Staff Picks: Best War Movies
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Aidan Myles Green: This is one of the few war films in which I truly grasped the enormity of the battle – thanks to the magic wielded by the folks over at WETA – as well as the individual stakes of each person fighting, thanks to Jackson’s impressively emotional direction and attention to personal detail. We know and care about these characters since it’s the third installment in the series – and thanks to that, the stakes are higher as well. This was one of my first intensely memorable theatrical experiences, and I won’t ever forget it.
Eric Norcross: It’s a TV movie based on a novel by Howard Fast. It’s not commonly known but it has some well known actors, including Tommy Lee Jones. It’s one of the few movies about the American Revolution that, to me, feels realistic of the period. Additionally, I have a fascination with the Battle of Lexington & Concord and all the mythology that surrounds it (the midnight ride of Paul Revere etc.) and all this is depicted in the film.
D-Rock: Starship Troopers [Shawn note: D-Rock has been having medical problems, but I wanted to get his choice inserted anyway]
Full Metal Jacket
Mike Luxemburg: I gotta go with Full Metal Jacket. Even though that movie’s best scenes all happen before any actual war scenes, I don’t think any other film captures the trauma and violence of war quite so effectively. What makes this movie work so brilliantly is the clear pictures Kubrick constructs of each and every recruit in training at Parris Island. We get to see how training changes all of them, and beyond that we get a peek at how the war does months later. It is one of few war movies that doesn’t depend on the war for its action and its stakes. Instead it is driven 100% by the characters. Full Metal Jacket is a war movie for people like me; people who don’t think war is interesting on its own. Saving Private Ryan is a close second if only for how effectively it summons the visceral sense of horror at the specific images of war (also the sound in that movie is CRAZY). There’s just nothing like Full Metal Jacket to raise questions about morality and war from boot camp all the way through deployment. Also it’s a movie that shifts between hilarious and terrifying effortlessly. I could say a lot more, but I think you get the point. Full Metal jacket works for me way more than almost any other war movie.
Hope and Glory
Ruby Le Rouge: I am not generally a fan of war movies from the fighters view, but like historical dramas from the point of view of those left behind, particularly WWII England.
Tamica Phipps; I’m a fan of Greek mythology and I liked Troy with Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, and Orlando Bloom. It’s a very entertaining version of the story many of us learned in school. It’s a remake of Homer’s “The Iliad” about that famous Trojan horse and the brilliant strategy that made a huge dent in a war.
Saving Private Ryan
Derek Johns: At the risk of sounding downright conventional, I’m going to say Saving Private Ryan. It is perhaps the most frighteningly realistic war movie I’ve ever seen and how this ever lost to Shakespeare in Love is beyond me. Tom Hanks gives one of the best performances of his career as do the rest of the talented cast members which included Matt Damon, Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper and Edward Burns. Also bonus points for the presence of Nathan Fillion (very small role sure but it still counts).
The Guns of Navarone
Bethany Lewis: The Guns of Navarone (1961) starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle and others. It’s a tense movie about a team of soldiers sent on a mission to destroy the guns on the German occupied island of Navarone so that British troops on the island can escape home. The movie is almost too subtly anti-war, but still an excellently exciting movie to watch. However, it’s not the mission that is the most interesting part of the film, but the complicated relationship between the men. New friendships are forged while old ones are put to the test. The interactions between the characters are tense but then gradually smooth out, much like the relationships between the actual actors during the course of filming. Gregory Peck thought The Guns of Navarone was always more of a love story between men than it was a war movie. And if you watch it with that I’m mind, it becomes about 10 times more compelling.
Rambo – First Blood: Part II
Caliber Winfield: Sure, it may not qualify in the standard realm of “war” movies, but that’s a crock! We’ve got opposing teams, torture for info, machine guns, bazookas and helicopters! Rambo II is arguably the peak of 80’s “one man army” pictures, and is ridiculous in how much fun it is. Fantastic action scenes, atmosphere & over-the-top characters, plus, along with films like Missing In Action, it touched on a subject that most people didn’t know about, the fact that there were still POWs from the Vietnam War, and that America wasn’t doing anything to get them back. If all of that doesn’t convince you of First Blood Part II’s greatness, then I need speak only two words:
Shawn S. Lealos: I will be honest here. I am not a big fan of war movies and normally just avoid them, no matter how critically acclaimed they are. They just aren’t my cup of tea. I think one of my favorites was the Stanley Kubrick directed Paths of Glory, but there is one war movie that remains one of my all-time favorite movies, regardless of genre. Quentin Tarantino does that for me. Inglourious Basterds is a fictional account of a group of men who hunt and kill (and scalp) Nazis and the mission the Allies send them on to attempt to entrap and kill just about every major Nazi leader during a movie screening. The film is damn near brilliant, introduced the world to Christoph Waltz and proved that Quentin Tarantino could make damn near anything and it would be entertaining. It doesn’t get much better than this.