War movies can be some of the most interesting experiences we can have. Done right, they allow us to feel like we’ve witnessed crucial pieces of history that have shaped the lives of everyone around us. They can allow us to feel the emotions that our grandparents or fore fathers felt during times of great stress and change. Sometimes they give us perspective on wars like Vietnam or WWII, and then sometimes they simply show us what it looks like when stuff blows up. Whatever it is you look for in a war movie, here is a short list of the best and brightest as I see it.
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This is one of the few watchable Kubrick movies. His stuff is normally so weird and out there that it shuts off mainstream audiences. Most agree that the first half that follows the squad through boot camp is amazing, it’s the second half where we see them actually in Vietnam where we start to lose people. All in all, if you love war movies, you love Full Metal Jacket.
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Talk about crazy. From Colonel Kilgore to a crazy Dennis Hopper to a horrified Marlin Brando, this movie is an uncompromising commentary on the Vietnam War. This movie spits out classic dialogue like it’s nobody’s business. My advice, don’t watch the Redoux. Coppola went back and added in a few scenes that make the already long movie absolutely drag. Stick with the original and you can’t go wrong.
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Here’s that a lot of people missed. It starts Jude Law as a sniper in war town Russia battling Ed Harris as his German counterpart. The weird thing is that all the actors did their natural accent as opposed to using the one from whatever side they were portraying. All in all, its one of the better war movies made that somehow flew completely under everyone’s radar.
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Talk about a heavy movie. If you haven’t seen this yet, my only question to you is WHY NOT? Liam Neeson and Steven Spielberg team up to crank out one of the most intense war movies ever made, and it doesn’t even focus on the fighting. It focuses on a rich German named Schindler who uses his wealth and influence to save as many Jews in war torn Poland as possible. If Schindler’s monologue towards the end doesn’t give you goose bumps, something is seriously wrong with you.
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Mel Gibson may be crazy, but that man can make some movies. We Were Soldiers is another Vietnam piece, but unlike Apocalypse Now, it chooses not to focus on the horrible underbelly of the war and more on the relationships built and hardships overcome by soldiers in war. Plus, it’s got some of the craziest helicopter stuff you’ll ever see.
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This is as perfect a movie as can exist. From the opening scene to the closing credits Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks bring one of the most epic, gritty, powerful movies ever made. The movie opens as Hanks and Co. storm the beaches at Normandy and make their way into Nazi occupied France in search of Private Ryan so that his mom doesn’t lose all three of her sons in the war effort. If you haven’t seen this, buy it immediately!
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I realize that this is an 11 part HBO mini series and not technically a movie, but it literally might be the greatest thing ever filmed. It’s made with the same look and by the same people that brought us the previously mentioned Saving Private Ryan, however, this mini series is so much more epic. Based on a true story, we follow Easy Company out of the 101st Airborne all the way from boot camp to the end of World War II nearly 4 years later. You really get to know the soldiers in a way that doesn’t quite compare to anything else ever made, and to top it off each episode is bookended with the real soldiers talking about the experience. This epic is so amazing that on my annual viewing, I sit down and watch it in 5 to 6 hour blocks because I just can’t turn it off. Currahee!!!!
I may be one of the few women who really enjoys a good war movie. I had a grandfather in WW2, a father in Vietnam, and a son in law in Iraq. I am very proud of those who fought for my freedoms and those who gave everything for my country. Do you have a favorite war movie?
Top Photo Credit: Vintage Movie Posters