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Memphis Belle (1990)

PG-13 | | Action, Drama, War | 12 October 1990 (USA)
1:38 | Trailer

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In 1943, the crew of a B-17 based in UK prepares for its 25th and last bombing mission over Germany before returning home to the USA.


Monte Merrick
4,771 ( 1,414)
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Matthew Modine ... Capt. Dennis Dearborn
Eric Stoltz ... Sgt. Danny "Danny Boy" Daly
Tate Donovan ... 1st Lt. Luke Sinclair
D.B. Sweeney ... Lt. Phil Lowenthal
Billy Zane ... Lt. Val "Valentine" Kozlowski
Sean Astin ... Sgt. Richard "Rascal" Moore
Harry Connick Jr. ... Sgt. Clay Busby
Reed Diamond ... Sgt. Virgil Hoogesteger (as Reed Edward Diamond)
Courtney Gains ... Sgt. Eugene McVey
Neil Giuntoli ... Sgt. Jack Bocci
David Strathairn ... Col. Craig Harriman
John Lithgow ... Lt.Col. Bruce Derringer
Jane Horrocks ... Faith
Mac McDonald ... Les (as Mac Macdonald)
Jodie Brooke Wilson Jodie Brooke Wilson ... Singer (as Jodie Wilson)


It's May 1943 at a US Army Air Corps base in England. The four officers and six enlisted men of the Memphis Belle - a B-17 bomber so nicknamed for the girlfriend of its stern and stoic captain, Dennis Dearborn - will soon start their twenty-fifth mission, having completed their previous twenty-four successfully with nary an incident, while fewer and fewer other planes are coming back from their missions at all. If they complete their next mission successfully, they will be the first Army Air Corps B-17 Crew to complete their tour of duty. Visiting communications officer Lt. Col. Bruce Derringer wants to publicize and highly tout their accomplishment, even before it happens, as a long term good news campaign at a time when there is little good news to report. Derringer's plan is against the wishes of the base commander, Col. Craig Harriman, who would prefer to treat the ten as any of his other hard working men. The previous success of the Memphis Belle is despite the disparate natures ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Brave young men who rode on the wings of victory.


Action | Drama | War


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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UK | Japan | USA



Release Date:

12 October 1990 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Memphis Belle See more »

Filming Locations:

England, UK See more »


Box Office


$23,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,026,846, 14 October 1990, Wide Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| Dolby (35 mm prints)


Black and White (archive footage)| Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


During the second squadron landing one of the B-17s fires a red flare. In 1943 this would have been done to let the ambulance crews know that that particular plane had wounded on-board. See more »


During the scene where Danny pulls out the liquor bottle, and Rascal sneaks up behind him to grab it, for a split-second, you can see Danny grin. Eric Stoltz probably happened to see Sean Astin coming in the reflection on the bottle, and without doubt it looked kind of funny to him. See more »


Dennis Dearborn: And if we don't drop these bombs right in the pickle barrel there are going to be a lot of innocent people killed.
Luke Sinclair: What's the difference? They're all Nazis!
See more »

Alternate Versions

The UK cinema version was rated 12, and was uncut. The video release was rated PG, and removed the use of "all fucked up". See more »


Referenced in Motormouth: Episode #4.13 (1991) See more »


I Know Why (and So Do You)
Music by Harry Warren
Lyrics by Mack Gordon
Performed by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Curiously Old-Fashioned
9 April 2010 | by The_Other_SnowmanSee all my reviews

I first saw this movie on video round about 1991, when I was about seven years old or so. I enjoyed it then, because it had airplanes in it, and there was nothing particularly offensive or difficult for a seven year old boy to understand.

Watching it again some nineteen years later, I'm struck by the exact same things. It's a very family-friendly war movie, earnestly trying to show us the difficult lives of American bomber pilots in Europe in 1943. The cast of characters come out of a guidebook for writing war movies, complete with The Religious One ("There's always a religious one," says John Lithgow's character), The Scared One, The Good-Luck Charm, The Smartass, and The Captain. The screenplay hits all the familiar notes: the crew pulling together for one last mission, overcoming obstacles, bonding as a surrogate family.

The actors all do a good job. Reed Diamond, Sean Astin, Matthew Modine, and Eric Stoltz are the most noteworthy (and how young they all were in 1990!), plus Lithgow and David Strathairn on the ground. Modine is almost funny as the straight-laced pilot who seems uncomfortably aware of just how boring he really is. Stoltz stands out in the thankless role of the all-around nice guy who gets wounded.

The flying scenes are exceptional. Real B-17s were filmed at real wartime airfields, and there's a bare-bones authenticity about a lot of it. The scenes inside the Memphis Belle, where most of the movie takes place, do an excellent job of showing you how cramped, cold, and noisy a place like that could be. Not to mention dangerous: the action scenes when German fighters attack the bombers flick by at a very fast pace, which must be something like what the bomber crews experienced. All this, of course, has been cleaned up for movie audiences: real bomber crews would never have taken off their oxygen masks or engaged in the lengthy conversations and horseplay featured in the film.

So it's a sincere and generally harmless movie, saturated in nostalgia, motivated by a desire to pay tribute to its subjects. That leads it into clichéd territory, leaving me with the feeling that the producers dusted off a screenplay dating to the 1950s, only adding a few lines here and there for modern audiences. Not entirely a bad thing, mind you, but not all that it could have been. Notable, however, is the total absence of the sort of flag-waving patriotism we've come to expect from period war films: there's nary an American flag in sight, and the film is dedicated to all the pilots and aircrews who lost their lives in the war -- not just the Allies.

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