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War Movies in the 1960s

Updated on September 6, 2013
tillsontitan profile image

Mary has been a movie fan since she was a little girl. She watched movies every night of the week on Million Dollar Theater..

Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen | Source

Since it is said good things come in threes I thought I would finish out my war movies with a third and final hub. I've covered the 1940s and the 1950s, now I'm going through the 1960s. The Sixties was a cultural era, Baby Boomers came into their own - they were grown ups but so much was going on in the Sixties it was hard to tell.

As in past decades, Hollywood continued on with war movies. Seems war movies are always popular in spite of their basis. I think people look at them as just that, movies, not something based in fact. More like westerns with good guys and bad guys. A place where the guys with the white hats always win...or at least almost always.

War movies of the 1960s hold some true greats. Each decade from the forties to the sixties produced some good war movies with many that stand out for their quality production or story line or acting.

War Movies of the 1960s

Exodus 1960
The Guns of Navarone 1961
Hell is for Heroes 1962
The Longest Day 1962
Lawrence of Arabia 1962
PT 109 1963
Zulu 1964
In Harm's Way 1965
Von Ryan's Express 1965
Battle of the Bulge 1965
Charge of the Light Brigade 1968
The Sand Pebbles 1966
The Green Berets 1968
Where Eagles Dare 1969

The Great Escape

In my mind, probably one of the best war movies ever was "The Great Escape". Made in 1963 and starring Steve McQueen this movie, based in fact, was nominated for six different awards and has been called by some, "the greatest movie of all times." If you've never seen this two hour and fifty minute movie, the cast might give you an inkling of it's outstanding quality;

Steve McQueen
James Garner
Richard Attenborough
Charles Bronson
James Coburn
David McCallum
Donald Pleasance
Nigel Stock

With a cast like that it couldn't go wrong...and it didn't!

Set in a German POW Camp in WWII, it is the story of a planned escape. Not just a small group of escapees, but an entire unit escaping together. The story delves into each character so that you feel as if you know them personally. You watch as they build or I should say dig out their tunnel and prepare clothes and documents for the outside world. You watch as they form friendships and special bonds. The Germans built this camp to be escape proof. Their mistake was in putting most the great escape artist prisoners - all in one camp!

The motorcyle chase scene between Steve McQueen's character and the Nazi's is the first of it's kind in a Hollywood production. By the way, Steve McQueen was one of the biggest box office draws of the 1960s!

To tell you anymore about this film would be to ruin it for you if you haven't seen it (which I can't imagine). Much goes on throughout the film with escape attempts, McQueen's time in solitary, tunnel digging, playing on the guards and so much more. Everything about this film is excellent...the actors, the script, the music, the scenery...this is a must see war movie!

The Great Escape

The Dirty Dozen

Another of my favorite war movies happened to be made in the Sixties, "The Dirty Dozen". Where else but in the movies would a dozen murderers be chosen to complete an assassination in WWII. Of course, much like the Great Escape, the cast singles it out from the get go;

Lee Marvin
Ernest Borgnine
Charles Bronson
Jim Brown
John Cassavetes
Telly Savalas
Robert Weber
Robert Ryan
Donald Sutherland
Richard Jaeckel
Trini Lopez
George Kennedy
Clint Walker

Now that's the way to start a movie! And, yet another war movie based on fact. Seems there was a "Filthy Thirteen", a group assigned to destroy targets behind enemy lines (while not felons they were a group prone to drinking and fighting). This group of felons - with the shortest sentence of 20 years hard labor, with their individual hang-ups are brought together and trained for one job, to assassinate a group of Germans behind enemy lines. As their training begins some of the dozen think this may be a way out for them while others are thinking of a way to escape. They are promised pardons IF they survive.

Their training and subsequent mission allow the viewer to see their personalities and how this mission might play out. I have to admit by the time they got to Germany I was rooting for them to complete the mission, survive, and get their pardons. I won't tell you anymore because on the off chance you haven't seen this I don't want to ruin it for you.

The Dirty Dozen

Judgement at Nuremberg

Certainly not your average war movie, Judgement at Nuremberg was an extraordinary war movie. It is set in a courtroom, the courtroom of an international tribunal gathered to bring justice to those who committed crimes against humanity. It centers around the trail of four German judges accused of sentencing innocent people to death.

Nominated for eleven academy awards and winning two, it was condemned by German critics for bringing up ghosts of the past and fueling hatred for their country. It had taken a long time for people to forgive the German people for WWII and here was a movie that would remind them all over again of the atrocities that were committed on behalf of the German people.

