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The 25 Greatest War Movies Of All Time

Updated on August 17, 2011

War Is Hell

The history of mankind has forever been shaped by warfare. Even in today's modern and "civilised" world, there are still numerous conflicts being fought out across the globe.

War movies have advanced from flag waving patriotic jingoism to gritty front line realism.

This is my list of the 25 greatest war movies of all time, not all of them are battle heavy flicks, some deal with the consequences and aftermath of war.

All of them undoubtly serve an important purpose, these movies do not trivialise or lessen the impact of warfare, they act as a tribute to all the men, women and children who have lost their life's on far flung battlefields and in their own backyards.

Lest we forget.

25 The Tin Drum (1979)

A savage, sweeping epic of society in chaos.

Director:Volker Schlondorff

Starring:Mario Adorf, Angela Winkler, Heinz Bennent, David Bennett

Based on one of the most important fiction works of the 20th Century, the Tin Drum follows the fortunes of Oskar Matzerath a gifted introvert who on his 3rd birthday (after receiving a tin drum as a present) decides to stop growing and refuses to join the adult society that he holds in contempt.

Matzerath lives through one of the most turbulent periods of European history as he sees the rise of the Nazi regime, the fall of Danzig to the German Army,the Second World War and the fall again of Danzig this time to the Russians.

Oskar falls in love and discovers the heartbreak of the sudden death of his mother, all the while he continues to play his Tin Drum.

Although the movie only covers around two thirds of the books content, it is as mesmerising and as surreal as the novel.

David Bennent is extraordinary as young Oskar literally playing him from birth until his early twenties, he makes him a rather unsympathetic character undeserving of love but he also portrays him as an intelligent and manipulative child who contrives (knowingly or not) to cause the death of those close to him.

The Tin Drum is an infamous (for all the wrong reasons) movie that fails to follow any formula and scene after scene become unforgettable and slightly disturbing. The novel could (quite rightly) be described as unfilmable but the director refuses to accept this and attacks the editing and cinematography with gusto and cajoles a sustained enthusiasm from the actors(special credit must go to Angela Winkler as Oskars mother).

The Tin Drum is a true cinematic masterpiece and one of the finest German films of all time. It is movie that deals with the rise of Nazism and the failings of the German (and European) people to see the unimaginable horrors that where happening at this time in history and portrays this through the eyes of a fantastical child.

The Tin Drum on Amazon

24 Aces High (1976)

How many for breakfast? Any of them?

Director:Jack Gold

Starring:Malcolm McDowell, John Gielgud, Simon Ward, Christopher Plummer, Peter Firth, Trevor Howard, Ray Milland, Richard Johnson

Underrated drama about the fledgling Royal Flying Corps during the First World War and the members of the British Upper class who piloted the planes.

Taken at face value, Aces High is a historically correct War film, which benefits greatly from excellent aerial sequences and a top class cast. It is also an emotional and moving character study, which delves deep into the psychosis of the young men whose life expectancy was even lower than the foot soldiers who fought in the trenches.

Excellent movie that looks at a different side of conflict in the Great War.

Aces High on Amazon

23 Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

For our homeland. Until the very last man. Our duty is to stop the enemy right here. Do not expect to return home alive.

Director:Clint Eastwood

Starring:Ken Watanabe

In 2006, iconic actor and director Clint Eastwood released two movies dealing with the World War 2 Battle of Iwo Jima. Flags of our Fathers dealt with the American marines who raised the American flag in the legendary photograph taken at the time.

Letters from Iwo Jima explored the battle from the Japanese perspective and is a far more personal and intimate movie.

In examining the hardship and unbearable conditions endured by soldiers facing in surmounting odds, LFIJ humanizes the combatants without being over sentimental.

Fresher and more focused than Flags, this is a movie that portrays the horrors of war using superb and assured cinematography and turns an emotionally charged war movie into a near classic.

Letters From Iwo Jima on Amazon

22 Salvador (1986)

You gotta get close to get the truth. You get too close, you die.

Director:Oliver Stone

Starring:James Woods, James Belushi, John Savage, Michael Murphy, Elpidia Carrillo, Tony Plana, Valerie Wildman

Long before Oliver Stone became obsessed with American Presidents, he made superb highly politically charged war Movies.

Salvador at first glance merely looks like a prototype for his Oscar winning Vietnam movie, Platoon (1987) but on second viewing, this raw and compelling movie more than holds its own.

Inevitably critical Of U.S involvement, Salvador has enough exploit and incident to satisfy even the most die hard action fan but it is in chronicling the chaotic turmoil in El Salvador at that time that Stone ultimately succeeds.

James Woods gives the performance of a lifetime and gives his character an incredible resonance, which eventually defines the movie and the message it is attempting to purvey.

21 Sophie Scholl:The Final Days(2005)

The sun is still shining!

Director:Marc Rothemund

Starring:Julia Jentsch, Alexander Held, Fabian Hinrichs, Johanna Gastdorf, Andre Hennicke.

This movie is a historical recreation of the last days of Sophie Scholl, a member of a non violent German resistance movement during the Second World War.

After the German army suffered heavy losses at the battle of Stalingrad, a small number of University students appalled with the stories of Nazi atrocities that were filtering through to them set up an anti war group called the White Rose.

In and around Munich University, a campaign is Spearheaded by the students as they organise leaflet handouts and daub graffiti over government buildings attacking Hitler and his policies.

After a leaflet drop in the main square of the University, Sophie and her brother Hans are spotted by the janitor and are subsequently arrested by the Gestapo.

After a period of interrogation and cross examining, Sophie, Hans and their friend Christoph Probst are charged with high treason, troop demoralization and aiding the enemy.

