‘Saving Private Ryan’ turns 20

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Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Twenty years ago Tuesday, Saving Private Ryan opened in U.S. theaters.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, the World War II drama stars Tom Hanks as Captain John Miller who, after surviving the harrowing June 6, 1944 Allied landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, is directed to take his squad of soldiers and locate Private James Ryan.  Played by Matt Damon, Ryan's three brothers have been killed in action, leaving him the sole surviving bother, and Miller's orders are to return him safely home.

Saving Private Ryan received near universal critical acclaim, especially for its unflinching realism in depicting World War II combat.  The opening Omaha Beach landing scene, which cost a reported $12 million to film and utilized some 1,500 extras, was so intense that many combat veterans who watched it reportedly left the theater in the midst of it.

Saving Private Ryan earned $30.5 million dollars in the U.S. its opening weekend and was the highest-grossing film domestically of 1998, going on to earn $481.8 million worldwide.  It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won five, including a second Best Director Oscar for Steven Spielberg.  To this day, it's widely seen as one of cinema's finest salutes to the men and women who both risked and gave their lives during World War II.

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