Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Pearl Harbor (2001)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Pearl Harbor (2001)

In Michael Bay's cliche-ridden action romance that recreated the Dec 7, 1941 Japanese attack - it was a film praised for some of its aspects (Visual Effects, Score, and attack sequence), but vilified and nominated as Worst Picture by the Razzies:

  • the two main characters - life long friends from Tennessee: Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck as adult) and Daniel "Danny" Walker (Josh Hartnett as adult) who both served as USAAC (US Army Air Corps) combat pilots during World War II
  • the long-running love affair (and love triangle) between Lieutenant Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale), a military nurse, and both flyboy Lieutenants - first Rafe (before he engaged in an ill-fated deployment to Britain's RAF) and then Danny (including a sex scene in a flight hangar amidst billowing parachutes)
Evelyn with Rafe
Evelyn with Danny
  • the revolutionary, famous (or infamous) special effects shot, dubbed the "bomb-cam" - in which a bomb dropped on a ship was followed from its point of view as it was released, fell and exploded on the USS Arizona; thus followed the film's centerpiece - 40 minutes of mayhem, death, drownings, explosions, torpedoes, sinking ships, blood, etc.
  • the scene of real-life cook's mate Dorie Miller (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), untrained in gunnery, although still manning a 50-calibre anti-aircraft gun aboard the USS West Virginia and shooting down at least one Japanese plane
  • the recreation of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's (Jon Voight) famous address to the US Congress: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. It is obvious that planning the attack began many weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace. The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian lslands has caused severe damage to American military forces. I regret to tell you that over 3,000 American lives have been lost. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. (applause) Because of this unprovoked, dastardly attack by Japan, I ask that the Congress declare a state of war"
  • after the attack, the scene of polio-stricken President FDR's meeting with his Defense Cabinet when he insisted that the US aggressively strike back against the heart of Japan, although every one of his advisors cautioned against it: ("We've been trained to think that we're invincible and now our proudest ships have been destroyed by an enemy we considered inferior. We're on the ropes, gentlemen. That's exactly why we have to strike back now...I'm talking about hitting the heart of Japan the way they have hit us...Does anyone in this room think that victory is possible without facing danger? We are at war. Of course there's a risk....But when I see defeat in the eyes of my countrymen in your eyes right now, I start to think that maybe he brought me down for times like these when we all need to be reminded who we truly are -- that we will not give up or give in"); in a fictional add-on sequence, he struggled to his feet from his wheelchair while asserting: "Do not tell me it can't be done"
President FDR: "Do not tell me it can't be done"
  • the scenes of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's (Mako) second-thought musings about the onset of war: "A brilliant man would find a way not to fight a war...I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve"
  • during a top-secret training session with Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, Rafe asked what the commander would do if the mission failed and they had to bail out over Japan; Doolittle responded: "I wasn't built to be a prisoner. So I would have my crew bail out. I'd find the sweetest military target I could and drive my plane right smack into the middle of it. But that's just me. I'm 45 years old. I'm an old man. You guys have your whole lives ahead of you. So what you do is up to you."
  • in the conclusion, after the death of Danny during air combat (with Rafe) in Japan - a retaliatory raid on Tokyo in April 1942 that was a suicide mission - Rafe was personally awarded a Navy Cross medal by President Roosevelt with Major Doolittle in attendance, who remarked: "That's for all the Raiders"
Medal Ceremony - FDR Pinning Medal on Rafe
Doolittle to Rafe at Medal Ceremony: "That's for all the Raiders"
  • a voice-over narrator described the impact of Doolittle's raid, with shots of Rafe returning home and greeting Evelyn at the airfield - along with Danny's coffin: "When the action is over and we look back, we understand both more and less. This much is certain. Before the Doolittle raid, America knew nothing but defeat. After it, there was hope of victory. Japan realized, for the first time, that they could lose and began to pull back. America realized that she would win and surged forward. It was a war that changed America. Dorie Miller was the first black American to be awarded the Navy Cross. But he would not be the last. He joined a brotherhood of heroes...World War ll, for us, began at Pearl Harbor and 1,177 men still lie entombed in the battleship Arizona. America suffered, but America grew stronger. It was not inevitable. The times tried our souls, and through the trial, we overcame"

The Pearl Harbor Attack on the USS Arizona ("the bomb-cam")

Dorie Miller (Cuba Gooding Jr.) Behind Anti-Aircraft Gun

President Roosevelt's Speech to Congress and Declaration of War: "...a date which will live in infamy"

Colonel Doolittle (Alex Baldwin) to Rafe About What He Would Do If the Mission Failed: "I wasn't born to be a prisoner"

Concluding Voice-Over - Rafe (and Danny's Coffin) with Evelyn


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