Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds
Inglourious Basterds

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Produced by Lawrence Bender
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson
Starring Brad Pitt
Christoph Waltz
Michael Fassbender
Eli Roth
Diane Kruger
Daniel Brühl
Til Schweiger
Mélanie Laurent
Cinematography Robert Richardson
Editing by Sally Menke
Studio A Band Apart
Studio Babelsberg
Distributed by The Weinstein Company
Universal Pictures
Release date(s) May 20, 2009 (2009-05-20) (Cannes)
August 20, 2009 (2009-08-20) (Germany)
August 21, 2009 (2009-08-21) (United States)
Running time 153 minutes
Country Germany[1]
United States
Language English
Budget US$70 million[2]
Box office $320,351,773[3]

Inglourious Basterds is a 2009 war film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz and Mélanie Laurent. The film tells the fictional story of two plots to assassinate the Nazi Germany political leadership, one planned by a young French Jewish cinema proprietor (Laurent), and the other by a team of Jewish Allied soldiers led by First Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Pitt).

Development on Inglourious Basterds began in 1998, when Tarantino wrote the script for the film. Tarantino struggled with the ending and chose to hold off filming and moved on to direct the two-part film Kill Bill. After directing Death Proof in 2007 (as part of the double feature Grindhouse), Tarantino returned to work on Inglourious Basterds. The film went into production in October 2008 and was filmed in Germany and France with a production budget of $70 million. Inglourious Basterds premiered on May 20, 2009 at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d'Or. It was widely released in theaters in the United States and Europe in August 2009 by The Weinstein Company and Universal Studios.

The film was successful at the box office, grossing $320,351,773 in theaters worldwide, making it Tarantino's highest-grossing film to date. It received multiple awards and nominations, including eight Academy Award nominations. For his role as Hans Landa, Christoph Waltz won the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as the BAFTA Award, Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.



In 1941, SD Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) arrives at a dairy farm in France to interrogate Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet) about rumors that he is hiding the Jewish Dreyfus family. Landa pressures the farmer to confess to hiding the family underneath his floor. Landa then orders the SS soldiers into the house to shoot through the floorboards where they are hiding. The entire family is killed, except the teenage Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), whom Landa allows to escape.

In the spring of 1944, 1st Special Service Force First Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) is tasked to recruit a team of eight Jewish-American soldiers for a mission to go behind enemy lines and bring fear to all German servicemen. He tells the soldiers that they each owe him one hundred Nazi scalps. They operate with a "take no prisoners" attitude and come to be known as the "Basterds". One survivor of an attack by the Basterds, a soldier named Butz (Sönke Möhring), is interviewed by Adolf Hitler (Martin Wuttke). Butz's account of the attack is shown in flashback: his squad was ambushed and his sergeant (Richard Sammel) was beaten to death with a baseball bat by Staff Sergeant Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth), known by the Germans as "The Bear Jew". Butz then reveals that Raine carved a swastika into his forehead with a knife.

In June 1944, Shosanna has assumed a new identity as "Emmanuelle Mimieux" and is operating a cinema in Paris. She meets Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), a German sniper whose exploits are to be celebrated in a Nazi propaganda film, Stolz der Nation (Nation's Pride). Zoller is attracted to Shosanna and convinces Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) to hold the premiere of his film at Shosanna's cinema. Shosanna realizes that the presence of several high-ranking Nazi officials provides an opportunity for revenge and resolves to burn down the cinema during the premiere by setting fire to a large quantity of extremely flammable nitrate film.

A British General, General Ed Fenech (Mike Myers) learns of the premiere and "Operation Kino" is conceived, and Lieutenant Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) is recruited to infiltrate the event, aided by the Basterds and German film actress and British spy, Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger). Hicox and two of the German-born Basterds meet with von Hammersmark at a tavern where Major Dieter Hellstrom (August Diehl), of the Gestapo, notices Hicox's odd accent and that he gives the wrong (non-German) three-fingered order for drinks; three fingers up instead of two fingers and the thumb. This results in a firefight and a standoff with a German serviceman, Staff Sgt. Wilhelm (Alexander Fehling), leaving everyone dead except von Hammersmark. Raine interrogates von Hammersmark, and upon learning that Hitler will be attending the premiere, devises a plan whereby he, Donny, and Omar (Omar Doom) will pose as von Hammersmark's Italian escorts at the premiere. Landa later investigates the tavern, retrieving von Hammersmark's shoe and an autographed napkin.

