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.
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.
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.