The Top Men over there made this list using criteria that I can only assume comes from not having watched very many war films. Below is the article from AOM with my comments in bold.
Saving Private Ryan
From the jump, Saving Private Ryan immerses the viewer in the tension and horrors of the Allied invasion of Europe. Tom Hanks plays an Army captain who leads a small squad that is tasked with finding and sending home a soldier who’s lost all three of his brothers in the war. While the movie’s battle scenes are compelling, the story, and the underlying question it poses, is even more so: Why risk the lives of several men just to save one?
The end scene will leave you crying like a baby, with a newfound respect for the brave men who sacrificed everything for our freedoms.
Yeah it is OK and the D-Day landing is the best part. It is also full of a lot of stupid shit. Why in the world did they attempt to defend the town at the end?
Blow the bridge and leave. Sniper in the church bell tower? Not having the demo charge for the bridge already hooked up and ready to go? A frontal attack on a dug-in Mg42 MG nest? I could go on. Total normie mainstream warm milk pick.
The Great Escape
Based on actual events, The Great Escape follows a group of American and British POWs trying to bust their way out of an un-bust-outable Nazi prison.
While this movie might seem to violate the criteria that entries on this list center on the battlefield experience, prisoners of war actually considered their camps to be extensions of the frontlines; they were expected to do all they could to escape, if not to successfully make it home, then to at least harry the enemy, diverting and depleting his resources.
We’ve previously done a deep dive into why men love The Great Escape. Yeah, there’s action, including Steve McQueen jumping a fence on a motorcycle, but the themes of fighting subjection, ingeniously improvising when the chips are down, and making a fierce commitment to camaraderie are what make this film so damn appealing and rewatchable.
I got news for you, Steve McQueen ain’t that cool. Deal with it. Movie is OK.
As an American, you grow up learning that there was nothing more sinister and craven than a German U-boat. They torpedoed civilian cruise liners and merchant ships, for crying out loud!
But when you watch the German film Das Boot, you gain a kind of sympathy and respect for these vessels and the complicated and terrifying experience of those who served aboard them.
The movie follows a WWII U-boat crew sent on what amounts to a suicide mission. You get to experience the tension and anxiety of what it’s like to be crammed in a small metal tube hundreds of feet underwater while depth charges rattle you. It’s claustrophobic and nerve-wracking.
What’s most engaging about Das Boot is the example of leadership displayed by the captain of the submarine. Cynical about the war and openly anti-Nazi, his only goal is to make sure his men make it home safely. No matter how dicey things get on the ship, the captain remains cool, calm, and collected.
There are versions of the film with English subtitles or dubbed over English; watch the former.
It is a masterpiece with a great soundtrack. There is a 9-hour version and yes I do own that version. I’d put it in my list if they hadn’t already listed it.
For a historic event over which so much ink has been spilt, there have been surprisingly few movies made about the Civil War. There have been plenty that take place during the war (Gone With the Wind, Lincoln, Gangs of New York, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) but not a lot about the soldier’s experience on the battlefield.
Of those which do exist, the best by far is 1989’s Glory.
The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment became one of the first units in the Union Army to be made up of African-American volunteers. In the face of a Southern proclamation declaring that any black man caught fighting for the feds would be hanged, and any white officer leading those men would also be executed, the group fights to overcome prejudice and prove themselves to their own Union comrades as well as the enemy Confederates.
Led by Col. Robert Gould Shaw, the regiment makes a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to take Ft. Wagner — losing half their men to casualties but gaining respect and admiration for their bravery.
The movie’s got an all-star cast (Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, Matthew Broderick) and one of the best final battle scenes in the history of cinema.
I can only assume this was added to the list to virtue signal. It was woke shit before woke shit was cool
There are a ton of movies about Vietnam. It makes sense. It’s a controversial war that loomed large in the lives of many of cinema’s great directors as they came of age. Most of the best-known Vietnam movies were made in the 1970s and 1980s when said directors and the rest of their generation were trying to figure out what the war in Vietnam meant to them personally and to the country.
Of this bumper crop, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is the surprising stand-out.
Surprising, because Apocalypse Now is a pretty weird and trippy movie. It’s not based on any historical battles. Instead, Coppola took Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novel, Heart of Darkness, and set it in Vietnam. It’s an epic screed against the futility and absurdity of war.
The film follows U.S. Army Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen), who is given the assignment to assassinate a rogue American colonel named Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has created his own little cult community in the Vietnamese jungles and thinks he’s a god. Along the way, he meets a surfing-loving, Wagner-listening air cavalry lieutenant colonel (Robert Duvall), and a tripped-out American photojournalist-turned-Kurtz-disciple (Dennis Hopper). Yeah, it’s a weird movie to be sure, but an interesting and enjoyable one.
Great up until they leave the company of the 1st Cav. This is Heart of Darkness set in Vietnam. Drags in places. The Uncut version is worth seeing once, but it’s a slog. Coppola’s newest cut is the superior cut.
The Thin Red Line (1998)
Based on the novel by James Jones (who also wrote From Here to Eternity), The Thin Red Line follows a company of soldiers in a fictionalized account of the Battle of Mount Austen at Guadalcanal.
While there are plenty of WWII movies about land battles in the European theater, there are far fewer about battles in the Pacific. The Thin Red Line shows, in unflinching detail, the brutality and difficulties of island warfare. It’s epic in scale.
