Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor Information

Pearl Harbor is a 2001 American epic war film directed by Michael Bay, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and written by Randall Wallace. It features a large ensemble cast, including Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, Colm Feore and Alec Baldwin.

Pearl Harbor is a dramatic reimagining of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent Doolittle Raid. Some special prints were made from the color negatives using the recently re-introduced Technicolor dye imbibition printing process. Despite negative reviews from critics, Pearl Harbor became a major box office success, earning nearly $450 million worldwide and won the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing.


In 1923 Tennessee, two young boys, Rafe McCawley (Jesse James) and Danny Walker (Reiley McClendon), are playing together in the back of an old biplane, pretending to be soldiers fighting the Germans in World War I. After Rafe's father (Steve Rankin) land his biplane and leaves, Rafe and Danny climb into the plane and Rafe accidentally starts it, giving the boys their first experience at flight. Soon afterward, Danny's father (William Fichtner) comes to take him home, and beats Danny, saying that he is of no account. Rafe hits Danny's father with a two by four and calls him a dirty German. Danny's father reacts by saying he fought the Germans in France and hopes the two boys never have to see what he saw. He then walks into the wheat fields, and Danny tells Rafe that he is his best friend, before joining his father.

Eighteen years later, in January 1941, Danny (Josh Hartnett) and Rafe (Ben Affleck) are both First Lieutenants under the command of Major Doolittle (Alec Baldwin). The two men get into trouble when they use the Air Corps P-40s to play a game called chicken at Mitchel Field, Long Island. Afterwards, Doolittle gives Rafe the news that he has been accepted into the Eagle Squadron (an RAF outfit for American pilots to fight in the war). Rafe lies to Danny, though, saying that Doolittle assigned him.

While on a train ride to New York, a nurse named Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale) tells her friends Sandra (Jennifer Garner), Betty (Jaime King), Martha (Sara Rue) and Barbara (Catherine Kellner) the story of how she had met Rafe four weeks earlier after passing his medical exam, even though Rafe had trouble with reading. The two had begun a relationship and Evelyn is looking forward to seeing Rafe in the city that night. Rafe and Evelyn enjoy an evening of dancing at a nightclub and later a spin in New York harbor in a borrowed police boat. Later, Rafe shocks Evelyn by saying that he has joined the Eagle Squadron and is leaving the next day. He asks her not to see him off. When he leaves the following morning, though, he is pleased to see that she has come anyway as it means she really loves him.

Meanwhile, Danny, Evelyn and the rest of their fellow pilots and nurses are transferred to Pearl Harbor where there is little action going on, though Rafe fights in numerous dogfights with the RAF. While fighting in the Battle of Britain, Rafe is shot down over the English Channel and presumed to be killed in action. Danny gives Evelyn the news and she is devastated.

Three months later, Evelyn runs into Danny at a movie theater, after they both leave after they see a news reel of British planes being shot down into the English Channel. They get coffee at a nearby diner and talk about Rafe. They soon realize they are developing feelings for each other. Danny later takes Evelyn for a sunset flight over the harbor, and afterwards the two have sex in the parachute hangar. They begin a relationship of their own.

On the night of December 6, Evelyn is relieved to discover Rafe, alive and well. He explains that he survived his plane crash and was rescued by a French fishing boat, and was stuck in occupied France ever since. Danny comes soon afterward holding a telegram from Western Union stating that Rafe is in fact alive. Rafe realizes that Danny and Evelyn are now together, and feeling hurt and betrayed, leaves. Rafe and Danny soon get into a fight at the Hula Bar. When the police arrive, the two drive away and after talking, the two eventually fall asleep. The next morning, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese military begin bombing Pearl Harbor. The two drive away in search of a still standing airfield, while Evelyn and the other nurses rush for the hospital. Rafe and Danny manage to get in the air in two P-40s, shooting down seven Japanese Zeroes. After landing, Danny and Rafe return to the hospital where a bedraggled Evelyn draws blood from the two men for the hundreds of wounded men and women, but is interrupted when a man comes in and asks Danny and Rafe to assist in rescuing men from the harbor. Afterwards, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Jon Voight) declares a state of war on the Empire of Japan.

In the aftermath, the survivors attend a memorial service to honor the numerous dead, including Betty. Later, Danny and Rafe are assigned to travel stateside under Major Doolittle for a secret mission. Before they leave, Evelyn goes to see Rafe. She reveals that she is pregnant, though she does not want Danny to know. She tells Rafe that she will stay with Danny, but she will also love Rafe for the rest of her life.