At the premiere, Landa asks to see von Hammersmark privately, where he makes her try on the shoe. Convinced to his satisfaction that she is in league with the Basterds, he suddenly strangles her to death. He then orders Raine and Utivich (B. J. Novak) to be arrested. Communicating by radio, Landa makes a deal with Raine's commanding officer (Harvey Keitel) to be granted a full military pension and American citizenship, in exchange for allowing Donny and Omar—still seated in the cinema—to kill the Nazi high command. During the film, Zoller goes to the projection room to see Shosanna and confronts her angrily due to her multiple rejections of his advances from the beginning. When his back is turned, she shoots him multiple times, but he manages to shoot her dead before succumbing to his wounds. The film is then interrupted by an inserted close-up of Shosanna informing the audience that they are going to be killed by a Jew. At the same time, Shosanna's employee and lover, Marcel (Jacky Ido), who has locked and bolted all the exits of the cinema, ignites the nitrate film stacked behind the screen. Omar and Donowitz successfully attack and kill Goebbels and Hitler, then shoot into the crowd of panicking Nazis until the timers on their bombs go off and destroy the cinema, killing everyone inside.

Landa and his radio operator drive Raine and Utivich to the American lines, and according to the deal, Landa surrenders to Raine and hands over his weapons, allowing Utivich to handcuff him. To Landa's shock, Raine then shoots the radio operator and orders Utivich to scalp the dead man. Raine then carves a swastika into Landa's forehead, because he hates the idea of Landa just walking away without an indication of his crimes, proclaiming, "You know something, Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece."[4]


Development and writing

Tarantino spent just over a decade writing the script for the film because, as he told Charlie Rose in an interview, he became "too precious about the page," meaning the story kept growing and expanding.[5][6] Tarantino viewed the script as his masterpiece in the making, so he felt it had to become the best thing he had ever written.[7] Tarantino described an early premise of the film as his "bunch-of-guys-on-a-mission film. [It's] my Dirty Dozen or Where Eagles Dare or Guns of Navarone kind of thing."[8] According to Tarantino, all his films make the audience laugh at things that aren't supposed to be funny, but the sense of humor differs in each.[9]

"I'm going to find a place that actually resembles, in one way or another, the Spanish locales they had in spaghetti westerns – a no man's land. With US soldiers and French peasants and the French resistance and German occupation troops, it was kind of a no man's land. That will really be my spaghetti Western but with World War II iconography. But the thing is, I won't be period specific about the movie. I'm not just gonna play a lot of Édith Piaf and Andrews Sisters. I can have rap, and I can do whatever I want. It's about filling in the viscera.

Quentin Tarantino[10]

By 2002, Tarantino found Inglourious Basterds to be a bigger film than planned and saw that other directors were working on World War II films.[11] At this point, Tarantino had produced three nearly finished scripts, proclaiming that it was "some of the best writing I've ever done. But I couldn't come up with an ending."[12] Consequently, the director held off his planned film and moved on to direct the two-part film Kill Bill (2003–2004).[11] After the completion of Kill Bill, Tarantino went back to his first storyline draft and came up with the idea of turning it into a mini-series. Instead he trimmed the script, using his script for Pulp Fiction as a guide to the right length.[13] He then planned to begin production of Inglourious Basterds in 2005.[14] The revised premise focused on a group of soldiers who escape from their executions and embark on a mission to help the Allies. He described the men as "not your normal hero types that are thrown into a big deal in the Second World War".[15]

In November 2004, Tarantino decided to hold off production of Inglourious Basterds and instead took an acting role in Takashi Miike's spaghetti western film Sukiyaki Western Django and made a kung fu film entirely in Mandarin.[16] This project foundered as well, and he ultimately directed a part of the 2007 Grindhouse instead, before returning to work on Inglourious Basterds.[14] The title of the film was inspired by the English title of director Enzo G. Castellari's 1978 war film, The Inglorious Bastards.[17][18] When asked for an explanation of the film's title spelling during a news conference at the Cannes Film Festival, Tarantino said, "I'm never going to explain that".[19] When pushed on it, Tarantino would not explain the first u in Inglourious, but said, "The Basterds? That's just the way you say it: Basterds."[18][20] Tarantino later stated in an interview that the misspelled title is "a Basquiat-esque touch."[21] He further commented on Late Show with David Letterman that Inglourious Basterds is a "Quentin Tarantino spelling."[22]


