In 1941, SS-StandartenführerHans Landa interrogates French farmer Perrier LaPadite as to the whereabouts of a Jewish family, the Dreyfuses. Landa suspects the Dreyfuses are hiding under their floorboards and, in exchange for the Nazis not murdering his family, LaPadite tearfully confirms it. The soldiers shoot through the floorboards, killing all but one of the Dreyfuses: Shosanna, the Dreyfuses' daughter, who escapes.
Three years later, Lieutenant Aldo Raine recruits Jewish-American soldiers to the Basterds, a commando unit formed to instill fear among Nazis by killing and scalping them behind enemy lines. They include Sergeant Donny "The Bear Jew" Donowitz, Sergeant Hugo Stiglitz, a rogue German soldier, and Corporal Wilhelm Wicki, the group's translator. In Germany, Adolf Hitler interviews a German soldier, Private Butz, the only survivor of a Basterd attack, who reveals that Raine carved a swastika into his forehead to ensure he'll forever be branded a Nazi, even after the war's end, not revealing that he divulged military information privy to the Nazis to the Basterds.
In Paris, Shosanna is in hiding, operating a cinema under the name Emmanuelle Mimieux. She meets Fredrick Zoller, a German sniper famed for killing 250 Allied soldiers in a battle. Zoller stars in a Nazi propaganda film, Stolz der Nation (Nation's Pride). Infatuated with Shosanna, Zoller convinces Joseph Goebbels to hold the premiere at her cinema. Landa, the head of security for the premiere, interrogates Shosanna, who manages to maintain her cover. Shosanna plots with her Afro-French lover and projectionist, Marcel, to set the cinema ablaze during the premiere, killing the Nazi leaders in attendance.
Meanwhile, British Commando Lieutenant Archie Hicox is recruited to lead a separate British attack on the premiere with the Basterds. Hicox, along with Stiglitz and Wicki, goes to a tavern in German-occupied northern France to meet with German film star Bridget von Hammersmark, an undercover Allied agent who will be attending the premiere. Hicox inadvertently draws the attention of Wehrmacht Sergeant Wilhelm and Major Dieter Hellström, giving himself away by using a British hand gesture, rather than the equivalent German one. A gunfight ensues, resulting in the death of everyone except Sergeant Wilhelm and von Hammersmark, who is shot in the leg. Raine arrives and negotiates with Wilhelm for von Hammersmark's release, but she shoots Wilhelm when he lowers his guard. Raine, believing von Hammersmark set his men up, tortures her, but she convinces him she is loyal and reveals Hitler will be attending the premiere. Raine decides to continue with the mission, with himself, Donowitz and Omar Ulmer taking the place of Hicox, Stiglitz and Wicki. Later, Landa investigates the tavern and finds von Hammersmark's shoe and a napkin with her signature.
Raine, Donowitz and Ulmer attend the premiere alongside von Hammersmark, disguised as Italian filmmakers, with timed explosives strapped to their ankles. Landa takes von Hammersmark to a back room, verifies the shoe from the tavern fits her, and kills her. Raine and another Basterd, Smithson Utivich, are taken prisoner. Landa has Raine contact his superior officer to cut a deal: He will allow the mission to proceed in exchange for his safe passage through the Allied lines, a full pardon, and other privileges.
During the screening, Zoller slips away to the projection room and attempts to force himself on Shosanna. She resists, but eventually lets him in and tells him to lock the door, shooting him as his back is turned. As Shosanna watches the film, however, she starts to feel pity for Zoller, whom she then realizes is still alive. As she lays her hand on Zoller, he suddenly turns to face her and shoots her multiple times, and dies himself shortly after. As the film reaches its climax, Shosanna's spliced-in footage tells the audience that they are about to be killed by a Jew. Having locked the auditorium doors, Marcel ignites a pile of flammable film behind the screen as Shosanna's image laughs and the theater goes up in flames. Ulmer and Donowitz break into the opera box containing Hitler and Goebbels, shooting both dead in a hail of machine gun fire before firing into the crowd until their bombs go off, killing everyone in the theater.
