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They Were Expendable

Released Dec 20, 1945 2h 15m War List
92% Tomatometer 12 Reviews 73% Audience Score 2,500+ Ratings After a demonstration of new PT boats, navy brass are still unconvinced of their viability in combat, leaving Lt. "Rusty" Ryan (John Wayne) frustrated. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, however, Ryan and his buddy Lt. Brickley (Robert Montgomery) are told they can finally take their squadron into battle. The PT boats quickly prove their worth, successfully shooting down Japanese planes, relaying messages between islands, and picking off a multitude of enemy ships. Read More Read Less Watch on Fandango at Home Buy Now

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Critics Reviews

View All (12) Critics Reviews
Empire Magazine Rated: 4/5 Apr 21, 2007 Full Review Sean Axmaker Stream on Demand ... [John] Ford’s reminder to the American public that victory in the Pacific was reached at a tremendous cost in human life. It remains one of the most powerful war dramas ever made. Jun 11, 2023 Full Review Jack Moffitt Esquire Magazine The human element triumphs in almost every foot of They Were Expendable. Mar 10, 2020 Full Review Nathanael Hood The Retro Set They Were Expendable was the first time [Ford] would loose the weight of his experiences on a general audience. Rated: 9/10 Dec 28, 2018 Full Review Matt Brunson Creative Loafing The film moves along curiously and cautiously, prideful of the crews of the PT boats but also aware that each victory was achieved at a great cost and that sacrifices would have to continue to be made as the war trudged along. Rated: 3.5/4 Jun 18, 2016 Full Review Jeffrey M. Anderson Combustible Celluloid The real star of the film is the gorgeous, luminous, mostly outdoor black-and-white cinematography. Sep 18, 2008 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

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Audience Member Probably one of the best films made about a war while the war was still in progress, They Were Expendable contains sole truly astounding sequences for its time. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/11/23 Full Review Audience Member A great John Ford movie about real human experiences and the varied reactions normal people have in trying times. If you like the current hollywood movies that are more like video games than reality you won't like this movie. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/27/23 Full Review Audience Member Robert Montgomery steals this movie from John Wayne. Understated and quietly heroic, the film eschews the usual Hollywood hype for a detailing of what the early days of the war were actually like: confusing, grim, disappointing, real. Marvelously suspenseful and, as usual, beautifully photographed by John Ford. A heart-tugger. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/24/23 Full Review Audience Member I think it is one of the best war movies ever made. The subject matter is interesting; the new PT boats at the beginning of WWII, the fall of the Philippines, the removal of MacArthur to safety; all solid historical references. But what makes it so great is the impending doom, the doom of war that sits over the whole thing, the doom that being in a war in general carries, but that is dramatically, painfully highlighted here as individuals are left behind in the Philippines, 'because there's no more room in the boat.' This movie came out in late 45 after the end of the war so there'd be no doubt in the audiences mind what was waiting for those left behind; dying in battle, the post surrender Bataan Death March and, if you survived those two, four years of wasting away and dying under brutal Japanese prison conditions. The characters in the movie don't know just how bad it's going to be, but they know it's going to bad; the US forces are not going to be back for a long long time and they, here and now, ARE, going to be defeated; they are outgunned, running low on everything... And Donna Reed sitting at the center of it, as she too is left behind; everyone knows the history of what usually happens to captured women, and here is John Wayne, JOHN WAYNE, unable to do anything about it; and he's getting rescued! Talk about emasculating.! And to that Sturm und Drang add the beautiful settings, great cinematography from John Ford (this would be great in color), and excellent cast selection and it is a true winner. But what stays with me is the doom. The terrible, horrible, doom in the minds of all as the expendable are group by group abandoned. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/01/23 Full Review Audience Member Ford did a good job of showing how a small military unit functioned in a difficult situation. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 01/18/23 Full Review Audience Member I thought it was going to be better than it was. Vignettes are excellent, but then it switches and your scratching your head did part of the movie get cut out. Then that scene is great but your not sure how it relates. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 01/20/23 Full Review Read all reviews
They Were Expendable

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Cast & Crew

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Movie Info

Synopsis After a demonstration of new PT boats, navy brass are still unconvinced of their viability in combat, leaving Lt. "Rusty" Ryan (John Wayne) frustrated. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, however, Ryan and his buddy Lt. Brickley (Robert Montgomery) are told they can finally take their squadron into battle. The PT boats quickly prove their worth, successfully shooting down Japanese planes, relaying messages between islands, and picking off a multitude of enemy ships.
Director
John Ford, Robert Montgomery
Producer
John Ford
Screenwriter
William L. White, Frank Wead
Distributor
MGM Home Entertainment
Production Co
Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Genre
War
Original Language
English
Release Date (Theaters)
Dec 20, 1945, Wide
Release Date (Streaming)
Apr 1, 2009
Runtime
2h 15m
Sound Mix
Mono
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