The very first Oscar ceremony happened in 1929, and celebrated films were released between 1927 and 1928. Within a year, All Quiet on the Western Front was released to the masses and took home the coveted statue in 1931, becoming just the third Best Picture winner.
All Quiet on the Western Front depicts the struggles of a group of soldiers in World War I. Little did these people know that less than ten years after this release of one the greatest war movies of all-time, that the world would embark on a longer and darker world war.
There have been wars across generations and centuries, but nothing compared to World War I. It was an experience that most young boys and old men had never seen before. Whether it was aircraft filled with bombs or machine guns with unlimited firing capabilities. Thousands of people went to battle, and not all of them came home. The conflict turned innocent teenagers into men in seconds. They witnessed some of the harshest situations a human could ever face, and if you wanted to live, you had to do whatever you could to save yourself.
I thought it was comical at first. The boys thought it would be fun to defend the “fatherland,” and then they find out their staff sergeant is their local mailman, who is now trying his hardest to whip the boys into battle mode in a matter of days. After that, they are on the front lines where the bullets wiz by and the bodies slump over right next to them.
The movie kinda lost me when the boys find some downtime away from the battle and chase girls. I understand that story angle should be included because it shows the effects of war on these young boys who want to be men. After those escapades, some boys return home to see that life isn’t the same anymore. However, this is all these guys know now, so some of them reenlist and head back to the front lines.
The film tackles the difficult subject of PTSD and battle wounds. Some lost body parts, and some are so screwed up in the head that they will never be normal again. For me, I have seen all these situations played out in the hundreds of war films to get released in the decades since, so nothing really jumped out to me.
I believe that All Quiet on the Western Front is held in such high regard because it’s the original. There wasn’t a film quite like this in 1930. The effects were so realistic that anyone who saw it only got a glimpse of what war is really like. Personally, I’ve been spoiled with hundreds of war movies, and no matter what people say, Saving Private Ryan is probably the gold standard when it comes to depicting war.
I didn’t hate All Quiet on the Western Front, although I wasn’t a fan either. I can’t even blame the date of the film as an excuse. I’ve just seen a boatload of better movies. 4/10