A main theme in All Quiet on the Western Front is the brutality of war. This movie shows a vivid, realistic, and horrible portrait of war. The movie showed many weapons such as bombs, machine guns, and tanks; all of which made killing easier. Another main theme seen throughout All Quiet on the Western Front is the way the soldiers metaphorically change from humans into animals.
War is ultimately fought by human soldiers, and this movie is set where they fight. One of the other main themes in the movie is how war completely ruins soldiers. Physically, they are in constant danger of being shot and bombed. The never-ending attacks and counter-attacks destroy their nerves. They live in unending fear. And their living conditions are terrible; they inhabit muddy earthen dug-outs infested with rats, alongside rotting corpses, having no food or water for days on end. They are forced to deal with the emotional shock of watching their friends die. If war does not actually kill the soldiers fighting it, the physical and mental anguish of war destroys them.
When Paul goes on leave he visits the school where he hears Professor Kantorek speaking about the glorious war and why these young boys should enlist. It is too much for Paul to handle and he tells the students the horrible truth instead. Paul decides to return back to the war early. At the end of the film when Paul is standing in that bomb shell he sees a butterfly and he reaches his hand through a hole to grab it; I think the butterfly represented freedom, an escape from war, but before Paul could even touch it he gets shot.