Best Picture Review: “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957)

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Sunday, Lauren and I went to Ikea and picked up a new stand for our new TV… one that actually is large enough to support it.  I realized that we now have a bed frame, two dressers, coffee table, TV stand, four kitchen chairs, and a variety of dishes from Ikea in our apartment now.  Mom would be proud!  Anyway, we returned home and spent over an hour putting it together while watching the 1957 Best Picture winner, The Bridge on the River Kwai.

Kwai was a movie about a POW camp in WWII.  British soliders are under the direction of Japanese ruler Saito.  While being held in the jungle, they are instruced to build a bridge over the Kwai River which will connect the railroad between Rangoon and Bangkok.  At first the British do a crappy job of it, but they are soon persuaded by their commander to do a great job so people who cross the  bridge in the future remember the Brits for their solid work no matter what the circumstances.

As is the case with me quite often, I have a tough time following movies if I miss any little thing.  I had to read along with the plot line on Wikipedia to keep up with what was happening on screen.  I’m glad I did or I would have been really lost.  The story takes a turn when one of the prisoners of war successfully escapes and is being held at a hospital in Ceylan (Sri Lanka).  But this solider is blackmailed into going right back to the Kwai River as part of a British mission to blow up the new bridge.

I had a difficult time remembering what the characters’ names were, but these guys sneak into the area and wire the bridge with explosives.  They stake out and plan to blow up the bridge when the first train passes the next day.  All goes according to plan until literally minutes before the train is about to pass, when the proud British commander notices the cords in the river after the levels went way down overnight.

For the last ten minutes of the movie I was on the edge of my seat for one of the most intense scenes to this point in any of the Best Picture winners.  Would they be able to stop the explosion of the bridge in time before the train crossed?

This movie was interesting in many ways.  While it was a serious subject matter, there seemed to be a very slight underlying comedic tone throughout much of it, probably because of the happy tune the prisoners whistled while they worked.  I would say of all the movies to this point, this had the most exciting ending, which really went a long way in ranking it fourth to this point.

Here are my updated, constantly-changing rankings, 1929-1957.  The first 26 are likely to move around a little more as time passes, but I can promise you The Great Ziegfeld will stay in last place.

  1. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
  2. Mrs. Miniver (1942)
  3. All About Eve (1950)
  4. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
  5. Grand Hotel (1932)
  6. On the Waterfront (1954)
  7. Gone With the Wind (1939)
  8. Casablanca (1943)
  9. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
  10. Marty (1955)
  11. It Happened One Night (1934)
  12. From Here to Eternity (1953)
  13. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
  14. Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
  15. You Can’t Take It with You (1938)
  16. Going My Way (1944)
  17. The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
  18. An American in Paris (1951)
  19. The Lost Weekend (1945)
  20. How Green Was My Valley (1941)
  21. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
  22. All the King’s Men (1949)
  23. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
  24. Hamlet (1948)
  25. Cimmaron (1931)
  26. The Broadway Melody (1929)
  27. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)


  1. I can remember going to this movie in the theatre MANY years ago. It was my brother (Brian’s) birthday and my parents took all of us plus a few of his friends to this movie. I wonder if it was a remake though, as I remember Telly Savalas being in it. About all I remember about the show was them whistling the familiar tune. Maybe I dreamt the whole thing up and I never saw any such movie, but I think I did. At age 6 or so, I didn’t have much of a critic’s opinion either way.

  2. the movie the dirty dozen references bridge on the river kwai and they whistle the same tune it was released ten years later ans featured teddy savalas

  3. the movie the dirty dozen references bridge on the river kwai and they whistle the same tune it was released ten years later and featured teddy savalas

  4. Leave it to Jason to clear that one up…thanks for setting me straight. As I said, I was but a young lass at the time, and didn’t really understand the movie or know the actors, was just tickled to go to the theatre which was virtually unheard of in our family.

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