Path to War

Path to War is a 2002 American biographical television film, produced by HBO and directed by John Frankenheimer. It was the final film (theatrical or made-for-TV) that was directed by Frankenheimer, who died seven weeks after the film debuted on HBO. It was also the last film produced by Edgar J. Scherick during his lifetime—he died seven months after its initial airing on HBO.

Path to War
GenreBiographical television film
Written byDaniel Giat
Directed byJohn Frankenheimer
Starring(first billed only)
Michael Gambon
Donald Sutherland
Alec Baldwin
Bruce McGill
James Frain
Felicity Huffman
Frederic Forrest
John Aylward
Philip Baker Hall
Tom Skerritt
Diana Scarwid
Sarah Paulson
Gerry Becker
Peter Jacobson
Theme music composerGary Chang
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Executive producer(s)Cary Brokaw
John Frankenheimer
Edgar J. Scherick
Howard Dratch
Producer(s)Guy Riedel
Shirley Davis
CinematographyStephen Goldblatt
Nancy Schreiber
Editor(s)Richard Francis-Bruce
Running time165 minutes
Production company(s)Avenue Pictures
Edgar J. Scherick Associates
Original networkHBO
Original releaseMay 18, 2002


The film deals directly with the Vietnam War as seen through the eyes of United States President Lyndon B. Johnson and his cabinet members. The starting events portrayed begin in 1965.


The film stars Michael Gambon as President Johnson, Alec Baldwin as Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Donald Sutherland as presidential advisor Clark M. Clifford, who succeeds McNamara as Secretary of Defense.

Actor Role
Michael GambonLyndon B. Johnson
Donald SutherlandClark M. Clifford
Alec BaldwinRobert McNamara
Bruce McGillGeorge Ball
James FrainRichard N. Goodwin
Felicity HuffmanLady Bird Johnson
Frederic ForrestEarle Wheeler
John AylwardDean Rusk
Philip Baker HallEverett Dirksen
Gary SiniseGeorge C. Wallace
Tom SkerrittWilliam Westmoreland
Cliff De YoungMcGeorge Bundy
Chris EigemanBill Moyers
John ValentiJack Valenti
Gerry BeckerWalt Rostow
Sarah PaulsonLuci Baines Johnson
Francis GuinanNicholas Katzenbach
Curtis L. McClarinMartin Luther King, Jr.
Randy OglesbyJohn Stennis
Patricia KalemberMargaret Craig McNamara
Diana ScarwidMarny Clifford
Madison MasonJohn McCone
Gina-Raye CarterLynda Bird Johnson
Robert CicchiniJoseph Califano

Maxwell D. Taylor is the American ambassador to South Vietnam. Norman Morrison is a pacifist who immolates himself. Earle Wheeler's nickname in this movie is "Bus."


Critical response

Television critic Matt Zoller Seitz in his 2016 book co-written with Alan Sepinwall titled TV (The Book) named Path to War as the 6th greatest American TV-movie of all time, writing: "This nearly three-hour epic plays like the greatest political drama that Oliver Stone never made.... This is easily the greatest of Frankenheimer's late-period TV work, which equals his finest work from the 1960s".[1]


See also


  1. Sepinwall, Alan; Seitz, Matt Zoller (September 2016). TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time (1st ed.). New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing. p. 372. ISBN 9781455588190.


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