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. David October 11, 2010 at 10:43 am -

    Where Eagles Dare dude

    • Ken December 14, 2010 at 12:17 pm -

      Stalag 17, Where Eagles dare, Von Ryan’s Express, Great Escape, Full Metal jacket, Longest day, Bridge too far, Green Berets, In Harms way, No man is an Island. Just my list. Hard to keep it down to ten. Sure I forgot some great movies. But these always stick to me.

  2. martivin October 12, 2010 at 11:20 pm -

    what about Enemy at the gates?
    the pianist?

    • Kyle March 7, 2011 at 8:19 am -

      I’m a huge Tarantino fan but Thin Red Line easily should have that spot.

  3. Jim October 14, 2010 at 7:23 pm -

    There are so many well made war movies. “Inglorius Bastards” is strictly a heavily PR move on somebody’s part. It’s an insult to so many accurate movies depicting courage during the horrors of war. This is, however, just the opinion of a lowly grunt combat veteran and DAV.

    GySgt USMC Ret

    • Zack January 5, 2011 at 8:51 am -

      I agree with you. The movie wasn’t worth watching at all. Where was behind enemy lines at on the list? Its a much better movie than a lot of the ones on the list.

      • Carp July 31, 2011 at 11:13 am -

        Im so with you Inglorious Bastards was a lame excuse for a war movie it ranks up there with Pearl Harbor on the lame list.

  4. nicole October 15, 2010 at 9:48 am -

    Inglorious Bastards…bleh. All that reading for about ten minutes of decent movie time.

  5. VIG October 18, 2010 at 8:40 am -

    How could you leave Cannons of Navarone, A bridge too far, Maltese Falcon, Casa Blanca out and Inglorious Bastards in??? It is just to say that you are young, but then again, to become a real critic I do suggest you start by square one!

    • Stephen Williams December 15, 2010 at 5:43 pm -

      I agree with everything except the Braveheart ???? bit

      Do you know what its about ????

      William Wallace was a ” REAL LIFE PERSON ” for starters and the Film is based on Facts

      The Scottish Freedomfighters/Highlanders Fought the King Of England and His Army’s of the North to get the Freedom they craved instead of putting up with Rape and Murder to Women and Children , The Film understandably doesn’t show this but the whole film is 1 huge War !!!!

      Know your History before Questioning one of the Greatest Films of all time !

      P.S – Casablanca ????

      • jahangir February 11, 2011 at 10:51 am -

        “Bravehart” was hilariously inaccurate.
        William Wallace existed and he fought for Scotland. And that’t basically the only thing the movie got right. Still, from a non-historical perspective, it’s a fun movie and well made.

        Also, how about “Letters from Iwo Jima”? I thought it was better than some others on the list.

  6. steven zombek October 18, 2010 at 5:11 pm -


  7. RODERICK HAMMOND October 19, 2010 at 5:46 am -

    Hmmmm…you seem to have overlooked the greatest war movie of all time: All Quiet On The Western Front (1930) starring Lew Ayres, louis Wolhei, and Slim Summerville.

    • Kenneth Litgov July 16, 2011 at 7:26 am -

      Actually I think “All Quiet On The Western Front” ….(1979)…. is no exeption. Also 1972´s Cannes Jury Award Winner: “Slaughterhouse-Five” made my skin crawl more than once,although it is a Sci-Fi/War movie. But a Great warmovie should always contain some imaginationally thinking, otherwice its just ends up being a Kill or get Killed. I don´t think that idea would sell, not even for the children to come, who might be urged to save our butts in future upcoming Wars. Its not a shame to Dream a little =)

  8. chasriccio October 25, 2010 at 2:30 am -

    Paths of Glory

  9. katie October 28, 2010 at 5:01 pm -

    WOW people calm down. Do you really need to be immature and call the person that posted a dumb bitch? REAL MATURE. It is simply their pick of the 10 best war movies, not YOUR pick. Everyone will have a different opinion and you obviously can’t include every damn war movies when the list is for 10. Geez people let’s grow up now.