"We cannot deny the fact, and we do not want to deny it, that the roots of the present position of our people, our country, and our city lie in this fact that we did not prevent right from being trampled underfoot during the time of the Nazi power. Anyone who remains blind to this fact can also not properly understand the rights which are today still being withheld from our people. It will probably be difficult for us to watch and hear this film. But we will not shut our eyes to it. ... I hope that world-wide discussion will be aroused by both this film and this city, and that this will contribute to the strengthening of right and justice." West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt at the premiere of the film, December, 14, 1961

The cast of this movie was a memorable one:

Spencer Tracy
Marelene Deitritch
Montgomery Clift
Judy Garland
Richard Widmark
Maximilian Schell
Burt Lancaster
Werner Klemperer
William Shatner (in a small role)

Actual Nazi camp footage was used in this film. Footage shot by American soldiers who were at the camps at the end of the war.

One of the judges played by Burt Lancaster was loosely based on a real German Judge Franz Schlegelberger. Schlegelberger was tried before the Nuremberg Military Tribunal in 1947 (The Nuremberg Trials were held in 1945-46 in the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany.) In the movie Lancaster's character not only feels his guilt but admits to it, admits knowing about the concentration camps and what went on there, stating in his speech in the courtroom; "Where were we when every village in Germany has a railroad terminal where cattle cars were filled with children being carried out to their extermination! Where were we when they cried out in the night to us. Were we deaf, dumb, blind?"

Judy Garland's part was a small one comparatively. She played one Irene Hoffman who had been imprisoned by the Germans because she had a relationship with a Jew. Her performance was so powerful she was nominated for an Academy Award after appearing on film for only 15 minutes! Marlene Deitritch plays the widow of a German officer who was hanged rather than shot.

I could go on and on about this film and the roles that were played. Every part was played superbly, the story was well written, the camera work, and on and on.

This is definitely a must see, if you haven't already. The performances are all brilliant, the real footage disturbing, the photography innovative.

After reviewing this movie I think it is best for me to end my Sixties war movies.

I'm sure you've seen one or maybe all of the movies herein, but you may have other favorites I haven't even listed. Please feel free to add them in the comments section or just tell me what you think of the movies in this hub or just what you think of this hub.

Movie END TITLE: The Nuremberg trials held in the American Zone ended July 14, 1949. There were 99 defendants sentenced to prison terms. Not one is still serving his sentence.

Some may find the video below disturbing and or offensive. It contains real footage as seen in the movie. Please know it is graphic. Also, please know this IS a part of the movie.

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved

Which of these three would you choose as the best?

See results

"Bringing you movies that are part of your memories."

Like what you've read? I've written about a lot of different topics with a focus on old movies and nature. If you want to see more of what I've written stop by my profile page.


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    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 19 months ago from New York

      Most definitely rjbatty. It is almost impossible to remember them all!

    • rjbatty profile image

      rjbatty 19 months ago from Irvine

      Can we consider "Doctor Strangelove" or "Fail Safe" to be war films?

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      I know what you mean RC, seems the 50s and 60s were ripe for war movies! Glad you stopped by and enjoyed.

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      All three you highlight are great films. I'm shocked to see "Zulu" listed here. I saw it at the theater when I was young and have bought copies in VHS, DVD & Blue Ray since. One of the overlooked all time great Michael Caine movies. Although historically inaccurate, I'm also a fan of the star studded "The Longest Day." There were so many great war movies in the 50's & 60's, it's hard to pick favorites! Tremendous listing!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      So many good movies Thomas but I wanted to keep it to three or the hub would go on an on. Yes, The Longest Day was a great one.

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image

      ThoughtSandwiches 5 years ago from Reno, Nevada


      Hahaha...I actually have The Dirty Dozen sitting in my DVD player (I should hit play). The Great Escape certainly belongs here but I forgot about Judgement at Nuremberg. I would also add The Longest Day ...truly epic that one!


    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks Cogerson. As soon as I finish here I'm going to read your hub. I know your hubs are always interesting and so well done. Thanks for reading mine and glad you enjoyed it. I certainly couldn't go wrong with those choices, at least that's what I figured. Thanks again.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

      I love the three movies you picked out of the list you presented at the beginning of the hub....although Zulu would also have been a great choice as well.

      Great Escape is a movie I can watch over and over....I still always hope James Garner and Donald Pleasance will make it when they get the plane in the air....but that damn plane never

      The Dirty Dozen is a fun movie to watch....I like Charles Bronson so I am glad he actually survives in the movie.

