Film / The Alamo

Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and the Texas militia try to defend the Alamo from General Santa Anna.

There have been two film versions as of this date—the first being the first directorial effort of John Wayne (who also starred), the second being made by Touchstone Pictures (Disney incognito at the time) in 2004 and starring Billy Bob Thornton as Crockett. This page is about both of them.

This film contains examples of:

  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Emil tries to force Flaca into marriage with him so he can legally own her land. Thankfully he's killed before he can force her to go through with it.
  • Artistic License: Davy Crockett's last scene, in both films.
    • Aluminum Christmas Trees: One of Santa Anna's officers wrote an account of the siege that ended with Crockett and several others brought before Santa Anna and ultimately sabered to death.
  • Artistic License – History: The Wayne film contains numerous historical inaccuracies. It depicts all the Alamo defenders as white men, while in real life a number of them were Hispanic. note  It shows the Mexican army assaulting the Alamo twice before it falls, while it only took one assault in real life. The real life final battle for the Alamo took place at 5 in the morning when it was still dark out, but the movie shows the assault happening in broad daylight. Jim Bowie is depicted as taking an active role in the Alamo's defense, while in real life he was so ill he could barely stand by the time the battle started. Also in the Wayne version, it states Fannin and his troops failed to reinforce the Alamo because they were ambushed and murdered. In real life, the attack and mass murder of Fannin's troops didn't happen until after the Alamo battle.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: In the Wayne version, Crockett and Bowie first team-up to fight off a bunch of hired thugs sent by Emil Sande, a corrupt and greedy San Antonio businessman.
    Crockett: Well thanks friend! (gestures too the two men Bowie has firmly in a head-lock) If you don't insist on having those two to yourself I'll give you a hand?
    Bowie: My pleasure friend. (Crockett then renders both men out cold with Bowie's knife)
  • Badass Boast: The Tennesseans did this a lot in the John Wayne version, and they had the balls to back up their claims.
  • Big Freaking Gun: The 18-pounder cannon at the Alamo was designed to take on ships. The defenders load it with nails and scrap iron and use it to mow down swaths of Mexican infantry.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Or Downer Ending, it depends (a little) on which film you watch.
  • Book Ends: The Wayne film opens and closes with a view of the Mission, and the guard at his post.
  • Butt Monkey: Beekeeper
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: One scene in the John Wayne film. After Crockett's encounter with Emil Sande, he's accosted by some of Sande's men. Bowie decided to help Crockett and he and Crockett become acquainted during the fight.
  • Deconstruction: In the 2004 film, David Crockett deconstructs the Living Legend trope.
  • Do Not Go Gentle
  • Famed In-Story: Both Crockett and Bowie were already legends by the time they get to the Alamo to defend it.
  • Final Battle: On the thirteenth day of the siege.
  • Gallows Humor: The defenders are realistic about their odds of survival.
  • Genius Bruiser: Crockett shows himself to be a shrewd tactician and leader in addition to being a badass on the front-lines. He also displays a great deal of wit guile when dealing with his own men.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: In the 2004 film. The Mexicans get a lot more sympathy and a scene where their motives are explained, and Jim Bowie is a real jerkass to his slave.
  • Good Shepherd: The Parson, one of Crockett's Tennessee volunteers.
  • Ironic Echo: "Do X mean what I think it do?" "It do."
  • Insistent Terminology: Crockett prefers David to Davy.
  • Jerkass: Travis in the John Wayne film.
    • This is actually one of the film's rare Truth in Television moments as William Travis was not well liked by most of the defenders.
  • Last Stand
  • Living Legend: There's two among the Alamo defenders: Davy Crockett was a well-known frontiersman, sharpshooter, and Congressman. Jim Bowie had survived an infamous brawl known as the Sandbar Fight where he took on three other men with only his knife to defend himself.
    • Bowie's knife was as legendary as he was.
