It’s Veterans Day, and in honor of the men and women who have served, we’ve compiled a list of seven films which chronicle real soldiers at various points in their careers. While men can be heroic in war, these films certainly display the hardships that they can endure as well, both during combat and upon their return home, if they are lucky enough to make it back.

With all the American servicemen and women in mind, let’s take a look at seven real war stories that reflect what it means to be a soldier and a veteran.

Born on the Fourth of July

Base on the best-selling autobiography of Ron Kovic, the screenplay was written by both Kovic and fellow Vietnam vet Oliver Stone. The film is certainly a war story, but deals entirely with the aftereffects of the Vietnam War and the difficultly in adapting back to the American way of life, made even more difficult with Kovic’s disability sustained in the war.

The role is regarded as among Tom Cruise’s finest work and is among the first that springs to mind when one thinks of a film about Veterans.


Bat*21, starring Gene Hackman and Danny Glover, tells the true story of Lieutenant Colonel Iceal E. "Gene" Hambleton, who was shot down over North Vietnam during the final days of the Vietnam War. Hambleton's only radio link to help is with Captain Bartholomew Clark, who communicates with the trapped pilot as a rescue plan is formed. The film is not 100% accurate, but many gory details, including the numerous American causalities sustained in the rescue effort, are included.

Sergeant York

Much like the WWII film To Hell and Back (see below) focused on the most decorated soldier of the second war, Sergeant York focuses on the most decorated soldier of WWI, Alvin York, a “hillbilly” sharpshooter, played by Gary Cooper. The film, directed by no less than Howard Hawks, was the highest-grossing film of 1941. York himself was originally cool on the idea of a biopic, but he agreed when he needed to raise money to build an multidenominational bible school.

Jeez, Alvin. Way to make the rest of us look bad.

The film follows York from his rural Tennessee upbringing as a nogoodnik to war hero, saving his unit with his sharshooting. It’s a pretty amazing story, and almost so American you can’t believe it’s real.

Rescue Dawn

The film is based on the true story of Dieter Dengler, an American pilot whose plane was shot down in Laos. In 1966, the POW’s chose July 4th to make their escape, but moved the date forward after overhearing that their captors planned to kill them. Some survived, some didn’t (I don’t want to ruin the film for those unfamiliar).

The film was directed by Werner Herzog, who also directed the documentary Little Dieter Needs To Fly about the same events. Dieter Dengler was played by Christian Bale, and comic actor Steve Zahn actually has a pretty remarkable turn here as a fellow POW.


One of the most decorated generals in American military history, George Patton is the subject of a film that’s as epic as his career of service. During WWII, Patton led troops in North Africa, Sicily, and throughout Europe, capturing more enemy troops and liberating more territory than any other army in history.

In the biopic (before biopics were as frequent as they are now) George C. Scott played the caustic general, opening the film with a long monologue in front of a gigantic US flag. The film then follows Patton and his men through North Africa, Sicily, France, and Germany as he moves quickly to liberate Western Europe. The film was included in the US National Film Registry in the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Flags of Our Fathers

This film was adapted from a book of the same name which chronicles the six men (five Marines and one Navy Corpsman) who raised the flag on Iwo Jima. The the enduring image was memorialized in the famous statue in Washington D.C. The film is directed by Clint Eastwood and was written by William Broyles Jr. and Paul Haggis. This film, as stated, in taken from the American viewpoint, while a subsequent film, Letters from Iwo Jima, was taken from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers.

To Hell and Back

This 1955 film chronicled the military career of Audie Murphy, who is probably the most decorated soldier in American history. The film follows him as a child, but Murphy actually plays himself once the story shifts to WWII. The climax of the film occurs in January 1945, when Murphy and his company are retreating from advancing Germans. Murphy climbs atop a burning tank, using the .50 caliber machine gun to turn the advancing Germans back all by his lonesome self.

It’s a hell of a scene in a hell of a movie.

The film is also notable because it was shot in CinemaScope, which allowed for an aspect ratio almost twice as wide as normal lenses allowed at that time.

Honorable Mention

The Pacific and Band of Brothers

These aren’t films, but they sure are cinematic, so we’re going to give them a nod for being two of the most powerful, engaging, and all-encompassing. Band of Brothers aired in 2001 (but has been a staple on TV ever since), and follows the boys of Easy Company from their parachute drop through their march through Europe, omitting no gory or disturbing detail.

The Pacific followed a similar premise, but this time following US soldiers in the Pacific theater, rather then Europe. Both mini-series were produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, who had collaborated on the fictional (but still sweeping) film Saving Private Ryan.

Both The Pacific and Band of Brothers are based on written works, with Band focusing on a tome by Stephen Ambrose, while The Pacific is based on two memoirs by Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie.

Click on the pictures below to read another article.

Click here for 9 ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’ Plots That Actually HappenedCheck out 36 Bounce-Tastic Christina Hendricks Gifs

Check out these 17 Bounce-Tastic Sofia Vergara GifsClick here for 9 Most Menacing Moustachioed Villains

Check out The Least Sexy Photo of Heidi Klum Ever TakenTake a look at these 10 Classic Topless Scenes