AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Summary View of Movie
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Black Hawk Down
Director: Ridley Scott (Dir)
Release Date:   18 Jan 2002
Duration (in mins):  148
Print this page
Display Movie Detail

Cast: Josh Hartnett  ([Ranger Staff Sgt. Matt] Eversmann)
  Ewan McGregor  ([Ranger Spec.] Grimes)
  Tom Sizemore  ([Ranger Lt. Col. Danny] McKnight)

Summary: On Saturday, 2 Oct 1993, restless American soldiers stationed at the temporary U.S. base at Mogadishu airport in Somalia, learn of a mission set for the next day. They are to capture warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid and others who have been attempting to stop the distribution of food following a time of famine in which more than 300,000 Somalis have died. Under the command of Maj. Gen William F. Garrison, a down-to-earth career officer from Texas, the men prepare for a potentially dangerous mission, but one that should take no more than thirty minutes. Rangers and Delta Force members are to be dropped into Mogadishu by Black Hawk Helicopters, capture Aidid and a handful of others from the designated site, then leave the area in Humvees which will rendezvous with them on the ground. Most of the men are anxious for the chance to go on a real mission, and spend Saturday evening amusing themselves, watching a video of The Jerk , talking and playing chess. Some are afraid, but the idealistic Ranger Staff Sgt. Matt Eversmann thinks that their mission will help “The Skinnies” as they call the Somalis. A few soldiers write "death letters" to their families, which some think is unlucky. Shortly before 3:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, Ranger Spec. Grimes, who frequently complains about being forced to work behind a desk because of excellent typing skills and an ability to make the perfect cup of coffee, is apprehensive after being told that he will be coming on the mission because another soldier has broken his wrist playing Ping Pong. Sure that they will be back before nightfall, some of the men leave night gear and canteens at the base, and as they fly toward the city, chat about how beautiful the blue water and sandy beaches of Somalia are. Passing over one area, they wave to a young boy on the ground, not knowing that the boy is using a cellphone to relay information about the incoming helicopters to Aidid’s soldiers. A few minutes later, as the American Black Hawk helicopters hover over the drop site, automatic weapons and mortars are fired at them, causing the first casualty, Ranger Pvt. First Class Todd Blackburn, who sustains a serious injury when he falls to the ground. While some of the men, led by Ranger Lt. Col. Danny McKnight and Delta Sgt. First Class “Hoot” Gibson find the men they have been sent to capture and start to load them on one of the Humvees, extensive sniper fire increases and a Black Hawk flown by Chief Warrant Officer Cliff “Elvis” Wolcott goes down. Via television monitors at the base, Garrison surveys the situation and orders the men to go to the crash site, secure a perimeter and pick up survivors. Garrison then bitterly comments “We just lost the initiative.” As various groups approach the crash site, the assault from the Somalis becomes more intense and many of the Humvees are unable to get through. Ranger Sgt. Dominick Pilla, who mans a machine gun on top of one of the Humvees, is the first man killed by gunfire. Meanwhile, the rigid Capt. Mike Steele orders Eversmann to head a group and go to the crash site. Eversmann and several other soldiers reach the site, but are trapped and forced to take cover in an abandoned building. As many more men are killed or sustain multiple injuries, another helicopter, flown by Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant, is hit and forced down. Durant survives the crash, despite a badly broken leg, but cannot leave the helicopter. Hordes of armed civilians now take to the streets and run towards the crash sites, making Garrison realize that all helicopters and Humvees must pull back and regroup. He then sends word to the Pakistani army that also occupies the city that they must assemble as many armored vehicles as possible at Pakistani Stadium, which is located in a safe area of Mogadishu. By the early evening, some of the men still trapped begin to despair that they have been abandoned, but Garrison repeatedly issues orders that no man, dead or alive, will be left behind. By late evening, many of the dead and wounded arrive back at the airport base as more troops prepare a rescue mission. Several men who have sustained injuries, including McKnight, are determined to go back and rejoin the others. In a helicopter over the city, two Delta snipers, Delta Sgt. First Class Randy Shughart and Delta Master Sgt. Gary Gordon, repeatedly request permission to rescue Durant. Garrison finally agrees, after which Shughart and Gordon are dropped near Durant’s helicopter and pull him to a safe place. As an increasingly large and hostile group of Somalis draws near, Shughart and Gordon are both killed and their bodies are grabbed by the frenzied mob. After Durant runs out of ammunition, he tries to hold onto a photograph of his wife and young child as the mob attacks him. His life is spared when one of Aidid’s men stops them, saying he is wanted as a live prisoner. By early Monday morning, the armored vehicles depart Pakistani Stadium and additional helicopters leave the base. The ground vehicles approach the crash sites and reach the buildings, where pockets of soldiers are holed up. When the convoy reaches Eversmann and his men, they quickly evacuate the wounded and the body of a Ranger Cpl. Jamie Smith, a friend of Eversmann who died from a massive leg wound. There is not enough room in the armored vehicles to hold all the men, though, and many, including Eversmann, must run alongside, using the vehicles as cover. To the cheers of friendly Somalis and their fellow soldiers, the men finally reach Pakistani Stadium at 6:30 on Monday morning, sixteen hours after the start of their mission. As they rest, drink glasses of water offered by Pakistani soldiers and have their wounds tended, several survivors reflect that they did not become soldiers to be heroes. Grimes, who proved his worthiness as a soldier and survived the mission, is handed a cup of tea, and Eversmann sits next Smith's body and explains why he does what he does. 

Distribution Company: Columbia Pictures, Inc.
Production Company: Revolution Studios
Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc.
Scott Free
Columbia Pictures, Inc.
Director: Ridley Scott (Dir)
  Terry Needham (1st asst dir)
  Darin John Rivetti (Key 2d asst dir)
  Alexander Witt (2d unit dir)
  Adam Somner (1st asst dir, 2d unit)
  Hatimi Ahmed (1st asst dir, Morocco unit)
  Rachid Gaidi (1st asst dir, Morocco unit)
  Ali Cherkaoui (2d asst dir, Morocco unit)
  Zine-Eddine Ibnou Jabal (2d asst dir, Morocco unit)
  Basil Grillo (2d 2d asst dir)
  Emma Horton (2d 2d asst dir)
  Hannah Quinn (2d 2d asst dir)
  William Dodds (3d asst dir, 2d unit)
Producer: Simon West (Exec prod)
  Mike Stenson (Exec prod)
  Chad Oman (Exec prod)
  Branko Lustig (Exec prod)
  Jerry Bruckheimer (Prod)
  Ridley Scott (Prod)
  Terry Needham (Assoc prod)
  Harry Humphries (Assoc prod)
  Pat Sandston (Assoc prod)
Writer: Ken Nolan (Scr)
  Mark Bowden (Contr wrt)
  Steven Zaillian (Contr wrt)
  Eric Roth (Contr wrt)
  Sam Shepard (Contr wrt)

Subject Major: Americans in foreign countries
  Mogadishu (Somalia)
  United States. Army. Special Forces
Subject Minor: Coffee
  Tanks (Military science)
  Telephones, Mobile

Display Movie Detail
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
Limited To:
Video Availability
Advanced Search
Join AFI
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.