Review: 1941

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1941 opened on this date in 1979. The action-comedy was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.


California is in a state of hysteria after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. American civilians and military scramble to find ways to defend their lives and home from a Japanese invasion that may or may not happen. The paranoia gets so bad that they may destroy California before the Japanese ever get the chance.


  • The scale of the spectacle and action in 1941 is impressive, even by 2017 standards. Spielberg staged amazing action set pieces that are even more impressive when you consider all the effects were done practically.
  • The film is filled with famous actors, like Dan Aykroyd, Ned Beatty and John Candy. But, with all that star power, John Belushi stands out. 1941 reminds you of the great talent we lost when Belushi died at a young age.


  • When Spielberg made 1941 he was following two smash hits—Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. After directing two of the biggest films of all-time he had the ability to do anything he wanted. That freedom shows in 1941 and its biggest problem is how self-indulgent it all feels. Nobody was going to tell Spielberg no and 1941 looks like it was made by someone who got everything he wanted. The spectacle of it all is fun to watch—but at times you become numb to it.
  • 1941 is primarily a comedy—despite it having a lot of action. As a whole the comedy doesn’t work in the film. Besides Belushi, there isn’t much to laugh at, even though the film has a lot of funny people in it.
  • The film at times can be mean spirited. 1941 is often cruel to minorities and especially to women. Coming from Spielberg, those things are surprising to see.

In Closing:

1941 is never boring and the bombastic visuals are a lot of fun, but the comedy is at times cringe-worthy and surprisingly offensive. Spielberg would go on to do much better work in his career, but 1941 isn’t the complete the disaster many say it is.

Rating: C+