March up to the Bridge on the River Kwai quiz!



By: Olivia Cantor

6 Min Quiz

Image: Columbia Pictures/Horizon Pictures

About This Quiz

The year 1957 was a memorable one for cinema as The Bridge on the River Kwai premiered. Soon the entire world was talking about this war epic, and it earned enough buzz to win many awards and accolades. Do you think you can recall the details of this fine film? Take this quiz and find out!

The Bridge on the River Kwai is set during this world war.

David Lean’s war epic was set during World War II. Even though the novel’s original story was partly based on real-life events, most of the drama was fictional in nature.


The Bridge on the River Kwai was based on a novel penned by Pierre Boulle. However, the book’s title differed by one word, as it is entitled The Bridge ___ the River Kwai.

The book by Boulle was the basis of the script for the film version. It was actually this author who was identified as the film’s lone scriptwriter, even though there were two uncredited scriptwriters who contributed heavily to the script.


David Lean is the English director of the war epic The Bridge on the River Kwai, as well as another war-set epic entitled Lawrence of ___.

Lawrence of Arabia is another film directed by David Lean which earned critical acclaim. It starred many acting greats, such as Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, and Peter O’Toole in the title role.


The opening credits of Bridge on the River Kwai boast of the film being entirely shot in Ceylon. What is Ceylon's modern name?

Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon under the British colony, is the primary location of the film shoot. However, the story it’s portraying is supposed to be in Burma.


Since it’s a war film, the story largely takes place in this kind of military structure.

The prisoner camp is situated in the middle of a forest within a tropical island. The captors use the harsh climate as a way to increase the suffering of their prisoners.


The film is about the life of Allied prisoners captured by what army?

The prisoner camp is run by the Japanese Imperial Army troops and soldiers. Their captives are mostly North American and European troops, with a few Australians.


The first of the camp scenes featured two shirtless soldiers doing this, which one of them said "might scare off the new arrivals."

Two American soldiers were digging the graves near the camp's entrance when new arrivals came. They were digging to bury prisoners who already died in captivity while in the camp.


The new arrivals in the prison camp belonged to a company made up of soldiers of this nationality.

The latest battalion to arrive at the Japanese prison camp were all British. It was composed of a handful of officers and hundreds of soldiers.


When the newly arrived soldiers were marching towards the camp, they were doing something musical. What was it?

The British soldiers were marching in cadence while whistling an upbeat tune. The tune is actually the film’s trademark theme song.


The newly arrived British solders were under the command of this British officer.

Lt. Col. Nicholson is the British commander of the newly arrived whistling battalion. He was portrayed by Alec Guinness.


The Japanese prison camp, Camp 16, is under the command of this Japanese officer.

Col. Saito is the leading Japanese officer of Camp 16. His camp is tasked to do something specific in the story.


The prisoners of the camp are tasked with building this kind of structure.

Col. Saito is tasked to oversee the building of a bridge. His soldier prisoners will be tasked to build it.


The bridge that the Imperial Army of Japan wants to build aims to connect the Burmese capital of Rangoon to this other Asian city.

The bridge to be built by the Japanese camp prisoners aims to connect Bangkok to Rangoon. Since the areas are covered in jungle terrain, it’s a challenge to build one.


Over what body of water will the bridge be built?

The Japanese Imperial Army’s engineers deemed that transporting people and goods would be easier if they created a bridge. They chose the River Kwai over which to build it that bridge.


Col. Saito mentioned the absence of these three important structures that usually surround a prison camp. What are they?

Col. Saito said the prison camp is in the middle of an island in the jungle. Therefore, there’s no need for barbed wire fencing, stockade, or even a watch tower for prisoners who would want to escape.


Col. Saito always mentions the name of the Japanese Imperial Army’s famous general. What is his name?

General Yamashita is the real-life Japanese Imperial Army officer during World War II. His name is often mentioned in many movies set in this era.


According to Col. Saito, he wants all his prisoners to abide by Gen. Yamashita’s motto, which states this ...

It’s ironic that “Be happy in your work” is the motto of Gen. Yamashita, who was known to be a ruthless leader. Hard to be happy under his leadership!


Col. Saito’s instructions to the newly arrived prisoners is that these type of men will also have to work together with the other soldiers.

Col. Saito wants no man idle in his camp. Therefore, he ordered all officers and soldiers to work together in building the bridge project.


Col. Nicholson refused to work under Col. Saito’s camp rule, stating that the "use of officers for manual labor is prohibited.” In which convention did he say that this provision existed?

The Geneva Convention is a collection of guidelines, mostly treatises, which states how people should be treated in times of war, especially those who are no longer directly involved in fighting or battles. Col. Nicholson is correct in stating that the convention protects the rights of the sick, the wounded, and prisoners.


