The Delta Force

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This article is about the film. For U.S. military unit, see Delta Force. For other uses, see Delta Force (disambiguation).
The Delta Force
Delta force poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Menahem Golan
Produced by
Written by
  • James Bruner
  • Menahem Golan
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography David Gurfinkel
Edited by Alain Jakubowicz
Distributed by Cannon Films
Release dates
  • February 14, 1986 (1986-02-14)
Running time
130 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $9 million[1]
Box office $17.76 million[1]

The Delta Force is a 1986 American action-thriller starring Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin (in his final film) 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 is loosely based on the hijacking of TWA Flight 847.[2]


Operation Eagle Claw is being aborted after a fatal helicopter crash, with the U.S. Delta Force evacuating to their C-130 transports. Among them is Captain Scott McCoy (Chuck Norris), who, against orders, rescues his wounded comrade, Peterson (William Wallace), from the burning helicopter before the team finally evacuates. McCoy expresses his disgust for the politicians and the military hierarchy that forced the mission to launch despite the risks, and announces his resignation.

Five years later, a group of Lebanese terrorists hijack American Travelways Flight 282, a Boeing 707 flying from Cairo, Egypt to New York City via Athens, Greece and Rome, Italy. Taking all 144 passengers and crew hostage on the Athens-Rome leg, the pro-Khomeini New World Revolutionary Organization, led by two terrorists named Abdul Rafai (Robert Forster) and Mustafa (David Menahem), force 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 each of the hostages. During the crisis, they separate the Jewish passengers from the Americans by forcing the flight attendant to identify them, who is hesitant to do so because of her German heritage. Unbeknownst to the authorities, the Jewish hostages are then taken off the plane and transported to a militant-controlled area of Beirut, while a dozen additional henchmen are brought on board.

The plane departs for Algiers, where the terrorists release the female hostages and children. Meanwhile, Delta Force, led by Colonel Nick Alexander (Lee Marvin) and McCoy (who has been recalled to duty and promoted to Major) 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 onboard. When the Delta Force blow their cover, Abdul kills a United States Navy Diver named Tom (Charles Floye). He then forces the pilots to return to Beirut and takes the remaining male passengers with him.

Upon returning to Beirut, the terrorists transport the passengers to a separate location, while the pilots remain in the aircraft. Using a sympathetic Greek Orthodox priest, Israeli Army Intelligence prepares an operation to free the hostages. In a prolonged campaign against the terrorists, the Delta Force bide their time to identify the terrorist leaders and locate the hostages. Once the hostages are located, the Delta Force assault the terrorist holdouts, freeing the hostages and evacuating them to the airport. During the battle, McCoy, Peterson and their team hunt down Abdul and his men, killing most of the militants but Abdul gravely injures Peterson and flees. While the commandos tend to Peterson, McCoy chases Abdul and tracks him down to an abandoned home. He then engages him into a vicious hand-to-hand fight, breaking Abdul's arm. As the terrorist leader prepares to shoot McCoy, he is killed when McCoy launches a rocket into his car.

With the hostages and rescue teams secured, the team seizes Flight 282 by secretly infiltrating the airfield through a cotton field. Using silenced weapons, Alexander and the Delta team assassinate the terrorist guards and save the crew. They board the plane with all of the hostages, taking off to Israel just as McCoy storms the runway on his motorcycle; managing to board after destroying several terrorist jeeps. On board, the team tends to the wounded passengers and the dying Peterson. After having confirmed the hostages are safe and en route home, Peterson 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 about Peterson's death, except for Alexander and Bobby. In Israel, the plane lands safely and the hostages are greeted by their families, while Delta Force disembarks with Peterson's body in tow. The team concludes their operation and departs for the United States amidst celebrations by the people.


Chuck Norris on the film set.

Delta Force[edit]

Lebanese terrorists[edit]

Crew and passengers[edit]


The film was entirely shot in Israel.[3] Pentagon scenes were shot at the GG Israel Studios facility in Jerusalem, owned by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. The Athens, Beirut, Algiers, and Tel Aviv airport scenes were filmed at Ben Gurion International Airport's military portion, Lod Air Force Base, although one Athens airport scene where an accomplice of the hijackers exits a taxi, was filmed at the eastern terminal of Ellinikon International Airport while the Athens airport concourse (interior) scenes were filmed in Ben Gurion's main terminal, which at present, is terminal 1. The scenes of the siege and hostage rescue in the Beirut countryside including midnight oceanic scenes were filmed in Jaffa.[citation needed]


The Lockheed C-130H Hercules in the film actually belonged to the Israeli Air Force, registered as 89-9106. It was loaned to the Golan-Globus company for filming after it was given a false registration, 14X-FBB and U.S. Air Force designs. Its lease arrangement was similar to Iron Eagle wherein the United States Air Force refused to participate due to a long-standing policy about not cooperating on any film involving the theft of an aircraft, causing the filmmakers to turn to the Israeli Air Force for the necessary aerial sequences. The army vehicles for the military and terrorists came from the U.S. Army and Israel Defense Forces.

