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Top 10 War Movies


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.


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.


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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  • lotan said

    -The Great Escape
    -Force 10 from Navarone
    -Schindler’s List
    -Uncommon Valor
    -The Killing Fields
    -Starship Troopers

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  • blkhawks1 said

    So many not mentioned that are far above those that made the list. yes the train, Memphis Belle but the one that always gets overlooked is ” the Beast” [the beast of war]

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  • Redhotchilipapa said

    Where Eagles Dare is missing.

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    Why the brotherhood of war( Taegugki) is not in the range of those top 10 movies listed?
    This is the best Korea war movie i like it!

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  • Brad said

    Stalig 17 and To Hell and Back are two of the best

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  • Chieftain said

    THE TRAIN is the best war movie and one that clandestine mercenaries still watch closely because of its vivid attention-to-detail on classic saboteur actions–I am a former mercenary and it is the only war movie I’ve ever watched more than once, it is very realistic and there is not one wasted moment, not one mistake. Brilliant performances by Burt Lancaster and Jeanne Moreau, moreover, and a very compelling film–true tribute to the French Resistance. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN didn’t need the opening and closing scenes in the cemetery–we get it, it’s stronger as a homage to the Greatest Generation without those scenes, it really begins with the Rangers hammering through the sea on their way to Omaha Beach. The knocks on Montgomery also detracted from SPR; Spielberg should remember that it was Montgomery and the Brits who were fighting tooth-and-nail in North Africa against all odds when us Yanks were hemming and hawing and not killing Nazis in 1940 and 41. Also, speaking as one who has carried out combat search and rescue missions, there was way too much talking on patrol in SPR–those guys are Rangers, they would not be acting like line infantry.

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  • KEITH SMITH said

    My favs not on the list; Where Eagles Dare, The Eagle Has Landed, Enemy At The Gates.

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