Landa and his radio operator drive Raine and Utivich into Allied territory, where they surrender themselves. Raine shoots the radio operator dead before ordering Utivich to scalp him. Raine then has Landa restrained and carves a swastika into his forehead, professing it to be his masterpiece.
Mélanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus / Emmanuelle Mimieux, an 18 year old: 90, 186 Jewish cinema owner whose family was executed by Landa when she was 15 years old. Shosanna manages to escape due to luck and the fact that Landa does not consider her a threat, concluding that she will either die in the woods or be turned in to the Nazis by neighbors.: 90–91 Two weeks after her family's murder she goes to the cinema to watch the premiere of a Bridget Von Hammersmark film. After everyone else leaves she tells the owner, Madame Mimieux of her plight. In exchange for shelter she becomes Mimieux's projectionist. Most of The Bride's attributes from Tarantino's Kill Bill come from Tarantino's original development of Shosanna for Inglourious Basterds which he started to work on before Kill Bill. Originally Shosanna was a badass assassin who had a list of Nazis she would cross off as she killed, whom Tarantino described as a Jewish Joan of Arc. Tarantino later switched the character attributes over to The Bride and later redeveloped Shosanna into the version who appears in the film.: 22:00–24:00
Eli Roth as Sergeant Donny Donowitz aka "The Bear Jew" a brooding member of the Basterds who executes Nazis with his baseball bat. Donowitz is a barber from Boston. Before the war he bought his baseball bat from a local store, the heaviest one he could find, vowing to bash Nazis with it. He then had neighbors of his sign it with the names of relatives of theirs who were victims of Nazis. One of the names signed on his bat is that of Anne Frank. One of his neighbors called him a bastard and told him "a bastard's work is never done," giving the name to his future squadron. In Tarantino's screenplay Donowitz is likened to Joshua: 167 and his bat to the sword of Gideon.: 170 Roth channeled actor Tony Curtis for his portrayal per Tarantino's direction. Donny is the father of Tarantino-created film producer Lee Donowitz (Saul Rubinek) who appeared in True Romance.
Director Enzo G. Castellari also makes a cameo appearance in the film at the movie premiere. He previously cameoed as a German in his own The Inglorious Bastards and reprised the same role in this film, but under a different rank and SS organization.Bo Svenson, who starred in Castellari's The Inglorious Bastards, also has a small cameo in the film as a US colonel in the Nation's Pride movie.
Tarantino spent just over a decade creating the film's script because, as he told Charlie Rose in an interview, he became "too precious about the page", meaning the story kept growing and expanding. Tarantino viewed the script as his masterpiece in the making, so felt it had to become the best thing he had ever written. He described an early premise of the film as his "bunch-of-guys-on-a-mission" film, "my Dirty Dozen or Where Eagles Dare or Guns of Navarone kind of thing".
I'm going to find a place that actually resembles, in one way or another, the Spanish locales they had in spaghetti westerns – a no man's land. With US soldiers and French peasants and the French resistance and German occupation troops, it was kind of a no man's land. That will really be my spaghetti Western but with World War II iconography. But the thing is, I won't be period specific about the movie. I'm not just gonna play a lot of Édith Piaf and Andrews Sisters. I can have rap, and I can do whatever I want. It's about filling in the viscera.
By 2002, Tarantino found Inglourious Basterds to be a bigger film than planned and saw that other directors were working on World War II films. Tarantino had produced three nearly finished scripts, proclaiming that it was "some of the best writing I've ever done. But I couldn't come up with an ending." He moved on to direct the two-part film Kill Bill (2003–2004). After the completion of Kill Bill, Tarantino went back to his first storyline draft and considered making it a mini-series. Instead he trimmed the script, using his script for Pulp Fiction as a guide to length. The revised premise focused on a group of soldiers who escape from their executions and embark on a mission to help the Allies. He described the men as "not your normal hero types that are thrown into a big deal in the Second World War".
