The 5 best Korean War movies examine different aspects of a conflict that began in 1950 and never officially ended. Although an armistice was signed in 1953, feelings about the divided nation still run deep, as the many tense standoffs since that time have demonstrated. These five films all take very different looks at the Korean conflict: from the air, from the Korean viewpoint, the war as history, as drama and as tragedy.
“MASH.” This 1970 classic may be the greatest anti-war film ever made. A comedy with serious moments, it used the Korean conflict to represent the then-current Vietnam War. This did not amuse the Pentagon, who briefly banned the film from showing on U.S. military bases.
“The Manchurian Candidate.” This tense spy drama about brainwashing and assassination thrilled audiences in 1962. Korea was just the most contemporary U.S. conflict at the time; any other war could have been substituted, as the 2004 remake proved. It’s still a gripping film, with Angela Lansbury giving a chilling portrayal as the villainous Eleanor Iselin.
“The Bridges at Toko-Ri.” This 1954 film shows the war from the perspective of American bomber pilots. Author James Michener flew with those pilots as a war correspondent and wrote a book about his harrowing experiences. The conflict takes its toll on soldiers from both sides as a crucial bombing mission goes awry.
“Taegukgi.” Fifty years after the war ended, this 2004 film re-examined the human toll of the conflict. The premise, two brothers who end up fighting on opposing sides of the war, has been done many times. The difference in this case is that the film was made by South Koreans, who see the war much differently than their American counterparts.
“Korea: The Unfinished War.” Many call Korea “the forgotten war.” In 2003, documentary filmmaker Brian McKenna examined the lingering issues of this unresolved conflict. Korea’s continuing status as an unstable region in the twenty-first century begs the question of how the mistakes of the past can be avoided in the future.