is Top 10 War Movies of all-time
Released in 1986, Oliver Stone shows the journey of a disorderly platoon and their encounters throughout the Vietnam War. At the time, Platoon could be argued as the best war film Hollywood had seen yet. Starring Charlie Sheen, John C. McGinley and Willem Dafoe, Platoon sends the viewer through chaotic circumstances in the depths of Via Kong territory, where booby traps, sneak ambushes, and enemy soldiers are just a few yards away without notice. The main conflict in Platoon involves an inciting incident occurring early on in the film that leaves the platoon split, where tensions toward Willem Dafoe’s character grow.
Dafoe does a fantastic job of keeping us in suspense, as his character comes off as untrustworthy and psychotic. In addition to Platoon, director Oliver Stone had two other films depicting the Vietnam War including Born on the Fourth of July and Last Year in Vietnam. The anticipation of “what the hell is going to happen next” is a more common question when watching Platoon than wondering how Charlie Sheen fell off so dramatically.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Full Metal Jacket is a bit stranger than other Stanley Kubrick films because it feels like it’s divided into 2 separate movies. What makes Full Metal Jacket so remarkable is the first half featuring the antagonist Drill Sergeant Hartman, played by Lee Ermey, who was previously a real drill sergeant himself before taking up the role. Hartman has a tough-love program going with the men in his company at boot camp before they ship off to Vietnam. Hartman particularly picks on the weakest man in the company, co-star Vincent D’Onofrio playing Pvt. Leonard ‘Gomer Pyle’ Lawrence.
Vincent D’Onofrio, well known for his lead role on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and more recently co-starred as a supervillain in season 1 of Netflix’s Daredevil, D’Onofrio puts on the performance of a lifetime. While D’Onofrio’s portrayal of the wimp in the company was outstanding, Drill Sergeant Hartman is what gives the movie life more than anything else; he is hysterical to watch. Through the constant bullying and humiliation his fellow trainees and drill sergeant Hartman put Leonard ‘Gomer Pyle’ through, without giving away too many details, ‘Gomer Pyle’ reaches his breaking point, and has no intention of being perceived as the sissy in the company anymore once he does. While the second half of the film with the men of the company fighting in Vietnam remains great, including the distinguished “Shoot me” scene, whispered from a Vietnamese woman taking her last breath, the first half is what makes it one of the best.
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Black Hawk Down is a Ridley Scott film that depicts a failure of an underestimated attempt by the U.S. military to help the people of Somalia. In Somalia, the U.S. Marines who had been providing food and supplies to Somalia’s people handed the situation over to the U.N., who mistakenly sent J.S.O.C. (Joint Special Operations Unit) into the city of Mogadishu in broad daylight with Humvees to capture Mohamed Farrah Aidid, whose militia was underestimated. Muhammad Ferra Idi waited for the marines to leave so he could take control of the city’s food supply in order to take control of the city’s people.
Once the U.S. military gets inside Mogadishu to acquire their target, they quickly realize their company was anticipated and not welcomed. Black Hawk Down appropriately portrays the toughness of J.S.O.C. and the overwhelming shock they experienced on a mission that went south sooner than expected. The film ends with the U.S. military retreating after a drastic amount of men are killed, and the 2nd black hawk helicopter that comes to rescue them unexpectedly gets shot down by an RPG. The entire story takes place over the course of just a day; a day that Somalia now celebrates as a holiday, regarded as the day they drove out the Americans.
Flags of Our Fathers (2006)
Unlike Eastwood’s other portrayal of the battle for Iwo Jima in his film Letters from Iwo Jima, which builds up to the confrontation in the Pacific between the U.S. and Japan, Flags of our Fathers begins with the confrontation on the island of Iwo Jima and builds up to the aftereffects of the war. The primary subjects are 6 men who were participators of raising the flag in the infamous picture associated with the U.S. overrunning Iwo Jima, shown below. The entire narrative is told through the voice of an older veteran from the Iwo Jima battle many years after.
Three of the six men later die in combat, while the other three return home to be used as poster-boys for the U.S. military. What Clint Eastwood shows in Flags of our Fathers that very few war movies try to demonstrate is the mishaps/accidents soldiers experienced that often unexpectedly resulted in accidental death. Friendly fire and foolish split-second decisions like the young kid falling off the boat toward the beginning of the film when the U.S. is approaching the island serve as eye-opening because Americans, for the most part, rarely hear about such accidents when learning about the war. Flags of our Fathers did not get the awards or recognition Letters from Iwo Jima did, but it is still an excellent story with lots of action nonetheless, and considering all the well-known WWII movies out there, it is definitely one of the best.