Upon their arrival in California, Danny and Rafe are both promoted to captain and being awarded the silver star award. They are told that they will be going on a top secret mission to bomb Tokyo, and they are also told to leave their hula shirts at home. While sitting at a beach bonfire, Rafe pleads to Danny to not go on the mission, that he has nothing to prove. But Danny decides to go anyway. After training, the raiders are sent towards Japan by ship and in April, the ship was attacked by the Japanese and the raiders fly on their B-25 Mitchell medium bombers towards Tokyo. After a successful bombing, the raiders crash landed on Japanese-occupied territory in China on a rice paddy.. The Japanese Army have the members of Rafe's plane pinned down and when they are about to get shot, Danny's plane flies over and shoots the Japanese forces, before crashing.

Rafe runs to Danny's side and attempts to pull a sharp piece of metal from Danny's neck, but are once again attacked by Japanese patrols. Rafe is hit over the head by a two by four, and Danny is tied to an ox yoke. Rafe picks up a pistol and shoots some of the Japanese, and is about to get shot himself when Danny hits the Japanese with the ox yoke. The remaining patrols shoot Danny, and the other pilots Red (Ewen Bremner) and Gooz (Michael Shannon) kill off the remaining Japanese forces. Holding a dying Danny in his arms, Rafe tells Danny that he can't die because he is going to be a father, but Danny replies by saying, "No, you are", before finally dying in Rafe's arms. The remaining pilots are rescued by the Chinese, and when returning home, a pregnant Evelyn sees Rafe getting off the plane, and is hopeful that Danny is alive, until she sees Rafe carrying his coffin.

In the aftermath, both Evelyn and Rafe are awarded medals. Evelyn's voice narrates that Dorie Miller (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who shot down several planes during the attack, was the first black man to be awarded the Navy Cross, but would not be the last. Rafe meets President Roosevelt, and he and Evelyn are discharged from the army. A few years later after the war ended, Rafe and Evelyn, now married, are visiting Danny's grave with their son, also named Danny after his biological father. Rafe asks little Danny if he would like to go flying, and two fly off in the sunset in the old biplane.


Supporting characters

  • William Lee Scott as First Lieutenant Billy Thompson
  • Greg Zola as First Lieutenant Anthony Fusco
  • Ewen Bremner as First Lieutenant Red Winkle
  • Jaime King as Nurse Betty Bayer, credited as James King
  • Catherine Kellner as Nurse Barbara
  • Jennifer Garner as Nurse Sandra
  • Michael Shannon as First Lieutenant Gooz Wood
  • Matt Davis as Joe
  • Mako as Kaigun Taish? (Admiral) Isoroku Yamamoto
  • Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Kaigun Ch?sa (Commander) Minoru Genda
  • Dan Aykroyd as Captain Thurman
  • Reiley McClendon as Young Danny
  • Jesse James as Young Rafe
  • William Fichtner as Mr. Walker (Danny's father)
  • Steve Rankin as Mr. McCawley (Rafe's Father)
  • Scott Wilson as General George Marshall
  • Graham Beckel as Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
  • Tom Everett as Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox
  • Tomas Arana as Vice-Admiral Frank J. 'Jack' Fletcher
  • Sara Rue as Nurse Martha
  • Michael Milhoan as Army Commander
  • Peter Firth as Captain Mervyn S. Bennion
  • Andrew Bryniarski as Joe the Boxer
  • Madison Mason as Admiral Raymond A. Spruance
  • Kim Coates as Lieutenant Jack Richards
  • Glenn Morshower as Rear Admiral William F. 'Bull' Halsey Jr.
  • Eric Christian Olsen as gunner to Captain McCawley
  • Michael Shamus Wiles as Captain Marc Andrew "Pete" Mitscher
  • David Kaufman as young nervous doctor
  • Leland Orser as Major Jackson


The proposed budget of $208 million that Bay and Bruckheimer wanted was an area of contention with Disney executives, since a great deal of the budget was to be expended on production aspects. More inflammatory was the effort to change the original film rating from an R to PG-13. Bay wanted to graphically portray the horrors of war and was not interested in primarily marketing the final product to a teen and young adult audience. Budget fights continued throughout the planning of the film with Bay "walking" on several occasions with the final $140 million budget that was "green lighted", the largest in Hollywood history at the time.

