Characters: Saving Private Ryan
Captain John H. Miller
Played by Tom Hanks
The Captain and leader of the eight man band sent to find Private Ryan. Captain Miller leads 'Charlie' Company of the 2nd Ranger Battalion during the D-Day landings. He is a Shell-Shocked Veteran, his hand often shaking when in the presence of danger. It is revealed he is a school teacher, due to the squad's Multiple-Choice Past bets.
- Badass Teacher: Given he was a schoolteacher before the war...
- The Captain: Serves as the top-ranked soldier in the squad.
- Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: The smooth to Horvath's rough.
- Disconnected by Death: Miller tries to get a communications tech to contact reinforcements via radio, only to find the tech has had his head blown open the third time he goes to talk to him, and then finds the telephone gear has also been shot up.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Miller asks Ryan to make something good of his life at the end of the final battle.
- Famous Last Words: "Earn it!"
- Heroic BSOD: Occurs twice in similar fashions at the beginning and end of the film, where close explosions render him in a soundless daze.
- Manly Tears: Captain Miller sobs to himself after Wade's death.
- Multiple-Choice Past: Guessed at by his troops. Revealed that he's a schoolteacher after Wade dies and Reiben threatens to leave.
- Mysterious Past: To the point his troops are placing bets on where Miller comes from and what he did, and Reiben even jokes that he was assembled "outta spare body parts of dead G Is".
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: He can't wait to get home, and a nervous problem is even making his hand shake.
- The Strategist: As The Captain, always has to coordinate plans on the fly.
Sergeant Mike Horvath
Played by Tom Sizemore
Captain Miller's Lancer, Sergeant Horvath is loyal to his captain and has battled alongside him in numerous countries.
- Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: The rough to Miller's smooth.
- Catch Phrase: "We're in business!"
- Dies Wide Open: In an iconic and chilling example.
- Implacable Man: Seemingly appears this way when he is shot multiple times and keeps on running. He dies shortly after though.
- Improbable Weapon User: In the Battle of Ramelle, after reaching a Mexican Standoff with a German, both of their rifles jam, the German throws his helmet, causing Horvath to throw his helmet at the German.
- Made of Iron: He gets shot several times during the final battle, to little clear effect. The one he takes through the back as he's running over the bridge is the one that finally does him in.
- Major Injury Underreaction: The final battle has Horvath injured in a way he replies as "just got the wind knocked out of me". He dies shortly later.
- Sergeant Rock: While Miller is a more reasonable and chilly figure, Horvath serves as a tough second-in-command, even threatening to shoot Reiben once he tries to abandon the squad.
Private Richard Reiben
Played by Edward Burns
A big mouthed and opinionated soldier from Brookyln, Reiben seems quite close to his friends and openly calls out Captain Miller's orders, particularly when Wade dies and Miller allows Steamboat Willie to leave unharmed, threatening to go AWOL.
- All Men Are Perverts: He tells a story about selling to the well-endowed wife of his apartment's superintendent a bra two sizes too small, only to see her trying it.
- Brooklyn Rage: He is Hot-Blooded and even has "Brooklyn NY" on the back of his jacket.
- Deadpan Snarker: Of the Grumpy Bear variety given he frequently snarks on what annoys him.
- Everybody's Dead, Dave: By the end, he's the only original squad member left.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Quite easily the most surly and temperamental member of Miller's Badass Crew, but when all is said and done and he and Upham (who was a new arrival to their squad and whom he barely knows) are all that remains of their squad, he is visibly quite pained and is especially distraught over Captain Miller's death, even though he was (not too long before) quite seriously considering deserting because he no longer felt confident in Miller's leadership. He also takes Caparzo's letter to his dad, which had been passed from him after his death, to Wade, to Miller, intending to make sure it got to it's final destination.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Comes close to pulling this off.
- Sole Survivor: Is the only member from Miller's original squad to survive.
- To Absent Friends: Reiben takes the deaths of his teammates very hard, threatening to go AWOL at one point.
Private Daniel Jackson
Played by Barry Pepper
A religious Cold Sniper and the best marksman in the team. At times, he seems to have Bottomless Magazines.
- As the Good Book Says: His pre-shot murmurs are taken out of the Psalms.
- Badass Boast: Probably the most egregious example in the whole film.Jackson: It seems to me, sir, that God gave me a special gift, made me a fine instrument of warfare.
