The Great Santini

1 h 55 min1979PG
Robert Duvall is "Bull" Meechum, a gung-ho Marine pilot known as the Great Santini. He battles on the domestic front with his loving but bullied family, particularly his adolescentson.
Lewis John Carlino
Robert DuvallBlythe DannerMichael O'Keefe
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Stan ShawLisa Jane PerskyJulie Anne HaddockBrian AndrewsTheresa MerrittDavid Keith
Charles Pratt, Jr.
PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
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4.5 out of 5 stars

1364 global ratings

  1. 73% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 15% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 6% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 3% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

ThunderInTheSunReviewed in the United States on June 23, 2016
4.0 out of 5 stars
Narcissistic marine Colonel and pilot who cannot show love to his a fault
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This movie is ostensibly a classic father-son story where the coming-of-age son begins to break away from his overbearing, overly burdensome father, all the while trying to discover his own true self and identity. However, there is one glaring difference: this particular father, Bull Meechum (Robert Duvall), is a tough, narcissistic marine Colonel and pilot who cannot show love to his family -especially his eldest son (O'Keefe)-except through the full-throttled mannerisms of his disciplinarian, macho self. Needless to say, father and son love each other but neither can be what the other so desparately want and need in order to fulfill themselves as human beings and complete each others identities. In the end, tragedy usurps decency but lessons are learned by all, with one lesson learned too late. And that one lesson is to show love to those we love while it the here and now. Regretably, this is one life lesson we all tend to learn too late, if ever at all, making the movie more generalizable to the audience. The character development is excellent, from the wise-cracking Bull Meechum and his oldest teenage daughter, to the big and lovable Toomer, a black man who befriends Meechum's son, Ben. Toomer, although dirt poor and subject to the prejudicial times of the early 1960s when the movie takes place, shows Ben that a man can still be a man even if he is gentle, loves nature, animals, and a beautiful sunset....things his father would never even notice, let alone acknowledge. Yet, these are the qualities Ben's mother wishes her husband had himself. Ben gets dished a double dose of tragedy in this movie, transforming him from the fair, kind-hearted person he struggles to be to ultimately the man he tried so hard not to become: his father. The acting is suburb with Duvall leading the pack and O'Keefe keeping pace stride for stride. This is an excellent film for father's to watch with their sons, especially for those whose relationships have been strained or challenged. A tear-jerker of a movie, to be sure, so have your Kleenex at the ready sports fans!
22 people found this helpful
John JonesReviewed in the United States on January 15, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Close to home in a way
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I enjoyed this movie, as it captures the follies of growing up with a distinguished military father.

For some, it may hit a little too close to home, as it shows some of the pitfalls and struggles of being in a military family.

Nevertheless, it's a great movie, with the timeless message of the struggle between father and son, and father and family, and at times, father and military. The father is trying to balance a military career and mindset, and running his family like pilots under his care, not successfully finding balance.

It wouldn't be a timeless film if everything fell exactly into balance.

If it did, who could relate?
3 people found this helpful
toothdok50Reviewed in the United States on May 12, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Robert Duvall At His Best
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Robert Duvall portrays a WWII fighter ace that has reached legendary status by the Vietnam era, but for his family, his legendary status as a Marine means something quite different. Set in Beaufort, SC, The Great Santini is Pat Conroy's fictitious account of his first summer in South Carolina. He draws heavily on personal accounts of his father, family and society--enough to have created rifts in his family when the work was released. The Great Santini is a coming of age story that deals with alcoholism, physical and emotional abuse and Southern racism, but Conroy's talent of conveying the nuances of all these heated topics is profound. Set in the 1960's, Conroy's semi-autobiographical tale is troubling and touching at the same time. Its one of those movies you can watch again and again and still be stirred emotionally.
8 people found this helpful
DPBReviewed in the United States on February 13, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
One of Pat Conroy's best, brilliantly portrayed
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Excellent movie, though difficult to watch at times. If you were, or your father was, in the military this story might shed some light on things you may not have understood as a child or seen the same way as a young parent. One can easily identify with any of the characters and discover that life isn't always as it seems; a man trying desperately to impart his knowledge and wisdom to better the lives of his children can put them through hell.
One person found this helpful
John VReviewed in the United States on March 2, 2016
4.0 out of 5 stars
Santini is Great
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I can't comment on the DVD specifically yet as I only received yesterday and it will be a few weeks before I have time to watch it; however, I am very familiar with the movie as I own an old VCR video of it. I think it's a great movie with splendid acting all around. Had I been able to vote for the Academy Awards when Robert Duvall and Michael O'Keefe were nominated I would have voted for Duvall. O'Keefe would have been my second choice for supporting as that was the year Timothy Hutton won for Ordinary People, and I would have had to go with Timothy. It would have been a really hard choice if I had a vote. At the time Michael O'Keefe didn't have a lot of experience, as I recall, which makes his performance all the more moving. He slid right into the character. You can't help but feel his pain.
4 people found this helpful
Tome RaiderReviewed in the United States on January 31, 2009
5.0 out of 5 stars
Classic Across the Board
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I saw this movie almost 30 years ago in the theater. I lost recollection of the specifics, but I recalled that it was a life-altering movie. I basically only remembered the ending, which I won't disclose.