The Boeing 707-139(B) with the registration N778PA, was operated by several airlines including Olympic Airways, Aer Lingus, Saudia, Turkish Airlines, Pan American World Airways, which operated it as Clipper Skylark from 1962 to 1976. Prior to filming in 1985, the aircraft had been operated by Israeli charter-operator MAOF Air and was retired from commercial service in December 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) and repainted with the fake airline name "American Transworld Airlines" while retaining the MAOF livery, but later changed to "American Travelways Airlines" to avoid confusion and legal action. Upon completion of the film, it was sold to Jet Avionic Systems Incorporated on May 28, 1985. Aerocar Aviation acquired it in January 1986 and sold it to Boeing Military Aircraft Company on March 20, 1986 to be used as a source of spares for the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker program. The U.S. Air Force acquired it later on and parted its vertical stabilizer and engines for the Boeing KC-135E Stratotanker. N778PA was destroyed by fire in a welding accident while in storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in 1992. Portions of the airframe may still exist.

The 1985 Suzuki SP600 motorcycle used by Chuck Norris was designed by Suzuki specifically for the film. After modifying it and adding the weaponry, Suzuki America gave the bike to Golan-Globus production in Israel prior to filming.


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. It is now used on the XM Satellite broadcasts of IndyCar racing events, of which Paul Page is the announcer.[citation needed]

The soundtrack album was initially released by Enigma Records, and later by Milan Records (minus "The Rescue") on an album paired with Jerry Goldsmith's King Solomon's Mines; in 2008 Intrada Records issued a limited edition CD with the entire score. Quartet Records released a two-disc set in 2013 featuring the Intrada album programme on disc one and the Enigma album listing on disc two; all are now OOP.


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 and had a total gross of $17,768,900 in the United States.[5]

The Delta Force has been released on Blu-ray in the US, and more recently in the UK by video label Arrow Films.[6]


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 20% of ten surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 3.9/10.[7] In a positive review for the Chicago Sun Times, Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars and called it "a well-made action film that tantalizes us with its parallels to real life."[2] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote that it "will be the 1986 film all others will have to beat for sheer, unashamed, hilariously vulgar vaingloriousness."[8] Variety described it as "an exercise in wish fulfilment for those who favor using force instead of diplomacy."[9]

Historical Resemblance[edit]

TWA Flight 847
Trans World 727-231.jpg
A TWA Boeing 727-200 similar to the aircraft involved in the hijacking.
Hijacking summary
Date June 14, 1985
Summary Hijacking
Site Greek airspace
Passengers 139
Crew 8
Fatalities 1
Survivors 146
Aircraft type Boeing 727-231
Operator Trans World Airlines
Registration N64339
Flight origin Cairo International Airport
1st stopover Athens (Ellinikon) Int'l Airport
2nd stopover Leonardo da Vinci Int'l Airport
3rd stopover Boston Logan Airport
4th stopover Los Angeles International Airport
Destination San Diego International Airport

The movie replicated the ill-fated Operation Eagle Claw, the attempt to rescue American hostages held at the U.S. Embassy in Iran in 1980.

The hijacked flight in the film resembles the the hijacking of TWA flight 847. Notable scenes include the following.

  • The route is Cairo-Athens-Rome. The flight's termination in the film is John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York while TWA 847 in real life is San Diego with stopovers in Boston, Massachusetts and Los Angeles.
  • Two terrorists board the flight. The third was arrested in Athens. The lead hijacker was based on Mohammed Ali Hammadi, TWA 847's hijacker.
  • The German American purser of the flight, Ingrid Harding was inspired by Uli Derickson, TWA 847's purser. In both real life and film, the hijackers spoke almost poor English but are also fluent in German and the purser acts as the translator. When the hijackers force the purser to collect the passports, they demanded that Jewish passengers and passengers with Hebraic-sounding names must be singled out. Derickson in real-life hesitates to do so due to her German heritage and she acted as a translator for the passengers, crew, and hijackers. Derickson also hid the passports in order to confuse the hijackers in identifying Jewish passengers.
  • The flight was diverted to Beirut and Algiers
  • A dozen henchmen board the flight in Beirut
  • Women and children are released in Algiers
  • A US Navy Diver is shot dead and thrown off the plane. In the film, this took place in Algiers while in real-life, Beirut is the setting.
  • The airline in the movie, American Travelways Airlines or ATW, is an anagram of TWA, the abbreviation of Trans World Airlines. TWA 847 used a Boeing 727 while the plane in the film was a Boeing 707.
  • The hostage rescue and the Beirut airport siege was inspired by Operation Entebbe.


  1. ^ a b Andrew Yule, Hollywood a Go-Go: The True Story of the Cannon Film Empire, Sphere Books, 1987 p189
  2. ^ a b "The Delta Force". Chicago Sun Times. 1986-02-14. Retrieved 2014-10-10. 
  3. ^ "Next Year in Jerusalem! Israel Lures the Hollywood Moviemakers". Haaretz. The Associated Press. 2011-08-29. Retrieved 2016-01-16. 
  4. ^ "New Movies Make Inroads At Box Office". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-12-22. 
  5. ^ "The Delta Force". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2014-10-10. 
  6. ^ Harley, Joe (2014-05-01). "Blu-ray Review: THE DELTA FORCE (1986)". Starburst. Retrieved 2014-10-10. 
  7. ^ "The Delta Force (1986)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-10-10. 
  8. ^ Canby, Vincent (1986-02-14). "SCREEN:DELTA FORCE". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-04. 
  9. ^ "The Delta Force". Variety. 1986. Retrieved 2014-10-10. 

External links[edit]