Saving Private Ryan – Facts about the Film

Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 American epic war film directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat. Set in 1944 in France during World War II, it follows a group of soldiers, led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks), on their mission to locate Private James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon) and bring him home safely after his three brothers are killed in action. The cast also includes Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg, and Jeremy Davies.

Inspired by the books of Stephen E. Ambrose and accounts of casualties among members of a single family such as the Niland brothers, Rodat drafted the script and Paramount Pictures hired him to finish the writing. The project came to the attention of Hanks and Spielberg, whose previous successes secured the project’s development. Spielberg wanted to make Saving Private Ryan as authentic as possible, and hired Frank Darabont and Scott Frank to perform uncredited rewrites based on research and interviews with veterans. The main cast went through a week-long boot camp to understand the soldier experience. Filming took place from June to September 1997, on a $65–$70 million budget, almost entirely on location in England and Ireland. The opening Omaha Beach battle was the most demanding scene, costing $12 million to film over four weeks with 1,500 extras.

Saving Private Ryan became one of the year’s most successful films, earning critical acclaim for its graphic portrayal of combat. WWII veterans described the combat scenes as the most realistic portrayal of their own experiences; some were unable to watch it due to their traumatic memories. The film earned $481.8 million, making it the second-highest-grossing film of 1998, and went on to win many accolades, including Golden Globe, Academy, BAFTA, and Saturn awards.

Saving Private Ryan is considered one of the greatest films ever made. Its battle scene filming techniques impacted many subsequent war, action, and superhero films, and numerous directors have cited Saving Private Ryan as an influence. It is credited with helping renew interest in WWII at the turn of the century, inspiring other films, television shows, and video games set during the war. In 2014, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.