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Film: The Eagle Has Landed

The Eagle Has Landed is a 1976 film based on the book of the same name by Jack Higgins, detailing a fictional plot to capture or kill Winston Churchill by a group of German commandos. Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland and Robert Duvall star as the leader of the squad, their Irish nationalist liaison, and the German colonel in charge of masterminding the mission.


This film provides examples of:

  • All Germans Are Nazis: Averted. Steiner and his unit are depicted as chivalrous men of honor, and they are opposed to the persecution of Jews.
  • America Saves the Day/Wins The War: A company of US Rangers just happenes to be stationed in a manor right next to the village, and is tasked to neutralise the German commandos head-on before Churchill arrives. While there are plenty of British characters, they provide mostly the Innocent Bystander and Bigger "Bad" roles.
  • Anti-Villain: All of the Germans and their allies are Punch Clock Villains who seek to avoid unnecessary casualties mostly and in some cases feel they have legitimate grievances against the British. The exception is Heinrich Himmler, who signed off on the mission and is pretty much as much a bastard as he was in Real Life.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Subverted. Steiner kills Churchill, but he was just a body double. The real Churchill wasn't even on the same continent.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Inflicted by the hardened veteran German paratroopers upon the relatively inexpierenced American Rangers mainy due to the incompetence of Colonel Pitts.
  • Doomed by Canon: If you know history, you will know that the Germans' do not succeed, and in fact, Churchill wasn't even in the country at that point in time.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Subverted. While Colonel Radl does wear a black eyepatch, he is neither particularly evil nor that powerful. He is in fact a calm, empathetic and remotely fatalistic officer.
  • Fake Nationality: Almost all Germans are played by British actors. Also, Robert Duvall.
    • Not to mention Canadian Donald Sutherland playing the Irish contact Liam Devlin.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: One of the Germans dives after a little English girl to save her from being crushed by a watermill, only to fall victim himself and inadvertly expose having a German uniform under his fake Polish one.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Admiral Canaris was in fact a member of the German Resistance, involved in several plots to kill Hitler, and shared information with British intelligence, and is unlikely to have signed off on a plot like this or at least done something to sabotage it. Men like Radl would likewise have been chosen for their Anti-Nazism as much as their competence. Subverted somewhat since they are still presented as sympathetic, sane and reasonable men, compared to Hitler and Himmler, and in the end Radl's underling is told Canaris will protect he and his family from Radl's fate at Himmler's hands.
  • History Marches On/ Rule of Cool: In Real Life the Nazis really did send a commando squad to assassinate Churchill, but they knew all about the Tehran Conference and sent them there, and Roosevelt and Stalin were targets as well. They were foiled before they got anywhere near him or any of the other leaders. Incidentally the mission was headed (from abroad) by Otto Skorzeny, the man who rescued Mussolini which in-universe inspired the events of the story.
  • Honor Before Reason: The German paratroopers could have avoided detection if they avoided having their actual dress uniforms beneath their Polish disguises to avoid technically being seen as spies even if that would matter little to the Allies if caught.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Captain Clark is this for Colonel Pitt. Unlike Pitt, he is not a Glory Hound and actually does value diplomacy and tactical approaches.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Steiner to his troops, who propose a Bolivian Army Ending while giving him cover to escape and complete the mission.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Colonel Pitt. He was never given any meaningful authority throughout the war, and it really shows.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Steiner and his men will carry out the missions they are given for their country, even if they don't agree with their leaders' politics.
  • The Neidermeyer: Colonel Pitts. Piqued at being ordered back to the US (he is considered too inexperienced to participate in D-Day) he launches an attack on the church where the German Fallschirmjager (paratroops) are holed up without doing a proper recon, completely missing the germans hidden at various points in the village and wiping out his entire platoon; to top it all he gets killed by Joanna Grey while trying to kill her with a grenade; since they were played by Larry Hagman and Jean Marsh respectively this spawned a thousend t-shirts saying "Rose (from "Upstairs Downstairs") Shot J.R!"(from "Dallas")
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Devlin and Steiner are both composites of numerous real life people, most of whom had much colder relations with the Nazis. Averted with Heinrich Himmler, played to perfection by Donald Pleasance, and Admiral Canaris who in reality was involved in several plots to assassinate Hitler.
  • The Scape Goat: Hitler never signed off for the mission to capture Churchill; Himmler faked the order, and while visibly upset that the mission failed he was able to easily buck the blame to Radl and have him executed for "treason", since he was "exceeding his authority". Radl seems vaguely aware of this, but can't do anything about it, though he claims he was "measured for my casket months ago" - though that was probably just to tease his doctor rather than because of presentiments of death.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: For the Germans, since the entire mission was a pointless effort from the start because the Churchill residing in the English countryside was just a decoy, and the real Churchill was in Tehran to attend an Allied conference. For the Allies, it's a resounding victory.
  • Shown Their Work: While most movies of this era handwaved the use of non-German equipment by Germans by simply assuming the audience wouldn't be able to tell the difference, they actually go out of their way in this one to provide believable reasons for it, such as the British torpedo boat used by Steiner's men being specifically mentioned as being a captured vessel, as well as the C-47 that was used to drop them into England.
  • Villain Protagonist: The protagonists are a group of German commandos trying to assassinate Churchill under orders from Heinrich Himmler. The film does establish that the commandos themselves are honorable men concerned only with their mission and are disgusted by the war crimes they witness, even if their bosses might be mass murderers.


Saturn 3Creator/Magnetic VideoCapricorn One
La Casa Dalle Finestre Che RidonoFilms of the 1970sFamily Plot
Seventeen Moments of SpringWorks Set in World War IIWhy We Fight

alternative title(s): The Eagle Has Landed
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