Memphis Belle

October 12th, 1990


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It's May 1943 at a US Air Force base in England. The four officers and six enlisted men of the Memphis Belle...

Release Year: 1990

Rating: 6.8/10 (11,649 voted)

Director: Michael Caton-Jones

Stars: Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz, Tate Donovan

It's May 1943 at a US Air Force 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 US Air Force squad 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...

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 Wilson - Singer

Release Date: 12 October 1990

Filming Locations: Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Cambridgeshire, England, UK

Box Office Details

Budget: $23,000,000(estimated)

Gross: $27,441,977 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

The Sally B, one of two B17s portraying the Belle in the film, is the last airworthy B17 in the UK. She is based at RAF Duxford, Europe's premier aviation museum, and is part of the USAAF WWII Memorial Flight making dozens of appearances across the UK and North Europe. She is maintained and run by volunteers and relies solely upon donations.

Continuity: When Val drops the bombs, the interior view clearly shows four bombs dropping. The view then shifts to an exterior view of the bombing group showing eight bombs exiting the bomb bay.

Richard Rascal Moore: [on seeing flak damage] There's a hole as big as my dick in the left wing.

User Review

"MB" nay-sayers: ever been a bomber pilot at age 21?


No?? … then shut up.

My dad was. Didn't fly B-17s, but he was the PIC (pilot-in-command) of a crew of seven, all younger than he, of a B-26 Martin Marauder medium bomber (the Flying Prostitute – 'no visible means of support'; referred to the short wingspan and hot landing speeds) in the Mediterranean Campaign out of Corsica and Sardinia, bombing German-controlled ball-bearing factories in northern Italy at 10,000 ft. Lost his nose-gunner from "fright" - frozen to the gun – wouldn't bail out when they were shot down right after 'delivering the pizza' over Bergamo-Seriate airfield on my mom's birthday, Aug 08th, 1944…about 9 weeks before I was born. His story about getting out of that B-26 before it crashed would raise the hair on your young necks. Survived Stalag Luft III and the 500 mile foot-march – yes, in January, through snow – to Stalag Luft VII (Steve McQueen – "The Great Escape"). Gen'l Patton liberated all in April, 1945 – including my dad and five of his crew.

Dad didn't make furniture like Matthew Modine's character in "Memphis Belle". But he did pick and truck-haul tomatoes on HIS dad's farm in the Ohio River Valley around Racine, right out of the black river-bottom soil just above the banks; became a basketball hero in high school; then entered the Army Air Force at 19. Pilot training in Texas and Florida. I have the letters from him to my mom during all that...

And the dialog in the film? Pretty true-to-life, he said – everybody was young and talked and acted JUST LIKE THAT…

This review isn't meant to be about my dad. But I hope it says a little something about the producer's efforts for "Memphis Belle." Very young kids – normal Americans – tough (even impossible) duty – in advanced machines (then) – in hard times – in a country far from home – doing what they were trained for. Sound familiar even today?...

And don't be too hard on the details. Remember, this is a 'representative film' of what happened to many, many bomber crews in many, many different bombers during WWII. Many thousands of very young American air crews were lost in this effort to help keep America and our Allies 'free.' Think about that whole image, listen to the music score, cherish the action from a fresh perspective. TRY to put yourself in their shoes.

Then watch the film again…