Bridge, The (1959)

Bridge, The (1959)

“He can’t be a soldier… He’s just a kid!”

Near the end of World War II, a group of German teens are ordered to defend a useless bridge, not realizing it’s about to be blown up.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • German Films
  • Soldiers
  • Teenagers
  • World War Two

This Oscar nominated German film — Austrian director Bernhard Wicki’s feature debut — is a powerful, depressing look at the meaningless destruction of war. In the first half of the movie, we follow seven teenage boys as they interact with their (often fragmented) families; experience first love or unrequited desire; express giddy delight over discovering contraband brandy hidden in the river:

… and, above all, eagerly await their turn for inscription in Hitler’s army. The second half of the film details the grueling escalation of a deadly snafu, in which — despite the best of intentions by the boys’ platoon leader — everything that can go wrong does.

Ultimately, The Bridge demonstrates how miscommunication and stubborn pride can lead to lethal chaos when weapons (and naive teens) are involved. There’s little redemption here; by the end of the film (which was based on a true incident), we’re simply reminded how devastating and relentless the toll of war can be.

Note: According to my resident expert (my husband), there are a number of technical discrepancies in the film; most viewers, however, will not be bothered by this.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An insightful look at youthful idealism and naivete during wartime
  • A powerful depiction of war as hell

Must See?
Yes. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.


  • Historically Relevant


One thought on “Bridge, The (1959)

  1. A must. The overview given is rather accurate (it’s not that complicated a film), so I’ve little to add.

    I did find myself a bit confused in the film’s first episodic half – when the clipped views of the various boys’ everyday lives are shuffled in such a manner that it’s slightly hard to keep track of who is who. However, by the time the film gives way to its second half, the reality of what preceded holds little importance: by that time, the boys have joined as one – and the film sits in the dark (yet clear) tale of their sad purpose – and fate.

    Depending on what each individual film is about and/or how well it succeeds, I tend to be on the side of war films as must-see experiences, since the story of war in general is one that cannot be studied, cautioned against or damned enough. And, for a film of just under two hours, this one moves rather quickly – it felt, to me, as though it were over before I knew it.

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