On the morning of June 6, 1944, the beginning of the Normandy Invasion, American soldiers prepare to land on Omaha Beach. They suffer heavily from their struggle against German infantry, machine gun nests, and artillery fire. Captain John H. Miller, a company commander of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, survives the initial landing and assembles a group of his Rangers to penetrate the German defenses, leading to a breakout from the beach. In Washington, D.C, at the U.S. War Department, General George Marshall is informed that three of the four brothers of the Ryan family were killed in action and that their mother is to receive all three telegrams in the same day. He learns that the fourth son, Private First Class James Francis Ryan, is a paratrooper and is missing in action somewhere in Normandy. Marshall, after reading Abraham Lincoln’s Bixby letter, orders that Ryan must be found and sent home immediately. Three days after D-Day, Miller receives orders to find Ryan and bring him back from the front. He assembles seven men from his company— TSgt. Mike Horvath, Privates Richard Reiben, Stanley Mellish, Adrian Caparzo, Danny Jackson, medic Irwin Wade—and T/5 Timothy Upham, a cartographer who speaks French and German, loaned from the 29th Infantry Division. Miller and his men move out to Neuville; there, they meet a platoon from the 101st Airborne Division, and Caparzo dies after being shot by a sniper. Eventually, they locate a Private James Ryan, but soon learn that he is not their man. They find a member of Ryan’s regiment who informs them that his drop zone was at Vierville and that his and Ryan’s companies had the same rally point. Once they reach it, Miller meets a friend of Ryan’s, who reveals that Ryan is defending a strategically important bridge over the Merderet River in the town of Ramelle. On the way to Ramelle, Miller decides to neutralize a German machine gun position, despite the misgivings of his men. Wade is fatally wounded in the ensuing skirmish, but Miller, at Upham’s urging, declines to execute a surviving German and sets him free on condition that he give himself up as a prisoner of war to the first Allied unit he encounters. No longer confident in Miller’s leadership, Reiben declares his intention to desert the squad and the mission, prompting a confrontation with Horvath. The argument heats up until Miller defuses the situation by disclosing his background in civilian life, about which the squad had earlier set up a betting pool. Reiben then reluctantly decides to stay. Upon arrival at Ramelle, Miller and the squad come upon a small group of paratroopers commanded by a Corporal Henderson, one of whom is Ryan. Ryan is told of his brothers’ deaths, the mission to bring him home, and that two men had been lost in the quest to find him. He is distressed at the loss of his brothers, but does not consider it fair to go home, asking Miller to tell his mother that he intends to stay “with the only brothers [he has] left.” Miller decides to take command and defend the bridge with what little manpower and resources are available. Using his own men and the accompanying paratroopers, Miller forms ambush positions throughout the ruined town for the tanks and infantry utilizing molotovs, Det cord, and “sticky bombs” made from socks and TNT. Elements of the 2nd SS Panzer Division arrive with infantry and armor. Paratroopers attempt to lure the armor down the first street in an effort to destroy them with their sticky bombs, but only one Tiger tank takes the bait. In the ensuing combat both sides take heavy casualties. Nearly all of the paratroopers in Ryan’s squad are killed. Jackson’s position in the church tower is compromised and destroyed by a Tiger tank. Horvath is shot multiple times, once in the waist area with a pistol and again in the chest. Shortly after reaching the “Alamo” (as Miller refers to the bridge), Horvath dies from his wounds. A terrified Upham hides, unable to act even when he sees Mellish’s life in peril. Due to his failure to distribute ammunition, Mellish and Henderson’s flank is compromised as they deplete their ammunition. Henderson, fatally shot in the neck, bleeds to death. Mellish shoots the German who killed Henderson but, out of ammo, desperately struggles hand to hand with a Waffen-SS soldier who manages to stab him with Mellish’s own bayonet. While attempting to blow the bridge, Miller is shot and mortally wounded by the German soldier he had set free earlier (who, contrary to his word, has evidently rejoined German forces). Just before a Tiger tank reaches the bridge, an American P-51 Mustang flies overhead and destroys the tank, followed by American armored units which rout the remaining Germans. The German infantryman who killed Miller raises his hands in surrender to a now furious Upham, but Upham, enraged at his treachery, shoots him, and lets the other surviving Germans flee in panic. Reiben and Ryan are with Miller as he dies and says his last words, “James … earn this. Earn it.” In the present day, an elderly Ryan and his family visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Ryan stands at Miller’s grave and asks his wife to confirm that he has led a good life, that he is a “good man” and thus worthy of the sacrifice of Miller and the others. His wife replies, “You are.” At this point, Ryan stands at attention and delivers a salute toward Miller’s grave.
第二次世界大战后期，德军东部战场正打得不可开交，英美联军则于1944年6月6日在法国的诺曼底大区开始进行大军团的全面登陆，试图从西部直取德军总部柏林，而在地面部队的登陆作战之前，部分分队已经空降到了远离诺曼底的法国内陆地区，试图在破坏骚扰德军的部署能力之后再与登陆的部队集结，以便于进一步进行大规模的组织进攻。二等兵詹姆斯·瑞恩（马特·达蒙饰演）所在的部队就被远远地抛离到了德军前线的后方。詹姆斯·瑞恩是家中四兄弟的老末，他的三名兄长都在这次战役中相继阵亡。美国作战总指挥部的将领在得知该消息之后，为了不让这位不幸的母亲再承受丧子之痛，决定派一支特别小分队，将她仅存的儿子安全地救出战区。 该拯救小组的任务就落在了刚刚完成登陆任务的 约翰·米勒上尉（汤姆·汉克斯饰演） 身上，而米勒上尉和他的部队刚刚经历过奥马哈海滩登陆战的惨烈激战，伤亡很大，此时米勒已经顾不上闲暇歇息，而必须组建一支小队即刻出发开始拯救任务，他 匆匆地挑选了几位身边较为优秀的士兵，然后又临时从别的部队征召了几名专业兵种，在别的部队还在原地休整的时候，米勒的八人小队又开始踏上长驱直入敌方占 领地带，在茫茫未知的广阔地域中寻找一名叫瑞恩的士兵的征途。 当小分队的士兵们陷入敌区，各种困难和危险相继扑面而来，人力和装备的严重不足，对语言与地形的不熟悉，还有路边墙角随时可能埋伏着的危险的敌人，面对身边的战友们一个个相继倒下去