Christoph Waltz at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

Tarantino originally sought Leonardo DiCaprio to be cast as Hans Landa,[23] before deciding to have the character played by an older German actor.[24] The role ultimately went to an Austrian, Christoph Waltz, who, according to Tarantino, "gave me my movie" as he feared the part was "unplayable."[25] Pitt and Tarantino had wanted to work together for a number of years, but were forced to wait for the right project.[26] When Tarantino was half way through the script for Inglourious Basterds, he sensed that Pitt was a strong possibility for the role of Aldo Raine. By the time he had finished writing, Tarantino thought Pitt "would be terrific" and called Pitt's agent to ask if he was available.[26]

Tarantino asked Adam Sandler to play the role of Donny Donowitz, but Sandler declined due to schedule conflicts with the film Funny People.[27] Eli Roth was cast in the role instead. Roth also directed the film-within-the-film, Nation's Pride,[28] which used 300 extras.[29] The director also wanted to cast Simon Pegg in the film as Lt. Archie Hicox, but the actor was forced to drop out due to scheduling difficulties with Spielberg's Tintin adaptation.[30] Irish actor Michael Fassbender began final negotiations to join the cast as Hicox in August 2008.[30] The Office actor and writer, B. J. Novak, was also cast in August 2008 as Private First Class Smithson Utivich, "a New York-born soldier of 'slight build'".[31]

Tarantino talked to actress Nastassja Kinski about playing the role of Bridget Von Hammersmark and even flew to Germany to meet her, but a deal could not be reached[32] and Tarantino cast Diane Kruger instead.[27][33] Rod Taylor was effectively retired from acting and no longer had a talent agent, but came out of retirement when Tarantino offered him the role of Winston Churchill in the film.[34] In preparation for the role, Taylor watched dozens of DVDs with footage of Churchill in order to get the Prime Minister's posture, body language, and voice, including a lisp, correct.[34] Taylor initially recommended British actor Albert Finney for the role during their conversation, but agreed to take the part because of Tarantino's "passion."[34] Mike Myers (as Gen. Ed Fenech), a fan of Tarantino, had inquired about being in the film since Myers' parents were in the British Armed Forces.[35] In terms of the character's dialect, Myers felt that it was a version of Received Pronunciation meeting the officer class, but mostly an attitude of "I'm fed up with this war and if this dude can end it, great because my country is in ruins."[36]

Director Enzo G. Castellari also makes a cameo appearance in the film. He previously cameoed as a German in his own Inglorious Bastards and reprised the same role in this film, but under a different rank and SS organization.[37][38] Bo Svenson, who starred in Castellari's The Inglorious Bastards, also has a small cameo in the film, but can be seen more closely in the Nation's Pride trailer.[39] Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel, who have both previously starred in Tarantino's films, make small voice-only contributions as the narrator and an OSS commander, respectively.[40] Two characters, Mrs. Himmelstein and Madame Ada Mimieux, played by Cloris Leachman and Maggie Cheung respectively, were both cut from the final film due to length reasons.[41][42]

Pre-production and filming

Tarantino teamed with The Weinstein Company to prepare what he planned to be his movie for production.[43] In July 2008, Tarantino and executive producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein set up an accelerated production schedule to be completed for release at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, where the film would compete for the Palme d'Or.[44][45] The Weinstein Company co-financed the film and distributed it in the United States, and signed a deal with Universal Pictures to finance the rest of the film and distribute it internationally.[46][47] Germany and France were scheduled as filming locations and principal photography started in October 2008 on location in Germany.[48][49][50] Filming was scheduled to begin on October 13, 2008, and shooting started that week.[51][52] Special effects were handled by K.N.B. EFX Group with Greg Nicotero[53] and much of the film was shot and edited in the Babelsberg Studios in Potsdam, Germany[1] and in Bad Schandau, a small spa town near the German border with the Czech Republic.[54] Roth claimed that they "almost got incinerated", during the theater fire scene, as they projected the fire would burn at 400 °C (750 °F), but it instead burned at 1200 °C (2000 °F). He claimed the swastika was not supposed to fall either, as it was fastened with steel cables, but the steel liquefied.[55]

