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5 Great War Movies
5 Favorite War Movies on Blu-ray and DVD
The are many good war movies. Every movie fan can name a few of their favorite war movies whether they are contemporary or the old ones back after the big wars. This is a list of 5 of my favorite war movies. The list may surprise many for what is included and what is not included. I tend to enjoy those that make the attempt at historical accuracy as well as authentic battle scenes. Also important is how the men relate to each other and whether they speak to each other the way real soldiers and marines would and whether the tactics are militarily sound.
Band of Brothers
World War II Movie
My favorite war movie is actually an HBO TV series: Band of Brothers. This movie followed the story of Easy Company of the US Army 101st Airborne division and their mission in WWII Europe from D-Day through the end of the war. It showed the brotherhood of the men fighting as well as the heroic and incredible actions of this famous division.
There was 10-episodes in the series. It began by showing Easy Company in initial training as they were getting ready for their eventual parachute drop behind enemy lines in support of Utah beach. It follows Easy as they fight their way through France and into Germany. The main focus was on their commander, Maj. Dick Winters. He jumped into combat as a Lieutenant and quickly moved up in rank to Major commanding a battalion. However, many episodes showed the grunts on the ground. It showed in gritty detail life in the foxholes.
This movie gets it right. The tactics were solid. The way the men talking to each other seemed correct. The action was unrelenting. The sound of the bullets and artillery was bombastic. The actors seemed to embrace the movie and make sure they honored the WWII vets appropriately with their portrayal. This is a great movie and highly recommended.
Band of Brothers
Band of Brothers is my favorite World War II movie. It is based on the book Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose. It tells the story of Easy Company of the 506 Regiment, US Army, 101st Airborne division. It is a ten part series that begins in airborne training in Georgia and ends at the Eagle's Nest in Austria. The movie shows the horrors of war as few movies or TV shows ever has. Highly recommended.
World War II Movie
A follow up to Band of Brothers was the HBO series that focused on the Pacific War called The Pacific. This too was a terrific war movie. Consisting of ten parts it tells the story of three separate Marines, John Basilone, Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie.
The action begins at Guadalcanal and shows how Basilone wins his Medal of Honor. He eventually goes home to help sell war bonds only to return to Iwo Jima where he is killed in combat. Gudalcanal is also where we meet Leckie. The scenes of them fighting in the jungle on Guadalcanal are some of the most harrowing I have seen. The conditions in which these boys were forced to fight were unbelievable. Torrential rain, mud, impenetrable jungle and malaria. The movie does a great job depicting this.
Eugene Sledge is introduced at home but eventually shows how he came to enlist and his ultimate deployment to the Pacific Theater of war. His book "With the Old Breed" was the basis for his story in this movie. It begins with his landing on with Peleliu, then onto the unfathomable fighting in Okinawa.
The movie does a great job of interweaving the three Marines stories both in combat and at home. This is a great movie.
The Paciific followed Band of Brothers on HBO showing the battle in the Pacific during World War II. As harrowing and authentic as Band of Brothers this TV miniseries followed the war experience of three Marines, Eugene Sledge, Robert Leckie and John Basilone who were all in different Regiments of the 1st Marine Division. Sledge's story was told in his autobiography "With the Old Breed". Robert Leckie's story was told in "Helmet for a Pillow. Basilone was a Medal of Honor winner for his heroism on Guadalcanal. He was killed on Iwo Jima. The Paciific is highly recommended.
Civil War Movie
My favorite Civil War movie. Glory tells the story of the 54th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, an all-black unit comprising Northern freemen and escaped slaves. It garnered a supporting Oscar win for Denzel Washington in an incredibly moving performance. Morgan Freemen and Matthew Broderick gave notable performances as well, as did Andre Braugher. The actors really made sure to honor the legends they were portraying.
The movie did an excellent job of showing the training that the men went through. There was not a ton of combat in this movie really until their spearhead assault on Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina. The combat was well filmed and put you right in the action. This movie really made you care for each of the characters. The actors really made these men come alive.
The movie is well regarded by historians and critics alike. I love this movie.