Watching it tonight brought back immediate recall as to why I liked it. As another reviewer notes: some movies don't hold up all that well over time, and some do. It is always interesting to see which way the verdict will fall. This one holds up perfectly. The cast is simply superb, and the story epic. This is a true'll go through a wide variety of emotions and reactions.

I also now recall why I went through a years-long phase where I referred to various family and friends as "sports fans." I think I'll start that up again, it somehow works. Hopefully I'll avoid the temptation to use the other favored name: "hogs,"--although The Great Santini's affection was revealed even there, as he tried to make Jr. Marines of his family.

Robert Duvall, as we all know, is a National Treasure, on the level of Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford, Robert Deniro, Gene Hackman, Al Pacino, Michael Caine and a handful of other actors who have simply combined extreme talent with decades of work and left behind tremendous legacies. I suggest to you that this is Duvall's crowning achievment. Why this movie has only moderate acclaim is completely beyond me. My entire family was enraptured by this film, and I suspect it has had the same effect on my kids tonight as it had of me all those years ago.
2 people found this helpful
Robert I. HedgesReviewed in the United States on April 8, 2006
5.0 out of 5 stars
Amazing Plot, Superb Script, And Sublime Acting From A Brilliant Cast
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I saw "The Great Santini" in the theatre in 1979 when it was first released. I always thought that Warner Brothers did a huge disservice to the film by retaining the original Pat Conroy book title (although the later re-release as "the Ace" also fails to inspire.) Despite the somewhat lackluster title, this is an absolutely superb film when viewed on many levels. I was originally interested in the film because of the aviation context, but that really only provides a medium for Robert Duvall to develop the character of Bull Meechum.

The real story here revolves around family and interpersonal dynamics in an early 1960s military family. Duvall gives a stunning performance in the title role as a hard charging Marine fighter pilot who finds expressions of affection next to impossible. Although a PG rated film, the language and violence (there is no nudity) are not excessive and are only used when necessary to further the plot (largely in the anti-racism subplot.) Despite this some of the scenes are very difficult to watch as they hit very close to home for people familiar with difficult family situations. The scene where Michael O'Keefe beats Duvall in basketball is one of the all-time most amazing scenes in cinema.

I think that the entire cast is perfect in every way. Stan Shaw gives an incredibly effective performance as Toomer in a subplot that addresses the futility of racism better than any other film I have ever seen. I find the scene of Red and Toomer with the bees and the dogs is one of the most poignant and brilliantly acted in history. The subtle complexity of the emotions (especially hatred and sorrow) in that one scene make the film worth watching, and should be required viewing in film schools everywhere. Likewise, Blythe Danner is amazing as the longsuffering military wife and mother.

By far the most important component of the film is the family relationships within the Meechum family, and in particular the conflict between Duvall and O'Keefe. Both were nominated for Oscars for these roles, and I firmly believe that both should have won, as both give brilliant performances. Of the two, though, I actually think that O'Keefe does the better job in the exceptionally difficult role of the 18 year old son. The emotional range that O'Keefe demonstrates in this film put him in the league of truly great actors like Duvall. Every time I have seen this film I have come to admire O'Keefe's portrayal more.

This is one of the best films from the 1970s and deserves more recognition than it has ever received. I give the film five stars (no question about that) although the Warner Brothers packaging leaves a lot to be desired. There are no commentary tracks or other extras on the DVD and that's a real shame. Nonetheless, this is a world class drama with occasionally brilliant comic insights that is as finely done as any other film I have ever seen.

I highly recommend "The Great Santini" to everyone.
69 people found this helpful
Ray StarmanReviewed in the United States on March 29, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Hotshot Pilot in Peacetime
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Great film. All about patriotism, the military, hot shot pilots in peacetime who can't abide peace. Robert Duval gives a striking performance of a top gun type sent to pasture. Great supporting cast of a family who are more peacenik than rough neck. Fair to the military and fair to civilian ideals as well. I was in the air foce and although I never piloted a plane I know that extra sensory feeling that the Blue Angels and other fliers have about their profession. It's not just a job, its an obsession.
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