Characters: Saving Private Ryan

Captain John H. Miller

Played by Tom Hanks
"Keep the sand out of your weapons. Keep those actions clear. I'll see you on the beach."

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.

  • 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.

Sergeant Mike Horvath

Played by Tom Sizemore
"This time the mission is the man."

Captain Miller's Lancer, Sergeant Horvath is loyal to his captain and has battled alongside him in numerous countries.

  • 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.

Private Richard Reiben

Played by Edward Burns
"My ma, she would've come home, shook me awake, chatted me up 'til dawn. I swear that woman was never too tired to talk."

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.

  • 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
"Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teaches my hands to war, and my fingers to fight."

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: Probably the most egregious example in the whole film.
  • 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)
  • Oh, Crap: Upon realising 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.
  • Tank Goodness: Jackson is killed by a tank firing on his hiding place in a church tower.

Private Stanley Mellish

Played by Adam Goldberg
"Your father was circumcised by my rabbi, you prick!"

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.
  • 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.
  • Knife Fight: Gets into a tense one with a German. It doesn't end well.
  • 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
"You gotta pay attention to detail, I know exactly where he's from and I know exactly what he did 'cuz I pay attention to detail."

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.

  • 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.
  • 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 trick to falling asleep is trying to stay awake."

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.
  • 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
"I looked up "fubar" in the German dictionary and there's no fubar in here."

A translator who speaks French and German, Upham is brought into the squad after Captain Miller's translator was killed.

  • Desk Jockey: Before Miller brings him into his squad. He even tries to bring his typewriter!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The So-Called Coward: Justified, as his lack of combat experience makes him avoid fights for a good portion of the movie.

Private James Francis Ryan

Played by Matt Damon

The 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 greiving 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Steamboat Willie

A 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.

  • Dirty Coward: He shamefully grovels when the Americans have him prisoner, but isn't so forthcoming of mercy when the situation is reversed.
  • 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.