10 Best 80′s War Movies

Sunday, February 6 by Tom Gordon

The 10 best 80's war movies largely reflect a desire by filmmakers to come to terms with the Vietnam War a decade after it came to end, but there is also a little Cold War influence as well as an eclectic mix of foreign films, too. And yet at the top of the list of the 10 best 80s war movies is an Oscar-winning film about a fascinating chapter of Civil War history.

  1. "Glory." Denzel Washington received a much-deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Private Trip in this 1989 Civil War masterpiece about the Union Army's first all-black volunteer company. Matthew Broderick and Morgan Freeman are also outstanding.
  2. "Gallipoli." This may be the most heartbreaking war movie ever, with a very young Mel Gibson as an Aussie with few other options, signing up to fight in World War I. He and his mates wind up in a brutally one-sided affair in Turkey. Directed by Peter Weir, "Gallipoli" is an underrated classic.
  3. "Ran." Japan's greatest filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa, directed this visually stunning look at the destructiveness of war and based the story on William Shakespeare's "King Lear." In this, undoubtedly one of the best 80s war movies, if not one of the best war movies ever, a warlord gives up his throne to his three sons, two of whom turn on him.
  4. "Das Boot."  Another excellent film from overseas that depicts the horror and waste of war, Germany's "Das Boot" tells the story of the crew of a U-boat in the early days of World War II. The way the movie is shot and edited, you really feel stuck in the claustrophobic conditions and feel the terror sailors must have felt when encountering the enemy.
  5. "Platoon." One of the ten best war movies of the 80s is also one of the iconic movies of the decade, and probably Oliver Stone's greatest film. He won an Oscar and the film was named Best Picture of 1986. "Platoon" tells the story of a young recruit (Charlie Sheen) who is quickly exposed to the hell that is war and what those conditions can do a person's psyche.
  6. "Full Metal Jacket." Stanley Kubrick directed this unflinching look at Marine Corps basic training and the fate of the Marines who were then sent on to Vietnam. It also had one of the great movie poster tag lines ever. "In Vietnam, the wind doesn't blow. It sucks."
  7. "The Killing Fields." Another look at how individuals suffer in wartime, "The Killing Fields" follows the story of a New York Times journalist covering the war in Cambodia with the help of a local man, who gets his family out, but is struggling with what to do as his country is falling under the Khmer Rouge. The performances are truly memorable, particularly Haing S. Nor, who really lived through the nightmare depicted in the film.
  8. "Red Dawn." A Cold War relic about a bunch of Midwestern teen fighting off a Soviet invasion of their town remains entertaining, if a little silly in retrospect. The cast features plenty of young stars from the 80s, such as Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey, C. Thomas Howell and Charlie Sheen.
  9. "Henry V."  Kenneth Branagh directed and starred in this very faithful version of Shakespeare tale of young King Henry V and his war with France. Even if you're not a Shakespeare fan, this is great stuff from start to finish.
  10. "Good Morning Vietnam."  Robin Williams is hysterical as real-life Army disc jockey Adrian Cronauer assigned to the U.S. Armed Service Radio station in Vietnam. By far the funniest 80s war movie, the film by Barry Levinson is also laced with grim reminders of war and its consequences for soldiers and civilians alike.

COMMENTS

  1. February 6, 2011 3:19 am

    Jrl

    This list has some great films, especially “Glory”, “Gallipoli”, and “Platoon”. However, it is missing what may be the greatest war movie of all time- 1985′s “Come and See.”


  2. February 6, 2011 3:19 am

    D.r

    Platoon is one of the 80′s best comedies,oh wait,stone was trying to be serious?Then definitely the 80′s best comedy!I love unintentional humor.How anyone can rate that movie as one of the best is beyond me.The acting is laughably bad(dafoe is nominated for an oscar,yet has the funniest death scene in movie history!)the dialouge is cringe inducing,the cheesy voice over,the music.This film fails at every level.And is there a more predictible plot in war film history?You know martin’s no talent hack son,was going to face off with berenger,and you KNEW he was going to kill him.Ridiculous.Try full metal jacket,more original,suspenseful,much better acting,dialouge.Stone just took advantage of the countries guilt,with a well timed movie,that duped film goers that ”that’s what it must be like,he was there”.But stone presents My Lai type massacres,as if they were just a day to day thing.What a joke.