- Directors: Clint Eastwood
- Producers: Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Steven Spielberg
- Writers: James Bradley, Ron Powers, William Broyles Jr, Paul Haggis
- Genres: Action, Drama, History, War
- Actors: Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford, Neal McDonough, Barry Pepper, Robert Patrick, Paul Walker, Jamie Bell, John Benjamin Hickey, John Slattery
The story focuses on seven US Marines of the 28th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division, Sgt. Mike Strank, Pfc. Rene Gagnon, Pfc. Ira Hayes, Cpl. Harlon Block, Pfc. Franklin Sousley, Sgt. Hank Hansen, and Pfc. Ralph Ignatowski, as well as their Navy Corpsman, PhM2. John “Doc” Bradley.
In December 1944, U.S. Marines train at Camp Tarawa, Hawaii. They train by climbing a large mountain and getting in Higgins boats. The Marines then set sail across the Pacific, and it is revealed that they are headed to the small island of Iwo Jima, located less than 700 miles from the Japanese mainland. As Captain Severance puts it, they will be fighting on Japanese soil, and will expect tough resistance. A few days later, the armada arrives off the coast of Iwo Jima and the ships of the US Navy open fire on suspected Japanese positions. On the night before the landings, Mike is put in charge of second platoon.
The next day, February 19, 1945, the Marines hit the beach in landing craft and meet no resistance. Ralph, aka “Iggy”, suspects that the Navy killed all the Japanese defenders, as do most of the Marines. After several tense minutes the Marines advance forward and the Japanese open fire. The battle is extremely intense, and the Marines take heavy casualties. Japanese heavy artillery opens fire upon the Marines on shore, as well as the Navy ships. After several attempts, Second Platoon takes out a Japanese pillbox which was pinning them down. They advance forward, as do many other Marines. The battle begins to calm down and the beachheads are secure. Two days later the Marines attack Mount Suribachi under a rain of Japanese artillery and machine gun fire, as the Navy bombards the mountain. It is here that Doc saves the lives of several Marines under fire which later earns him the Navy Cross. Finally, the mountain is secure. For the next four nights, the Marines take cover in foxholes as Japanese soldiers charge through the mist.
In September the war ends and Doc, Rene and Ira go home. Ira tries to move on but is never able to escape his unwanted fame. One day in 1952 after being released from jail, he hitchhikes over 1,300 miles to Texas to see Harlon Block’s family. He tells Ed Block, Harlon’s father that Harlon was indeed at the base of the flag in the famous photograph. In 1954, the USMC War Memorial is dedicated and the three flag raisers see each one last time. In 1955 Ira dies of exposure after a night of drinking. That same year Doc drove to a town where Iggy’s mom lived and told her how Iggy died, though it is implied that he lied. Rene has little success as the business offers he received on the bond drive are no longer offered to him. He spends the rest of his life as a high school janitor, dying in 1979. Doc is the only successful one. He buys the funeral home he worked at before the war and runs it for the rest of his life. In 1995, as he is on his death bed, he tells his son James how after the flag raising Captain Severance took the men swimming. He then dies peacefully. In a final flashback to 1945, the men swim in the ocean after raising the flags.