The Delta Force (film)

The Delta Force (film)
The Delta Force

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Menahem Golan
Produced by Menahem Golan
Yoram Globus
Rony Yakov
Written by Menahem Golan
James Bruner
Starring Chuck Norris
Lee Marvin
Martin Balsam
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography David Gurfinkel
Editing by Alain Jakubowicz
Distributed by Cannon Film Distributors / MGM
Release date(s) February 14, 1986 (1986-02-14)
Running time 125 minutes
Language English
Budget $10 million
Box office $17.5 million

The Delta Force is a 1986 cult action film starring Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin as leaders of an elite squad of Special Forces troops based on the real life U.S. Army Delta Force unit. It was directed by Menahem Golan and featured Martin Balsam, Joey Bishop, Robert Vaughn, Steve James, Robert Forster, Shelley Winters, and George Kennedy. The film was produced in Israel. Two sequels were produced entitled Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection and Delta Force 3: The Killing Game. The Delta Force was Lee Marvin's last film.



The film opens up on Operation Eagle Claw, the American operation to rescue American hostages being held at the U.S. embassy to Tehran. The operation is being aborted after a fatal helicopter crash, with the U.S. Delta Force evacuating to their C-130 transports. Among them is Major Scott McCoy (Chuck Norris), who, against orders, rescues his wounded comrade Pete Peterson (William Wallace) from the burning helicopter before the team finally evacuates. McCoy expresses his disgust for the politicians and military hierarchy that forced the mission to launch despite the risks, and announces he is resigning his commission.

Five years later, a group of Lebanese terrorists armed with a Colt M1911, PM-63 machine pistol and AK-47s hijack American Travelways Boeing 707 (ATW) Flight 282 that is on a flight from Cairo, Egypt to Athens, Greece to Rome, Italy and then to New York City.

Taking all passengers and crew hostage, the group, the pro-Khomeini New World Revolutionary Organization, led by Abdul Rifi (Robert Forster) and Mustafa (David Menachem), forces Captain Roger Campbell (Bo Svenson) and his crew to fly the plane to Beirut, Lebanon, where they make demands to the United States government that, if not met, will result in the death of the hostages. During the crisis, they separate the Israeli passengers from the Americans by forcing the flight attendant to identify them against her will. When the plane lands in Algiers for refueling, the terrorists bring a dozen additional men on board and surrender the female hostages and children. Meanwhile Delta Force, led by Colonel Nick Alexander (Lee Marvin) and McCoy, are deployed to resolve the crisis. Once the female hostages are evacuated, they launch their assault, only to discover too late that there are additional hijackers and inadvertently alert the terrorists. Abdul kills one hostage, a US Navy diver named Tom, taking the other two US divers with them as well as dozens of male Jewish passengers on board to Beirut. Delta Force gives chase to rescue the remaining hostages.

Upon landing in Beirut, the terrorists gather their hostages and transport them to a militant-controlled area of Beirut. Using a sympathetic Greek Orthodox priest, Israeli Army Intelligence prepares an operation to free the hostages. In a prolonged campaign against the terrorists, Delta Force bides their time to identify the terrorist leaders and the location of the hostages. Once their location is discovered, Delta Force assaults the terrorist holdout, freeing the hostages and evacuating them to the airport. During the battle, McCoy, Peterson and their team hunts down Abdul and his men, killing most of the militants before Abdul shoots Peterson, gravely injuring him. McCoy gives chase and directly engages Abdul, and after beating him to a pulp finally kills the terrorist leader by launching a rocket into his car.

With the hostages and rescue teams secured, Delta Force seizes Flight 282 by secretly infiltrating the airfield. Using silenced weapons the Delta team kills the guards including the last hijacker and saves the crew, ordering them to fly to Israel. The team boards the plane with all of the hostages, taking off just as McCoy is the last one to board the plane after having destroyed several terrorist jeeps on the runway with his motorcycle armament. On board the team tends to the wounded passengers and Pete who is now dying. After having confirmed that the hostages are safe and en route home, Pete says his farewells to McCoy before succumbing to his wounds. In the main cabin the ex-hostages and Delta commandos join together in a rousing rendition of "America The Beautiful", not knowing Pete has died. In Israel, the plane lands safely and the hostages are greeted by their families, while Delta Force disembarks with Pete's body in tow. The team concludes their operation and departs for the United States.


