Best War Films
Here are our picks for top ten war movies of all time!
A harrowing tale of survival in the face of insurmountable odds, Unbroken follows an American soldier who's plane crashes in the Pacific and gets captured, only to be tortured at the hands of Japanese soldiers in a hellish prison camp. It's astonishing that Louis Zamperini actually went through these things, yet even more stunning that he returned after the war to forgive his captors because of the strength of his Christian faith and selfless love. A powerful look at the triumph of the human spirit, this film will impact you in profound ways. Angelina Jolie does a superb job directing her third film here and Jack O' Connell gives a powerful, breakthrough performance too. Take this journey with an Olympic athlete who fought for survival and found redemption.
9. Paths of Glory
Kirk Douglas leads this war film from cinematic genius Stanley Kubrick as Colonel Dax, a leader of French soldiers who are charged of cowardice after of refusing to engage in a suicide attack. Dax must defend his men or else they may be sentenced to death by firing squad. This is a sobering look at the foolish, heartless men who begin wars and how they treat the men under their command as pieces on a chess board. It's a must-see for any film fan as the battles are intense without showing too much, and the acting is top-notch. It's brilliantly told story with purpose and meaning. There are few more important films than this.
8. The Patriot
From the German director of disaster flicks like Independence Day and 2012, The Patriot is Roland Emmerich's most well-crafted film as he steers clear of cheesy one-liners and computer generated effects instead making an epic war drama which keeps it's focus on the intimate family drama at it's center. Mel Gibson delivers one of the best performances of his career as Benjamin Gates, a father protecting his family from British invaders. His character has a complex history which comes back to haunt him as his family becomes involved in the American Revolution. It's a well-balanced film as moments of levity throughout help flesh out the characters and make it all more believable. This is one of the few films on the War for Independence, making it a must-see for all Americans.
7. The Last of the Mohicans
There are not many films on the French and Indian War, but this one takes us into the heart of the conflict as we see it through the eyes of an Englishman who was raised by the chief of the Mohicans. The story is one of forbidden romance, unrivaled loyalty, and the brutality of war. It's got some incredible action sequences and each of the acting performances are spot-on, all of it being aptly orchestrated by the incomparable Michael Mann in what might be his best directorial effort. The music is wonderful, the locations are stunning, and each moment moves the story forward towards it's climatic, intensely personal showdown. Watch this one and visit the landmarks it was shot at in North Carolina.
Not many wars films are able to put you in the shoes of the soldiers like Platoon. Based on director Oliver Stone's own personal experiences in the Vietnam War, the movie feels almost like a documentary it's so real. Charlie Sheen gives what amounts to hands down his best film performance ever as does the rest of the fantastic cast including Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger as bitter rivals with opposing views on the morality of what they're doing and how they're do it. This is an extremely violent journey through the heart of the deadly jungles of South Vietnam in 1967, and the highly intense tone and feel is ratcheted up in every scene by the American soldiers who must fight together but can't get along. There are no politics here, just a simple look at what it's like to be on the ground in the midst of the most heinous acts human depravity has to offer.
5. Good Morning, Vietnam
Good Morning, Vietnam features Robin Williams' best acting as he's able to let his wild comedic side loose, but also deliver a real, thoughtful, emotional performance. Playing real-life DJ Adrian Cronauer, Williams infuses his unique improvisational comedy chops to the awful events of Vietnam, making for what could have been a tone deaf film if not for the amazing script from Mitch Markowitz and excellent direction from Barry Levinson. It's got a romantic quality to it, but still doesn't shy away from the devastating realities of war. Our radio broadcasting hero butts heads with his stern superiors, brings hope to the disillusioned American soldiers, and proves to the locals that we aren't all that bad. This is a beautiful portrayal of the destructive nature of human beings and the hope we can find through it all.
Never has a more triumphant story been told on screen than Braveheart. We follow real-life freedom-fighter William Wallace as he leads the Scots in battle against King Edward I of England in a war that will decide the fate of an entire people. As both lead actor and director, Mel Gibson gives audiences his most important work yet, bringing Wallace and the world of 13th century Scotland to vibrant life and creating a story around the legend that makes him more real than ever before. The supporting cast is also brilliant with Catherine McCormack, Angus Macfayden, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Brendan Gleeson, Peter Hanly, and Brian Cox all playing their parts magnificently. This movie is a marvel with an unforgettable ending.
3. The Bridge on the River Kwai
Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins, and Sessue Hayakawa lead this story of hubris, duty, and sacrifice. Captured British gentleman Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson played by Guinness in his best acting performance is blinded by duty and tradition to the horrors of war, while Hayakawa's ruthless Colonel Saito takes advantage of this to complete his own mission. Meanwhile, escaped American prisoner Commander Shears is lured back into active duty by single-minded Major Warden to destroy the railroad bridge Nicholson and Saito have been building. It's an awesome story to watch unfold as the two groups converge in an epic, edge-of-your-seat confrontation making for a truly explosive finale.
2. Apocalypse Now
There are few films as influential and haunting as Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. It's an incredible feat of filmmaking as the cast and crew overcame impossible odds while making the movie in the jungles of Southeast Asia. The film has Martin Sheen in his best role ever as a U.S. Army special operations officer who must hunt down and assassinate a rogue American commando who's building his own kingdom deep in the jungle. The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking as they shoot the wild, war-torn, lush bush as only true artists could. There is a deep psychological commentary here on how war effects the minds of the individual soldiers and changes them forever. This is how war should be depicted on film: as a horror movie.
1. Saving Private Ryan
The best war film is Saving Private Ryan. In this incredible tale, based on an amazing true story, a squad of soldiers must rescue a young private after discovering all three of his only brothers have died in battle. At the beginning of the movie, director Steven Spielberg drops you onto the beaches of Normandy for the historic D-Day invasion in the single most intense sequence ever put on film. Casting Tom Hanks as the lead puts all of us on his side as we hope our hero can complete his mission no matter how much his fellow soldiers don't want to be on this particular assignment. Matt Damon is extraordinary as Private Ryan and Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, and Jeremy Davies all deliver knock-out performances as the rest of this reluctant squad. It's a distressing journey through Nazi Germany, but one worth taking because even in the midst of war, every life matters.