Film: Patton

"Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."
George S. Patton

Patton is a 1970 film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and co-written by Francis Ford Coppola based on the life of General George S. Patton. The title general was played by George C. Scott in his most iconic role. Its story concerns Patton as he leads the American forces during World War II. On the battlefield, he was a military genius respected by both sides. Off the battlefield, Patton's ego and volatile temperament more than often reared its ugly head. While Patton believed himself destined for greater glory, his very delusional temperament is what proves to be the undoing of his military career. This was the winner of seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture of the Year.

Received a much lesser-known TV sequel, The Last Days of Patton, in 1986, which takes place during and after the car accident that took his life, as well as his earlier career during World War One.

Patton provides examples of the following tropes:

  • At Least I Admit It: Patton says the difference between himself and Montgomery is that he admits he's a Prima Donna, while Monty won't.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Lampshaded as part of Patton's opening speech:
    Patton: We're going to kick the hell out of him all the time and we're going to go through him like crap through a goose!
    • Part of his success both in the movie and real life. Patton's contemporaries liked to execute offensives with adequate food, fuel, and ammunition. Patton, on the other hand, would launch his own as soon as possible without adequate supplies of any - sometimes catching his enemies by surprise. It's also shown backfiring on Patton; in a scene late in the movie during the race across France, it's mentioned that Patton's troops ran out of petrol and got pinned down by German forces, taking heavy casualties. In the actual battle they were only critically low on it (i.e. they had a few hours or minutes of operation left).
  • Bandage Mummy: Just prior to the infamous slapping incident, Patton encounters a badly wounded soldier, swathed in bandages. Even Patton is visibly affected; he pins a Purple Heart to the man's pillow, then leans over to whisper in his ear.
  • Battle Epic
  • Berserk Button: Patton is not fond of cowards.
  • The Big Board: German Captain Steiger keeps one to keep track of German casualties as he researches Patton. Also funny on a meta-level, because Scott's character in Dr. Strangelove was the Trope Namer for The Big Board.
  • Bling of War: In the opening flag speech scene, Patton is decked out in all his regalia he earned at the summit of his career.
  • Blood Knight: Patton
    Bradley: I do this job because I've been trained to. You do it because... you love it!
    • Later on, Patton admits it.
    Patton: I love it! God help me, I do love it so. I love it more than my life.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Patton. "The pure warrior. A magnificent anachronism." To hear him tell it, he was born in a lot of them.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Patton is a downplayed one. On the battlefield, he's a competent and aggressive (if somewhat reckless and callous) commander who gets results. Off the battlefield, he's a public relations nightmare who doesn't know what to do with himself.
  • Byronic Hero: Patton. Flamboyant, intelligent, courageous, charismatic if controversial, and with Blood Knight tendencies.
  • Call Forward: Patton's death is not covered in the movie, but when he is saved in the nick of time from the oxcart and says "After all I've been through, imagine getting killed by an oxcart!", it's looking forward to it. Patton was in a jeep accident in Europe on December 8, 1945, paralyzing him from the neck down. He died two weeks later.
  • Cassandra Truth: When Steiger tells General Jodl that newspapers were reporting that Patton may be court-martialed due to the infamous slapping incident, where he slaps a soldier suffering from shell shock, or post-traumatic stress disorder, the latter asks him if they really would discipline him simply because he slapped a soldier (the Germans frequently executed soldiers for cowardice).
  • Circling Vultures: They aren't circling, but they're there, on the ground amongst the bodies of dead American soldiers at Kasserine Pass.
  • Cold Open: Patton's famous speech in front of the giant flag.
  • Combat by Champion: Patton wished he could face Rommel to decide the outcome of World War II. In tanks.
  • Consultant on Board: Omar Bradley (Patton's subordinate, then commander) was the primary consultant for the film. Bradley's awesomeness is talked up by nearly everyone in the film.
  • Contrast Montage: As Patton reads the preacher's "weather prayer", we get scenes of night-time battles across snow-covered hills with only Patton's voice for sound. The silent explosions and falling soldiers are stark and shocking, but the prayer provides just cause for why American soldiers fought and died.
  • Cultured Warrior: Patton, again.
  • Cutting the Knot: Shooting the mules blocking the bridge.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: Patton, because, you Magnificent Bastard, he read your book!
  • Desolation Shot: The opening (after the famous "flag speech" that is) where a battlefield is shown full of corpses with human and animal scavengers poking around.
  • The Dreaded: Patton himself to the Germans.
  • Digital Destruction: The overly smooth and grain-free Blu-Ray Disc released in 2008 helped open people's eyes to the negative side effects of digital noise reduction. Twentieth Century Fox released a Blu-Ray with a more detailed and film-like picture quality four years later.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The famous Cold Open in which Patton gives a speech to his men, outlining his philosophy of war, is an iconic example.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: When Capt. Steiger tells Wehrmacht Chief of Staff Alfred Jodl that Patton's preferred method of discipline is about to get him a court-martial and off the battlefield, Jodl replies that they would never "keep their best general out of the war just for slapping a soldier." Of course, Steiger ends up being right. Which you could just as easily call "Common Sense Cannot Comprehend Politics".