Captain Miller: Reiben, pay attention. Now this is how you gripe. Continue Jackson.
Jackson: Well, what I mean by that is, sir, is if you put me and this here sniper rifle anywhere up to and including one mile of Adolf Hitler with a clear line sight, sir: pack your bags, fellas, war's over. Amen.
- Bottomless Magazines: Seemingly at times, although this is minor since the gun he uses in the final battle has a limited number of rounds.
- Cold Sniper: Only when on duty, Jackson is coldly emotionless and murmurs Bible verses to himself. He is friendly when in casual talk with his friends.
- Friendly Sniper: Mostly. Put him in a battle, though, and he changes...
- Instant Death Bullet: Everyone who Jackson shoots dies instantly. (though many are Boom, Headshot)
- Real Men Love Jesus
- Religious Bruiser: Always says prayers before taking the shots.
- Oh Crap!: Upon realizing that a tank has spotted him, and is turning the turret on him...
- Scope Snipe: Jackson scores a bullseye on a German sniper.
- The Scourge of God: Considers himself this, but every man he kills is in the name of good.
- Southern-Fried Private: Southern, Bible-quoting killing machine, though he does not come off as any less refined than the other soldiers and is perhaps the most respectful.
- Tank Goodness: Jackson is killed by a tank firing on his hiding place in a church tower.
Private Stanley Mellish
Played by Adam Goldberg
A Jewish soldier who is good friend with Caparzo. He is nicknamed "Fish" by his friends.
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: "Stop! Listen to me, listen to me! Stop! Stop! No, no! Stop, sto-". They turn out to be his last words, although considering the circumstances, fair enough. Being stabbed hurts.
- Badass Mustache: Asides from Upham's goatee, he is the only one not clean shaven or with Perma Stubble.
- Chekhov's Gun: Mellish is stabbed with the Hitler Youth knife he collected during the Omaha Landings of D-Day.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Of all the squad members who die during the last battle, poor Mellish probably gets it worst...
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: ...being stabbed down to the handle with a knife.
- Knife Fight: Gets into a tense one with a German. It doesn't end well.
- Nice Jewish Boy: Who makes sure to flaunt his Judaism to the Nazis every now and then.
- Those Two Guys: Mellish and Caparzo.
- Who's Laughing Now?: A somewhat downplayed and heroic example. After seeing numerous German prisoners walk by, Mellish cannot help but show his Star of David to the prisoners and rubs it in their faces that he is Jewish, in German no less.Mellish: Juden! Juden! I'm Juden, right? Juuuuuuuuudeeeeeeen!
Private Adrian Caparzo
Played by Vin Diesel
A soldier in Captain Miller's group. He is killed by a sniper and dies a slow death, leaving a letter to his father in the hands of his friends.
- Badass and Child Duo: Averted since the badass is shot and dies.
- Bald of Awesome: It's Vin Diesel. And the only bald member of the squad.
- Blood-Stained Letter: Caparzo tries to give Mellish a letter to his father after he's shot, but he wants it recopied so his family won't see the bloodstains on the original.
- Bruiser with a Soft Center: Seeing a girl in a destroyed home ("she reminds me of my niece!") makes him try to get her out of that hellhole.
- Genre Blind: And it costs him dearly.
- Instant Death Bullet: Painfully averted.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Miller even says "We're not here to do the decent thing, we're here to follow fucking orders!" right before Caparzo's attempt of a good deed leads him to be shot by a sniper.
- Real Men Love Jesus: Subtle, but he gives his crucifix to a little girl to calm her from her crying.
Technician Irwin Wade
Played by Giovanni Ribisi
The Medic of the team. Wade has a hard time saving the lives of fellow soldiers, but is willing to help anybody out, even wounded Nazis.
- Bulletproof Human Shield: Forced to use a dead soldier's body as a shield for another patient.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Given with good reason. After Wade and other medics seemingly stop a fellow soldier from bleeding to death, a bullet puts a hole through his helmet. This ticks Wade right off.
- Driven to Suicide: Wade is fatally wounded when the squad attack a Nazi guard house, and asks his friends to give him an overdose of morphine, which they do.
- Heroic BSOD/Despair Event Horizon: After realizing just how badly he'd been shot. But then "Oh God, I can feel my liver!" would have that effect on most people.