In order to recreate the atmosphere of pre-war Pearl Harbor, the producers had the advantage of staging the film in Hawaii and using the current Naval facilities. Many active duty military members stationed in Hawaii and members of the local population served as extras during filming there, although for the sake of expediency and due to the present use of the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, the set at Rosarito Beach in the Mexican state of Baja California was utilized for scale model work. Formerly serving as the set for Titanic (1997), Rosarito served as the ideal location to recreate the death throes of the battleships in the Pearl Harbor attack. A large-scale model of the bow section of the mounted on a gimbal produced an authentic rolling and submerging of the doomed warship. Production Engineer Nigel Phelps realized that the sequence of the ship, rolling out of the water and slapping down would involve one of the "biggest set elements" to be staged. Matched with computer generated imagery, the action had to reflect precision and accuracy throughout. In addition, to emulate the ocean, a massive, stadium-like "bowl" was filled with water. The bowl was built in Honolulu, Hawaii and cost nearly $8 million. Today the bowl is used for training for scuba diving and deep water fishing tournaments.

The first trailer was released in 2000 and was shown alongside screenings of Cast Away, with another trailer getting released in Spring 2001 and was shown before Pokémon 3: The Movie.


Box office

Pearl Harbor grossed nearly $200 million at the domestic box office and $450 million worldwide. The film was ranked the sixth highest-earning picture of 2001. It is also the third highest-grossing romantic drama film of all time.

Critical reception

Despite the box office success, the critical response to Pearl Harbor at the time of its release tended to be mixed to very negative, and the film earned only a 25% approval rating according to review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 166 reviews with an average rating of 4.4/10, making it Bay's third worst reviewed movie to date, next to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and behind Bad Boys II. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 44 out of 100 based on 35 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews." While it earned praise for its technical achievements, the screenplay and acting were popular targets for critics.

Roger Ebert gave the film one and a half stars and wrote, "The film has been directed without grace, vision, originality, and although you may walk out quoting lines of dialogue, it will not be because you admire them" and criticized its liberties with historical facts: "There is no sense of history, strategy or context; according to this movie, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because America cut off its oil supply, and they were down to an 18-month reserve. Would going to war restore the fuel sources? Did they perhaps also have imperialist designs? Movie doesn't say". On a similar refrain, A. O. Scott of The New York Times wrote, "Nearly every line of the script drops from the actors' mouths with the leaden clank of exposition, timed with bad sitcom beats". USA Today gave the film two out of four stars and wrote, "Ships, planes and water combust and collide in Pearl Harbor, but nothing else does in one of the wimpiest wartime romances ever filmed."

In his review for the The Washington Post, Desson Howe wrote, "although this Walt Disney movie is based, inspired and even partially informed by a real event referred to as Pearl Harbor, the movie is actually based on the movies Top Gun, Titanic and Saving Private Ryan. Don't get confused." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine wrote, "Affleck, Hartnett and Beckinsale - a British actress without a single worthy line to wrap her credible American accent around - are attractive actors, but they can't animate this moldy romantic triangle". Time magazine's Richard Schickel criticized the film's love triangle: "It requires a lot of patience for an audience to sit through the dithering. They're nice kids and all that, but they don't exactly claw madly at one another. It's as if they know that someday they're going to be part of "the Greatest Generation" and don't want to offend Tom Brokaw. Besides, megahistory and personal history never integrate here".

Entertainment Weekly was more positive, giving the film a "B-" rating, and Owen Gleiberman praised the Pearl Harbor attack sequence: "Bay's staging is spectacular but also honorable in its scary, hurtling exactitude ... There are startling point-of-view shots of torpedoes dropping into the water and speeding toward their targets, and though Bay visualizes it all with a minimum of graphic carnage, he invites us to register the terror of the men standing helplessly on deck, the horrifying split-second deliverance as bodies go flying and explosions reduce entire battleships to liquid walls of collapsing metal".

In his review for The New York Observer, Andrew Sarris wrote, "here is the ironic twist in my acceptance of Pearl Harbor-the parts I liked most are the parts before and after the digital destruction of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese carrier planes" and felt that "Pearl Harbor is not so much about World War II as it is about movies about World War II. And what's wrong with that?"

Historical inaccuracy

Like many historical dramas, Pearl Harbor provoked debate about the artistic license taken by its producers and director. National Geographic Channel produced a documentary called Beyond the Movie: Pearl Harbor which covers some of the ways that "the film's final cut didn't reflect all the attacks' facts, or represent them all accurately."

Many Pearl Harbor survivors dismissed the film as grossly inaccurate and pure Hollywood. Historian Lawrence Suid's review is particularly detailed in the major factual misrepresentations of the film and the impact of them, even in an entertainment film. Historical inaccuracies found in the film include the early childhood scenes depicting a Stearman biplane crop duster in 1923, as the aircraft was not accurate for the period and the first commercial crop-dusting company did not begin operation until 1924, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture not purchasing its first cotton-dusting plane until 16 April 1926.

