Top 10 War Movies of All Time

wmmattler April 23, 2010 161

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.

10. Platoon

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.

9. Braveheart

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!


  1. kunal September 1, 2011 at 1:15 pm -

    Nice action stunts performed by the actors.Saving private ryan was just breathtaking

  2. Anshul September 1, 2011 at 1:16 pm -

    Hi, i am a big fan of war movies. Saving private ryan was the most Amazing film i have ever seen.

    • Kaya Eliçin August 10, 2012 at 9:21 pm -

      Not that Ryan is bad but go watch Stalingrad (1993) friend. You will thank me.

  3. veerendra September 1, 2011 at 1:36 pm -

    nice blog but you missed too many horrible wars like 1857 in india!!

  4. Mehdi Ali Kazmi September 1, 2011 at 7:00 pm -

    All movies are good in the list, but my favorite is Braveheart. Mel Gibson is so special in the movie.

  5. Brandon Turk September 1, 2011 at 8:46 pm -

    Out of all those Braveheart was my favorite. Second coming in would be Saving Private Ryan.

  6. webo September 1, 2011 at 8:50 pm -

    Saving Pvt. Ryan is one of my favorite. War feels so theatrical these days, however necessary for good.

  7. SREERAJ September 1, 2011 at 10:11 pm -

    I would like to see all the movies which i missed in this list… Nice post…. :)

  8. Bharti September 2, 2011 at 12:07 am -

    Nice blog. Frankly speaking I have not seen all these movies. But Independence Day, Man in Black I like these movies.

  9. Avid September 2, 2011 at 2:20 am -

    Nice Movie list,got a whole new set of movies to watch as i have seen only two of them namely Braveheart and saving private Ryan

  10. Koushal September 2, 2011 at 4:43 am -

    All the war movies are so good, but ‘Platoon’ is the most amazing creation of Oliver Stone.

  11. Eric September 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm -

    I also liked the movie “We Were Soldiers” – another Mel Gibson movie with great action scenes.

  12. Cecil richardson September 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm -

    the list is awesome..i love all the movies.

  13. Amm September 12, 2011 at 7:26 pm -

    Must watch films of all time for the thrillers!!!

  14. Yunas P September 12, 2011 at 7:43 pm -

    Nice blog. I have not seen all these movies.I like this movies.

  15. Lavankumar September 12, 2011 at 10:10 pm -

    Super blog,good collection.

  16. rithwikram September 13, 2011 at 1:30 am -

    Braveheart and apocalypse now are just awesome

  17. rithwikram September 13, 2011 at 2:14 am -

    All the movies are great to watch and qualifies to the must watch category

  18. amay September 13, 2011 at 2:43 am -

    all movies in the list should be seen atleast once:)

  19. Henriquedematos September 17, 2011 at 1:46 am -

    Apocalypse Now FTW, by far one of the best movies ever made!

  20. MovieHolic October 26, 2011 at 4:15 am -

    Taegukgi (brotherhood of war, 2004, S.Korea ) is the best war movie
    trust me and watch it
    you will love even its OST

    • Mooney December 21, 2011 at 5:21 am -

      Pretty decent list I’d say.The Bridge Over the River Kwai should be higher on the list, if not no.1. The acting was simply incredible.Gone With the Wind,Glory,Friendly Persuasion,The Great Escape,Empire of the Sun,Paths of Glory,Grand Illusion ,Full Metal Jacket,Army of Shadows,They were Expendable,Schindler’s List,The African Queen,From Here to Eternity,Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,Midway,The Manchurian Candidate(1962),The Deer Hunter,Come and See,Ben Hur, Dr.Strange Love,The Sand Pebbles,Pan’s Labyrinth,Black Hawk Down,and Gladiator are some other names that need to be on this list.

      From Here to Eternity, Paths of Glory & The African Queen need to be on a top 10 list of War movies.

  21. Elron February 2, 2012 at 7:30 pm -

    You put Inglorious Basterds there as a joke right? Apocalypse Now despite being a top rate 10/10 movie isn’t really in the War genre, it is really a psychological thriller. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness isn’t a war novel and this adaption set in the Vietnam War isn’t a war movie. Braveheart is a fantasy action movie and Saving Private Ryan is a Hollywood fiction. You missed the most definitive war movies; Battle of Britain, All Quiet of the Western Front, A Bridge too far, The Longest Day, Waterloo, Sink the Bismark and Zulu

    • Bill Batz March 9, 2012 at 4:07 am -

      Brave Heart is fantasy? Read a history book, IWilliam Wallace was real.

  22. Jones April 16, 2012 at 6:16 am -

    6. Inglorious Basterds

    I do like for it’s great work on moives history.

  23. Ryan June 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm -

    I like Saveing Private Ryan the best out of these but i think there were better movies out there like lets say Acts of Valor was awsome go see come up with a better list for me!

  24. jason July 5, 2012 at 11:44 pm -

    A Thin Red Line should be top 5. Also, Blackhawk Down.

  25. Doug August 4, 2012 at 7:29 pm -

    Bridge On the River Kwai not “Over”

  26. Rob September 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm -

    Gladiator was my favorite war movie of all time. Just Maximus’ (Crowe) state of mind in this film, a sort of nothing to lose attitude, that actually aided him, even helped him survive after losing that which he loved most. It’s really a masterpiece that no other film in this list comes close to, imho. Full Metal Jacket was good but depressing; it’s not a film you’d really want to watch twice only because it’s that good/real. Saving Private Ryan had too many familiar faces and, for me, was a bit too predictable. The special effects and cinematography was second to none, but overall the film seemed too ‘hollywood’ for my tastes, but that’s not me trying to discredit a great film. I just don’t think I’d have rated it so high on this list.

    Lastly, Inglorious Bastards? If you seriously believe that this film deserves to be on this list then you either 1.) have some major grapefruits, or 2.) meant it as a joke, or 3.) just finished a six pack. You might as well said Tropic Thunder.

  27. Cloud September 29, 2012 at 9:18 am -

    Apocalypse Now is indeed one of the best films ever made in both war and psychological genre. You just missed a few greats, such as The Deer Hunter, Grave of the Fireflies, Schindler’s List, Letters from Iwo Jima, Patton, The Hurt Locker, and Dr. Strangelove.

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