The mission is simple: Take 12 dangerous men rotting in prison cells, give them guns, throw them out of a plane, and have them kill Nazis. Inspired by a real life, rule-breaking demolition unit and E.M. Nathanson’s novel, Robert Aldrich’s “The Dirty Dozen” has inspired many movies about grizzled criminals earning a chance at redemption and ragtag teams embarking on deadly black ops missions. In honor of its 50th anniversary, here are major movies the iconic title has inspired:
The Wild Bunch (1969)
Made by famed Western auteur Sam Peckinpah, “The Wild Bunch,” features a band of outlaws who are dragged into a mission from a violent Mexican general to steal weapons from the U.S. Army. Considered one of the greatest works in Western cinema and Peckinpah’s filmography, the film was also part of a group of late 60s films like “Night of the Living Dead” that pushed the boundaries of cinematic violence.
Kelly’s Heroes (1970)
This war comedy, starring Clint Eastwood, Don Rickles and "Dirty Dozen" alumni Donald Sutherland and Telly Savalas, blends “The Dirty Dozen” with “The Italian Job” in a story about a WWII platoon that decides to ditch their selfish captain and steal millions of dollars in Nazi gold from a vault behind enemy lines. The film has been sold on DVD by Warner Bros. with “The Dirty Dozen” as a double feature package.
The Longest Yard (1974)
Another film made by Robert Aldrich, “The Longest Yard,” is regarded as the sports cousin of “The Dirty Dozen.” Disgraced NFL quarterback Paul Crewe (Burt Reynolds) gets sentenced to 18 months in prison and is asked to organize the prisoners into a football team that can take on the prison guards’ semi-pro team as a warm-up game. Much like the Dirty Dozen, the convicts overcome their demons and come together as a unit, turning the “warm-up game” into a violent battle between guard and prisoner.
The South Korean equivalent of “The Dirty Dozen,” “Silmido” is based on the true story of Unit 684, a black ops team of death row and life sentence inmates tasked with assassinating North Korea’s leader, Kim Il-sung, in exchange for their freedom. The full details of 684’s activities were not released by the Korean government until 2006, meaning director Kang Woo-suk and writer Kim Hie-jae had to fill in the blanks on their own.
Inglorious Basterds (2009)
Critics immediately connected Quentin Tarantino’s “Basterds” to “The Dirty Dozen,” as both feature teams that are not the least bit by-the-book in their methods killing Germans in brutal ways. Tarantino has even described the original concept
that inspired him to make this film as a “Dirty Dozen idea” and notes that the Nazis’ gruesome fate in his film’s climax is similar to the one the Dozen plan for the Wehrmacht officers.
The Expendables (2010)
It's another movie that immediately drew comparisons to “Dirty Dozen,” with every trope from '80s action films thrown in. “The Expendables” features a team of aging mercenaries played by a cast of aging action stars, who are hired by the CIA to kill a rogue agent in a covert mission so the feds can avoid bad press.
The Avengers (2012)
“The Dirty Dozen” has also influenced several of this decade’s comic book films, including Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers.” That might seem strange considering the Avengers are far more noble than the Dozen, but Whedon says
it was "the first movie I referenced when Marvel asked me what I'd do if they gave me the [Avengers] script.” He said that's because “The Dirty Dozen,” like “Avengers,” spends much more time showing the team coming together than it does showing them fighting the bad guys.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
With that in mind, it should not be surprising that James Gunn also took a page from “Dirty Dozen” when making “Guardians of the Galaxy,” as that film too spends most of its time on the Guardians bonding as a evil-fighting team than it does showing them fight evil. Gunn has voiced his love for “The Dirty Dozen” in interviews, saying he is “very attracted to guys of an amoral character who find something inside themselves that is good” in an interview with Birth.Movies.Death.
Also Read: All 46 Marvel Movies Ranked From Worst to Best, Including ‘Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2’ (Photos)
“Blackhat” doesn’t involve a team, but it does take the concept of “Dirty Dozen” and turn it into a solo mission, as Chris Hemsworth plays an incarcerated hacker who is offered freedom in exchange for tracking down another hacker responsible for blowing up a nuclear plant.
Suicide Squad (2016)
Duh. “Suicide Squad” borrows the plot of “Dirty Dozen” almost wholesale, but with DC super villains instead of normal prisoners. Director David Ayer has even repeatedly described it as “Dirty Dozen with supervillains
Rogue One (2016)
“The Dirty Dozen” has even been taken to a galaxy far, far away with the first “Star Wars” anthology film, as director Gareth Edwards tells the story of the ragtag unit of Rebel officers, mercenary pilots, rogue fighters, and force sensitives that gave their lives to get the Death Star plans in Princess Leia’s hands. As you can see, the “Dirty Dozen” formula has been taken to many places, but there’s one place still left to go…