Glory is a fantastic Civil War movie. It has some of the best performances I've ever seen in war movies. Denzel Washington one his first Oscar for his performance as Tripp in the movie. Mathew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes among others gave sterling performances. They all seemed to respect the historical narrative that they were were portraying. The story of these African American soldiers is one that should be seen. Excellent movie and the best of Civil War.
Black Hawk Down
Battle of Mogadishu
My favorite modern war movie. Back during the World Wide Web's infancy I would log on the modem and surf over to read the daily missives from Mark Bowden writing for Philadelphia Inquirer in 1997. He later collected the work into the book Black Hawk Down which was subsequently made into a movie by Ridley Scott.
The combat was non stop. It showed what happened when the Army Rangers and special forces teams goes into Mogadishu, Somalia to capture key lieutenants of Somali warlord Muhammad Farrah Aidid. But things go wrong and the men face attacks on all side from Aidid's supporters. The troops had to fight their way out of the town. The movie shows how the town essentially erupted in warfare and what it took to get out. The U.S. lost 18 men during the siege and killed countless Somali fighters.
This movie was extreme. The action fast paced. The sound incredible. You don't really get to know the men fighting as it is simply a 16-hour ordeal of urban warfare survival. An incredible movie and well acted.
Black Hawk Down
Black Hawk Down is the finest modern war movie made to date. The battle scenes as the Rangers and Soldiers fight there way into, and out of, Mogadishu is both amazing and horrifying. To think this movie even minutely details what these men went through is incredible. One of my favorite directors, Ridley Scott, gets this movie right in so many ways. The military tactics seem authentic as well as the battle scenes. Highly recommended.
Vietnam War Movie
This gritty war movie was mostly overlooked as it was released at the same time Platoon and Full Metal Jacket came out. I will contend that it is every bit as good as those two more critically acclaimed movies. I believe that Hamburger Hill was the best movie in terms of how it portrayed combat during the Vietnam War. The movie simply tells the story of the daily combat the troops of the 101st Airbornes go through as they fight in the Ashau Valley to take Hill 937.
It shows how men form a brotherhood during combat. Because it is the 60's it does a good job of showing racial tensions among the men but also how they bonded despite the color of their skin.
The action was first rate. The combat realistic. It feels authentic. The way the men talk to each other and how the leaders lead. It is a great Vietnam war movie and one that has been unfairly ignored.
Hamburger Hill showed the efforts of the U.S. Army's 3rd Battalion, 101st Airborne Division 'Screaming Eagles', as they enter the A Shau Valley to take Hill 937 other-wise known as "Hamburger Hill" to the grunts who fought there. This is a under-rated movie that showed the bravery of American troops during the Vietnam War following orders and over-coming a well entrenched enemy. Highly recommended and my favorite Vietnam War movie.
Popular Movies That Did Not Make My List
Saving Private Ryan and Platoon are on most favorite war movie lists. They are not on mine.
When I first saw Platoon back in 1986 I was in ROTC training to be an Army officer and found it to be amusing. Over repeated viewings I came to despise the movie and see it for what it is. An anti-American, anti-war movie. Understand I am not for war. But this movie showed every tired and useless cliche of the American warrior during the Vietnam War. Guess what? Very few units were reported to be so poorly lead and pathetic. Not every unit was strung out on drugs or psychotic killers. There were a lot of bad things that happened in Vietnam. Bad things happen in war. But there were a lot of soldiers who tried to do the right thing over there, survive and come home. This was a poor story of the Vietnam War experience.
Saving Private Ryan was one of my favorite movies for many years after I saw it in 1998. I saw it twice in the theaters. The first time I was completely blown away. The assault on the beaches was visually and sonically harrowing. But over time the movie has just lost me. The combat once thought brilliant has so many holes to make it almost embarrassing.There are factual errors, too many continuity errors to count and many more blunders that reveal inconsistencies.
The more I watched the movie the more it pissed me off. The coward at the end was ridiculous. Some parts of the movie were intense and well-done. Others were disappointing.
Movies that I like that did not make the list include Patton, The Thin Red Line, Full Metal Jacket, Das Boot and The Tuskegee Airmen.
There are plenty of WWII movies that make for fine Saturday afternoon viewing but they are not all that authentic and some tend to be...cheesy.