Following the film's screening at Cannes, Tarantino stated that he would be re-editing the film in June before its ultimate theatrical release, allowing him time to finish assembling several scenes that were not completed in time for the hurried Cannes premiere.[56]


Eli Roth, Mélanie Laurent, and producer Lawrence Bender at a premiere for the film in August 2009

When the final draft of the script was finished, it was leaked on the Internet and several Tarantino fan sites began posting reviews and excerpts from the script.[57][58]

The first full teaser trailer for the film premiered on Entertainment Tonight on February 10, 2009,[59] and was shown in US theaters the following week attached to Friday the 13th.[60] The trailer features excerpts of Lt. Aldo Raine talking to the rest of the Basterds, informing them of the plan to ambush and kill, torture, and scalp unwitting Nazi servicemen, intercut with various other scenes from the film.[61] It also features the spaghetti-westernesque terms Once Upon A Time In Nazi Occupied France,[61] which was considered for the title of the film,[62] and A Basterd's Work is Never Done, a line not spoken in the final film (the line occurs in the script during the Bear Jew's backstory).[63]

The film was released on August 19, 2009 in the United Kingdom and France,[64] two days earlier than the U.S. release date of August 21, 2009.[65] It was released in Germany on August 20, 2009.[66] Some European cinemas, however, showed previews starting on August 15.[67]


Universal Pictures censored the film's German publicity website, as the display of Nazi iconography is restricted in Germany. The title has the swastika removed and the steel helmet has a bullet hole instead of the Nazi symbol.[68] The download section of the German site was revised to exclude wallpaper downloads that feature the swastika openly.[69] Though the advertisement posters and wallpapers must not show Nazi iconography, this does not apply to "works of art" according to German law, so the film itself is not censored in Germany.[70] In Poland, the artwork on all advertisements and on DVD packaging is unchanged, but the title was translated non-literally to Bękarty Wojny (Bastards of War), so that Nazi iconography could stylize the letter "O".[71]


Box office

Opening in 3,165 screens, the film earned $14.3 million on the opening Friday of its North American release,[72] on the way to an opening weekend gross of $38 million, giving Tarantino a personal best weekend opening and the number one spot at the box office, ahead of District 9.[73] The film fell to number two in its second weekend, behind The Final Destination, with earnings of $20 million, and grossed $73.8 million in its first ten days.[74] Inglourious Basterds opened internationally at number one in 22 markets on 2,650 screens making $27.49 million. First place openings included France, taking in $6.09 million on 500 screens. The United Kingdom was not far behind making $5.92 million (£3.8m) on 444 screens. Germany took in $4.20 million on 439 screens and Australia with $2.56 million (A$2.8m) on 266 screens.[75] It has come to gross $120.8 million in the United States and Canada and $199.5 million in other territories, making its worldwide gross $320.3 million.[3] Inglourious Basterds is Tarantino's highest grossing film, both in the United States and worldwide.[76]

Critical reception

Cast and crew at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 88% of 256 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.7 out of 10.[77] Among Rotten Tomatoes' "Top Critics", which consists of popular and notable critics from the top newspapers, websites, television and radio programs,[78] the film holds an overall approval rating of 76%, based on a sample of 41 reviews. According to the site's summary of the critical consensus, "A classic Tarantino genre-blending thrill ride, Inglourious Basterds is violent, unrestrained, and thoroughly entertaining."[79] Metacritic, which assigns a score of 1–100 to individual film reviews, gives the film an averaged rating of 69 based on 36 reviews.[80]