Cold Mountain (2003)
Cold Mountain is unique from other war films due to the fact it takes place during the American civil war. Cold Mountain tells the story of Inman, (Jude Law) a man who has been distraught and injured from fighting with the Confederate army in the war. Inman’s story intervalves with the current situation of his wife Ada (Nicole Kidman), whom he writes a letter to in the beginning of the film stating how he wants to reunite with her and begin a new life together back in North Carolina.
Through many different critics and sources, Cold Mountain is regarded primarily as a love story, but it really isn’t. Yes, Inman’s drive to get back to North Carolina is to live in peace with his wife and leave his previous life as a soldier behind in hopes they can move on, but what makes Cold Mountain such an edge-of-your-seat film is the obstacles Inman faces along the way. He finds himself being pursued by psychopaths, and on numerous occasions he tries helping the wrong people at the wrong time, but he also meets some decent people on the why who try to help him. Cold Mountain features cameos from a wide range of well known Hollywood actors such as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Giovanni Ribisi, Natalie Portman, and Eileen Atkins. The movie twists and turns in unpredictable ways at the most unsuspecting moments; it is a magnificent storyline depicting perseverance and determination that can be appreciated by both men and women.
American Sniper (2014)
American Sniper is one of three Clint Eastwood films mentioned in our list starring Bradley Cooper, who has shown us numerous times by now he has much more diversity than the humorous character he plays in The Hangover. Bradley Cooper portrays Chris Kyle, a legendary U.S. Navy Seal who specialized in sniping. Simply put, the film’s goal is to show the story of a man who, like all of us, goes through his own battles and doubts despite the fact he may have been regarded as “the legend” in the military. In an interview with 60 minutes, Cooper said he did nothing but lift weight and practice his accent for 10 hours every day prior to filming, gaining 40 pounds for the role.
Not surprisingly, Clint Eastwood choreographed the shooting scenes in an intense way, where he repeatedly used the concept of first-person views of war through Chris Kyle’s recon scope. Eastwood’s primary objective in the film was to show the effect the war had on Chris Kyle’s relationship with his family, more specifically with his wife. Like most of the movies mentioned on this list, American Sniper’s primary component is its love story. Bradley Cooper and Elise Robertson, who plays Chris’ wife Taya Kyle, actually took the time to read the real letters exchanged between the couple during Chris’ four tours in Iraq. Bradley Cooper makes Chris Kyle a relatable character, where any man watching the film can relate to him multiple times throughout the story.
Taking 15 years to make, and an average of 47 hours to render every .3 seconds of film, the blue people in James Cameron’s Avatar were no joke. Cameron, who already had some solid credibility as a director with films like Titanic and the Terminator leaves not a second of film up to chance with the newly developed technology used to create Avatar. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a cripple, permanently living in a wheelchair, and is promised by his commanding officer Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) that he can get a new pair of legs if he goes undercover to spy on a group of avatars, who are living on the planet of Pandora. The avatars have a spiritual tree within their kingdom, where rooted underneath are resources that can be used to the army’s advantage. Jake goes undercover by lying in a machine that essentially puts him inside the body of the Na’vi-human hybrids called “avatars”, which Jake does on a regular basis, the intent derived from Colonel Quaritch being to acquire as much information about their culture and routines as possible to get a better understanding of how they will infiltrate the enriched-resource-tree when the right time comes.
While in the avatar body, Jake is able to use his legs, and realizes not only has he fallen deeply in love with another avatar, Neytiri, (Zoe Saldana) but he begins to admire and appreciate their culture as he gets sucked deeper and deeper into it. Jake’s motivation to spy on the avatars becomes entirely extrinsic as he distances himself from the Colonel in a search to find himself. Avatar may have a long runtime at 2 hrs. 46 mins., but it keeps us glued to the screen with suspense, plenty of cut-throat action, and obviously the aesthetic visuals that make the entire story eye-candy to watch as it pans out.
Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
Clint Eastwood, notorious for his Dirty Harry movies back in the 1960s (a very handsome man at the time) does a fascinating thing no director has ever done before by directing two separate films based on the same confrontation on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima in 1945. Flags of our Fathers shows perspective of U.S. soldiers fighting on the critical island that serves as a turning point in the war, while Letters from Iwo Jima gives insight to the Japanese perspective, showing their struggle to maintain ground on the same island. Although Letters From Iwo Jima is an American Hollywood film, it is presented as a foreign film, the entire dialogue in Japanese with subtitles. When many Americans picture Japanese soldiers during World War II, unfortunately they might imagine a psychopathic kamikaze, based on the events of Pearl Harbor. Letters from Iwo Jima aims to show an opposing perspective, and does so successfully. It is a film about a Japanese soldier, Saigo, who is surrounded by many radical soldiers on his own side, but it is learned as the film goes on that Saigo clearly has a heart that distinguishes him from some of the cold-blooded killers he is side-by-side with.
Saigo is under the authority of General Kuribayashi, (Ken Watanabe) a focused, calculated warrior who is intent on leaving absolutely no leeway for American troops entering the island. Much of the movie is preparation, where General Kuribayashi is obsessive and controlling, intimidating Saigo and his fellow soldiers. The “Letters” part of the title of the film has to do with the central theme of the story, where Saigo writes love letters back and forth between his wife, describing himself as lonely and afraid of what will happen next. It’s not all about being lonely and afraid though. The letters have a wide range of material, where the two love birds take a trip down memory lane telling stories of their daughter, the beginning of their relationship, and so much more. The love-to-action ratio is well played, and when the U.S. finally arrives on the island, get ready for some of the most intense combat scenes in the history of cinema.
Agamemnon (Brian Cox), king of Mycenae, rules many of Greece’s kingdoms as he excels on a power-hungry mission to destroy Troy, the last kingdom standing in his way from conquering the region. While Agamemnon prepares a colossal army with the help of his brother to take out Hector (Eric Bana) and his Trojan warriors, (as well as eventually overthrowing Troy in the middle of the night with the infamous sneak attack from inside the Trojan wooden horse) Achilles joins Agamemnon’s fight, but with his own men, the Myrmidons, who are a rare breed of insane to say the least.
While fighting Agamemnon’s war, Achilles falls for a Trojan woman, Briseis, (Rose Byrne) who has been taken hostage by Agamemnon’s men. Defying Agamemnon’s rules, Achilles makes a bold move to save her from what would have been her last night alive, slaughtering soldiers about to kill her. The compassion between Achilles and Briseis grows, and in a tragic climax, it seems to works itself out (I won’t spoil the ending because it’s amazing). Troy is just as much a love story as a thrilling action/adventure. The best features Troy has are its awesome visual effects and the iconic 1 on 1 fight scene between Hector and Achilles. Long-lasting battle scenes such as the Myrmidons arriving on the beaches outside Troy’s walls as they are bombarded with spheres and fire-arrows are what make Troy such a thrilling, unforgettable war movie to watch. Though Troy is regarded as historically inaccurate, it is an absolute must see, ranking all the way up our list at #2.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Based on the true story of a group of army rangers sent in through Normandy to save one man during World War II, Steven Spielberg strikes gold on what is without question the most riveting war story of our times. James Francis Ryan, (Matt Damon) the only one of his four brothers to survive the war, is unaware his brothers have been killed in combat, and is also unaware a special operations team has been sent into Europe to get him out safely. The mission was out of respect for his mother, an action ordered by General George C. Marshall, United States Army Chief of Staff. Within the first five minutes of the film, our hearts are already racing with anxiety as we see Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) and his men seasick and visibly terrified, just before they get off the boats to storm Omaha Beach. Tom Hanks is accompanied by Vin Diesel, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Giovanni Ribisi, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, and Jeremy Davies.
A deeper connection builds between a squad of soldiers, who despite their differences, learn to appreciate each other in what is unknowingly their last tour in the army. While the exciting combat scenes keep us in constant suspense, what is equally captivating is the dialogue between the young men, along with character believability that many war movies lack. World War II veterans have verified the beginning sequence of the U.S. offensive up Normandy as being so accurate it is emotional for some of them to watch. Spielberg undoubtedly has directed some phenomenal films, but none of his work gets the 10/10 like this one does. Saving Private Ryan also won five Oscars that year including best director and best cinematography.
By: John McGinley