The Bridge on the River Kwai

Synopsis: The film deals with the situation of British prisoners of war during World War II who are ordered to build a bridge to accommodate the Burma-Siam railway. Their instinct is to sabotage the bridge but, under the leadership of Colonel Nicholson, they are persuaded that the bridge should be constructed as a symbol of British morale, spirit and dignity in adverse circumstances. At first, the prisoners admire Nicholson when he bravely endures torture rather than compromise his principles for the benefit of the Japanese commandant Saito. He is an honorable but arrogant man, who is slowly revealed to be a deluded obsessive. He convinces himself that the bridge is a monument to British character, but actually is a monument to himself, and his insistence on its construction becomes a subtle form of collaboration with the enemy. Unknown to him, the Allies have sent a mission into the jungle, led by Warden and an American, Shears, to blow up the bridge.
Genre: Adventure, Drama, War
Director(s): David Lean
Production: Columbia Pictures
  Won 7 Oscars. Another 23 wins & 7 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
161 min

Finish work!

Go to hut.

Yeah, that figures.

If the new prisoners see us

digging graves, they may run.

No time for jokes. Finish work!

Dig, dig.

How about putting us

on sick list?

Have a heart, captain.

Put us in hospital.

You no sick. You never sick.

Why you always play sick, Shears?

Don't want one of these

over my head, I guess.

Captain Kanematsu... about a butt?

I give you butt this morning.

Both of you.

That's what I mean.

I want to return the favour.

When a man gives a gift

from the goodness of his heart... you gave me that butt,

I remember it from the heart.

That's why...

...I want you to keep this lighter.

Think I stole it?

It belonged to that English kid

we just buried.

He gave it to me

for a favour I'd done him.

Before I pass on,

I want to do the same for you.

You funny man, Shears.

You go on sick list. Him too.

One of these days Colonel Saito

will catch you bribing him...

...then where'll we be?

Before that happens

we'll be far away from here, chum.

Far away.

Okay, let's knock off.

Here lies...

I forgot who we just buried.


Ah, yes.

Here lies Corporal Herbert Thomson...

...serial number zero-one-two-


Valiant member of the King's Own

or the Queen's Own or something...

...who died of beri-beri

in the year of our Lord, 1943...

...for the greater glory of...

- What did he die for?

- Come off it.

No need to mock the grave.

I don't mock the grave or the man.

May he rest in peace.

He found little of it

while he was alive.

"A" Company, mark time!

Mark time!


Into line, left turn.

Stand easy.

We're going to be

busy gravediggers, Weaver.

Well done, well done.

That colonel doesn't know

what he's in for.

You going to tell him the truth?

Of course not.

You're neither an officer

nor a gentleman.

My name is Nicholson.

I am Colonel Saito.

In the name of His Imperial Majesty...

...I welcome you.

I am the commanding officer

of this camp...

...which is Camp 16...

...along the great railroad...

...which will soon connect

Bangkok with Rangoon.

You British prisoners

have been chosen... build a bridge

across the River Kwai.

It will be pleasant work,

requiring skill.

And officers will work as well as men.

The Japanese Army cannot

have idle mouths to feed.

If you work hard,

you will be treated well.

But if you do not work hard... will be punished.

A word to you about escape.

There is no barbed wire.

No stockade.

No watchtower.

They are not necessary.

We are an island in the jungle.

Escape is impossible.

You would die.

Today you rest.

Tomorrow you'll begin.

Let me remind you of

General Yamashita's motto:

" Be happy in your work. "

Be happy in your work.


Battalion, stand at ease.

Fall out, Major Hughes.

Battalion, stand easy.

Hughes, get the men to their quarters.

See who's sick.

I'm going to have a word

with this fellow.

I heard your remarks just now, sir.

My men will carry on in the way

one expects of a British soldier.

My officers and I

will be responsible for their conduct.

You may have overlooked the fact

that the use of officers for labour... expressly forbidden

by the Geneva Convention.

Is that so?

I have a copy of the convention...

...and would be glad to

let you glance through it.

That will not be necessary.

Sit down, please.

Yes, sir.

I'm going to have a word with Clipton.

Clipton, don't let me interrupt.

- How's the arm?

- Nearly healed.

Sir, this is Commander Shears

of the United States Navy.

How do you do, sir?

We found him and an Australian.

All that's left of the

prisoners who built the camp.

U.S. Navy? Out here?

I am sort of landlocked.

- You lost your ship?

- The Houston.

I made it ashore, but I got separated

from the other survivors.

And your group here?

Mostly Aussies. Some lime-

Some British.

Indians, Burmese, Siamese.

And what happened to them?

They died...

...of malaria, dysentery,

beri-beri, gangrene.

Other causes of death:

Famine, overwork, bullet wounds,



Then there were some

who just got tired of living.

Has Clipton seen you?

Just about to. Come over here,

you can shave later.

All right.

You'll stay with the officers.

We'll find some decent clothing.

Don't bother about me.

I'm not anxious to

get off the sick list.

Besides, this is working kit.

It's the fashion here.

The officers in your party

did manual labour?

I think you could call it that.

I raised that very point

with Colonel what's-his-name.


- I think he understands now.

- Is that so?

Yes. I must say he seems

quite a reasonable type.

Well, I must be pushing on.

There's an officer's meeting at 7.

- Give me a list of your requirements.

- Yes, sir.

Anything we can do.

Thank you, sir.

- What is it?

- Never mind.

Go on, say it.

I can think of a lot of things

to call Saito...

...but reasonable, that's a new one.

Perhaps Col. Nicholson

defines the word differently.

Any other points?

- By your leave, sir?

- Jennings?

About the escape committee.

I've spoken with Cmd. Shears-

There won't be any escape committee.

I don't understand, sir.

Lt. Jennings has a plan.

Yes, yes, I'm sure Jennings

has a plan, but escape?

Where? Into this jungle?

That fellow, Saito, is right.

No need for barbed wire here.

One chance in 100 of survival.

Rate this script:5.0 / 1 vote

Carl Foreman

Carl Foreman, CBE (July 23, 1914 – June 26, 1984) was an American screenwriter and film producer who wrote the award-winning films The Bridge on the River Kwai and High Noon among others. He was one of the screenwriters that were blacklisted in Hollywood in the 1950s because of their suspected Communist sympathy or membership in the Communist Party. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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