War films have been a genre ever since All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), but have been more popular following World War II, and there is a film about WWII almost every year. A great war film is made up of some or all of the following: accurate violence, effects of war, severity of war, soldier relationships, and acts of heroism. I have chosen this list based on this criteria: the films have to completely be immersed in war, no films that don’t have actual war or just take place during a war, and no films about the holocaust alone (see Schindler’s List), and the films have to be about wars that are real, no fictional wars (see Star Wars or Lord of the Rings). I have chosen them based upon cultural and cinema influence, depiction of war, watchablity and entertainment , and critical acclaim.
#7: The Deer Hunter (1978)
The Deer Hunter is a film depicting the violent effects of the Vietnam War on United States soldiers. With an amazing cast including De Niro, Christopher Walken, and Meryl Streep; this war film is entertaining based on acting alone. Showing prisoners forced into a game of Russian Roulette, this is a very intense and emotional flick. This film won 5 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. The Vietnam War was a drastically violent war and this film shows the immediate impact of its warfare on Americans. I love how this movie is split up into three perfect parts. The first part is the wedding and a first hunting trip, which shows not only their life before the Vietnam war, but the happiness and chemistry between friends as well. The second part is the war itself. Then the final part depicts the same setting after the war
#6: All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
All Quiet on the Western Front pretty much kickstarted the war film genre. Based on a book by Erich Maria Remarque, this is a film depicting the effect of World War I on german soldiers and violence it brought upon them. All Quiet on the Western Front follows Paul as he loses comrades, endures warfare, and goes through emotional disappointments.
#5: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
This is a war classic starring Alec Guiness, who won an Oscar for his performance. It is directed by David Lean, and he and Guiness made another spectacular movie, called Lawrence of Arabia. The Bridge on the River Kwai is a movie about an american General who cooperates with the Japanese to build a railway bridge at a prisoner of war camp. Both the Americans and Japanese building it don’t know that the Allies actually plan to destroy it. This is one of the few World War II films that show the Japanese in a somewhat different light than the Americans’ opinions. One other I can think of is Letters from Iwo Jima, which is also a good war film.
#4: Full Metal Jacket (1987)
This Stanley Kubrick classic comedy is original, comedic, but uses it in a clever, satirical fashion in the background of war and a harsh drill sergeant. Much like The Deer Hunter, this film shows the effects of the Vietnam War on recruits. Going back and forth between fire fights and bootcamp training, Full Metal Jacket is a realistic representation of the dehumanization that the army gives to soldiers.
#3: Platoon (1986)
Platoon really stretched the boundaries of war violence in a motion picture. It has bloody scenes, yet for a reason. Platoon uses theses scenes to get the realest image of war and it totally works. This film uses morality as a theme in the middle of the Vietnam war, and shows the development of a soldier, much like All Quiet on the Western Front.
#2: Saving Private Ryan (1998)
If Platoon stretched the boundaries of war violence, then Saving Private Ryan blew them up with a World War II tank. The opening scene of a battle at Normandy is intense but masterfully executed by Steven Spielberg and company. Starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, Saving Private Ryan is about a Captain who receives an order to rescue Private Ryan, who’s brothers had all died in World War II. The theme of this movie is the dilemma of “Is it worth it to potentially sacrifice five men to ultimately save another?” And this moral decision is covered by the soldiers while they fight their way to rescue Ryan. This is by far the best war film of the recent decade and maybe the best one of World War II.
#1 Apocalypse Now (1979)
This is a Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece about the Vietnam War and a general who is sent to assassinate a rogue colonel in Cambodia. The most beautiful war film ever, and masterfully written, the most i can say about this film is for everyone who is reading this to watch it, since the film is much like poetry, where the interpretation is up to the viewer, and can’t really disclose my experience because it is definitely different from everyone else.