Robert Redford plays Waldo Pepper, a former World War I pilot who exaggerates his accomplishments in order to impress the rabble. After a brief rivalry with air-show entrepreneur Axel Olsson (Bo Svenson), Pepper teams with Axel to barnstorm all over the Midwest; later, after a series of unexpected (and calamitous) events, Pepper gets a job as a movie stunt pilot. On the set, he meets the film's technical advisor: former German ace Ernst Kessler (Bo Brundin), a man whom Pepper has been claiming falsely to have fought during the war, thereby advancing his own reputation. He is as disillusioned with civilian life as Pepper is, and ignoring the entreaties of the film's director, stages a genuine dogfight (sans live ammo) with his old "opponent." The Great Waldo Pepper represented the third filmic collaboration between star Robert Redford and director George Roy Hill.
by Hal Erickson synopsis