The 10 best war films on DVD are cinematic historical records, where writers, directors, and actors take the viewing audience into the war theater.  The only truer wartime source depicting the cost of freedom is a visit to a military cemetery, or a visit to a veteran’s hospital. 

  1. “Glory.” This war film takes place during the American Civil War. Told from the viewpoint of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who is assigned the first all-black regiment in the U.S Army, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Shaw notes that the men he is to lead into battle are not infantry trained, and is determined to correct the situation.

  2. “Lawrence of Arabia.” This war film is based on the life of T. E. Lawrence, a lieutenant in the British Army during World War I. Told retrospectively, from the time Lawrence is killed in a motorcycle accident in 1935, to his military career during WWI, where Lawrence is stationed in Cairo, Egypt. Lawrence uses his knowledge of desert life in Arabia to become one of the central figures in galvanizing together Arabs in their fight the Turks.

  3. “The Bridge of the River Kwai.” This war film is set in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II. A unit of British soldiers is assigned by the Japanese commanding officer, Saito, to construct a bridge over the River Kwai. The British commanding, Colonel Nicholson, invokes Geneva Conventions terms excluding officers from manual labor. Nicholson and his officers are tortured for refusing Saito’s orders, but it is Saito who capitulates. Nicholson is given permission to command the British troops in the building of the bridge over the River Kwai.

  4. “Black Hawk Down.” This film depicts the real life events leading up to and following a U.S. Special Forces operations exercise to extract two Somali clan members. The mission goes bad when Somali fighters shoot down two Black Hawk helicopters, and what follows is a joint U.S. and U.N. forces rescue mission.

  5. “Platoon.” In this war film, a young Chris Taylor drops out of college to become a soldier in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War era. During Taylor’s tour he sees, and experiences the underbelly of war.

  6. “Full Metal Jacket.” The beginning of this war film focuses on new U.S. Marine recruits arriving at the Marine training facility on Parris Island, and the grueling physical, mental, and emotional training the recruits go through.  After completing basic training the movie follows two members of the graduating class through their tour of duty in Vietnam.

  7. “The Hurt Locker.” This war film follows a three man U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team following the invasion of Iraq. The central character is SFC William James who is introduced as the replacement for a unit member unit killed by a bomb. Together the three man unit faces sudden death on a daily basis.

  8. “Saving Private Ryan.” This war film is set during the Normandy invasion of World War II. After the initial landing, Captain John H. Miller receives orders to find and bring back Private James Francis Ryan, the last surviving brother of four. Miller, and members of his Charlie Company set out locate Private Ryan.

  9. “Hamburger Hill.” This war film depicts the specific mission of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, to capture a well-defended North Vietnamese position in the Ap Bia Mountain along the borders of Laos. The mountain was referred to as ‘Hill 937’ due to its height of 937 meters.

  10. “The Great Escape.” This is a war film set during World War II. A German commandant is tasked with the job of stopping allied forces POWs escape attempts. The allied POWs are moved to a high-security prisoner of war camp, where the Germans try to thwart any POW escape attempt. 

The 10 best war films on DVD will leave you feeling an immeasurable debt of gratitude to those who have offered their all for freedom.