The mischievous Stearman flight is also unlikely. Stearman did not produce his first aircraft until 1926. The engine starts spontaneously with the flick of a switch. It is most unlikely that the engine was fitted with an electric starter - the only possible alternative to someone swinging the propeller, which neither of the boys sitting in the cockpits could have done, or were shown doing.

The inclusion of Affleck's character in the Eagle Squadron was another jarring aspect as serving U.S. airmen were prohibited from doing so, though some American civilians did join the RAF. Countless other technical lapses such as painting the Japanese Zero fighters green for effect even though Bay knew that was inaccurate, but liked the way the aircraft looked so that audiences could differentiate the "good guys from the bad guys" was another aspect that rankled film critics.

The greatest criticism came when actual historical events were altered for dramatic purposes. For example, Admiral Kimmel was not on a golf course on the morning of the attack (he was planning to meet General Short for a regular game, but cancelled as news of the attack came in), nor was he notified of the Japanese embassy leaving Washington, D.C., prior to the attack. The first official notification of the attack was received by General Short several hours after the attack had ended. The report of attacking an enemy midget submarine, in real life, did not reach him until after the bombs began falling.

Critics decried the use of fictional replacements for real people, declaring that Pearl Harbor was an "abuse of artistic license." The roles that the two male leads played by Affleck and Hartnett have in the attack sequence are analogous to the real historical deeds of U.S. Army Air Forces Second Lieutenants George Welch and Kenneth M. Taylor, who took to the skies during the Japanese attack and, together, claimed six Japanese aircraft and a few probables. Taylor, who died in November 2006, previously declared the film adaptation "a piece of trash... over-sensationalized and distorted." Additionally, the combat scenes between the P-40s and the Zeros would not have been fought at wave-top height or with the aircraft darting around various obstacles as seen in the movie as such tactics would have been suicidal for both participants.

Attacks against Battleship Row and Pearl Harbor have been further dramatized. The movie depicts the four other battleships that survived the attack with severe damage, , , , and being sunk and rendered irreparable. These ships managed to escape further damage during the attack, although Tennessee herself was seen trapped in a listing manner during the attack, and Nevada being beached after the attack. was not depicted.

There are some minor inaccuracies with the portrayal of Dorie Miller. In the film, Petty Officer Second Class Miller comforts Captain Mervyn S. Bennion who has been mortally wounded by a torpedo that strikes the , and is with him when he dies. Miller is depicted as delivering the Captain's last orders to the ship's executive officer, and then mans a twin .50 caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun. In actuality, Petty Officer Third Class Miller was first ordered to carry injured sailors to places of greater safety, and later ordered to go assist the Captain. The Captain refused to leave his post on the bridge and continued to direct the battle until he died of his wounds just before the ship was abandoned. Ensign Victor Delano actually comforted the Captain in his final moments. Miller was then ordered to help load a machine gun, but assumed control of the unmanned weapon instead. Delano showed Miller how to fire the weapon, saying later that Miller did not even "know how to shoot a gun." In the movie, as in real life, Miller shot down at least one enemy plane before he ran out of ammo and was ordered to abandon ship with the rest of the ship's crew. Miller was also depicted as a member of USS Arizonas crew during which he represented them in a boxing match. Miller was in fact assigned to the USS West Virginia and was their heavyweight boxing champion. He did not represent the USS Arizona.

There are also some minor inaccuracies with the Doolittle Raid. Jimmy Doolittle and the rest of the Doolittle raiders had to launch from the USS Hornet 624 miles off the Japanese coast. In actuality, the Doolittle raiders had to launch 650 miles off the Japanese coast. During the raid Doolittle and the rest of the raiders bombed just Tokyo. In actuality, the Doolittle raiders did bomb Tokyo, but along with three other industrial cities.

A scene in New York involved the backdrop of the in her commercial colors but by 1940, had actually been repainted grey, for refit completion to serve as a troopship already serving the Royal Navy, mainly in the Atlantic and Indian oceans.

Pearl Harbor was also criticized for the way it, "distinguished Americans from Japanese, including the wearing of black clothes, the lack of a social life, family or friends, and the devotion to warring, juxtaposing these with the portraits of Americans".

