We’ve combed through the internet to find the best lists of war movies and came up with a list that is sure to suit every war movie fan in the world. The criteria was pretty straightforward; there had to be actual acts of war involved in the story line (in other words; soldiers’ stories) and the movies had to be based on true historical events. Once we found 10 candidates they were ordered by gross theater sales, post theater sales, critical reviews and cultural relevance. If that’s not scientific enough we also had an explode-o-meter that Kurt Geiger keeps in his garage for some unknown reason.
Crazy that the list STARTS with Oliver Stone’s Platoon. This began the whole practice of training actors to toughen them up for roles as soldiers. Stone’s Vietnam story brought realism to the screen and touched millions of Vietnam veterans in ways that no other movie had at that time.
Though not as thought provoking as Platoon- Braveheart still stands as a cinematic masterpiece and could be considered one of the best “period” movies of all time. Mel Gibson might or might not be a whack-job (hell, I like him) but he can make a movie.
8. Tora! Tora! Tora!
This Japanese-American movie made in the 1970’s has an air of authenticity that few war movies can match. Interviews were painstakingly collected and written down then used as the foundation of a book. Later the book was converted to a screenplay which was made into a film. This is how we do it Tarantino… making up history is just stupid. While the term “Epic Film” is often overused, when referring to Tora! Tora! Tora! the title is wholly deserved.
7. Full Metal Jacket
This is a real guy’s movie if there ever was one. The put downs by R. Lee Ermey as Gny. Sgt. Hartman, the action and the “Me love you long time” will forever be remembered in the minds of us macho types. I have no idea if it helped recruit any Marines, but I do know Hollywood recruited Ermey and for that we at TT10 are thankful.
6. Inglorious Basterds
I am posting this one under protest. While entertaining and “period accurate” let’s be honest… the history was way off… they freakin’ KILLED HITLER! I have a long standing, one-sided argument with Quintin Tarantino (he won’t return my calls) as to how he wastes my $8.95 repeatedly. Still, it met the criteria for this countdown… marginally.
5. The Bridge Over the River Kwai
This movie starring William Holden and Obi Wan Ken-obi… cough cough.. I mean Alec Guinness is nearly 60 years old and still holds up as entertaining and a little informative. One of the greatest movies of all time, this movie is an icon of the genre unto itself.
4. Das Boot
This international blockbuster dispelled the idea of the clean cut, mechanical German u-boat captain meticulously and ruthlessly torpedoing crying babies in the water. This movie gave a much more realistic view of WW2 sea battle. Under the uniform soldiers are soldiers and sailors are sailors despite creed and doctrine. Das Boot put a face to the faceless and gave us all a peek into a unique and terrifying world.
3. Saving Private Ryan
Steven Spielberg directed an all-star cast in this 1998 World War 2 movie starring Tom Hanks. The opening sequence is enough to make anyone blanch at the prospect of ever reliving something as fraught with peril as the Normandy invasion. Until this time a majority of all WW2 movies ran like propaganda with brass bands playing John Philip Sousa in the background and the heroes barely getting flesh wounds (unless they started talking about their “girl”- then they’re toast). Ryan put us all firmly into the knowledge that war IS hell and all the men who wage it deserve our respect.
2. Lawrence of Arabia
What does this movie have that the others are generally lacking? Thomas Edward Lawrence- or as close to him as anyone could portray. This was Peter O’Toole’s first starring role and he would forever be associated with Lawrence, one of British military history’s most enigmatic figures. Yes, the movie is long, but you can’t accurately call yourself a “war movie buff” until you have seen it.
1. Apocalypse Now
This movie kind of freaks me out in a whole lot of different directions… and at times confused the hell out of me. Still, if that is what Francis Ford Coppola was going for when he directed this film with Marin Sheen and Marlon Brando, it works. This is one dark, dark movie that really sums up a lot of feelings that most Vietnam vets were coping with long after coming home from the war. Some of the “facts” and practices in the movie were outlandish making this more of a “feeling I get” kind of movie than anything else, but that’s the point; it caused intended emotion. The helicopter scenes were great too!