Cast: Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Jeremy Davies, Matt Damon, Ted Danson, Paul Giamatti, Dennis Farina, Joerg Stadler, Maximilian Martini, Dylan Bruno, Daniel Cerqueira, Demetri Goritsas, Ian Porter, Gary Sefton, Julian Spencer, Steve Griffin, William Marsh, Marc Cass, Markus Napier, Neil Finnighan, Peter Miles, Paul Garcia, Seamus McQuade, Ronald Longridge, Adam Shaw, Rolf Saxon, Corey Johnson, Martin Hub, Erich Redman, Tilo Keiner, Stephan Grothgar, Nathan Fillion, Leland Orser, Harve Presnell, Dale Dye, Bryan Cranston, David Wohl, Eric Loren, Valerie Colgan, Amanda Boxer, Harrison Young, Kathleen Byron, Rob Freeman, Thomas Gizbert, Nina Muschallik, John de Lancie
On June 6, 1944, elements of the 29th U.S. Infantry Division and companies of Army Rangers rush out of their landing craft and wade into the beach code-named Omaha on the northern coast of France. They are met by exploding artillery shells and heavy machinegun fire from units of the German 352nd Infantry Division deployed in strongholds along the coast. Many American soldiers are slaughtered in the water. Some of them step into waters that are too deep and drown, unable to remove their heavy equipment in time. The soldiers that make it to the shore face a chaos of noise, sand, bullets, explosions, and dismembered comrades. Some make it past the hedgehog iron obstacles and catch sight of the German defensive battlements. Machinegun fire from the fortifications in the bluff above the beach keeps a company of Rangers commanded by Capt. John H. Miller (Hanks) pinned down. Bullets whiz by and strike one soldier after another, their torn bodies covering the sand. Capt. Miller’s men succeed in using an explosive tube called a Bangalore to clear a barbed wire barrier restricting their movement. Suffering heavy losses, they manage to climb the bluff and reach the closest German pillbox. In close combat, they use firearms, grenades and flamethrowers against the entrenched enemy and eventually overcome them, killing all that do not surrender and some that do. A few days later a War Department Clerk (Colgan) realizes that three telegrams are due to be delivered notifying a Mrs. Ryan that during the Normandy landings two of her sons were killed, and in another part of the world, another of the Ryan brothers was also killed in action. She alerts her superiors, and they discover that Mrs. Ryan’s one remaining son is an Airborne trooper fighting somewhere in Normandy. The matter is brought to the attention of Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall (Presnell), who says, “If that boy is alive, we are going to send somebody to find him. And we are going to get him the hell out of there.” At her home in Iowa, Mrs. Margaret Ryan (Boxer) sinks to her knees on her front porch as an Army officer and a chaplain approach and she realizes she is about to get terrible news. Capt. Miller is given special orders to reach Pvt. James Francis Ryan of the 101st Airborne Division and retrieve him so that he may be safely returned to the United States. Capt. Miller forms a squad from men picked from what remains of Ranger Company C, plus Cpl. Timothy Upham (Davies) of the 29th Infantry Division, and sets out for Neuville to search for Pvt. Ryan. Pvt. Richard Reiben (Burns) is a derisive New Yorker; Pvt. Daniel Jackson (Pepper) is a sharpshooter from the South, a born warrior; Pvt. Stanley Mellish (Goldberg) is a Jew who is particularly motivated to fight the Nazis; Pvt. Adrian Caparzo (Diesel) is an amiable Italian-American; soft-spoken T-4 Medic Irwin Wade (Ribisi) does his best to keep the others alive. Cpl. Upham, a mapmaker and translator selected because he’s fluent in German and French, has difficulty fitting in with his Ranger companions. When his men complain about the mission, their lives risked to maybe save one guy, Capt. Miller tells them, “We all have orders, and we have to follow them.” Upham, who has never fired a rifle in anger, is scared as Miller leads his makeshift squad into territory still actively defended by the Germans. They come upon Neuville, devastated by recent combat, and Pvt. Caparzo is killed while trying to rescue a young French girl. Advancing past Neuville, the group encounters a damaged German radar installation protected by a machinegun nest. They debate whether to attack or bypass it and press on with their mission. Capt. Miller decides to assault the emplacement, feeling it’s what they came to France to do. The Rangers overcome the enemy defenders, but Medic Wade is killed. Proceeding to the village of Ramelle, on the banks of a river, Miller and his remaining men finally locate Pvt. Ryan (Damon). Ramelle is facing an imminent attack by German panzers and grenadiers, and Pvt. Ryan refuses to abandon his fellow paratroopers. Capt. Miller must decide how to work out the situation. Remarkably realistic cinematography by Janusz Kaminski. Screenplay by Robert Rodat.