Two romantic rivals become best friends when
they enlist to be fighter pilots during World War I.
Directed by William A. Wellman
Written by Hope Loring and Louis D. Lighton
Starring Charles Rogers, Richard Arlen, Clara Bow,
Jobyna Ralston, El Brendel, Gary Cooper
Oscar Wins - Best Picture, Best Engineering Effects
Wings was the first film to ever win Best Picture. That alone makes it a landmark film in cinematic history, but the remarkable thing about it is it still holds up. Wings features some ingenious special effects for its time, as well as a host of great performances. It's one of the first mainstream films to feature such mind-bending war effects, and it would influence hundreds, maybe thousands of future war films such as Pearl Harbor and 1917. The Academy Awards were created to honor cinematic achievement, and Wings proved that the limits of film are equal to the limits of man's imagination.
Our heroes are Jack Powell (Rogers) and David Armstrong (Arlen), two young men called into action by their country. Jack is middle class, David comes from money, and they both love the same woman, beautiful Sylvia (Ralston). Jack's neighbor, Mary (Bow) is in love with him, but too nervous to say anything. Jack and David hate each other at first, but after they enlist, they bond and become the closest of friends. The aerial battles take up a substantial chunk of the film, and while it may be tough to stay focused at times, the very fact that a film made in 1927 had special effects this intense is definitely a win. The performances are stellar, particularly Charles Rogers as Jack. There are scenes, especially towards the end, that had me in tears.
Wings is one of the most significant war films ever made, and is still a great watch. Not many early 20th century films can boast that, but this one is entertaining, emotional, and knows exactly what it's trying to say. It's no doubt inspired countless directors to share their vision with the world. Where would film be today if the Academy hadn't been born and honored this war epic?