One of the most powerful anti-war statements ever put on film, this gut-wrenching story concerns a group of friends who join the Army during World War I and are assigned to the Western Front, where their fiery patriotism is quickly turned to horror and misery by the harsh realities of combat. Director Lewis Milestone pioneered the use of the sweeping crane shot to capture a ghastly battlefield panorama of death and mud, and the cast, led by Lew Ayres, is terrific. It's hard to pick a favorite scene, but the finale, as Ayres stretches from his trench to catch a butterfly, is one of the most devastating sequences of the decade. The film won Oscars for Best Picture and for Milestone's direction -- and trivia buffs should note that the actors were coached by future luminary George Cukor, while Ayres became a conscientious objector in World War II. The Road Back (1937) followed, and the film was remade for television in 1979.
by Robert Firsching synopsis