The film's title was inspired by the English-language title of director Enzo G. Castellari's 1978 war film, The Inglorious Bastards. When pushed, Tarantino would not explain the first u in Inglourious, but said, "The Basterds? That's just the way you say it: Basterds." He later stated that the misspelled title is "a Basquiat-esque touch". He further commented on Late Show with David Letterman that Inglourious Basterds is a "Quentin Tarantino spelling". Tarantino has said that the film's opening scene, in which Landa interrogates the French dairy farmer, is his "favorite thing" he's "ever written".
Tarantino originally sought Leonardo DiCaprio to be cast as Hans Landa, before deciding to have the character played by a native German-speaking actor. The role ultimately went to Austrian Christoph Waltz who, according to Tarantino, "gave me my movie" as he feared the part was "unplayable". Pitt and Tarantino had wanted to work together for a number of years, but they were waiting for the right project. When Tarantino was halfway through the film's script, he sensed that Pitt was a strong possibility for the role of Aldo Raine. By the time he had finished writing, Tarantino thought Pitt "would be terrific" and called Pitt's agent to ask if he was available.
Tarantino asked Adam Sandler to play the role of Donny Donowitz, but Sandler declined due to schedule conflicts with the film Funny People.Eli Roth was cast in the role instead. Roth also directed the film-within-the-film, Nation's Pride, which used 300 extras. The director also wanted to cast Simon Pegg in the film as Lt. Archie Hicox, but he was forced to drop out due to scheduling difficulties with Spielberg's Tintin adaptation. Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender began final negotiations to join the cast as Hicox in August 2008, although he originally auditioned for the role of Landa.B. J. Novak was also cast in August 2008 as Private First Class Smithson Utivich, "a New York-born soldier of 'slight build'".
Tarantino talked to actress Nastassja Kinski about playing the role of Bridget von Hammersmark and even flew to Germany to meet her, but a deal could not be reached and Tarantino cast Diane Kruger instead.Rod Taylor was effectively retired from acting and no longer had an agent, but came out of retirement when Tarantino offered him the role of Winston Churchill in the film. This would be Taylor's last appearance on film before his death on January 7, 2015. In preparation for the role, Taylor watched dozens of DVDs with footage of Churchill in order to get the Prime Minister's posture, body language, and voice, including a lisp, correct. Taylor initially recommended British actor Albert Finney for the role during their conversation, but agreed to take the part because of Tarantino's "passion."Mike Myers, a fan of Tarantino, had inquired about being in the film since Myers' parents had been in the British Armed Forces. In terms of the character's dialect, Myers felt that it was a version of Received Pronunciation meeting the officer class, but mostly an attitude of "I'm fed up with this war and if this dude can end it, great because my country is in ruins." Tarantino met Mélanie Laurent in three rounds, reading all the characters on the first round. On the second meeting, he shared the lines with her; the third was a face-to-face dinner. During the dinner, he told Laurent, "Do you know something—there's just something I don't like. It's that you're famous in your country, and I'm really wanting to discover somebody." Laurent replied "No, no, no. ... I'm not so famous." After four days, he called to finalize her for the role of Shosanna.Samm Levine was cast as PFC Hirschberg, because, according to Levine, Tarantino was a big fan of Freaks and Geeks, which starred Levine.
Tarantino teamed with The Weinstein Company to prepare what he planned to be his film for production. In July 2008, Tarantino and executive producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein set up an accelerated production schedule to be completed for release at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, where the film would compete for the Palme d'Or. The Weinstein Company co-financed the film and distributed it in the United States, and signed a deal with Universal Pictures to finance the rest of the film and distribute it internationally. Germany and France were scheduled as filming locations and principal photography started in October 2008 on location in Germany. Filming was scheduled to begin on October 13, 2008, and shooting started that week. Special effects were handled by KNB EFX Group with Greg Nicotero and much of the film was shot and edited in the Babelsberg Studio in Potsdam, Germany, and in Bad Schandau, a small spa town near Germany's border with the Czech Republic. Roth said that they "almost got incinerated", during the theater fire scene, as they projected the fire would burn at 400 °C (752 °F), but it instead burned at 1,200 °C (2,190 °F). He said the swastika was not supposed to fall either, as it was fastened with steel cables, but the steel softened and snapped. On January 11, 2013, on the BBC's The Graham Norton Show, Tarantino said that for the scene where Kruger was strangled, he personally strangled the actress, with his own bare hands, in one take, to aid authenticity.