  10. Zach November 3, 2010 at 9:52 am -

    A list of best war movies cannot be complete without including Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory”.

    • iain January 17, 2011 at 7:08 pm -

      Agreed! Generally it IS considered the best war movie ever made, though i doubt the present company would accept that fact.

  11. Nilbog the Great November 3, 2010 at 11:14 am -

    While I enjoyed Braveheart and Inglorious Basterds, I would have a hard time putting them on my best war movies list. Now Patton, Deer Hunter or Glory? Maybe so.

  12. Eduardo November 6, 2010 at 8:52 pm -

    Hearts and Minds, the final movie about Vietnam war.

  13. pte n November 7, 2010 at 7:57 pm -

    what about band of brothers and the pacific

  14. dickflix November 10, 2010 at 10:40 pm -

    Inglorious bastards???????? Come on, get serious. It should be on the list of the 10 worst and most inaccurate war movies.

    I am surprised that Gettysburg and Son of the Morning Star are not mentioned. Both excellent and historically accurate moveis about two of the most famous battles fought on American soil.

  15. Sanjeet Bhojak November 16, 2010 at 7:29 am -

    Oh my goodness….. “Saving Private Ryan” what a movie. Director Steven Spielberg maked a great war movie and to be make such kind of movie is a big challange to others. What a sniper shot, what killing by a knife, what an operation done by the military men. Really I like this movie very much….. Sanjeet Bhojak. From Jabalpur

    • vicky December 16, 2010 at 10:25 am -


  16. Jacob meoww November 19, 2010 at 10:58 am -

    How could you forget BLACK HAWK DOWN. are you serious? its the accurate story of this present war. how dare you.

    • Saurabh February 20, 2011 at 6:48 am -


    • Brad February 20, 2011 at 8:23 pm -

      You’re right Sanjeet – For me, Saving Private Ryan is the greatest war movie ever made. I didn’t think it could be done, but Spielberg did it. The writer deserves most of the credit though; what a rich, morally complex script. I knew this to be true the first time I saw it.

      I think “Zulu” is up there too…

  17. Army Mike December 4, 2010 at 1:12 pm -

    i dont get it Inglorious Bastards, Braveheart,and Apocalypse Now make this prestigious list of “Great Movies” and in my opinion and my #1 movie is ommited where is “The Green Barets”? what is the criteria for ranking these otherwise “good” movies? Anyone? my opinion Army Mike

  18. Tony December 4, 2010 at 2:15 pm -

    A Bridge Too Far; The Great Escape; The Big Red One, (check that one out starring Lee Marvin and a very young Mark Hamill); Where Eagles Dare; Zulu…the list goes on. But Inglorious Basterds? Braveheart? Lawrence of Arabia?

  19. tho ngo December 8, 2010 at 2:54 am -

    you guys are all FUBAR!!!! “THE LONGEST DAY” is THE GREATEST war movie of all time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Inglorious Bastards?????????????????????????? How much do you shoot up each day???????
    You even forgot “PATTON’!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. Pete Hummers December 10, 2010 at 12:22 pm -

    Good, I thought it was just me with the Tarantino movies; the shallow media veneration of anything he puts out had me wondering if I was missing something (although I do like Jackie Brown a lot). So I would add Patton, Gettysburg and the Deer Hunter and excise Basterds, Platoon and Private Ryan (if I had to keep it to 10).

    I’d like to find a place, though, for a personal favorite, the archaic, charming British propaganda film 49th Parallel with its amazing Ralph Vaughan-Williams score, which is not quite a war movie, though the incipient WWII was its reason and subject.

  21. john December 12, 2010 at 7:20 am -

    For me the best ever has to be The Battle of Britain

  22. Kelt December 15, 2010 at 9:06 am -

    Cross of Iron.

  23. special someone December 16, 2010 at 11:34 pm -

    Inglorious Basterds=OVERRATED and Where’s Letters from Iwo Jima.

