Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 American epic war film set during the invasion of Normandy in World War II. It was directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat. The film is notable for its graphic and realistic portrayal of war, and for the intensity of its opening 27 minutes, which depict the Omaha Beach assault of June 6, 1944. The film follows United States Army Rangers Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) and a squad (Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel,Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg and Jeremy Davies) as they search for a paratrooper, Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), who is the last-surviving brother of four servicemen.
Rodat conceived the film’s story in 1994 when he saw a monument dedicated to eight siblings killed in the American Civil War. Rodat imagined a similar sibling narrative set in World War II. The script was submitted to producer Mark Gordon, who handed it to Hanks. It was finally given to Spielberg, who decided to direct.
Saving Private Ryan was well received by audiences and garnered considerable critical acclaim, winning several awards for film, cast, and crew as well as earning significant returns at the box office. The film grossed US$481.8 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing domestic film of the year. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated the film for eleven Academy Awards; Spielberg’s direction won him a second Academy Award for Best Director. Saving Private Ryan was released on home video in May 1999, earning $44 million from sales.
On the morning of June 6, 1944, the beginning of the Normandy invasion, American soldiers prepare to land on Omaha Beach. They struggle against German infantry, machine gun nests, and artillery fire. Captain John H. Miller survives the initial landing and assembles a group of soldiers to penetrate the German defenses, leading to a breakout from the beach.
In Washington, D.C., General George Marshall is informed that three of the four brothers of the Ryan family were killed in action and that their mother is to receive three telegrams to inform her of that. He learns that the fourth son, Private First Class James Francis Ryan, is a paratrooper, and is missing in action somewhere in Normandy. After reading to his staff Abraham Lincoln’s Bixby letter, Marshall orders that Ryan be found and sent home immediately.
Three days after D-Day, Miller receives orders to find Ryan. He assembles six men from his company, Horvath, Reiben, Mellish, Caparzo, Jackson, and Wade, plus one man detailed from another unit, Upham, a cartographer who speaks French and German. Miller and his men move out to Neuville. On the outskirts of the town, they meet a platoon from the 101st Airborne Division. After entering the town, Caparzo is shot by a sniper. Jackson is able to kill the sniper, but Caparzo dies. They locate a Private James Frederick Ryan, but soon realize that he is not their man. They find a member of Ryan’s regiment who informs them that his drop zone was atVierville and that his and Ryan’s companies had the same rally point. Once they reach it, Miller locates a friend of Ryan’s, who reveals that Ryan is defending a strategically important bridge over the Merderet River in the town of Ramelle.
On the way to Ramelle, Miller decides to neutralize a German machine gun position, despite the misgivings of his men. Wade is fatally wounded in the ensuing skirmish. The last surviving German, incurs the wrath of the squad, Upham protests the proposed execution of the German soldier. Miller decides to let the German walk away, blindfolded, and surrender himself to the next Allied patrol. No longer confident in Miller’s leadership, Reiben declares his intention to desert the squad and the mission, prompting a confrontation with Horvath. The argument heats up, until Miller defuses the situation. Reiben then reluctantly decides to stay.
The squad finally arrives on the outskirts of Ramelle, where they come upon three paratroopers, among whom is Ryan. After entering Ramelle, Ryan is told of his brothers’ deaths, the mission to bring him home, and that two men had been lost in the quest to find him. He is distressed at the loss of his brothers, but does not feel it is fair to go home, asking Miller to tell his mother that he intends to stay “with the only brothers [he has] left.” Miller decides to take command and defend the bridge with what little manpower and resources are available.
The Germans arrive with infantry and armor. In spite of heavy German casualties, most of the Americans — including Jackson, Mellish, and Horvath — are killed. While attempting to blow the bridge, Miller is shot and mortally wounded by the German prisoner set free earlier. Just before a Tiger tank reaches the bridge, an American P-51 Mustang flies over and destroys it, followed by more Mustangs, American infantry, and M4 Sherman tanks who rout the remaining Germans. Upham, who was cut off and hid in a ditch, comes out of hiding as the Germans flee and orders them to drop their weapons; among them the German that shot Miller. Upham executes him, telling the rest to flee. Ryan is with Miller as he dies and says his last words, “James… earn this. Earn it.”
In the present day, elderly Ryan and his family visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-mer in Normandy. Ryan stands at Miller’s grave. He asks his wife to confirm that he has led a good life and that he is a “good man” and thus worthy of the sacrifice of Miller and the others.