  • Noble Demon: Mexican General Manuel Castrillon in the 2004 film, and in real life. He wants to reduce Mexican casualties, shows some amount of sympathy for the Texans, begs Santa Anna to spare Davy Crockett's life, and is visibly disgusted by Santa Anna's cruelty and arrogance. Sadly, it doesn't save him from the Texans' wrath at San Jacinto.
    • In real life, it was even worse. Though his death was less gruesome (the rebels simply shot him), the Texan commander in charge of the men who killed him actually begged for them to spare his life, only for the bloodthirsty rebels to ignore him. At least he got a decent burial, and the Texans later admitted that they shouldn't have killed him.
    • In Wayne's film, Santa Anna is heavily implied to be this, making it a point to allow all civilians to leave before the attack—and then ordering his men to salute Mrs. Dickinson in the end.
  • No Indoor Voice: John Wayne's Jim Bowie.
  • Oh, Crap!: No one ever says so out loud but, you can see it on the faces of the defenders fairly often.
    • Notably, Travis and Crockett's reactions in the 2004 film: Travis, when he looks upon the Mexicans surrounding San Antonio de Bexar for the first time, and Crockett, as he stops playing his violin when he hears the Mexican troops approaching the Alamo just before the final attack.
  • One Sided Battle: Only a few hundred men defend the Alamo versus over a thousand Mexicans. The defenders hold out well, until they're overwhelmed in final battle during the climax.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Smitty tries to convince everyone (including a cute little lady that's very concerned for him) that the wound he has is nothing serious. Then Beekeeper goes and pours Whisky on it!
  • Power Trio: The roles stand the same in both versions:
    • The Spock: Travis, the intellectual and well-educated leader trying to do what's right.
    • The McCoy: Bowie, the irrepressible, hotheaded, complete opposite of Travis.
    • The Kirk: Crockett, well-liked by both men, and acts as a mediator between the two.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Battle of San Jacinto is this in the 2004 version, for both the Alamo and the Battle of Goliad that happened earlier. Until one Mexican general formally surrendered, the battle might have been called a massacre.
  • Rousing Speech: Sam Houston gives one prior to the battle of San Jacinto in the 2004 film.
    Gen. Sam Houston: You will remember this battle! You will remember each minute of it! Each second! 'Til the day that you die! That is for tomorrow, gentlemen! For today... REMEMBER THE ALAMO!
  • Running Gag: The two Tennessee men.
    Tennessean #1: Do (...) mean what I think it do?
    Tennessean #2: It do.
    • The sentry Bob's penitent for saying "Halt, who goes there?" to Jim Bowie, who didn't approve.
  • Shown Their Work: The 2004 version, which took Artistic License with some things but overall was very accurate.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Davy Crockett has a BIG reputation.
    • Lampshaded in the 2004 version, where Crockett admits to the temptation to bolt if given the chance, but knows that everyone (including history) is looking at him to be a hero.
  • Smug Snake: Santa Anna (in the 2004 version), and Emil Sande (from the John Wayne film).
  • Villain Song: The Mexican army plays Degüello, which translates to 'slit throat'.
  • The Cavalry: Discussed but averted
  • Taking You with Me: In the Wayne version, all three leading men make an effort to take as many of the enemy with them as they go.
  • We Have Reserves: In the 2004 version, Santa Anna says to an underling concerned about casualties that he shouldn't worry because soldiers are nothing but "so many chickens".
  • Worthy Opponent: Surprisingly, the Mexican army (though not Santa Anna himself) gets this treatment in Wayne's Alamo. One scene has two of Crockett's Tennesseans admitting they admire the courage of the Mexicans assaulting the Alamo, praising them as "fighting men." (This reaches a high point when the boys take note of the Mexican's dignified treatment of their dead.) The Mexicans saluting Mrs. Dickinson and other survivors at the end suggests the feeling is mutual.
    • Even Santa Anna is portrayed in Wayne's film as something of a Noble Demon, honorably allowing all civilians enough time to leave the area safely before the attack begins.
  • Zerg Rush: Santa Anna's entire strategy in the final assault is this. It works, but there are multiple shots wide shots that show how heavy a price the Mexicans paid just getting in. Truth in Television in that Santa Anna is regarded as a General Failure by many historians, so the poor performance of the strategy is no surprise.