  24. Push December 17, 2010 at 4:48 am -

    Bridge ON, not OVER, the River K. Typical mistake.

  25. Crosshair December 17, 2010 at 12:26 pm -

    Liked everything on this list. HOWEVER: Black Hawk Down was ignored and is the best as far as I’m concerned. Inglorious was good, but merely a Hollywood fantasy orgasm. Band of Brothers and The Pacific are much better values for the money and much more likely to put you “in the soup” as the saying goes. Enemy at the Gate, although with faults, is a more thought provoking movie than Inglorious Basterds. We Americans did not single handedly win WWII, much as you want to believe. All Quiet on the Western Front and A Bridge Too Far cannot be ignored. A nice list, but impossible to restrict to 10 movies.

  26. Joe December 17, 2010 at 12:59 pm -

    Apocalypse Now? Number 1? No. Just……no.

  27. Sgt. Fury December 28, 2010 at 3:57 pm -

    Most of the movies in this discussion are good movies for their own reasons. Tarantino’s movie was fiction. Pure fiction. It stands alone in that category. No attempt to be period correct. If fiction was your goal, and you had a blank slate…

  28. jackson December 28, 2010 at 10:45 pm -

    how about black hawk down ?

  29. Baltham December 31, 2010 at 12:41 am -

    Inglorious is an insult to this category, and shouldn’t have been considered for the list.

    Braveheart…yeah, its a war movie, but meh. Glory and Gettysburg are both better and more deserving to be on the list. And my understanding is, Rob Roy did a better job with its history.

    Its a MAJOR oversight not to have Patton on the list. Same with Black Hawk Down.

    Apocalypse Now you either love or can dismiss, and I don’t love it. Doesn’t belong on the list if Glory, Gettysburg, Black Hawk Down, and Patton are all missing.

    Haven’t seen All Quiet on the Western Front, but from what I’ve heard, it belongs on this list before AN or Braveheart, too.

    Lawrence of Arabia is one of the great movies of all time, and O’tool gives one of the all time finest performances ever captured on film…but I’m not sure its a war movie.

    Zulu…wouldn’t have immediately sprung to my mind, but yeah, deserves consideration for a list like this. Way more than IB. More than AN, too.

  30. Ivan al Asad January 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm -

    This list is retarded! “The battle of Neretva” should be at least in the 10-th plase.

  31. matty January 13, 2011 at 12:10 am -

    Enemy at the gates…
    what a movie

  32. Danny January 18, 2011 at 9:22 am -

    Is everyone forgetting “We Were Soldiers”?

    Great performances by everyone, including Mel Gibson. Black Hawk Down should also be in there.

  33. Tim January 20, 2011 at 4:50 pm -

    Apocalypse Now and Inglorious Basterds, while two of my favorite films of all time that I think deserve to be on a list of top 10 MOVIES ever, really don’t fit the criteria of war movies. Apocalypse Now is really just an allegorical version of Heart of Darkness, using Vietnam as a backdrop. Inglorious Basterds…well, that’s just kind of dumb to put on this list. I would replace it with Enemy at the Gates or the Great Escape. Otherwise it’s a great list, I’d put Full Metal Jacket at number one though

  34. captureMMstature January 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm -

    We Were Soldiers should be on here. And I know it’s not a movie but The Pacific, an HBO series is maybe the best war epic I have ever seen.

  35. Joe February 5, 2011 at 6:01 pm -

    Platoon is incredible and realistic whilst apocalypse now is inacurate. A bridge too far is accurate with an emotional end.
    The thin red line and we we souldiers are great. Defiance ir underated whilst inglorious bastards is overated but still good. Private ryan is also overated but good, battle of britain is not good enough, it needs a remake. Iwo jima is very good but series wize the pacific is good whilst band of brothers is the best thing filmed.

