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Film / The Red Baron

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The Red Baron is a 2008 English-language German historical war film.

It is based on the life of a legendary World War I German fighter pilot, Rittmeister Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen (played by Matthias Schweighöfer), better known as "The Red Baron".

The film also stars Til Schweiger, Lena Headey, Joseph Fiennes and Volker Bruch.

This film contains examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Practically every pilot in Richthofen's squad. Truth in Television, since the real Red Baron did lead a squadron of aces.
    • Lanoe Hawker and Roy Brown may count as well. The rest of their enemies are generally all cannon fodder. Well, since it's given that they're some of the most elite pilots in the war, kicking aircraft ass so easily is justified by their skill.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: This version of the Red Baron tells his subordinates that their goal is to shoot down planes, not men. The real Baron was a butcher who instructed his men to kill the rear gunners of 2-seater planes before shooting them down.
  • Badass Crew: As mentioned above, Jasta 11 (eventually Jagdgeschwader 1, the "Flying Circus"), the Baron's own fighter group. As in Real Life, most if not all of them are actually aces.
  • Battle Trophy: Richtofen likes to take insignia or other parts from the planes he shoots down, instead of having a silver cup made to memorialize each kill.
  • Blue Blood: The Baron is an aristocrat, and the film makes a point of reminding the viewers that the royal families of the warring European countries are all close relatives.
    • At the beginning, Richtofen buzzes the funeral of an RFC pilot and drops a memorial wreath. The dead man is Winston Clyde Walker, nephew of the Duke of Westchester, and Richtofen's cousin.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The ruling families of Europe.
  • Buzzing the Deck: It begins with Richtofen and his wing buzzing the funeral of a British pilot so he could drop a memorial wreath. The fallen British pilot is Richtofen's cousin.
  • Composite Character: "During WWI many Jewish pilots fought for the German Empire. ... They are represented by the fictional character of Friedrich Sternberg." Whose plane is identifiable by the Star of David in its Nose Art.
  • Cool Plane: perhaps the original cool plane, The Red Baron's signature all red Fokker Dr.1 triplane. However, as the film accurately depicts, he actually scored most of his kills flying Albatros D.II, D.III and D.V biplanes. His first red plane was a D.III
  • Combat Pragmatist: The younger Lothar von Richthofen points out to the Baron that war is about killing the enemy; he is scolded by Manfred when he literally annihilates a British fighter plane that was already trying to escape.
    • This is echoed later by the Canadian pilot the Baron twice shot down.
  • Downer Ending / Foregone Conclusion: Von Richthofen doesn't survive the war and dies at the end of the film. Truth in Television, of course.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Eton, apparently.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Von Richthofen himself in the film. While the film portrayed him as a proto-pacifist who instructed his men not to kill enemy pilots, the real Von Richthofen showed no such tendencies, and actually encouraged his men to aim for the pilots of enemy planes, since it was the easiest way of shooting them down.
  • Honor Before Reason: Von Richthofen refuses to kill pilots if he can settle for crippling the plane. This has mixed consequences: while it earns the same mercy for him and the others, it results in complications later, when he sees a Canadian pilot he refused to kill repeatedly reappear—a skilled fighter who was probably responsible for many German deaths.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Made fairly obvious in the brief ground combat scenes, which are clearly intended to be symbolic rather than accurate.
  • Just Plane Wrong: Zigzagged: beautifully rendered CGI images of authentic WWI aircraft that perform in realistic ways — but most of them are from the wrong period of the war. This is especially noticeable with the French and British planes, which are almost all models introduced in the last few months of the war.
  • Manly Tears: Richthofen himself mourns the death of his own pilots. He really did cry seeing the corpse of his fictional Jewish squadmate Sternberg on his wrecked aircraft. Lothar rebukes him by ranting, "A leader cannot afford to mourn!".
  • Memorial for the Antagonist: After the titular Red Baron was buried by the Allies, a funeral wreath was left by Captain Brown, reading "To Manfred von Richthofen, Friend and Enemy."
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: A nurse chastises Von Richthofen for his naive view of the consequences of war.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: the German fighter pilots considered themselves sportsmen, not killers. Von Richthofen leads an unauthorized sortie into British territory in order to drop a wreath on the grave of an enemy pilot. Said pilot is apparently a distant relative, and a schoolmate of one of the other members of the squadron.
  • Propaganda Hero: The film shows both von Richthofen's ground-breaking tactics...and the calculated manner in which his reputation was built by the German propaganda.
  • Red-plica Baron: This is the last movie made based on his story, this time made as a romanticized biopic of Richthofen.
  • Screaming Warrior: Lanoe Hawker should have saved his breath for flying.
  • Seduction-Proof Marriage: One of the pilots at a burlesque bar has one of the girls hanging off his shoulders and he protests, "I'm married, you know!"

Alternative Title(s): Red Baron