whipped into shape

List of films featuring the United States Marine Corps

This is a list of films featuring the United States Marine Corps.

What Should Be Included

Films on this list fall into one of two categories:

  1. Films about the United States Marine Corps
  2. Films where multiple major and supporting characters are depicted as being Marines, and whose status or history as Marines is important to the overall storyline.

What Should Not Be Included

Films that should not be included on this list include:

  • Those depicting Marine-like soldiers not of the USMC (example - the Colonial Marines of the Alien franchise)
  • Those depicting a single Marine character (example - Colonel Frank Fitts in American Beauty)
  • Depictions in media other than film (example - Baa Baa Black Sheep, a television series about a Marine aviation squadron)

History of Marines in Film

Beginning with The Star Spangled Banner (1918), the Marines discovered the use of motion pictures. In exchange for a favourable portrayal that stimulated recruiting and gave an impressive view to the public and Congress, the Marines provided uniformed extras, locations, equipment, and technical advisers that provided their expertise to the producers. In 1926 MGM's Tell it to the Marines (1926 film) and Fox's What Price Glory? (1926 film) directed by Raoul Walsh nearly led to a court battle to see whether one studio could copyright the Marines to prevent other films from being made. Over the years Camp Pendleton was dressed up to represent Central American nations, China, Pacific islands, New Zealand, and Joseph H. Lewis's Retreat Hell (1952) and Allan Dwan's John Payne film Hold Back The Night (1956) had the California base covered in studio snow with their hills and roads painted white. Camp Pendleton later doubled as Vietnam in Marshall Thompson's To the Shores of Hell (1966). When filming Battle Cry (film) at the base in 1954, Raoul Walsh's Marine technical adviser said that he had joined the Corps after seeing Walsh's What Price Glory? (1926 film). Marine boot camp was also depicted in Jack Webb's The D.I. (1957) and Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket that led to more enlistments to the Corps.

Sands of Iwo Jima

Perhaps the biggest and most important Marine film was Allan Dwan's John Wayne epic film Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). At the time the Corps was facing its toughest battle for survival with Congressional hearings on significantly reducing the size and capabilities of the Marines. The Marines spared no expense in providing Marines, equipment, combat cameraman footage, and trained the actors to look, dress, and act like Marines. The trailer (film) told the viewer "these are YOUR boys' and the large scale battle scenes impressed the public. The ending with Wayne's death, John Agar growing into manhood and taking Wayne's place, the depiction of Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, and Agar leading his squad into the mists of history as a choral version of The Marine's Hymn that begins quietly and grows louder plays in the background led to an unforgettable image of the Corps. Congressmen voting on appropriations for the Corps would forever be deluged from letters from their constituents who had images of Marines running out of ammunition and being treacherously bayonetted by monkey like Japanese soldiers. President Harry S. Truman said the Corps had a "propaganda machine bigger than Joseph Stalin's" but had to apologize when he presented the 1st Marine Division with a Presidential Unit Citation for their gallantry in the Korean War.