  36. Drew Smith February 5, 2011 at 9:55 pm -

    “Come and See”

  37. Diggi February 7, 2011 at 10:46 am -

    I just love the inglorious basterds. Tarantino is a phenomenon in himself and Brad Pitt is a darling. Thanks for sharing this list :-)

  38. Saurabh February 20, 2011 at 6:51 am -

    List is totally and absolutely sham.. BLACK HAWK DOWN is missed! Ha ah.

  39. W Jarboe February 21, 2011 at 11:04 am -

    I cannot believe Inglorious Bastards?? My list would read more like: Lawrence of Arabia, All Quiet on the Western Front, Tora Tora Tora, Patton, A Bridge Too Far, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Gettysburg, Das Boot, The Longest Day and Twelve O’Clock High, probably not in that order. Even Run Silent Run Deep deserves to be on the list before Inglorious Bastards.

  40. War Movies February 21, 2011 at 2:36 pm -

    Good list! The Thin Red Line is one of my all time favorite war films. Terence Mallick’s direction is always beautifully conceived.

  41. danny February 22, 2011 at 3:25 pm -

    I think SOMEONE has a Tarantino grudge!!
    I love the amount of people that actually think Inglorious Basterds is supposed to be taken seriously. get your panties out of a wad!! that said, I don’t think it even counts as a war movie, I think about as much as that soviet power plant attack scene from Goldeneye was. someone was really reaching putting that on this list

  42. pyro February 26, 2011 at 11:09 pm -

    catch 22 underated yet shows tghe horrors of war

  43. Allan Farr March 4, 2011 at 4:04 pm -

    What about “Downfall”? I would say it’s a war movie – one of the best in my opinion.

    • julep March 8, 2011 at 7:20 am -

      schindler’s list, the pianist and we were soldiers. i think should be included.. =p

  44. vesey April 20, 2011 at 9:55 pm -

    I did’nt see “Platoon” or “Braveheart” so i can’t comment on them, but “apocalypse now” was an absurd fantasy that was about as believable as Batman. What happened to Humphrey Bogart’s “Sahara” 1943 ?? It makes calling apocalypse now #1 the absurdity that it is…………..

  45. Ferrari Bubba May 6, 2011 at 3:46 pm -

    How in God’s name can you leave out ‘Alls Quiet on the Western Front’? This is a sham list. — yer pal, Ferrari Bubba

  46. mrsharkslayer May 12, 2011 at 6:15 am -

    Kelly’s heros, The big red one..battle of the buldge…The Great Escape

  47. Harry May 28, 2011 at 1:18 am -

    Where is Where Eagles Dare? The Great Escape? Thin Red Line? In its own way, Kelly’s Heroes? I would have Heroes of the Telemark in 11th.

    Tora, Tora, Tora is out. Lawrence of Arabia is a biopic, hardly a war story at all. Clearly, Patton is the better biopic. Also, the first half of Full Metal Jacket is outrageously good – like the beach scenes in Saving Private Ryan. The second half is not even a top 50 war film. Averaged out, I think Full Metal Jacket is a top 25 at best. Guns of Navarrone used to be in my top 10, but Saving Private Ryan and Inglorious Basterds have pushed it out. And what do you do about Battle of the Bulge and the Great Escape? Finally, Paths of Glory is ‘old’ but the quality continues to love from age to age. This is the list:

    1. Saving Private Ryan
    2. Where Eagles Dare
    3. Platoon
    4. Great Escape
    5. Apocalypse Now
    6. Das Boot
    7. Bridge on the River Kwai
    8. Paths of Glory
    9. Inglorious Basterds
    10. Thin Red Line

  48. speechless May 28, 2011 at 8:16 am -

    what about Vietnam ,no gloryus for you no movie?

  49. Canada Eh June 24, 2011 at 4:58 am -

    The Longest Day should be on the list.

  50. Logic September 1, 2011 at 12:58 pm -

    Saving Private Ryan definitely number ONE!
    I will add to list Letters from Iwo Jima. I love this movie.