The Thin Red Line is a 1998 American epic war film written and directed by Terrence Malick. Based on the novel by James Jones, it tells a semi-fictionalized version of the Battle of Mount Austen, which was part of the Guadalcanal Campaign in the Pacific Theater of World War II. It portrays soldiers of C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, played by Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas and Ben Chaplin. Although the title may seem to refer to a line from Rudyard Kipling's poem "Tommy", from Barrack-Room Ballads, in which he calls foot soldiers "the thin red line of heroes", referring to the stand of the 93rd Regiment in the Battle of Balaclava of the Crimean War, it is in reality a quote from Jones's book which reads, "they discover the thin red line that divides the sane from the mad... and the living from the dead..."
The film marked Malick's return to filmmaking after a 20-year absence. It co-stars Nick Nolte, Adrien Brody, George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Elias Koteas, Jared Leto, John C. Reilly, and John Travolta. Reportedly, the first assembled cut took seven months to edit and ran five hours. By the final cut, footage of performances by Bill Pullman, Lukas Haas, and Mickey Rourke had been removed (although one of Rourke's scenes was included in the special features outtakes of the Criterion Blu-ray and DVD release). The film was scored by Hans Zimmer, and shot by John Toll. Principal photography took place in the Australian state of Queensland and in the Solomon Islands.
The film grossed $98 million against its $52 million budget. Critical response was generally positive and the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Sound. It won the Golden Bear at the 1999 Berlin International Film Festival. Martin Scorsese ranked it as his second favorite film of the 1990s. On At the Movies, Gene Siskel called it "the greatest contemporary war film I've seen".
A previous film adaptation of the novel was released in 1964.