Movies about war aren’t for everybody, and most people wouldn’t really consider them family night movies. However I like to think that as general critics of the art world, we all stand to learn something new from all movies and works of art. Everyone has a story to tell and something stories that follow actual events can be the most powerful and moving. Here is a detailed list of movies about war that you absolutely must watch when you’re ready to question things, people, and most importantly history itself. In my opinion, it’s important to make sure we stand by our promise when we commit to making sure history does not repeat itself.
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1 The Pianist
This Adrian Brody classic is one of my favorite movies about war. Brody achieved a well-deserved academy award for his performance as a Polish Jewish pianist who fights for survival during the holocaust. Many holocaust movies possess a multitude of unavoidable morbid details which can unfortunately end up clouding the plot and thwart character development. I loved The Pianist because it allowed me to see the characters beyond the terrible atrocities they suffered. The Pianist is a beautifully crafted film, which is overall a testament to survival, friendship, and most important the preservation of music even in our darkest hours as human beings.
2 The Great Escape
Many people I know never think of this film when I ask them what their favorite movies about war are. And there is a rational reason for this since it came out in 1963. And unfortunately many actors in The Great Escape have either passed away or are no long acting. Nonetheless, I consider this film a classic when it comes to movies about war. You cannot miss the motorcycle scenes with Steve McQueen and if you’re a bike fan you will appreciate that he did all the crazy stunts all by himself- without a stunt double! While there are not any female leads in this movie, I know many women can appreciate the camaraderie and friendship formed between the respective characters in The Great Escape. And what’s even more amazing than anything is that everything that happens in the film is based on a true story.
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3 Schindler’s List
Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece represents even more than one of those typical movies about war. Besides the fact that I adore all Spielberg films, I am always moved by the story of Schindler’s List. What many people don’t realize is that a lot of what happened in the holocaust was resisted by various people and resistance movements for that matter. Schindler is today buried in Israel beside the families of the people he rescued. The lives he saved have been tremendously altered and forever changed by his numerous acts of humanity and kindness, all depicted in this award winning film.
4 Saving Private Ryan
Another Spielberg classic and masterpiece, Saving Private Ryan came 7 years after Schindler’s List and portrayed a very different side of World War Two. Many famous actors’ careers took off after the release of this film and it is amazing to see the growth of actors like Matt Damon, Tom Hanks, Vin Diesel, and Edward Burns, to name just a few. Overall Saving Private Ryan is a must see when you’re looking at movies about war. Many of my opinions about the army, and D-Day in particular were definitely changed after seeing the way they were depicted in this film.
5 The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is another film that takes place during World War Two and the Holocaust, but what I personally appreciate about each of these movies about war is that they each showcase a different perspective and message even though they all take place around the same time period. This film in particular brought me to tears because it literally makes the audience understand what people mean when they say that we all bleed red. Prejudice and oppression occurs worldwide even today, and it’s important that in spite of everything that is happening in the world, we spread awareness about things that are going wrong and work towards emphasizing the things that are going right. In short, love your neighbor, and be kind to others, it doesn’t cost you anything while hatred ends up costing everything.
6 Pan’s Labyrinth
Where are my Spanish speakers? This is a Spanish film that shows what it was like to be on the other side of fascism and Nazism during World War Two. It won numerous academy awards and each time I watch it I almost wonder why it didn’t win more. If you don’t speak Spanish the subtitles are very clear and easy to read and the main character is actually a little girl so although some scenes are a bit graphic I wouldn’t hesitate to show this film to children as young as 10 or 11. People use all types of crutches to escape their own horrifying reality, even children, so I more than appreciated this story. Many movies about war can be interpreted as gritty and insensitive, I found Pan’s Labyrinth to be the complete opposite and I can’t get over the way people speak Spanish in Spain, oh how I love that Castilian accent!
7 Gone with the Wind
What was originally a world renowned novel by Margaret Mitchell later became cinema brilliance all on its own. Vivian Lee and Clark Gable star as Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler in Tara, Georgia. They experience the Southern United States during the Civil War and the abolishing of slavery. I rarely see movies about war that address the Civil War, in particular the struggles of the confederate army. I suppose it is because film makers know they cannot top this masterpiece. If you haven’t seen Gone with the Wind yet, I strongly recommend setting aside time and watching it. It is a classic film and I watched it for the first time when I was about 8 years old, so I also think it’s appropriate for younger children if you think they can handle the gravity of the story content.
8 Hotel Rwanda
I love Don Cheadle as an actor so seeing him in movies about war is an absolute treat! He’s very talented and definitely steals the show in Hotel Rwanda. Moreover, many people are still unaware of the genocides that have occurred worldwide particularly in modern times. The Rwandan genocide was between the Hutu’s and the Tutsi’s in East Africa in 1994. Hotel Rwanda depicts the wartime that broke out as a result of the heinous crimes committed by the government and respective rebel groups. It is definitely worth seeing but is not for those with weak hearts and stomachs and it is without a doubt not for children under 14 or so.
9 The Hurt Locker
Kathryn Bigelow had the honor of being the first female director to win an academy award for her work in this film. It is a great depiction of one of the many struggles American soldier’s faced during the Iraq War. If you have not seen this movie yet I think it is almost human obligation to devote your time to seeing it since it is possibly one of the best movies about war, if not the best ever made.
Everyone has different opinions when it comes to movies in general let alone movies about war. And we as people all have vastly different interpretations of events within the world around us. Have you ever seen a movie about war that really affected you and made you think about the world? What are your favorite movies about war? Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts!
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