MASH

AFI Rank: #56
Year Released: 1970
Director: Robert Altman
Actors: Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall

MASH, also known as M*A*S*H, is perhaps better known as a long running TV series, but there was an award winning movie which came first. Featuring many of the same characters, MASH is about a crew of doctors and nurses at an army hospital near the front lines. While supposedly set in Korea, this was made in 1970 and is fairly clearly pointed at the Vietnam war. It shows just how pointless war can be, how people live and die almost by chance, and how the characters struggle to keep their sanity amongst it all.

It's not a "story" as much as almost a reality show, and apparently portions of the dialogue were ad-libbed as the actors got into their characters. You see how relationships and loyalties get tested, how playing golf on a helicopter landing pad seems to make perfect sense, and how the doctors try their best to save their young friend from going into the army. If you watched the TV series it can be hard, sometimes, to separate how the characters were in the TV series with how they are here - there are numerous differences.

There are all sorts of subtle items in here. For example, in one scene the actors pose in an exact replica of The Last Supper.

MASH Last Supper

Well worth watching to get a sense of what people thought about the Vietnam War in the 70s, and just to immerse yourself in absurdity for a while. MASH helps to illustrate that even amongst death and carnage, people tend to go on with life as best they can, finding love, joy, and moments of peace.

In terms of the Bechdel test, MASH passes - barely. An opening scene has a table of nurses all talking with each other, and two of them end up being minor characters with names. They are talking about nursing activity. However, that is really it. Through the rest of the movie there are really only three female characters. One is a blonde who sleeps with the commanding officer, one is a feistier nurse that ends up "saving" the Dentist by sleeping with him, and then one is the infamous Hot Lips who falls for Major Burns. So we do have three females - but they really don't talk with each other at all after that opening scene. They are just there to be slept with by the guys.

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AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100