Watch It

On DVD: Now | On Blu-ray: Now

Grand Illusion Details


Frequently cited as both one of the greatest films about war and one of the greatest films ever made, Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion is an often witty, sometimes poignant, frequently moving examination of the futility of war. During World War I, twoFrench airmen are shot down while taking surveillance photographs in German territory: Capt. de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay), a wealthy and aristocratic officer; Lt. Maréchal (Jean Gabin), a burly but intelligent working-class mechanic. The three are brought to a P.O.W. camp, where they encounter and befriend Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio), a prosperous Jewish banker, and the commander, Von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim), takes an immediate liking to de Boeldieu.They are members of the same social class and believe that the political and intellectual ideals of the Europe they once knew will soon be a thing of the past with the rise to power of the proletariat. The three Frenchmen discover that their fellow prisoners have been digging an escape tunnel, and all of them agree to help -- Maréchal and Rosenthal with enthusiasm, de Boeldieu out of a sense of duty. As he puts it, when on a golf course, one plays golf, and while in a prison camp, one tries to escape -- it's the accepted thing to do. As Von Rauffenstein and de Boeldieu become friends, and the rank-and-file soldiers banter as much with the German guards as with each other, the characters seem involved less in a war than in some vast, petty game, albeit one with deadly consequences; they often talk about women and food, while never mentioning political ideology. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

  • Release date:September 12, 1937


Awarded by
National Board of Review Jean Gabin Best Acting 1938 Winner
National Board of Review Pierre Fresnay Best Acting 1938 Winner
National Board of Review Dita Parlo Best Acting 1938 Winner
National Board of Review Erich Von Stroheim Best Acting 1938 Winner


Jean Gabin
as Lieutenant Maréchal
Pierre Fresnay
as Capt. de Boeldieu
Erich Von Stroheim
as Von Rauffenstein
Marcel Dalio
as Rosenthal
Dita Parlo
as Elsa, Farm Woman
Jacques Becker
as An English Officer
Gaston Modot
as The engineer
Claude Sainval
Jean Dasté
as The Teacher
Sylvain Itkine
as Demolder
Jean Dasté
as The Teacher


Jean Renoir
Jean Renoir
Jean Renoir
Dialogue Writer
Jean Renoir
Adaptation by
Charles Spaak
Adaptation by
Charles Spaak
Christian Matras
Joseph Kosma
Composer (Music Score)
Marguerite Renoir
Eugène Lourié
Art Director
Eugène Lourié
Set Designer
Joseph DeBretagne
Sound/Sound Designer
Jacques Becker
First Assistant Director