List of Films

Title and director Summary Released Notes
A Few Good Men
Rob Reiner
Based on a play by Aaron Sorkin, this film follows the efforts of Navy lawyer Lt. Kaffee as he legally defends two Marines undergoing court-martial for the murder of a third Marine 9 December 1992 Awards: 4 Oscars, 5 Golden Globes
Battle for Haditha
Nick Broomfield
Based on the Haditha killings on November 19, 2004 4 February 2008
All the Young Men
Hall Bartlett
Sidney Poitier commands a fictional unit of Korean War Marines in 1951, also starring Alan Ladd. The film explores the recent racial integration of the Marine Corps. 26 August 1960
Battle Cry
Raoul Walsh
Based on a novel by Leon Uris, this film follows the adventures of a group of MCRD San Diego recruits through love lives and frustrations with being held in reserve so long before they are finally sent into battle from Australia in WW II. Stars include Van Hefflin, Aldo Ray, James Whitmore, Raymond Massey, Tab Hunter, Dorothy Malone, Anne Francis, Nancy Olson, and others. 2 February 1955
Born on the Fourth of July
Oliver Stone
Film adaptation of the biography of Ron Kovic, dealing with his service in the Vietnam War, in particular his post-traumatic stress disorder and feelings of the betrayal of Vietnam veterans by the American government 20 December 1989 Awards: 2 Oscars, 4 Golden Globes, 4 other major awards
Death Before Dishonor
Terry Leonard
Gunnery Sergeant Burns is the head of the Marine security detachment of an American embassy in the Middle East, when it is captured by terrorists. He mounts a one-man operation to defeat the terrorists and free their hostages 1987 -
The D.I.
Jack Webb
Sergeant Jim Moore is one of the toughest Drill Instructors on Parris Island. But he's got a thorn in his side: Pvt. Owens, who always seems to foul up when the pressure's on. Convinced that "there's a man underneath that baby powder", Sgt. Moore drives Owens to the point of desertion. Making things worse, Capt. Anderson has given Moore three days to make the scared private into Marine material, "or I'll personally cut the lace off his panties and ship him out!" Adding to the pressure, Moore also juggles a budding romance with a shop girl. 1957 -
Flags of Our Fathers
Clint Eastwood
Based on the book by James Bradley, the film follows James Bradley as he looks at the events of the Battle of Iwo Jima, and finds the surviving Marines depicted in the photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima 20 October 2006 A complementary film, Letters from Iwo Jima depicted the battle from the Japanese point of view.
Flying Leathernecks
Nicholas Ray
Follows Major Kirby as he takes command of USMC fighter squadron VMF-247 September 1951 Starring John Wayne, Robert Ryan
Full Metal Jacket
Stanley Kubrick
Based on the semi-autobiographical novel The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford. Portrayal of the Vietnam War from the point of view of Marine recruit James T. "Joker" Davis 26 June 1987 -
Heartbreak Ridge
Clint Eastwood
Follows near-retirement Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway as he is placed in charge of an unruly, undertrained recon platoon. He unifies his men despite the disapproval of his unit commander, and leads them during the 1983 Invasion of Grenada 5 December 1986 -
Here Come the Marines
William Beaudine
The Bowery Boys get drafted into the Marines. On their first day in basic training, their commanding officer discovers that Sach's dad is an old war buddy of his, so he makes Sach a sergeant and places him in charge of the boys. While on the drill field, they discover the body of a dead Marine, and find a playing card on him that they trace to a local gambling house, where they suspect that the Marine was murdered. 1952 -
Sam Mendes
Based on the memoir by Anthony Swofford. Depicts Swofford's experiences as a Marine scout-sniper during the 1990-1991 Gulf War 4 November 2005 -
Major Payne
Nick Castle
A comedy following the life of Major Payne, a recently-discharged Marine seeking reinstatement, and having to run a disorderly high school cadet corps in an attempt to regain active Marine status 24 March 1995 -
The Outsider
Delbert Mann
Tony Curtis plays Pima Indian Ira Hayes (Nicknamed "Chief" by other soldiers) who fights in World War II and helps to raise the flag at Iwo Jima. 1961 -
Rules of Engagement
William Friedkin
Depicts the court-martial of Marine Colonel Childers following the deaths of 83 civilians during a military incident at an embassy in Yemen. The court-martial hinges on if Childers broke his "rules of engagement" 31 March 2000 -
Sands of Iwo Jima
Allan Dwan
Follows a group of Marines during World War II, from training to the Battle of Tarawa and Battle of Iwo Jima 1949 Stars John Wayne
The Siege of Firebase Gloria
Brian Trenchard-Smith
The film's thin veneer of social propriety (the story of how the VietCong came under Hanoi's control) is merely a cover for a rolicking old-time battle tale, complete with a hard-tack sergeant, his rebellious sidekick, and a demoralized base (a Marine's view of the difference between the U.S. Army and Marines) that needs to be whipped into shape before the VietCong attack. Trenchard-Smith has stated that though uncredited, Ermey actually wrote the film. 1989 Stars R. Lee Ermey
Tell It to the Marines
George W. Hill
U.S. Marine Sergeant O'Hara has his hands full training raw recruits, one of whom, 'Skeets' Burns, is a particular thorn in his side. If Burns's lackadaisical approach to the military were not bad enough, he also makes advances on nurse Nora Dale, whom Sergeant O'Hara secretly loves. Nora is oblivious to O'Hara's feelings and is attracted to the handsome 'Skeet.' But an indiscretion turns her against him, and it takes an expedition to China and a battle with a warlord's bandit brigade to sort things out among the nurse and her two Marines. 1926
The Great Santini
Lewis John Carlino
Based on the novel of the same name. Portrays a Marine fighter pilot whose success as an aviator contrasts with his failures as a family man, and how this affects his son 26 October 1979
John Woo
A pair of Marine Sergeants are tasked with the protection of two code talkers during the Battle of Saipan 14 June 2002
Wake Island
John Farrow
Tells the story of the United States Marines who were stationed at Wake Island when it was attacked by the Japanese following the attack on Pearl Harbor. 1942
Guadalcanal Diary
Lewis Seiler
The films recount the fight of the United States Marines in the Battle of Guadalcanal only a year before the movie's release. 1943
Gung Ho!
Ray Enright
The story is based on the real-life World War II Makin Island raid led by Lieutenant Colonel Evans Carlson's 2nd Marine Raider Battalion. 1943
Salute to the Marines
S. Sylvan Simon
Tells the story of a retired USMC NCO who leads a heroic defense when the Japanese attack the Philippines, first by strangling a Nazi agent and then dies in his dress uniform while blowing up a bridge 1943
6th Marine Division on Okinawa
U.S. Marines
Tells about the action of the 6th Marine Division during the Battle of Okinawa. The film was released shortly after the event. 1945
Pride of the Marines
Delmer Daves
Tells the story of U.S. Marine Al Schmid in World War II, his heroic stand against a Japanese attack during the Battle of Guadalcanal, in which he was blinded by a grenade, and his subsequent rehabilitation. 1945
To the Shores of Iwo Jima
The film follows the servicemen through the battle in rough chronological order, from the bombardment of the island by warships and carrier-based airplanes to the final breakdown of resistance, though, after it shows the taking of Suribachi, it then switches to the footage of the second flag raising. 1945
Ears, Open. Eyeballs, Click.
Canaan Brunley
This documentary shows the experiences of Marine recruits during bootcamp. Unlike many documentaries, this film offers no narration nor a focus on central characters, shooting from a fly-on-the-wall perspective.. 2005
The Boys in Company C
Sidney J. Furie
This war drama (which prefigures the later "Full Metal Jacket") follows the lives of five young Marine inductees from their training in boot camp in 1967 through a tour in Vietnam in 1968 that quickly devolves into a hellish nightmare. Disheartened by futile combat, appalled by the corruption of their South Vietnamese ally, and constantly endangered by the incompetence of their own company commander, the young men find a possible way out of the war. They are told that if they can defeat a rival soccer team, they can spend the rest of their tour playing exhibition games behind the lines. But as they might have predicted, nothing in Vietnam is as simple as it seems.. 1978
Halls of Montezuma
Lewis Milestone
The film follows a group of U.S. Marines from the beach to a Japanese rocket site through enemy infested jungles as their ex-school teacher leader is transformed into a battle veteran and his squad becomes a tight fighting unit 1951

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