      And finally Judgement at Nuremberg..has so many great performances...and they get better with each viewing.

      Voted up and interesting and awesome.

      P.S. My latest hub is a World War II movie marathon hub....and I picked three of the movies on your list to be in that hub as well.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      I've seen them both Tirelesstraveler but maybe it's time to see them again in that order.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      My son watched "In Harms Way" and "Donavan's Reef" in Boot Camp (Christmas Day 2006) That was there treat. He gave them to his Dad for Christmas the year before. Always watch "In Harms Way" then "Donavan's Reef".

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks Nell. Yes, Nuremberg is a powerful film. Very, very emotional. Thanks for always reading!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Hi, the Great Escape is such a classic, and I loved the Dirty Dozen, I am a bit of a boy film fanatic! lol! I haven't seen the Nuremberg one, but it sounds like a powerful film, I love your interesting topics, and it makes me want to go back and watch them again, cheers nell

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Okay Effer, I knew there had to be at least one war movie you saw! Thanks for the compliments, you're making my head swell!!

      Tirelesstraveler, I think we all have at least one (as I told Effer) that we've seen and or remember.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      My mother loved the "Great Escape" Steve McQueen in solitaire made her giggle. It was one of the few movies I saw at the movie theater as a kid.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Well, Till...I'm a bit surprised this time. I actually did see Judgement at Nuremburg and The Dirty Dozen....not that I can recall much about either, but at least there really is a War movie or 2 I have sat through.

      I'm impressed at your research. You have a good knack for choosing topics that interest the masses.

      Then, to include your incredible writing style and talent.....look at you...hovering between 98 and 100!! Way to go GF!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      CMerritt I think basically all war movies are 'guy movies' but obviously some more than others ;0

      Thanks Levertis, the Great Escape was exactly that, great.

      Lord, how right you are. It truly makes one wonder what we should be doing to avoid the holocausts that are happening now!

      Billy, I know you're always there. Not sure I'm going to do a 70s. Time will tell.

      Jools I haven't met anyone yet who hasn't enjoyed The Great Escape, truly a classic in every sense of the word.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      Mary, I don't know how many times I have seen The Great Escape - it's usually on every Christmas in the UK but I never get sick of seeing it. I like movies which have an ensemble of actors and that movie has some amazing starts in it.

      Great hub, voted up!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, these three are some of the giants of the movie industry. Great choices and wonderful reviews. I love this series of hubs; keep them coming and I'll be here, your faithful follower.

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 5 years ago

      Seen two out of three back in the 70's. Being myself a History buff, I can only start crying for those children, because it felt like I was there next to them. We are starting to see those images right now in Syria, and have seen it with Sadam and Bin Laden. Sooner or later despotics regimens will fall. All they knew was that the third Reich will last over a thousand years... but of infamy! No one will ever forget this holocaust that started way before that morning of September 1, 1939.


    • Levertis Steele profile image

      Levertis Steele 5 years ago from Southern Clime

      I have seen most, if not all, of these 1960 movies, but I cannot remember them well enough to give many details. Your obvious work of putting this hub together is outstanding. I realLy enjoyed THE GREAT ESCAPE. It was one that kept me on my toes until the end.

    • CMerritt profile image

      Chris Merritt 5 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

      I too, have watched all three, and all are good. I went with "the great escape"....loved McQueen and I think James Garner is one of my all time favorites.

      The dirty dozen was pretty darn good though...a REAL GUY movie.

      Fun hub

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks Moonlake. Memorial Day got me started. I'm glad you found my war hubs and enjoyed. Steve McQueen was well named though maybe it should have been McKing as he was the king of every movie he was in.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks Steve. Funny how some things are more popular here than there and vice versa. Always good to have your opinion and you are most welcome for the link!

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

      Good work Mary, a lot of great war movies were released during the 60's, The Great Escape is a huge favourite of mine as you may know (thanks for the link). I'm glad you added Judgement at Nuremberg, an important film that must have shocked many who knew very little about the Holocaust at that time.

      Btw an important war movie missing from your list - Battle of Britain - another big favourite of mine, wasn't successful in the States but it was the no.1 film of 1969 here in Britain. :)

      Voted Up and Interesting.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      Have seen all of them. I loved Steve McQueen in anything he was in. I missed your war movie hubs just noticed them today. Great job and lots of work put into them. Voted up and shared.