Good War Movies

Friday, April 15 by Dan MacIntosh

Good war movies are not the same as good wars. War is bad. Nobody will disagree with that. Yet some of the best movies in Hollywood have had epic battles as their backdrop.

  1. "Apocalypse Now" This is the film that gave us the classic Robert Duvall line, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning!" It was also one of Francis Ford Coppola's best. It gave us Marlon Brando acting extremely paranoid. Brando's character finds him playing a kind of god to these natives of Vietnam. This was a good war movie about how war can make good men go bad. 
  2. "All Quiet on the Western Front" In 1930, a film about a World War I soldier being disillusioned by war was ahead of its time. We take such films for granted now. Yet this was one of the best war movies of its time, and any time. It all begins with a group of German schoolchildren that get suckered into joining the army right as World War I starts.
  3. "Saving Private Ryan" Steven Spielberg brought a lot of realism to war movies with this fine 1988 film which also starred Tom Hanks. This was World War II as we'd never experienced it before. A collection of US fighters must get behind enemy territory to gather up a paratrooper because that soldier's brother had been killed in battle.
  4. "Schindler's List" Even during this extra dark period in history, World War II, there were people doing good things. This story is based on the real life of Oskar Schindler who, in Poland, saved the lives of Jews after seeing how the Nazis tortured them.
  5. "Platoon" This was Oliver Stone's take on war. Stone usually has some sort of conspiracy story up his sleeve. But this time he told a straight story and made a really good war movie. This is the story of a young soldier in Vietnam who gets the ugly taste of just how horrible war it.
  6. "Patton" General George S. Patton was a tank commander in World War II. This film follows his military life, from North Africa to the invasion of Germany and the collapse of the Third Reich. It shows what a temper he had. But, it also reveals what a great leader he truly was. 
  7. "The Dirty Dozen" You talk about your natural born killers. This movie shows us twelve convicted murderers who are trained to mass assassinate German officers in World War II.
  8. "Das Boot" This 1981 film gave the world a look inside a World War II German U-boat as we'd never seen them before. It was like sleeping with the enemy. It's one of the really good war movies. This is yet one more film that examines the conflicting feelings of soldiers. In this case, these soldiers are trying to do their job while all the while trying to understand the confusing and negative German ideology.
  9. "The Deer Hunter" This film is famous for its chilling Russian Roulette scene. It's also a really good war movie. It stars Robert Di Niro and Christopher Walken. The Russian Roulette scene is just one of many memorable scenes in this examination of how the Vietnam war negatively affected the people of one small industrial US town.
  10. "Full Metal Jacket" Few directors captured war time irony better than Stanley Kubrick. This film starred a young Matthew Modine. It showed soldiers as humans, rather than just fles fighting machines. There are two basic parts to this film's story. One is a look at recruits in basic training under the harsh command of Sgt. Hartman. The other is a look at one of these recruits later, Joker, as he covers the war as a Stars and Stripes correspondent.

- Dan MacIntosh

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