The initial reactions of critics at the Cannes Film Festival were mixed. The film received an eight to eleven minute standing ovation from critics after its first screening at Cannes.,[81][82] although Le Monde, a leading French newspaper, dismissed it, saying "Tarantino gets lost in a fictional World War II".[83] Despite this, Anne Thompson of Variety praised the film, but opined that it was not a masterpiece, claiming, "Inglourious Basterds is great fun to watch, but the movie isn't entirely engaging... You don't jump into the world of the film in a participatory way; you watch it from a distance, appreciating the references and the masterful mise en scène. This is a film that will benefit from a second viewing".[84] Critic James Berardinelli gave the film his first four-star review of 2009, stating, "With Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino has made his best movie since Pulp Fiction," and that it was "one hell of an enjoyable ride."[85] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times also gave the film a four-star review, writing that "Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds is a big, bold, audacious war movie that will annoy some, startle others and demonstrate once again that he's the real thing, a director of quixotic delights."[86] Author and critic Daniel Mendelsohn was disturbed by the portrayal of Jewish-American soldiers mimicking German atrocities done to European Jews, stating, "In Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino indulges this taste for vengeful violence by—well, by turning Jews into Nazis".[87] British critic Peter Bradshaw stated he was "struck... by how exasperatingly awful and transcendentally disappointing it is".[88] While praising Christoph Waltz's performance ("a good actor new to American audiences"), David Denby, of The New Yorker, dismissed the film with the following words: "The film is skillfully made, but it's too silly to be enjoyed, even as a joke. [...] Tarantino has become an embarrassment: his virtuosity as a maker of images has been overwhelmed by his inanity as an idiot de la cinemathèque."[89]

The film has met some criticism from Jewish press, as well. In Tablet, Liel Liebowitz criticizes the film as lacking moral depth. He argues that the power of film lies in its ability to impart knowledge and subtle understanding, but Inglourious Basterds serves more as an "alternative to reality, a magical and Manichean world where we needn't worry about the complexities of morality, where violence solves everything, and where the Third Reich is always just a film reel and a lit match away from cartoonish defeat".[90] Anthony Frosh, writer for the online magazine Galus Australis, has criticized the film for failing to develop its characters sufficiently, labeling the film "Enthralling, but lacking in Jewish content".[91]


Christoph Waltz was singled out for Cannes honors, receiving the Best Leading Actor award at the end of the festival.[92] Film critic Devin Faraci of stated: "The cry has been raised long before this review, but let me continue it: Christoph Waltz needs not an Oscar nomination but rather an actual Oscar in his hands.... he must have gold".[93] The film received four Golden Globe nominations[94] including Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Supporting Actor for Waltz, who went on to win the award.[95] The film also received three Screen Actors Guild Award nominations and went on to win the awards for Best Cast and Best Supporting Actor, which was awarded to Waltz.[96] The film was nominated for six BAFTA Awards, including Best Director for Tarantino,[97] winning only once—the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor for Waltz. In February 2010, the film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Waltz, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.[98] Waltz was awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[99]

Home media

The film was released on Single Disc DVD and a Two-Disc Special Edition DVD and Blu-ray Disc on December 15, 2009 by Universal Studios Home Entertainment in the United States[100] and Australia.[101] It was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on December 7, 2009 in the UK.[102] On its first week of release Inglourious Basterds was number two, only behind The Hangover, selling an estimated 1,581,220 DVDs making $28,467,652 in the United States.[103]

The German version is 50 seconds longer than the American version. The scene in the tavern has been extended. Although in other countries, the extended scene was released as a bonus feature, the German theatrical, DVD and Blu-ray Disc versions are the only ones to include the full scene.[citation needed]


Tarantino originally wanted Ennio Morricone to compose the soundtrack for the film.[18] Morricone was unable to, because of the sped-up production schedule of the film conflicted with his scoring of Giuseppe Tornatore's Baarìa.[104] However, Tarantino did use eight tracks composed by Morricone in the film, with four of them included on the CD.[105][106]

The opening theme is taken from the folk ballad "The Green Leaves of Summer", which was composed by Dimitri Tiomkin and Paul Francis Webster for the opening of the 1960 film The Alamo.[105][107] The soundtrack uses a variety of music genres, including spaghetti western, R&B and David Bowie's theme from the 1982 film Cat People.[108] This is the first of Tarantino's soundtracks that does not include dialogue excerpts from the film.[109] The soundtrack was released on August 18, 2009.[110]

In popular culture

On December 5, 2010, The Fight Before Christmas, the eighth episode of The Simpsons twenty-second season, featured an Inglourious Basterds sequence during a World War II flashback.[111]

When Jewish, 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m), 314-pound American football player Gabe Carimi was drafted in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, he was nicknamed "The Bear Jew", a reference to the character in Inglourious Basterds.[112][113][114]


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