All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

The bitter WWI experiences of ordinary German soldiers are vividly recreated in this celebrated early sound adaptation of Eric Maria Remarque’s classic novel.

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Film details

Alternative titles

  • All Quiet on the Western Front Original

Cast & Credits

Introduction

“The scenes of trench warfare have lost nothing to time – the battles are visually stunning and emotionally taxing.”
Gary Giddins, The New York Sun, 2007

In retrospect it’s extraordinary that only a dozen years after cessation of hostilities Universal Pictures invested considerable resources in this WWI chronicle viewed from the opposing German side. The impressive result bears out the universality of the anti-war message of Erich Maria Remarque’s famous novel, as Lew Ayres’s innocent youth is persuaded to enlist by his professor’s jingoistic rhetoric, only to discover the brutal truth of the infantryman’s lot.

Director Lewis Milestone turned a California ranch into a realistic approximation of the Western Front, his swooping camera conveying the scale of the carnage while also picking out poignant small details – memorably a soldier’s hand reaching out to a butterfly. A landmark war film, it won Oscars for best picture and direction.

King Vidor’s 1925 silent The Big Parade, showing American idealism shattered by the horrors of the Great War, intriguingly prefigures the approach here.

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