War! What is it Good For?

Happy Veteran's Day to all! For the occasion, I felt it was time to come up with another theme list. So today I present ten really good war movies. This list is in no particular order, and to many is probably quite incomplete. You can tell me your rankings below in the comments and also which ones I missed. I must admit, this is far from my favorite genre...so I know there are a few films missing that I haven't seen (like perhaps Apocalypse Now, Bridge on the River Kwai, or The Hurt Locker.) Let's get started.

SCHINDLER'S LIST - One of the two quintessential World War II movies Steven Spielberg made during my lifetime, and the other one is listed below. List is a powerful film that I've only been able to see once. The brutality is shocking and just fills you with so much sadness to know this really happened. Thankfully the silver lining is to see that though we see the absolute worst of mankind here, we see some of the acts of goodness that help to restore your faith in humanity.

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN - The other Spielberg WW II film is just as gritty and brutal, but with a story that also fills you with gratitude for the sacrifices of others. The opening scene depicting D-Day at Omaha beach is mesmerizing and unforgettable. But I believe that everything that follows is just as important, just in a bit more of an understated way. If you love war movies, this one is a must.

ZERO DARK THIRTY - The newest addition to the war movie list, Zero Dark Thirty, the true account of the killing of Bin Laden is very effective. Jessica Chastain gives a fascinating performance based on one of the true people who were responsible for this victory. It does take quite awhile to get to the payoff, once it does it's pretty captivating. I'm glad this movie was made. It shows you who the true heroes are, and not to the politicians who simply took the credit.

THE GREAT ESCAPE - Think of all of the coolest actors you can from the 1960's and the result is one of the coolest war movies I can think of: The Great Escape. Steven McQueen is the king of cool, but he has his fair share of competition in this POW escape film. The film definitely lives up to its title as seeing all the orchestration that went into this was undoubtedly an incredible feat. While not every storyline ends in success, seeing the human spirit and the lengths it will go to fight on is pretty inspiring.

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT - This film from 1930 that is set during World War I, is an extremely powerful tale that shows the real ugliness of war. This film more than almost any other I've seen (and similar to The Grand Illusion and Joyeux Noel) shows the real toll that is taken upon soldiers and the illusion that is the glorification of war.

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES - Here's a different kind of war film for veterans. The one that beautifully portrays a side not always realistically shown in movies: the side of adjustment once the war is over. This film was made so shortly after World War II was over, that I can't help but feel that it very accurately portrays what life really was like for these returned soldiers and how hard coming back to the "real" world was. That for them, perhaps that real world ceased being such, once they had new eyes that had seen things that challenged all of the concepts they once knew. This movie had me in tears within ten minutes, a feat that you must believe me is near impossible. To make the audience care about characters within such a short time, is virtually unheard of.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL - I've written about this one probably more than enough, but truly it is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. The love of a family contrasted against the ugliest war in the history of the world is extremely powerful. It shows that even in the darkest of times, we still have our responsibilities to the people we hold most dear. And we must not forget that those gifts we've been given, we must always cherish and live worthy of having in our lives.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS - There's nothing wrong with a little revisionist history now and then! Sometimes all you want to see is the things you WISHED happened, not the things that really did. If that's what you're in the mood for, look no further than Quentin Tarantino's outrageous nazi killing film from 2009. Historically accurate it absolutely isn't, but ridiculously entertaining it most certainly is.

RESCUE DAWN - Christian Bale gives one of the strongest performances of his career in this 2006 film depicting the true story of a US Naval Aviator who was shot down behind enemy lines during the Vietnam war. This is a film about surviving when all feasible and reasonable hope is lost. As with The Great Escape, there's something remarkable about seeing the lengths humanity will go to in order to survive that makes you see how precious life really is.

ATONEMENT - Okay, truth be told I rarely think of this as a war film. It is much more of a love story that was ruined by a bratty kid. But there are a few beautiful moments here that relate to the war, mostly due to some breathtaking direction and cinematography. As we follow Robbie's journey through the war, there are plenty of haunting moments as he longs to be home with the girl he loves. Briony, herself learns some lessons once she becomes a nurse and attends to some soldier's wounds (like, life isn't all about you Briony!!) Hey at least it's no Pearl Harbor.

That's all folks. Any thoughts or comments? I'd love to hear them, and I hope everyone has a nice Veteran's Day!


Sarah said...

Great list. The Dirty Dozen is another great war film that comes to mind, and you really should see The Bridge on the River Kwai. It is definitely a good one. The Best Years of Our Lives is one of my absolute favorite movies ever. So powerful.

Johanna said...

The cool thing about The Great Escape is that it's based on a true story. So many of these are so good and so powerful. Yep, that's the only word. Sarah got it. The Best Years of Our Lives truly is one of the great, great movies!