10 Best War Movies

Monday, February 7 by Tom Gordon

Assembling a list of the 10 best war movies means some amazing films are going to be left off. But this collection includes several from World War II and Vietnam, as well as some other conflicts. The 10 best war movies listed here also include some harsh reminders of the brutality of war, as well as some inspiring stories of how soldiers can respond in the most desperate of situations.

  1. "Saving Private Ryan" By no means a rah-rah kind of war movie, this acclaimed film by Steven Spielberg depicts the nightmare of war as experienced by young soldiers and veteran officers alike. It's a remarkable film and maybe the best war movie ever made.
  2. "Black Hawk Down" Another emotionally draining, but outstanding war movie, this 2001 Ridley Scott film tells the true story of a very bloody encounter between U.S. Army soldiers and armed gunmen in Somalia in 1993.
  3. "The Bridge on the River Kwai" David Lean's masterpiece won seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Alec Guinness). Loosely based on a real episode in World War II, one of the best war movies ever tells the story of a captured British colonel (Guinness) who agrees to oversee the construction of a bridge for his Japanese captors as a symbol of British morale and spirit.
  4. "Platoon" Oliver Stone plunges the audience into the middle of the Vietnam War as seen through the eyes of a young recruit (Charlie Sheen), who finds battles being waged with the enemy and within his own unit of emotionally scarred soldiers.
  5. "Full Metal Jacket" A slightly more twisted view of the Vietnam War, this time presented by legendary director Stanley Kubrick. "Full Metal Jacket" came out a year after "Platoon" and invited a number of comparisons. But much of Kubrick's film focuses on basic training as a group of Marines are whipped into killing machines by a drill sergeant played with ferocity by former Vietnam War veteran-turned-actor R. Lee Ermey.
  6. "The Dirty Dozen" A real guy's movie, "The Dirty Dozen" tells the story of an Army major (Lee Marvin), who leads a group of convicted murderers behind enemy lines for a special operation aimed at wiping out dozens of high-ranking Nazi officers.
  7. "The Hurt Locker" A rare war movie directed by a woman, "The Hurt Locker" nevertheless earned director Kathryn Bigelow an Oscar in 2010 and went on to win five more, including Best Picture. The story of an elite Army bomb squad thrown into the heat of battle during the Iraq War is suspenseful, brilliantly acted (Jeremy Renner, in particular, is outstanding), and as thought-provoking as any of the great war movies on this list.
  8. "M*A*S*H" The 1970 film that led to the milestone TV series is both hilarious and riveting as we see the doctors and nurses trying to save the lives of wounded soldiers in the Korean War. And though it was set in Korea, the politics and anti-establishment philosophy are clearly all about the Vietnam era.
  9. "Flags of Our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima" Though released as separate films in 2006, these amazing movies directed by Clint Eastwood each tell the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima from distinctly different points of view. "Flags of Our Fathers" follows the lives of the six men who raised the flag in one of the iconic moments of World War II, while "Letters from Iwo Jima" tells the story of the bloody fight from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers who fought there.
  10. "The Great Escape" More in the vein of "The Dirty Dozen," this 1963 film depicts Allied POWs hatching a plan to tunnel out of a German prisoner-of-war camp. And when Steve McQueen, as Captain Hilts, "The Cooler King," jumps his motorcycle over a fence of barbed wire, one of the coolest movie stars ever was born.