- The Medic: Assigned as this for the squad.
- Mercy Kill: He was shot repeatedly, so he asks for an extra dose of morphine before expiring for real.
- Nerves of Steel: Was completely calm and deadpan doing surgery on Omaha Beach... up until the Germans shoot a patient that it looked like he was going to be able to save. Then he just snaps.
- Oh Crap!: Gets a particularly horrific one after realizing how bad his wound is.Oh God, I can feel my liver!
- Parental Issues: Had some as a kid, due to having two working parents he spent relatively little time with.
- Shoot the Medic First: Horribly Exploited.
- The Smart Guy: Shares the role with Upham, particularly in deleted scenes and the novelization.
Corporal Timothy E. Upham
Played by Jeremy Davies
A translator who speaks French and German, Upham is brought into the squad after Captain Miller's translator was killed.
- Cunning Linguist: The only one who can surpass the Language Barrier.
- Death Glare: Develops one when witnessing Steamboat Willie fatally shoot Captain Miller.
- Desk Jockey: Before Miller brings him into his squad. He even tries to bring his typewriter!
- Dirty Coward: Justified, as his lack of combat experience makes him avoid fights for a good portion of the movie.
- Heroic BSOD: When his fear prevents him from rescuing Mellish.
- Jade-Colored Glasses: Upham initially supported Miller's decision to release "Steamboat Willie" rather than execute him. Later, Upham kills "Steamboat Willie" to avenge Captain Miller.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: Gets some of this treatment from Miller's squad, although he slowly begins earning more acceptance toward the end of the film.
- Na´ve Newcomer: To the point he even averts the firefights prior to the Ramelle battle.
- Not Worth Killing: The German soldier who kills Mellish thinks so little of Upham when he finds the latter cowering on the stairs that he just walks past him.
- Sixth Ranger: Originally from the 29th Infantry Division, recruited into the squad by Miller because the squad's translator was killed on Omaha Beach.
- The Smart Guy: Shares the role with Wade.
Private James Francis Ryan
Played by Matt DamonThe Private Ryan in question which Captain Miller's squad go to find. After three of his brothers died, Ryan is demanded to be found and brought home to his grieving mother. The squad find him, but Ryan refuses to leave his duty.
- Death Notification: Ryan's mother receives all three death letters of her dead son's on the same day.
- Decoy Protagonist: You're led to believe that the old man at the grave at the start of the film is Miller. It's not. Miller died in the final battle. The old man is Ryan.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Miller's Famous Last Words are "Earn this" on Ryan's ear. And given he knows how many died for his safety, he does his best to do this after returning home.
- I Choose to Stay: Refused to be rescued so he can continue fighting along with his squad.
- Last of His Kind: Smaller focus than other uses of this trope, as he's the only survivor of four brothers, but some of the associated characteristics are there.
- Secondary Character Title: As the tagline goes, "The mission is a man". Thus he only appears once Miller's squad stumbles upon him.
- Spoiler Opening: The old man at the beginning of the film is wearing a pin for the 101st Airborne. Ryan is the only main cast member who is a member of the 101st. Miller and his squad are from the 2nd Battalion, US Army Rangers and Upham is from the 29th Infantry Division.
Played by: Joerg StadlerA German soldier who is taken prisoner by Captain Miller's squad after Wade is killed. He is eventually allowed to walk free by Miller. Unfortunately, he reappears with disastrous consequences.
- Bald of Evil: Though German soldiers at the time had a "high and tight" crew cut instead of no hair.
- Chekhov's Gunman: He comes back to find Miller's squad again. Doesn't go well for the squad or himself.
- Dirty Coward: He shamefully grovels when the Americans have him prisoner, but isn't so forthcoming of mercy when the situation is reversed.
- Hero Killer: Kills Miller as he's struggling on the bridge.
- Laser-Guided Karma: He's killed by Upham, who asked Miller to let him go before... right after Miller is shot by the German.
- No Name Given: His credited screen name comes from one of the references to American culture he does to try to save his life ("Steamboat Willie, choo-choo!").
- Ungrateful Bastard: He rejoins the Nazis after the troop spares his life. However, he wouldn't have had a choice if found by a German unit. Saying he promised to no longer fight against the Allies would likely get him shot. He still qualifies on account of his ferocity in combat to his erstwhile captors, though.