    Their own experience of killing or leaving to die millions of Po W and civilians (albeit against subhumans in the Eastern theatre) meant that the Germans couldn't comprehend that their enemies might actually punish one of their officers for the non-event of them slapping someone. So when Patton was assigned to the humiliating job of decoy while the Allies planned their Normandy invasion, the Germans were convinced (until it was too late) that Patton was leading a (fictitious) army into Calais, and it kept the German reserves inactive until the Allies had established a solid foothold in France.
    • From the point of view of Dwight Eisenhower (commander over the European theater of the war) it was a win-win situation: the Germans were fooled, and he managed to sideline a general he regarded as an Ax-Crazy loose cannon ... until he could be unleashed at the right moment.
  • A Father to His Men: He can be gentle and understanding when the situation calls for it. Except when it comes to not grasping that "shell shock" is real.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Patton views being relegated to a reserve command in the upcoming Normandy Invasion over the private-slapping incident to be entirely unjustified. The Germans don't believe the Allies would really put their best general on the bench over something so seemingly minor, either... which allows the Allies to exploit Patton's reputation to draw suspicion away from their actual plans by sending Patton all over the European Theater.
  • Field Promotion: When the Sicilian attack doesn't go as quickly as planned, Patton fires the officer he deems responsible, and promotes the second in command.
  • Final Battle: Ardennes
  • Four-Star Badass: Patton
  • Frontline General: During the battle with the 10th Panzer, Patton's on the front lines giving tactical orders. During the invasion of Sicily, he's shown scouting out a ford across a river while under enemy artillery fire. On several other occasions he's depicted driving around in battle areas.
  • Genre Blind: Patton does not seem capable of realizing how his actions and words will be perceived by those around him, or the media at large, and that is what consistently gets him into trouble.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Patton's preferred method of discipline.
  • Gilligan Cut: See Tempting Fate below.
  • Glory Seeker: Patton. Monty as well. The Ham-to-Ham Combat between the two generals is what drives the real conflict of the movie.
    • Subverted at the end, when a humbled Patton — after being relieved of command for the second (and final time) — remembers his Roman history:
    "A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning, that all glory ... is fleeting."
  • Gratuitous French: Patton, on at least three occasions in the film. The first one (an untranslated conversation with his aide in North Africa) is long enough to count as a Bilingual Bonus for those who understand the language.
  • Historical Beauty Update: Not in actual physical handsomeness, but the real Patton was a much less impressive orator than this movie would lead you to believe. He actually had a squeaky, somewhat high-pitched voice whereas Scott speaks with a deep gravelly voice. The real Patton still managed to steal the spotlight when speaking, but that was because he practiced his posture, poses, and expressions for hours, and purposefully cultivated his (deserved) badass image with his immaculate uniform, dual holstered pistols, etc, in large part to compensate for the fact that his voice was weak and uninspiring by itself.
    • The movie also greatly tones down Patton's legendary profanity. He famously described foul language as an art unto itself, and it actually helped him relate to the men he commanded. His famous response to the Army's official "no fraternization" policy in Europe was, "Bullshit! An army that can't fuck can't fight!"
    • Also, Rommel receives one of these, which is odd since the other main generals in the movie were portrayed by actors with at least a passing resemblance. George C. Scott at least vaguely has some features in common with Patton. Montgomery's actor looks a lot like Monty and Karl Mulden is a dead-ringer for Bradley. But Rommel, who while not unattractive was in his late 50s, mostly bald, and often ill or fatigued, is portrayed by a much younger man with a full head of hair who looks nothing at all like the actual Rommel in any other way either.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: Patton's iconic opening speech about the glories of war is followed by a scene of American corpses at Kasserine Pass being looted by locals.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: The First US Army Group, drawing from Real Life.
  • The Lancer: General Omar Bradley is Patton's Lancer in the early days of the war, in North Africa and Sicily. Then he gets promoted over Patton after that slapping incident and Patton becomes Bradley's Lancer in France after D-Day.
  • Large Ham: George S. Patton believes himself to be a larger-than-life figure, and it shows in his every word and mannerism.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Patton's In-Universe line is the Trope Namer, in reference to his Worthy Opponent, Erwin Rommel:
    "Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your BOOK!"
  • Million Mook March: Lots of scenes of military traffic by both Redshirts and Mooks.
  • Mononymous Biopic Title: One of the most recognizable ones.
  • Mr. Exposition: The German officer Captain Steiger. Screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola said part of the reason he invented the character was to give out biographical information about Patton to the audience.
