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YMMV / Saving Private Ryan

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Upham. Gutless Dirty Coward, or sympathetic Everyman who does what many inexperienced, ordinary people would do in the heat of battle? Any online discussion of Mellish's death scene will inevitably devolve into this.
    • Is Captain Miller's order to directly assault the machine gun nest a poor decision influenced by his frustration at the lack of progress with the mission and his combat stress, or was it actually the best tactical choice for safely traversing the area? The unease of the men with the plan, the fruitless death of Wade and the Captain's blunt "Our mission is to win the war." comment perhaps suggest the former, but the success of the attack and the significance of having made the area safer also suggests the latter.
      • Consider how much the squad gripes about the futility of their assignment (saving one soldier). Miller's insists on clearing the MG nest to "win the war" so that Reiben has to quit complaining and put his money where his mouth is. Immediately after Wade dies, the squad never questions Miller's orders or their mission to save Ryan, since they know that their chances of dying are indeed equal no matter what.
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    • Is Steamboat Willie a cowardly despicable bastard who killed Wade and then refused to take responsibility for his death, then later knowingly killed Miller when he got the chance...or did he have only a passive role in Wade's death and not know it was Miller when he fired the shot? Miller was only seen for a second or two before he fired and may have looked like any other GI. Though the fact he recognizes Upham immediately afterwards perhaps suggests he knew it was Miller and his squad that he was shooting at.
  • Award Snub: One of the most famous in the history of the Academy. The film lost the Best Picture Academy Award to Shakespeare in Love due to the Weinsteins heavily lobbying for their movie. Nonetheless, Saving Private Ryan is the film people remember more these days.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: As an extremely bloody and realistic war movie the natural expectation is that it would work solely as an anti-war movie by showing the horror. However, there is a non-trivial section of the audience that found the (lavishly shot) action scenes exhilarating, even glamorous. These reactions are far from mutually exclusive.
    • Of course, your opinion may take a 180 degree turn when the medics try to stop a soldier from bleeding out, or during the Telegram scene.
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  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Jackson and Wade seem to be the favourites among the fandom. Their deaths seem to elicit the most Tear Jerker reactions anyway.
  • Fandom Rivalry: With Shakespeare in Love fans, due to the perceived Award Snub at the Oscars. Spielberg won Best Director, but Shakespeare In Love won Best Film.
  • Fanon: Many people who saw the film were confused as to whether the German soldier that kills Corporal Mellish is also "Steamboat Willie." They are in fact, different soldiers. The soldier that kills Mellish has Waffen SS lapel insignia, while "Steamboat Willie" has the lapel insignia of an enlisted soldier in the Wehrmacht Heer. To a good number of viewers however, the killer of Mellish being Steamboat Willie is fanon being better than the film, as it adds an extra layer of emotion to Upham's vendetta and reasoning for shooting Willie at the end.
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  • Friendly Fandoms: With Band of Brothers, due to both being companion pieces by Spielberg (though he only produced the miniseries) and having very similar visual styles - especially during the battle scenes. Both projects had the cast endure a boot camp from Captain Dale Dye too.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: Private Ryan is a paratrooper in the 101st Airbourne. He refuses to go with Captain Miller because he does not want to desert his post and leave his comrades behind. Band of Brothers came out a couple of years later and focused on the real men of the 101st. After seeing truly how deep the men cared for each other makes Ryan's refusal to leave his post all the more poignant.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • At one point, a soldier calls for a 'Captain Hammer', literally two scenes before Nathan 'Captain Hammer' Fillion comes in as the wrong James Ryan.
    • This movie wouldn't be the last time where Tom Hanks saved the titular character.
    • Dale Dye has a cameo where he talks about how the 101st Airbourne has been scattered across Normandy. This is slightly hilarious as of Dye's role in Band of Brothers, which covers the exploits of Easy Company in the 101st. It makes one chuckle that Dye's character in this doesn't know he has a lookalike in Normandy.
    • This is the first time that America put together an extremely dangerous rescue mission to bring home Matt Damon. It would not be the last.
    • It’s now a bit ironically funny seeing Vin Diesel play the first of the team to die, as he’s now notorious for being so insecure about his image that he actually has a clause in his contract preventing him from ever looking bad onscreen.
  • It Was His Sled: A minor example about an hour into the film. The unit finds a Private James F. Ryan and breaks the news to him...only to find out it's not the one they're looking for. Spielberg's intention was to cast an unknown as Private Ryan and while Matt Damon had just recently netted an Oscar nomination for Good Will Hunting he still wasn't exactly a star. Nowadays everyone knows Matt Damon is James Ryan, not to mention Nathan Fillion being a fairly recognizable name too. So while it's revealed Fillion's Ryan is not the guy pretty quickly, most new viewers are bound to catch on before it.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Mellish is a dick throughout the film but then you realise he's Jewish, and there's also an early scene where he's handed a Hitler Youth knife. He tries to joke about it but bursts into tears. And later he dies horribly after witnessing his ally get shot in the throat.
    • Reiben as well, since he only wants to desert the mission after being forced to watch two comrades die slowly and painfully. He also witnesses Miller dying.
  • Misaimed Fandom: As noted above, many ignore the message that War Is Hell and only like the carnage in the war scenes.
  • Memetic Mutation: Tom Hanks versus tank scene becomes the subject of object labeling memes in late 2018.
    • The crossfade of young Ryan to present day elderly Ryan is also a popular reaction image for people feeling old.
  • Narm: Played with, if that's possible with this trope. The scene with the wrong Private Ryan, played by Nathan Fillion, can come across as accidentally hilarious since everyone knows that Matt Damon is the Ryan they're looking for. So with that foreknowledge the scenes can come across as funny in a Crosses the Line Twice sort of way. But at the end of the scene, Fillion's Ryan is still worried about his brothers and realises he won't be going back home. His line "I wrote them a letter just yesterday" eliminates any humour the scene may have had.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Ted Danson as Captain Hamill.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • A lot of the younger actors, especially Matt Damon and Vin Diesel, were not yet megastars at the time this movie came out. Damon had won an Oscar (albeit for Best Screenplay in Good Will Hunting), but it may yet have been a flash in the pan. Steven Spielberg is rightfully credited as helping jump-starting Diesel's career, writing the role specifically for him after seeing Diesel in his acclaimed short film.
    • Jeremy Davies (Cpl. Upham) is Daniel Faraday in Lost.
    • Nathan Fillion as Private James Frederick Ryan from Minnesota.
    • Paul Giamatti and Bryan Cranston also have small roles and went on to become acclaimed actors.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Both on the giving (it's not the first movie to use a documentary-like depiction of war or realistic carnage, but the first popular one) and taking ends (the influence on war movies or battle scenes in general, complaints about the patriotic/emotional tone of the post-Omaha Beach part of the movie).
  • Signature Scene: The very first scene of the Normandy invasion on D-Day, widely regarded as arguably the best and most accurate depiction of the battle on film.
  • Tough Act to Follow: For many, the opening sequence is so intense and grand that the rest of the film, a plot revolving around finding one soldier in Occupied France doesn't really measure up well.


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