There have been thousands of films made about war and tragedies that go along with it. Why? Because it is an intense and emotional subject that always will put life into perspective through many different lenses. My love for these type of films derives from my intrigue in history and the stories that accompany it. Many eras are represented on this list and I am excited to hear feedback from everyone since this a topic that has literally hundreds of choices that could be justified as a “Top 10” while a lot of lists, like quarterbacks, legitimately have about 20 options. Despite the fact that they’re war movies, it was amazing to rewatch some of these movies this week, as I created the Top 10!
10) 300: I am sure this will catch flack as a grotesque overeating, but it set the bar for new war and action movies. Unfortunately, a lot of other films on this list don’t have the luxury of being filmed in the era of technology and the ability to take advantage of CGI. However, it could probably be even more phenomenal today, at least from a graphics standpoint. This was certainly a coming out party for Gerard Butler into the A-List level of modern actors. His portrayal of Leonidas literally created a workout trend and forever recognizable appearance. The battle scenes are really interesting in the film because unlike most war movies there is no guns or explosions, but primarily swords and arrows, which I absolutely love.
9) Glory: A totally star studded cast that is similar to the Golden State Warriors in basketball. With Matthew Broderick, Denzel and Morgan Freeman, they all compliment each other so well at times, but still don’t look the ‘96 Bulls. That is Glory and why it is 9th on the list. I love the story and aspects of the movie, but it definitely feels like it could have been done better. Maybe this sits so high on my list because the Civil War is the most fascinating to me? Oddly the strongest performance could have been from Broderick even though he is not the caliber of actor that even a young Denzel was. All in all this an must see if you have not.
8) Deer Hunter: This is a film I saw much later in life after a well respected recommendation. Perhaps my favorite scene of any movie on this list is the roulette that Walken and De Niro play that has you on the edge of your seat as you can only imagine what that may feel like with one of your friends. Another nearly 3 hour long adventure that does not disappoint as it too pushes the boundaries of what movies in the 70’s were showing. Michael Cimino does a terrific job capturing the real horror that I have only read about in 1968 Vietnam. This absolutely solidified De Niro on the Mount Rushmore of actors as he already had Taxi Driver, Mean Streets and Godfather II under his belt.
7) Inglourious Basterds: My sleeper pick of the line up this week since it is technically a war movie just lacking the epic battle scenes all of the others are embodied with. By far the most dialogue heavy movie on here that tells a great story leading to two paths colliding for a similar purpose. The wit and humor worked into this fantastic story and script is something only someone of Tarantino’s status could achieve. Also, this is quietly one of Brad Pitt’s strongest performances along with Fight Club. An unpopular opinion, but I think this is Tarantino’s best film of his legendary catalogue.
6) Full Metal Jacket: The epitome of creativity as Stanley Kubrick writes and directs a unique artsy kind of war movie that shows multiple perspectives. To me this is a big “what if?” film because if the story would have just continued with the crew going through training camp it could have had a much different ending. Although this is not as critically acclaimed as most of the list I absolutely love the anti-war sentiment and use of characters to represents Kubrick’s own thoughts or opinions.
5) Schindler’s List: Raw is the best way to describe this movie. It is the most emotional war movie I have ever seen and that is an extensive list with a lot of competition. A Spielberg classic that takes you into the world of pain and suffering that was endured in World War II by the Jewish community. It is also the biggest oscar snub in the 90’s as Tom Hanks won for Philadelphia and not Liam Neeson for his role as Oskar Schindler. Well before he was known for Taken he had an unforgettable performance in this movie and wins you over as his character changes for the better throughout the movie. Changing from black and white to color when it fast forwards to modern time is one of the most creative transitions I have ever seen
4) Saving Private Ryan: One of the most thrilling war movies of all time. Once again Spielberg is able to capture the audience early and have you are put in a position where you are truly rooting for the safety of Matt Damon as Tom Hanks and crew rush to rescue him. One must be in the mood for a Private Ryan rewatch, or potentially first time, as it as 3 hour long film, but well worth it. The 70 million dollar budget was able to create a brilliant reenactment of the most memorable days in American history by allocating an immense amount of time to the landing in Normandy.
3) Platoon: Simply put the most badass movie on this list. Another anti-war movie, this one done by Oliver Stone, telling a tale as an actual Vietnam veteran and this was his perspective. If you are looking for intensity you are in the right spot as this is just as, if not more, gruesome and heinous as Full Metal Jacket or Schindler’s List. Before Charlie Sheen was full of cocaine he played the role of Chris who is another all-time character. This movie is not short of big names either as it also features Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Tom Berenger, John C McGinley and even Johnny Depp. If you have never seen this movie find time to see it immediately.
2) Braveheart: An absolute classic performance by Mel Gibson and one of the most well recognized characters of any movie in the last 25 years. Not only is this Gibson’s best performance it is one of the more unique productions on this list because of the era in which it takes place. Most of the others on this list are from the Vietnam War or World War II. The portrayal of William Wallace is my favorite character on the list and one that will live on for years to come. Every action scene in this movie is a masterpiece with great camera work and it really revolutionized these epic style movies. After this there was an era from the late 90’s to mid 00’s that these style of movies had a massive run.
1) Apocalypse Now: I had to put this as my number one war movie because this film peaked my interest in the genre unlike any other. The way Francis Ford Coppola was able to push the boundaries of big box office while still showing incredibly intense and graphic scenes was spectacular. Adventuring through the Cambodian River with Captain Willard’s crew is an exhilarating ride that ends with an epic machete to Colonel Kurtz. This is arguably the most well written script on this list and it has two of my favorite actors of all time, Robert Duvall and Marlon Brando. It’s like the Godfather, but in Vietnam.