When it comes to World War II films, there really isn't one as renowned and beloved as Saving Private Ryan. This Steven Spielberg epic about a group of soldiers on a mission to bring one soldier home to his family (who has already lost the rest of their sons in the war) is an unforgettable movie that marries the greatest war realism film has ever seen with a touching story.
Saving Private Ryan is an extraordinary filmmaking achievement because it manages to be one of the largest scale films ever made while still paying attention to the most minute of details. It's hard to even catch everything you're supposed to be paying attention to in a movie this big, so a lot of the smaller details in the film are exceptionally easy to miss. Here are 10 details of Saving Private Ryan that you almost certainly missed.
10 Language Barrier
At a certain point there are two foreign soldiers in Saving Private Ryan who surrender to the American troopers, and the Americans understandably assume that they are Germans. However these "German" soldiers were actually speaking Czech, and what they were saying translates to "Please don't shoot me, I am not German, I am Czech, I didn't kill anyone, I am Czech".
It was actually relatively common for the men who had been taken prisoner in conquered Eastern European countries to be conscripted into the German army, and apparently it was predominant among the Czech and Polish.
9 An Unimaginable Endeavor
Even two decades after Saving Private Ryan was released, the opening battle on Omaha Beach is still considered to be one of the greatest movie scenes ever made. But the sheer amount of effort and resources put into its creation was absolutely astounding.
Reportedly, it cost 11 million Dollars to shoot, included about a thousand extras, and took 25 days to shoot. Saving Private Ryan was actually at risk of an NC-17 rating because of the scene, but director Spielberg refused to cut anything. With that amount of time and energy put into it, it's easy to see why.
8 A Little Bit Louder
Saving Private Ryan is one of the most impressive and universally beloved war movies ever made, and the impact it had was immediately apparent upon its release. World War II veterans agreed that the realism Spielberg captured in the film was unlike anything seen before, and the intensity of some scenes actually caused some veterans to leave the theater.
However, in order to make the cinematic experience feel even more realistic, Spielberg had the theaters running the movie turn up the volume to increase the auditory impact.
When the landing crafts arrive on the beaches, there are a lot of large obstacles lining the shore. One of the more recognizable ones was something known as "Czech Hedgehogs." These anti-craft devices look like giant toy jacks, and they were effective at disabling vehicles thanks to their spiked sides and edges.
When the Germans originally anticipated the beach landing, they assumed that the Americans would be landing at high tide, so the Czech hedgehogs would have been concealed and presumably destroyed the approaching boats. However, the American fleet landed at low tide, making the devices exposed and useless.
6 A Little Extra Authenticity
When it came to Saving Private Ryan's commitment to authenticity, no detail was too small. All of the gunfire sounds were added in post-production, however the movie didn't use just any stock sound effects.
Saving Private Ryan's sound team acquired the actual weapons that would have been used in World War II, took them to a shooting range, and recorded the sounds that they made. It's obviously the kind of detail that absolutely no one would nave been able to pick up on, but clearly the filmmakers wanted everything to be pitch perfect (literally).
5 A Unique Look
This little quirk of Saving Private Ryan is the kind of detail that you could literally only notice if you've seen the movie in a variety of different formats, but director Steven Spielberg was trying to create a distinct visual style for the movie.
To give it a bleaker vintage look, Spielberg had the color saturation reduced by 60 percent. However, when Saving Private Ryan first started airing on television, the difference was so distinct that a lot of people thought there was something wrong with their cable or TV, causing the cable companies to re-saturate the picture.
4 War Wounds
For the sake of making the movie feel more realistic as well as not blowing even more of their enormous budget on unnecessary CGI, a lot of real life amputees were hired by the production to portray soldiers who had lost limbs in the battle scenes (and really any scene that required it).
The only painfully obvious exception to this is the war department colonel who is missing his left arm. Although the character's appearance in Saving Private Ryan is brief, the part is portrayed by actor Bryan Cranston, who we all know is not an amputee in real life.
3 An Award Winning Majority
Now this is the kind of detail that no one would ever really recall unless they have an encyclopedic memory of Academy Awards trivia, but the Best Picture nominees in the year that Saving Private Ryan was nominated were dominated by World War II films.
In fact three of five of the nominees took place during WWII, specifically Saving Private Ryan, Life is Beautiful and The Thin Red Line. In one of the more controversial decisions in Academy Award history, the winner of Best Picture in that year was actually Shakespeare In Love.
2 The Scarlet Letter
One of the most symbolic recurring elements in Saving Private Ryan is Private Adrian Caparzo's letter to his father. When Caparzo knows he's dying, his final request is that his letter find its way home. Medic Wade takes the bloodstained letter and transcribes it on to a fresh piece of paper.
When Wade is killed, Captain Miller takes the letter to hopefully bring it home to Caparzo's family, but Miller doesn't survive either, and it appears that it is ultimately Private Reiben who takes it home. The letter seems to be quite the bad luck charm.
1 Saving Private Ryans
In a nice bit of cinematic symmetry, Capt. Miller (Tom Hanks) and his men meet up with both Private Ryans at specific moments in the movie. The first Private Ryan that Miller's unit meets is the wrong Ryan. His name was James Fredrick Ryan while the Ryan they were looking for is James Francis Ryan.
But Miller's squad finds the wrong Private Ryan an hour into the film, and after quite a few more trials and tribulations they find the real Private James Francis Ryan precisely one hour before the movie ends.