5 Best Old War Movies

Monday, January 24 by Mason Kaho

The 5 best old war movies include classic films with classic actor and shaped the views of war—sometimes romanticizing it while at others speaking against it—for several generations. Old war movies didn’t always have the best special effects at their disposal, but could capture the nature of war in other ways, including good writing and acting.

  1. “Gone With the Wind.” This epic from the late 1930’s isn’t always remembered as a war film because of the dynamics around Scarlett O’Hara and her love life, but it is definitely one of the best old war movies ever made. The opening scenes are set in the ante-bellum south, and the plot leads up to the Civil War, with some of the most exciting action coming as Rhett Butler leads a pregnant Scarlett through Atlanta as it is ravaged and burned by Sherman (the filmmakers set fire to the gate from the original King Kong to create the massive conflagration). The theme of the war and north-south conflicts are in this film from start to finish.
  2. “All Quiet on the Western Front.” This film, one of the best old war movies, was made way back in 1930 and was about World War I, which had ended not too long prior. It was told from the point of view of a German group of soldiers and examines how ludicrous the endeavor is. It was ranked 54th on the American Film Institute’s (AFI) list of the 100 greatest movies of the 20th century.
  3. “The Longest Day.” This was a film from the great John Wayne, the ultimate tough guy, and ranks as one of the best old war movies, depicting the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day. The cast was extensive, including such actors as Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, and Robert Wagner, among many others. The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards and won three. Even though color technology was available in 1962, when this movie was made, it was shot in black and white for stylistic reasons.
  4. “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” This film is a unique war movie in that it focuses exclusively on prisoners of war. This doesn’t keep it from being one of the best old war movies, however. The story is loosely based on real events and tells the story of British POW’s of the Japanese in Thailand. The Japanese order the men to build a b ridge. Initially they stall, but for morale purposes some of the men decide to undertake the building. The men are conflicted between their pride in the bridge and the fact that it has military benefits to the Japanese. The movie has an emotional and gripping ending. It won seven Oscars, including best picture, actor, and director.
  5. “Paths of Glory.” This movie was made by director Stanley Kubrick, no fan of war, and is one of the best old war movies. It stars the chiseled and serious Kirk Douglas and is told from the perspective of French soldiers. During World War I the soldiers are commanded by an officer to storm a German stronghold, despite the fact that the effort would prove suicidal. Douglas attempts to stand up for the men, but given that it’s a Kubrick film, don’t expect a happy ending.
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