The action scenes are interspersed with the main characters trying to figure out what the war means to them. For some, it’s futile and meaningless; for others, a chance to showcase bravery and honor. After watching the film, you’re not left with a clear message about war, only that it’s a messy, incredibly human affair.
The movie is stacked with A-list actors: Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, George Clooney, Adrien Brody . . . that’s just the start. It’s the top-notch acting that really makes this movie come alive.
Terrence Malick is the most pretentious, up his own ass director alive. The movie is a reflection of that. Pure garbage.
General George S. Patton was an incredibly colorful individual whose actual life was already cinematic in scope. Naturally then, it translated quite well to the screen in the form of Francis Ford Coppola’s epic biopic Patton.
“Epic” is no overstatement: Everything is big in this picture. The giant American flag at the beginning of the film. The battlefields. Even the palaces which Patton commandeers for command posts. This was definitely a film designed to be seen on the big screen and not a smartphone.
George C. Scott brilliantly plays the larger-than-life Patton. He steals the show in one of movie history’s greatest performances.
Not really a good war movie, but it’s fun just for Patton’s hijinx. Honestly, it is a low key hit piece on Georgie. Most of the movie’s characterizations of Patton are based on Omar Bradley’s book. To say Bradley didn’t like George puts it mildly.
If you’re going to include a World War I movie in the best war movies list, you’re supposed to make that movie 1930’s All Quiet on the Western Front. And that is a great, enjoyable, worthy film — one that set the standard for all the war movies that came after it.
But, if you’re going to watch just one movie about WWI, 2019’s 1917 is better. (no it most certainly is not)
The film follows two British soldiers charged with completing a perilous mission: delivering a message to call off a doomed offensive attack. 1917 does a great job capturing the carnage and environmental destruction of WWI trench warfare, while at the same time, showing that even the most horrific landscapes are still punctuated by stirring beauty.
The movie’s greatest virtue lies in Sam Mendes’ decision to film it with long takes so that it looks like the whole thing was done in just two continuous shots. What might have come off as a cheap gimmick, actually works marvelously well, immersing you in the action and making you feel like you’re right there in the trenches getting shelled and shot at.
No. cliché, trope-filled predictable bore-fest that shows very little of the realities of WW1.
The Longest Day
The Longest Day provides a documentary-like rundown of the Allied invasion of Normandy. It takes you from the days leading up to the invasion and through pretty much every single part of the actual operation.
You’ll see Eisenhower debate whether to greenlight the mission, British soldiers flying into France in wooden gliders, and American GIs storming the beaches at Normandy. It’s a sweeping movie that does a pretty bang-up job of capturing a truly epic moment in human history.
And it’s got an all-star cast of silver-screen legends, including John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, and Robert Wagner.
It’s a product of its time…
The Bridge On The River Kwai
During WWII, a group of British prisoners of war is ordered by the Japanese to build a bridge for the Siam-Burma Railway. Instead of sabotaging the bridge (like you’re expected to as a POW), the men, under the command of Colonel Nicholson, build the best damn bridge they can — something to last for ages.
The bridge becomes a metaphor for the futility and insanity of war, egotistical pride, a belief in saving “face,” and stubborn, strict obedience to class, military codes, and rules.
With a unique and engaging story (and of course one of cinema’s most memorable theme songs), this may very well be the best war movie ever made.
This movie is set during a war. It is good only because William Holden is in it. I prefer the William Holden classic Stalag 17 over it by a country mile. BTW, William Holden was much cooler than Steve McQueen.
I’d give you the link to the article, but it won’t allow it for some reason.
Now you want my top 10 list? It may surprise you. Hopefully, you see some stuff you never heard of before!
Not in any particular order.
The greatest War of Northern Aggression movie ever made.
John Milius, the genius who gave us Red Dawn, write and directed this Spanish American War film that is a great little known film about a war you don’t really hear much about these days.
A German film about the battle from the view of average Fritz. Very bleak and violent. Don’t confuse the newer trash with this one from ’93.
Tae Guk Gi The Brotherhood of War
This movie is an absolute masterpiece. A Korean production about the Korean War, natch. This is what Saving Private Ryan wants to be when it grows up. A sublime level and amount of violence and realism.
The best Vietnam war movie made. The story of the 101st Airborne’s assault on a hill later in the war. Brutal. A great movie that no one seems to talk about anymore. Infinitely superior to Olive Stone’s borderline communist propaganda hit piece on the USGI, Platoon.
One word, Oddball. As the late Stan Lee would say. ‘ Nuff said.
Another Korean war film. I am not gonna say much about this one because I’d like you to be surprised by it.
Siege of Firebase Gloria
A great B movie with R Lee Ermey. It’s non stop action even if it’s a tad unrealistic. My Dad’s favorite Vietnam War film and I know the director.
An epic taking place during the Battle of Rorke’s Drift. This is a must-see.
It’s a newer one but it’s legit. It has a real Tiger in it for Christ’s sake. Full of tropes and war movie clichés, but that’s ok. These things are cliché because they really happened often.
Some honorable mentions that just couldn’t fit into a Top Ten list. Think of them as the rest of the list with some of them even being alternates for a top ten.
The Steel Helmet
The Bridges at Toko-Ri
(This one is really great. I give it my highest recommendation)
God’s and Generals
Hell is for Heroes
A Bridge Too Far
71 Into The Fire
The Killing Fields
Thanks to Outposter Shawn Thompson for this article!