Today is Veterans Day, a day for honoring our military veterans, and a fine excuse for taking a brief break from celebrity gossip in order to talk about some of the most impactful war films ever made.
Like any Best Of list, this is entirely subjective and only represents my own opinion, but I tried to pick movies that lingered in my mind far after the closing scenes. A great war movie isn't something you can watch while mindlessly gnawing your way through a bucket of popcorn, right? A great war movie is more than gunfire and explosions; it's something that can show all of us—if only for a couple hours—some of the intensity, courage, sacrifice, and valor that happens on the battlefield.
Also, the horror. The moments that can never be taken back. The decisions that happen in the blink of an eye.
Here's my list:
Saving Private Ryan. The Army decides to send a young man home after all his brothers are killed in combat, and a squad is sent in to locate him. The opening scene during the D-Day Invasion at Normandy Beach is ... I don't even have words for it.
Full Metal Jacket. Full of memorable lines from the first half, which shows the dehumanizing effects of basic training, then moves into the even more intense experience of combat during the Tet Offensive.
The Hurt Locker. Focused on the US Army Explosives Ordnance Disposal team working in a city where everyone is a potential enemy and every object could be a bomb.
Platoon. Oliver Stone's classic movie based on his own experiences as an infantryman in Vietnam. Focuses on young recruit in Vietnam who faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war.
Johnny Got His Gun. A young soldier becomes a quadruple amputee after losing his arms, legs, eyes, ears, mouth, and nose during the last day of World War I. Trapped in his body, he reflects on the past and tries to find a way to escape his constant agony.
The Deer Hunter. A searing look at the way that the Vietnam war affects the lives of people in a small industrial town in the USA: a group of friends go to Vietnam, but one of them is left behind as a POW. Maybe best known for the nail-biting Russian Roulette sequence with Christopher Walken and Robert De Niro.
Patton. George C. Scott got a Best Actor nod for his role as the controversial Word War II General in this character study. Worth seeing just for Patton's opening speech before a huge American flag, one of movie history's most famous scenes.
Apocalypse Now. A captain is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade Green Beret who has set himself up as a God among a local tribe. Francis Ford Coppola depicts the insanity of Vietnam with help from a script inspired by Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness.
Black Hawk Down. Set in 1993 during the U.S. raid on Mogadishu, Somalia, this film focuses on a band of U.S. soldiers fighting to survive when their helicopters are shot down. Unbelievable scenes of chaos and intensity in this movie.
Jarhead. Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford's best-selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and about his experiences fighting in Kuwait, this focuses on a young Marine sniper trying to make sense of war during Operation Desert Shield.
What movies would you add to this list?
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