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Top 10 War Movies

5. THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957)

When British POWs are ordered to build a vital railway bridge in enemy occupied Burma, Allied commandos set out to destroy it. Alec Guiness gives a moving performance as a Colonel at the end of his career who starts to care more for the beauty of the bridge he’s constructed than anything else. It’s a movie about stubbornness, pride, class and the clash between imperialistic wills (Japanese and British). The movie’s theme tune, the Colonel Bogey March, is still part of British national consciousness today (it was actually a real song from WWII, however the accompanying lyrics “Hitler, has only got one ball…” weren’t included in the movie for being too vulgar.)

4. DAS BOOT (1981)

At the time, the second most expensive German film ever made. This draws from real events but is overall a fictional account of a German U-Boat in WWII and their various close scrapes with the enemy, taking turns as hunter and prey. It authentically portrays how the boredom of war – the tedious, aimless hunting, the sitting around and waiting for orders – perversely leads to relief and excitement when you’re finally engaged in deadly combat. It also captures the claustrophobic, grimy interior of submarine life, through its world-class cinematography. Jurgen Prochnow is great as the nerves-of-steel captain.

3. PLATOON (1986)

A naive college dropout (Charlie Sheen) joins infantrymen for a tour of duty in ‘Nam that’s one of violent chaos, atrocities and a deadly power struggle between two veteran sergeants (Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger). Before long he’s as numb to life as the rest of them. Filled with brutal realism and career-best performances, Platoon is informed by Oliver Stone’s own experiences in ‘Nam (he fought in one of the battles depicted, and killed a Viet Cong soldier). It’s profound, moving and a stark reminder that we’re not always the good guys, there’s evil on both sides of any conflict.

2. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998)

Sheer visceral mastery puts this so high on the list. There has never been so immersive, and frightening, a battle sequence as the opening 20 minutes on Omaha beach. Throughout the movie you feel every gun shot, every stabbing, every wound – real palpable fear is something missing from almost all war movies, and yet it’s the primary emotion of every fighting soldier.

1. APOCALYPSE NOW (1979)

Francis Ford Coppola adapted Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness to apply to the Vietnam war, creating a movie about war as a descent into madness. A shaky captain (Martin Sheen) is sent on a special mission to the jungles of Vietnam to kill a mentally unsound rogue colonel (Marlon Brando), encountering a number of obstacles during his Odyssey-style journey. It’s nightmarish and hallucinatory, putting us right in the experience rather than simply observing the effect on others. It taps into the darkest part of the soul more than any other war film and that’s what makes it unique.

= 11th TO 40th PLACE =
(By Date Of Conflict)
Black Hawk Down (2001, Ridley Scott, Somalia) (Ewan McGregor, Josh Hartnett)
Hamburger Hill (1987, John Irvin, V’nam) (Dylan McDermott, Don Cheadle)
We Were Soldiers (2002, Randall Wallace, V’nam) (Mel Gibson, Greg Kinnear)
A Bridge Too Far (1977, Richard Attenborough, WWII) (Dirk Bogarde, James Caan)
The Dirty Dozen (1967, Robert Aldrich, WWII) (Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970, Richard Fleischer, WWII) (Martin Balsam, Joseph Cotten)
Battleground (1949, William A. Wellman, WWII) (Van Johnson, James Whitmore)
Battle of Britain (1969, Guy Hamilton, WWII) (Michael Caine, Laurence Olivier)
The Desert Fox (1951, Henry Hathaway, WWII) (James Mason, Richard Boone)
The Big Red One (1980, Samuel Fuller, WWII) (Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill)
They Were Expendable (1945, John Ford, WWII) (Robert Montgomery, John Wayne)
Kelly’s Heroes (1970, Brian G. Hutton, WWII) (Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland)
Sands of Iwo Jima (1949, Allan Dwan, WWII) (John Wayne, John Agar)
Cross of Iron (1977, Sam Peckinpah, WWII) (James Coburn, James Mason)
The Guns of Navarone (1961, J. Lee Thompson, WWII) (Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn)
The Thin Red Line (1998, Terrence Malick, WWII) (Sean Penn, Nick Nolte)
Stalingrad (1993, Joseph Vilsmaier, WWII) (Thomas Kretschmann, Dominique Horwitz)
Letters From Iwo Jima (2006, Clint Eastwood, WWII) (Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya)
Gallipoli (1981, Peter Weir, WWII) (Mel Gibson, Mark Lee)
Paths Of Glory (1957, Stanley Kubrick, WWI) (Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker)
Zulu (1964, Cy Endfield, Anglo-Zulu War) (Michael Caine, Stanley Baker)
Gettysburg (1993, American Civil War, Ronald F. Maxwell) (Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels)
Glory (1989, American Civil War, Edward Zwick) (Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington)
The Last Samurai (2003, Satsuma Rebellion, Edward Zwick) (Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe)
Henry V (1989, Kenneth Branagh, 100 Years War) (Kenneth Branagh, Brian Blessed)
Braveheart (1995, Mel Gibson, 1st War of Scottish Ind’) (Mel Gibson, Patrick McGoohan)
300 (2007, Zack Snyder, 2nd Persian Invasion of Greece) (Gerard Butler, Lena Headey)

What do you think are the best war movies ever made? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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22 Comments »

  • Adam said

    what about Brotherhood (2004) it definitely deserves a spot on this list

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  • Joker said

    Ha! I knew Apocalypse Now would be number one. Great list.

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  • Thom said

    What, no Avatar? ;)

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    • Sheridan Passell said

      As the introduction mentions, it has to be a real war. Smurf war doesn’t count.

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      • pierre van der Venne said

        missing “Deer Hunter”. But as Sheridan mentioned, all out war flicks only.

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  • dan said

    would have added
    Memphis Belle
    and When Trumpets Fade

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  • gd smith said

    The Manchurian Candidate should be on any list of best war movies. The Korean war might not be most people’s favourite (that will always be WWII or Vietnam) but I’ve always thought the Korean War doesn’t get enough respect. The Manchurian Candidate gives you a bit of Korea and the Cold War!
    Air war and Britain are underepresented. So you also need Dambusters, Aces High, Reach For the Sky and possibley the Battle of Britain. These were made before CGI ruined air conflict.

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  • CINEPHILE420 said

    FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, THE PATRIOT, COLD MOUNTAIN

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  • HoboWith AShotgun said

    It’s quite simple, Tropic Thunder is the best war movie, even though it technically isn’t elligible for this list.

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  • Leandro said

    Any best war movies list without “Idi i Smotri” (“Come and see”) and Renoir’s “La grand Illusion” is not a serious one…

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  • Jeff said

    Where is LOTR…??

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  • Dean said

    enemy at the gate. platoon. band of brothers. world at war.
    when we were soldiers.green berets. that is just a few not mentioned here. it is hard to list a top ten war movie based on real events because they all hold there own part of importance in history. i do not agree with apocalypse now being number one it is so over rated and would not make my top ten. just my opinion.

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  • Ju said

    I can’t believe everyone left out PEARL HARBOR!!!

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  • Paulwat said

    One of my all time favourites is Enemy at the Gates

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  • Jose A. Ortiz said

    I HIGHLY recommend UNC0MM0N VAL0R…It is a great war movie and yet I never see it mentioned as one of the best..

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  • tewrey said

    sniper reloaded, battle under orion, green zone, the hunt for eagle one: crashpoint, tigerland, missing in action (all three), the front line, combat zone, wheels of terror.
    All the best ones are left out, sad to say it, but, bad list.

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  • mel said

    best war film-all time. the train. burt lancaster’s finest

    performance!

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