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.

Both versions contain examples of:

  • Big Bad: Santa Anna.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Power Trio:
    • 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.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Davy Crockett had 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.
  • Zerg Rush: Santa Anna's entire strategy in the final assault. It works, but there are multiple 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.

The 1960 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 – History: The 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, and they were simply unavailable.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: 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 to 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 do this a lot, and have the balls to back up their claims.
  • Book Ends: The film opens and closes with a view of the Mission, and the guard at his post.
  • Butt-Monkey: Beekeeper.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: 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.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: The three leaders of the Alamo all get one in the original version:
    • William Travis fights and kills several of the Mexicans with his sabre, before he gets shot. He then breaks his sword over his knee, throws the remains at the man who shot him, and collapses.
    • Jim Bowie only leaves the battle under Davy Crockett's orders after being wounded, where he eventually kills a few Mexicans who storm the room he's in before being bayoneted to death.
    • Davy Crockett, after being lanced in the chest, takes a torch and throws himself into the Alamo's ammo magazine, detonating it.
    • In Real Life, all three men's deaths were very different: Travis was shot in the head early in the fight; Bowie, too ill to even fight, was in his bed when he was bayoneted to death; and Crockett was either overwhelmed and bayoneted, or survived the assault but was stabbed to death under Santa Anna's orders of no quarter (accounts vary).
  • Good Shepherd: The Parson, one of Crockett's Tennessee volunteers.
  • Ironic Echo: "Do X mean what I think it do?" "It do."
  • Jerkass: Travis, which is actually one of the film's rare Truth in Television moments as the real William Travis was not well liked by most of the defenders.
  • Noble Demon: 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 the widowed Mrs. Dickinson in the end.
  • 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 whiskey on it!
  • 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.
  • Taking You with Me: All three leading men make an effort to take as many of the enemy with them as they go.
  • Those Two Guys: The "it do" guys.
  • Worthy Opponent: Surprisingly, the Mexican army gets this treatment. 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 as something of a Noble Demon, honorably allowing all civilians enough time to leave the area safely before the attack begins.

The 2004 film contains examples of:

  • Artistic License – History: The tune Crockett plays on his violin in tandem with Degüello, "Listen to the Mockingbird", was not written until a few years after the war had ended.
    • Zig-zagged regarding Crockett's death. Historians can't seem to agree on how he died. Either he was captured and executed (as the film shows) or he died during the fighting.
    • The scene where Crockett takes a shot at Santa Anna. In actuality, this was done by Micajah Autry.
  • 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: All the Alamo defenders die, but their heroic deaths spur Sam Houston's army into action at San Jacinto, and they win the battle in 18 minutes.
  • Boom Head Shot: How Travis dies.
  • Deconstruction: David Crockett deconstructs the Living Legend trope.
  • Dirty Coward: Santa Anna tries to flee on horseback during the Battle of San Jacinto, and is later caught wearing a private's uniform.
  • Face Death with Dignity: General Castrillon, as the Texans overwhelm the Mexican camp, which contrasts with Santa Anna's cowardice. (see also Noble Demon entry below)
  • Grey and Gray Morality: The Mexicans get a lot more sympathy and a scene where their motives are explained, and Bowie is a real Jerkass to his slave.
  • Insistent Terminology: Crockett prefers David to Davy.
  • Noble Demon: Mexican General Manuel Castrillon, 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.
  • Oh, Crap!: 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.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The Battle of San Jacinto, 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.
    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... REMEMBERTHEALAMO!
  • Smug Snake: Santa Anna.
  • Shown Their Work: The film took Artistic License with some things but overall was very accurate, especially compared to the above version.
  • Villain Song: The Mexican army plays Degüello, which translates to 'slit throat'.
  • We Have Reserves: Santa Anna says to an underling concerned about casualties that he shouldn't worry because soldiers are nothing but "so many chickens".