It's late 1944, and the Allied armies are confident they'll win the World War II and be home in time for Christmas. What's needed, says British general Bernard Law Montgomery, is a knockout punch, a bold strike through Holland, where German troops are spread thin, that will put the Allies into Germany.
Paratroops led by British major general Robert Urquhart (Sean Connery) and American brigadier general James Gavin (Ryan O'Neal) will seize a thin road and five bridges through Holland into Germany, with paratroops led by Lieutenant Col. John Frost (Sir Anthony Hopkins) holding the most critical bridge at a small town called Arnhem.
Over this road shall pass combined forces led by British Lieutenant Gen. Brian Horrocks (Edward Fox) and British Lieutenant Col. Joe Vandeleur (Michael Caine). The plan requires precise timing, so much so that one planner tells Lieutenant Gen. Frederick Browning (Dirk Bogarde), Sir, I think we may be going a bridge too far.
The plan also has one critical flaw: Instead of a smattering of German soldiers, the area around Arnhem is loaded with crack SS troops. Disaster ensues. Based on a book by historian Cornelius Ryan, A Bridge Too Far is reminiscent of another movie based on a Ryan book, The Longest Day.