Delta Force

Lebanese terrorists

  • Abdul Rifi - Robert Forster
  • Mustafa - David Menachem
  • Jaffer - Avi Loziah
  • Jamil - Uri Gavriel
  • Salim - Adib Jahschan




Filming locations

The movie was filmed entirely in Israel, making use of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus's newly opened GG Israel Studios facility in Jerusalem. The Beirut, Tel Aviv and Athens airport sequences in the film were filmed at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, apart from the opening scene where one of the hijackers is seen getting off a taxi at Athens airport, which was indeed filmed at the Eastern terminal of the defunct Athens Ellinikon International Airport. In some sequences, Hebrew lettering and Israeli Police emblems are visible on some of the supposed Lebanese airport barriers. Pentagon and midnight oceanic scenes shot at a warehouse in Jaffa.

The military aircraft (notably the Hercules C-130) used in the film was on loan from the Israeli Air Force. The lease arrangement was similar to that used for Iron Eagle.

Historical connections

  • The hijacked flight in the movie bears many resemblances with the real-life hijack of TWA Flight 847 in 1985:
    • The route is Cairo-Athens-Rome.
    • Two terrorists took over the flight, the third one being arrested in Athens.
    • The flight was diverted to Beirut and Algiers.
    • The lead flight attendant (played in the movie by Hanna Schygulla) was German and was asked by a hijacker to single out the Jewish passengers on board. Also, the flight attendant was based partly on the real-life flight attendant Uli Derickson.
    • Upon landing, one of the hostages, United States Navy diver Robert Stethem, was murdered.
    • A dozen men join the hijackers.
    • The fictional airline in the movie, ATW (American Travelways), is an anagram of TWA (Trans World Airlines), however TWA flight 847 was operated using a Boeing 727 while ATW 282 in the movie was a Boeing 707-139(B) (Registration N778PA). Prior to filming in 1985, the aircraft had been operated by Israeli charter-operator Maof Air and was recently retired commercial service in December of 1984. The aircraft was then leased to Golan-Globus Productions in late 1985 while in storage at Tel Aviv(just after the TWA-847 hijacking). Upon completion of the film, the aircraft was sold Omega Air who in-turn sld it to the US Air Force to be parted out for use in the KC-135E. The aircraft was burned up by a welding accident while in storage at Davis-Monthan AFB in 1994.
  • The hostage rescue operation was inspired by Operation Entebbe, which was conducted by Israeli commandos in 1976. It was the subject of another movie by Menahem Golan, Mivtsa Yonatan (released in English as Operation Thunderbolt), in 1977.
  • The beginning of the film replicated Operation Eagle Claw, the aborted attempt to rescue American hostages held at the U.S. Embassy in Iran in 1980.
  • In his book Eric L. Haney claims that Delta Force was indeed dispatched to Algiers by President Ronald Reagan, but similar to the movie they never received the go-ahead to assault the plane. Delta was then to travel to Israel for a planned rescue of the hostages that had been removed from the plane, Operation Round Bottle, but this was cancelled while they were enroute.

The motorcycle used in the film was a 1985 Suzuki SP600.


Alan Silvestri's electronic score gained a new life when ABC Sports used it to intro their Indianapolis 500 broadcasts from 19881998 and again in 2001. It was also used for the intro of the Brickyard 400 until ABC lost the race rights to NBC Sports in 2001. According to famous Indianapolis 500 anchor Paul Page, he does not want any ESPN/ABC anchor to use this music in intros for the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 unless he narrates the intros himself.


The movie had mostly mixed reviews from critics.[1][2] On the aggervated website Rotten Tomatoes it currently has a 20% with a 53% on the "Like It", giving it a 3.9 out of 10. Many reviewers gave it a rotten review, but Top Critic, Roger Ebert writing for the Chicago Sun Times gave it a positive review giving it a 3 out of 4 stars. Calling it a "a well paced, emotional, and great action movie," Ebert praised "That they were able to make it into an actual movie, rather than making it into an 'action comic book'."[3] On IMDb it has a 5.2 out of 10,

Box office

The Delta Force had opened in 1,720 theaters, and debuted as #3 in the box office losing to The Color Purple and Down and Out in Beverly Hills, but beat Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and Youngblood.[4] It earned $5,959,505 on its opening weekend, with a total gross of $17,768,900. Today, the film is considered one of the best action film's of the eighties.


External links

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