Still widely regarded as the best war film ever made, director Lewis Milestone's adaptation of the Remarque WWI novel is clearly his masterpiece, a searing indictment of the insanity of war. Starring Lew Ayres as the young Paul Bauman, the film focuses on the fates of the boy and his classmates, who have enlisted to fight in the German army during WWI. Still on fire with the patriotism instilled by their teacher, Kantorek (Arnold Lucy), they arrive for training, eager to face death. When they reach the front lines, the realize that the German troops have few supplies and no food. Sgt. Katczinsky (Louis Wolheim), briefs the recruits on how to avoid getting killed, but on the first night, one of them gets shot. The carnage of the battle shocks the boys, and some are driven mad. Day after day, the recruits huddle in the trenches, frightened, starving, and unable to gain ground, realizing that it is not glorious to die for one's fatherland. This powerfully affecting film is brilliantly directed and written, and generally well acted despite some dated elements. Milestone's magnificent crane and tracking shots of the battlefields surely owe something to the work of Karl Freund, arguably the finest cinematographer in film history.
Academy Awards Best Picture 1930
Academy Awards Best Director 1930 Lewis Milestone American director/screenwriter