Following the film's screening at Cannes, Tarantino stated that he would be re-editing the film in June before its ultimate theatrical release, allowing him time to finish assembling several scenes that were not completed in time for the hurried Cannes première.
Tarantino originally wanted Ennio Morricone to compose the film's soundtrack. Morricone was unable to, because the film's sped-up production schedule conflicted with his scoring of Giuseppe Tornatore's Baarìa. However, Tarantino did use eight tracks composed by Morricone in the film, with four of them included on the CD.
When the script's final draft was finished, it was leaked on the Internet and several Tarantino fan sites began posting reviews and excerpts from the script.
The film's first full teaser trailer premiered on Entertainment Tonight on February 10, 2009, and was shown in US theaters the following week attached to Friday the 13th. The trailer features excerpts of Lt. Aldo Raine talking to the Basterds, informing them of the plan to ambush and kill, torture, and scalp unwitting Nazi servicemen, intercut with various other scenes from the film. It also features the spaghetti-westernesque terms Once Upon A Time In Nazi Occupied France, which was considered for the film's title, and A Basterd's Work Is Never Done, a line not spoken in the final film (the line occurs in the script during the Bear Jew's backstory).
The film was released on August 19, 2009, in the United Kingdom and France, two days earlier than the US release date of August 21, 2009. It was released in Germany on August 20, 2009. Some European cinemas, however, showed previews starting on August 15. In Poland, the artwork on all advertisements and on DVD packaging is unchanged, but the title was translated non-literally to Bękarty Wojny (Bastards of War), so that Nazi iconography could stylize the letter "O". Tarantino didn't misspell the title to differentiate his film from the 1978 movie by the same name. He said it instead was a creative decision which he initially refused to explain, simply saying that “Basterds” was spelled as such because “that's just the way you say it”.
Promotion in Germany and Austria
Universal Pictures adjusted the film's publicity materials and website in Germany and Austria to comply with both countries' penal laws, as the display of Nazi iconography is restricted there: the swastika was removed from the typography of the title, and the steel helmet had a bullet hole in place of the Nazi symbol. The site's download section was also revised to exclude wallpaper downloads that openly feature the swastika. Though advertising posters and wallpapers may not show Nazi iconography, this restriction does not apply to "works of art", according to German and Austrian law, so the film itself was not censored in either Germany or Austria.
The film was released on single-disc DVD and a two-disc special-edition DVD and Blu-ray Disc on December 15, 2009, by Universal Studios Home Entertainment in the United States and Australia. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on December 7, 2009, in the UK. On its first week of release, the film was number two, only behind The Hangover, selling an estimated 1,581,220 DVDs, making $28,467,652 in the United States.
The German version is 50 seconds longer than the American version. The scene in the tavern has been extended. Although in other countries, the extended scene was released as a bonus feature, the German theatrical, DVD, and Blu-ray versions are the only ones to include the full scene.
Inglourious Basterds grossed $120.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $200.9 million in other territories, for a worldwide gross $321.4 million, against a production budget of $70 million. It became Tarantino's highest-grossing film, both in the US and worldwide, until Django Unchained in 2012.
Opening in 3,165 screens, the film earned $14.3 million on the opening Friday of its North American release, on the way to an opening-weekend gross of $38 million, giving Tarantino a personal best weekend opening and the number one spot at the box office, ahead of District 9. The film fell to number two in its second weekend, behind The Final Destination, with earnings of $20 million, for a 10-day total of $73.8 million.