Awards and nominations

Award Category Subject Result
Academy Award Best Sound Editing George Watters
Christopher Boyes
Best Sound Greg P. Russell
Peter J. Devlin
Kevin O'Connell
Best Visual Effects Eric Brevig
John Frazier
Ben Snow
Ed Hirsh
Best Original Song ("There You'll Be") Diane Warren
Golden Globe Award Best Original Song ("There You'll Be")
Best Original Score Hans Zimmer
MTV Movie Award MTV Movie Award for Best Action Sequence Japanese bombing attack
Golden Raspberry Award Worst Actor Ben Affleck
Worst Screen Couple
Josh Hartnett
Kate Beckinsale
Worst Screenplay Randall Wallace
Worst Picture Jerry Bruckheimer
Michael Bay
Worst Director
Worst Remake or Sequel
World Stunt Taurus Award Best Aerial Work

Popular culture

The soundtrack for the 2004 film Team America: World Police contains a song entitled "End of an Act" whose lyrics describe the emotion of longing for someone as well as panning the hapless Pearl Harbor. The song's chorus recounts, "Pearl Harbor sucked, and I miss you" equating the singer's longing to how much "Michael Bay missed the mark when he made Pearl Harbor" which is "an awful lot, girl". The ballad contains other common criticisms of the film, concluding with the rhetorical question "Why does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies?"

Satirical newspaper The Onion commemorated the 10th anniversary of Pearl Harbors release with an article comparing what is viewed as the poor quality of the film to what is viewed as the terror of the actual Pearl Harbor attacks.

Home media

A Commemorative 60th Anniversary Edition was released on December 4, 2001. The feature was spread across two videotapes in letterbox format, and tape two also included Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor, a 50-minute documentary on little-known heroes of the attack, and a Faith Hill music video.

Around the same time a two-disc DVD of the Commemorative 60th Anniversary Edition was released. This release included the first two hours of the feature on disc one, and on disc two, the last hour of the feature, Journey to the Screen, a 47-minute documentary on the monumental production of the film, Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor, the Faith Hill music video and theatrical trailers.

A Pearl Harbor DVD gift set that includes the Commemorative Edition two-disc set, National Geographic's "Beyond the Movie" feature and a dual-sided map was released concurrently on December 4, 2001.

A deluxe Vista Series edition of the film was released on July 2, 2002. It contained an R-rated director's cut of the film, with numerous commentaries from the cast and crew alongside a few "easter eggs". The director's cut of the film included the reinsertion of graphic carnage during the central attack (including shots of eviscerated bodies being torn apart by strafing, blood, flying limbs and so forth); small alterations and additions to existing scenes; Doolittle addressing the pilots before the raid; and the replacement of the campfire scene with a scene of Doolittle speaking personally to Rafe and Danny about the value of friendship. It runs at 184 minutes compared to the 183 minutes of the theatrical cut.

This elaborate package, which called "the most extensive set released only one film" includes four discs of film and bonus features, a replication of Roosevelt's speech, collectible promotional postcards and a carrying case that resembles a historic photo album. The bonus features include all the features included in the commemorative edition, plus additional footage. There are three audio commentaries: 1) Director and film historian, 2) Cast and 3) Crew. Other features include: "The Surprise Attack", a multi-angle breakdown of the film's most exciting sequence (30 minutes), which includes multiple video tracks (such as previsualization and final edit) and commentaries from veterans/ Also included is the "Pearl Harbor Historic Timeline", a set-top interactive feature produced by documentarian Charles Kiselyak (68 minutes). The "Soldier's Boot Camp" follows the actors as they take preparation for their roles to an extreme (30 minutes)), "One Hour Over Tokyo" and "The Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor", two History Channel documentaries along with "Super-8 Montage", a collection of unseen Super-8 footage shot for potential use in the movie by Michael Bay's assistant, Mark Palansky; "Deconstructing Destruction", an in-depth conversation with Michael Bay and Eric Brevig (of Industrial Light and Magic) about the special effects in the movie and "Nurse Ruth Erickson interview" complete the extra features component.

On December 19, 2006, a 65th Anniversary Commemorative Edition high-definition Blu-ray Disc was released.


The soundtrack to Pearl Harbor on Hollywood Records was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score (lost to the score of Moulin Rouge!). The original score was composed by Hans Zimmer. The song "There You'll Be" was nominated for the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.

Track listing

  1. "There You'll Be" - song performed by Faith Hill
  2. Tennessee - 3:40
  3. Brothers - 4:04
  4. ...And Then I Kissed Him - 5:37
  5. I Will Come Back - 2:54
  6. Attack - 8:56
  7. December 7 - 5:08
  8. War - 5:15
  9. Heart of a Volunteer - 7:05
Total Album Time: 46:21

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