his staunchly egocentric and totally believable performance. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Fort Apache

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Movie Info

Synopsis When arrogant and stubborn Civil War hero Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday (Henry Fonda) arrives in Arizona with his daughter, Philadelphia (Shirley Temple), to assume command of the Fort Apache outpost, he clashes with level-headed Captain Kirby York (John Wayne). Viewing the local Native Americans through an ignorantly negative lens, Thursday is determined to engage them in battle for his own glory, despite the warnings of York -- an act of folly that will have dire consequences.
Director
John Ford
Screenwriter
James Warner Bellah, Frank S. Nugent
Distributor
Universal Studios Inc., Turner Home Video, RKO Radio Pictures, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Image Entertainment Inc.
Production Co
Argosy Pictures
Genre
Western
Original Language
English
Release Date (Theaters)
Mar 9, 1948, Wide
Release Date (Streaming)
Jan 1, 2009
Runtime
2h 7m
Sound Mix
Mono
Aspect Ratio
Flat (1.37:1)
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