Inglourious Basterds opened internationally at number one in 22 markets on 2,650 screens, making $27.49 million. First place openings included France, taking in $6.09 million on 500 screens. The United Kingdom was not far behind making $5.92 million (£3.8 m) on 444 screens. Germany took in $4.20 million on 439 screens and Australia with $2.56 million (A$2.8 m) on 266 screens.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 89% of 332 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "A classic Tarantino genre-blending thrill ride, Inglourious Basterds is violent, unrestrained, and thoroughly entertaining."Metacritic, which assigns a rating on reviews, gives the film a weighted average score of 69 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.
Critics' initial reactions at the Cannes Film Festival were mixed. The film received an eight- to eleven-minute standing ovation from critics after its first screening at Cannes, although Le Monde, a leading French newspaper, dismissed it, saying "Tarantino gets lost in a fictional World War II". Despite this, Anne Thompson of Variety praised the film, but opined that it was not a masterpiece, claiming, "Inglourious Basterds is great fun to watch, but the movie isn't entirely engaging ... You don't jump into the world of the film in a participatory way; you watch it from a distance, appreciating the references and the masterful mise en scène. This is a film that will benefit from a second viewing". Critic James Berardinelli gave the film his first four-star review of 2009, stating, "With Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino has made his best movie since Pulp Fiction", and that it was "one hell of an enjoyable ride".Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times also gave the film a four-star review, writing that "Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds is a big, bold, audacious war movie that will annoy some, startle others and demonstrate once again that he's the real thing, a director of quixotic delights." Author and critic Daniel Mendelsohn was disturbed by the portrayal of Jewish American soldiers mimicking German atrocities done to European Jews, stating, "In Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino indulges this taste for vengeful violence by—well, by turning Jews into Nazis".Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian stated he was "struck ... by how exasperatingly awful and transcendentally disappointing it is". While praising Christoph Waltz's performance ("a good actor new to American audiences"), David Denby, of The New Yorker, dismissed the film with the following words: "The film is skillfully made, but it's too silly to be enjoyed, even as a joke. ... Tarantino has become an embarrassment: his virtuosity as a maker of images has been overwhelmed by his inanity as an idiot de la cinémathèque". Journalist Christopher Hitchens likened the experience of watching the film to "sitting in the dark having a great pot of warm piss emptied very slowly over your head".
The film also met some criticism from the Jewish press. In Tablet, Liel Liebowitz criticizes the film as lacking moral depth. He argues that the power of film lies in its ability to impart knowledge and subtle understanding, but Inglourious Basterds serves more as an "alternative to reality, a magical and Manichaean world where we needn't worry about the complexities of morality, where violence solves everything, and where the Third Reich is always just a film reel and a lit match away from cartoonish defeat". Anthony Frosh, writer for the online magazine Galus Australis, has criticized the film for failing to develop its characters sufficiently, labeling the film "Enthralling, but lacking in Jewish content".Daniel Mendelsohn was critical of the film's depiction of Jews and the overall revisionist history aspect of the film, writing "Do you really want audiences cheering for a revenge that turns Jews into carboncopies of Nazis, that makes Jews into "sickening" perpetrators? I'm not so sure." While Jonathan Rosenbaum equated the film to Holocaust denial, stating "A film that didn't even entertain me past its opening sequence, and that profoundly bored me during the endlessly protracted build-up to a cellar shoot-out, it also gave me the sort of malaise that made me wonder periodically what it was (and is) about the film that seems morally akin to Holocaust denial, even though it proudly claims to be the opposite of that." When challenged on his opinion, Rosenbaum elaborated by stating, "For me, Inglourious Basterds makes the Holocaust harder, not easier to grasp as a historical reality. Insofar as it becomes a movie convention — by which I mean a reality derived only from other movies — it loses its historical reality."
On June 15, 2010, the YouTube account of CollegeHumor uploaded a video titled "Grammar Nazis", referencing the titular phrase and the Inglourious Basterds scene with the Jewish family hiding under the floor.