Because of Col. Nicholson’s refusal to abide by Col. Saito’s camp rules, he was ordered to be put inside a small solitary confinement space which they nicknamed this ...

Col. Nicholson spent alone time inside a cramped box-like structure they called "the oven." He was served no food, drinks, and even sunshine was shut out of it.


In order to impress their latest status on them, Col. Saito addressed the newly arrived British battalion this way.

In a not-so-subtle reminder, Col. Saito announced “English prisoners! Notice I didn't say English soldiers.” It’s to hopefully knock some sense into them, especially their hard-headed commander in "the oven."


The British soldiers, meanwhile, still showed their support for their stubborn commander, even singing this song as Col. Nicholson was being whisked away.

The British battalion started singing “For he’s a jolly good fellow, and so say all of us” in support of their beleaguered Col. Nicholson who is still giving Col. Saito a hard time. What a musical bunch of soldiers!


Col. Saito uses English idiomatic expressions from time to time to communicate with his English-speaking prisoners. In an effort to “reward" the “hard work” of the prisoners, he mentioned this expression ...

Col. Saito is fond of making speeches before enacting something in the camp. He said "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy” when he announced treats are about to be delivered.


Perhaps in a rather skewed effort to uplift the morale of his foreign prisoners, Col. Saito decided to give them presents one day. But when the soldiers opened them, this is what they got ...

Prisoners of war during World War II were allowed to receive much-needed food and hygiene supplies packed by Red Cross. It’s ironic for Col. Saito to “gift” these to the prisoners since the packages are already theirs to begin with.


When Col. Saito invited Col. Nicholson to his quarters for a more civilized talk, he shared his meal with the British officer. What was he eating?

In the hopes of making Col. Nicholson see his side, Col. Saito engaged the British officer to partake of English food and beverages. He offered English corned beef and liquor from Scotland, both which Nicholsonrefused.


In his talk with Col. Nicholson, Col. Saito revealed that he spent three years studying in England. Which city did he mention?

Col. Saito revealed that he wanted to be an artist, so he spent three years studying at the London Polytechnic. But his father had other plans, so he pursued engineering and joined the army.


Col. Saito finally allowed the held-up British officers, including Lt. Col. Nicholson, to return to their quarters and not work in manual labor as part of this ...

Seeing that he can’t win against British stubbornness, Col. Saito decided to grant Col. Nicholson and his officers amnesty. They happily return to their quarters.


While the officers are not to forced to work in manual labor, the Geneva Convention allows them to work under this kind of role ...

Officers are allowed to supervise the manual labor work being done by their soldiers. Col. Nicholson started to enact this role once he was let out of "the oven" and granted amnesty by Col. Saito.


During his supervisory role, Col. Nicholson thought that helping to build the bridge would ...

Aside from wanting to show the Japanese how the Western approach to engineering is better, Col. Nicholson also thought about his men’s state of mind and morale. He thought that keeping the soldiers preoccupied with something during their internment would keep their minds off bad things.


Now working to give the project their best, what was the very first recommendation of Col. Nicholson’s men concerning the bridge construction?

Col. Nicholson’s Western engineers stated that the Japanese needed to relocate the bridge to another river. The first spot has a soft bed, which would make the posts sink, making bridge construction futile over the chosen river.


Col. Saito revealed that he was forced to finish the bridge on time, or else he would have to do this unfortunate action.

The Japanese term of harikari means to commit suicide when one is disgraced or dishonored. Not completing the bridge would be a dishonor to Col. Saito, so he would have to kill himself if it’s not completed in time.


What is the name of the American officer who successfully escaped from the prison camp, and who ended being pampered in a hospital?

Commander Shears is the low-key American who tried to escape with a handful of other prisoners, but he was the only one successful enough to pull it off. He was found and rescued by the British army. Shears was portrayed by William Holden.


The British army which rescued Commander Shears wanted him to accompany them back to the camp so they could enact this mission ...

The British Army handpicked several men who could sabotage the bridge being built near the camp. They wanted Commander Shears’ knowledge of the camp’s location to help them get there.


The reluctant Commander Shears didn’t want to participate in the sabotage mission, until the British officers somewhat blackmailed him. What information did they use against him?

Commander Shears confessed that he wasn’t really an officer, and he was just impersonating one, thinking that he would have privileges as a prisoner if he pretended to be an officer. However, the British officers already knew his secret, so they used this against him to coerce his help with the sabotage mission.


Towards the end, the bridge was successfully completed, and the sabotage mission was nearly a flop, until Col. Nicholson was hit by a mortar and landed on the detonator that finally blew up the bridge. What was the classic line that prisoner Major Clipton uttered upon seeing what happened?

Major Clipton’s line of “Madness! Madness!” captured everything that happened in the prison camp up until that time — from Nicholson’s decisions to Saito’s inhumane conditions, which culminated with the destruction of the bridge. Clipton was portrayed by James Donald.


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