  • Number Two: Patton, to Bradley, late in the film.
  • Oh Crap!: The reaction of a sloppy Desk Jockey officer when he is giving his excuses about a getting a new Commanding Officer and realizes that CO, Gen. Patton, is here now and he is obviously disgusted by the state of the unit.
  • Only Sane Man: Omar Bradley, who spends the entire movie trying to reign in Patton, first as his aide, then as his Commanding Officer.
  • Opposing Combat Philosophies: A general theme is the conflict between Patton's aggressive philosophy and the other generals' more conservative approach.
  • Outscare the Enemy: Patton says that he'll make his men unafraid of the Germans, but "I hope to God they never stop being afraid of me."
  • Political Cartoon: Patton is the victim of one.
    Patton: A swastika! On my boot!
  • Rated M for Manly: Patton is the living embodiment of the "blood-and-guts" style of military leadership.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Patton actually had a quite high-pitched voice, unlike George C. Scott's gravelly tones.
  • The Rival: GeneralField Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery.
  • Scenery Gorn: Lots of shots showing battles and their aftermath, but the one that sticks out the most is the scene immediately following Patton's famous Rousing Speech, showing the aftermath of the Battle of Kasserine Pass, with the corpses of American soldiers being strewn across the desert and left for vultures and looters to pick at.
  • Scenery Porn: The movie is gorgeous to look at. Until everything gets blown up by tanks.
  • Shoot the Dog: On the one hand, shooting the villager's donkeys and dumping his cart over the side of a bridge is a callous thing to do on the face of things. On the other, an army on the march is incredibly vulnerable to enemy attack, and every second wasted on waiting for the road to clear was an extra opportunity for the enemy to regroup and counterattack.
  • Soldier vs. Warrior: Discussed by by Generals Bradley (soldier) and Patton (warrior).
    Bradley: I do it because that's what I'm trained to do. You do it because *Beat* you love it, George.
  • Staff of Authority: General Patton is portrayed frequently carrying a riding crop, indicating both his status as an officer with something of a flair for the dramatic, and his background in the cavalry.
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: The German and American tanks were played by, ironically enough, M47 and M48 Pattons. They didn't even try to hide the fact.
  • Team Prima Donna: Patton and Monty.
  • Tempting Fate: In an argument over the availability of Allied air support, a British officer declares that Patton would never see another German plane on the battlefield. Immediately afterwards, two German planes strafe the headquarters.
  • That Russian Squat Dance: Seen at a party after Third Army has linked up with the Russians at the end of the war. Patton, who hates the Russians, is not impressed.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: Used to burn documents in the German headquarters at the end of the war.
  • The Unseen: Dwight D. Eisenhower. Film makers wanted to cast someone to have Ike appear as a cameo but it never worked out. Instead, Eisenhower becomes a God-like being able to pass judgment on Patton and his (mis)deeds.
  • War Is Glorious: Patton certainly thinks so
    Patton: The entire world at war and I'm left out of it!
  • War Is Hell: The war is glorious for Patton. The scenes of the dying and wounded still allows for this interpretation.
    "There goes 'Old Blood and Guts'." "Yeah, our blood, his guts."
  • Warrior Poet: Patton, arguably the Trope Codifier.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Patton suffers this after he slaps a soldier in the medical tent suffering from shell shock, in sharp contrast to him giving Purple Heart medals and even praying for one who was seriously wounded. He is forced to write an apology to his entire army as a result of it.
    • In reality, he was only ordered to apologize to the soldiers he slapped (there was actually two). Patton went ahead and made his formal apology to them, the other wounded men, and the entire medical battalion, including people who hadn't even witnessed it.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: During a speech to a crowd of British women, Patton says that the Americans and British will rule the world, and makes no mention of the Russians. Cut to newsreel proclaiming "Patton insults Russian allies".
  • Worthy Opponent
    • Rommel, of course.
    • Patton also mentions he would give the German pilots who strafed his command center far behind the lines medals if he could. The German pilots had unwittingly proved Patton's point more eloquently than the man could himself.
  • Wrote the Book: Played with. General Patton knows that Rommel literally wrote the book on tank warfare, so he reads it and uses that knowledge to predict what Rommel will do at their first big showdown.
    Patton: Rommel, you Magnificent Bastard, I read your book!
    • In reality, Rommel completed a book on infantry tactics (Infantry Attacks, which is still available today). His planned book on tank warfare was never completed; much of the material which was intended to go into it is available in The Rommel Papers. Patton himself was as much a pioneer of tank tactics as Rommel was, as far back as World War I and before. General Heinz Guderian wrote the book on German tank warfare (Achtung-Panzer!, which is still available today).
  • You Will Know What to Do: When you put your hand into a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend's face.