They are sentenced to death and are executed by guillotine only six days after their arrest.

German Cinema continues to reach deep into its soul in examining and questioning the actions of the Nazis during the second World War.

Following on from the utterly stunning "Downfall", Sophie Scholl offers a realistic and convincing backdrop of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances anchored by a truly unforgettable performance by Julia Jentish (bearing a remarkable resemblance to the American Actress Claire Danes) as Sophie.

As the opening scenes play out like a first rate espionage romp, the movie soon turns into a courtroom thriller and Jentish finds the perfect pitch along with the rest of the cast.

Alexander Held as Sophie's interrogating officer who is subtlety forced to re-examine his beliefs has the other standout performance.

The director Marc Rothemund meticulously recreates the era working from long buried historical records, many of the protagonists are depicted as flawed individuals and only the President of the peoples Court, Roland Freisler comes across as a stereotypical fanatical Nazi . This is a straightforward tale of heroism and bravery, there are no fancy camera angles or gimmicky editing and the audience are subjected to a matter of fact re-telling from one of the darkest periods of modern history.

Many stand out scenes include Sophie's last meeting with her parents before her execution and the actual executions which are carried out as the viewer sees a blank screen, but it is the courtroom scenes which have the most impact as we watch a powerful and evil regime ( represented by Freisler) challenged by 2 young students.

Sophie Scholl is not a familiar name in Britain but it is hard to overestimate the regard she has in Germany. A recent magazine in Germany with a readership of 4 million voted her "the most important women of the 2oth century and young viewers of a German TV channel voted her "the most important German of all time".

This is a film people need to see, it has a far greater impact due to the fact it is actually German rather than an American or British production.

As a movie, Sophie Scholl offers a lasting tribute and makes a statement relevant to today's society, as people all over the world have much greater freedom of speech, we must never forget the reasons we are in that position.

Sophie Scholl:The Final Days on Amazon

20 Platoon (1986)

"The first casualty of war is innocence"

Director:Oliver Stone

Starring:Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Francesco Quinn, Forest Whitaker, John McGinley, Richard Edson, Kevin Dillon, Keith David, Johnny Depp.

A very important film both in terms of the portrayal of young American soldiers in the Vietnam War and a country's begrudging acceptance of its part in the conflict.

Platoon is an extremely realistic movie and pulls no punches in its depiction of jungle warfare.

The viewers are plunged headfirst into the chaos and destruction and like its main protagonist (as played by Charlie Sheen); you are forced to make decisions.

Based on Oliver Stones own combat experience, Platoon lacks much of the directors sermonizing he utilises in later films and instead focuses on the inhuman and horrific events encountered by men on the edge of madness.

Intense, visceral and compelling, Platoon remains one of the best combat movies ever.

Platoon on Amazon

19 Coming Home (1978)

Have killed for my country, or whatever, and I don't feel good about it. Coz there's not enough reason, man, to feel a person die in your hands, or to see your best buddy get blown away.

Director:Hal Ashby

Starring:Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, Bruce Dern

Strongly connected to The Deer Hunter in more ways than one, Coming Home is an unconvenitional love story set against the background of the Vietnam War and the effect on American soldiers back from the battleground.

Creating some controversy in the casting of Jane Fonda who years earlier had happily posed with the North Vietnamese earning herself the nickname "Hanoi Jane" and Jon Voight who at the time had strong political views, Coming Home is never the less a highly thoughtful and moving movie.

More upbeat and sincere than the Deer Hunter, both movies vied for the Best Picture Oscar with the Deer Hunter coming out on top.

With the Vietnam War still an open wound in the states and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq still at the forefront of the news, Coming Home and The Deer Hunter still have an extraordinary amount of relevance 30 years on.

Coming Home on Amazon

18 Cross Of Iron (1977)

What will we do when we have lost the war?

Director:Sam Peckinpah

Starring:James Coburn, James Mason, David Warner, Senta Berger, Maximilian Schell

Director Sam Peckinpah was undoubtedly a flawed genius, his life blighted by serious alcohol and drug abuse, he nevertheless made a number of classic movies.

His Revisionist approach to the Western genre, the Wild Bunch had led him to true iconic status and Cross Of Iron (apologies to any Convoy fans) was his last great film.

Surviving an almost compulsory troubled production, Cross of Iron has many of Peckinpahs trademark touches, his slow motion action scenes and violent montages a standout.

James Coburn (in possibly his finest ever performance) commands respect and the absurdity and futility of war has never been bettered on screen.

Dynamic, angry and sometimes even surreal, Cross Of Iron quite comfortably holds its own on any list of greatest ever War films.

17 The Bridge on The River Kwai (1957)

Do not speak to me of rules. This is war! This is not a game of cricket!

Director:David Lean

Starring:Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Geoffrey Horne, Andre Morrell, Sessue Hayakawa, James Donald, Percy Herbert.

An undeniable classic that as the years roll by seems to get better and better.

As much a movie about pride, conflict and integrity than it is warfare, Bridge on the River Kwai portrays a remarkable battle of wills between strong richly defined characters, yet the pace and structure never flags and is relentlessly gripping.

Outstanding performances, lush Cinematography and the instantly recognisable Colonel Bogey march make this a constantly rewarding experience at every viewing.

Bridge On The River Kwai on Amazon

16 A Bridge Too Far (1977)

What's the best way to take a bridge?

Director:Richard Attenborough

Starring:Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Edward Fox, Elliott Gould, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Hardy Kruger, Laurence Olivier.

Epic and monumental war movie about the allies failed attempt (in World War 2) to break through German lines in occupied Holland and take several bridges (operationally known as Market Garden).

Unfairly rounded on by critics on release, ABTF is without a doubt an amazing film starring a relative who’s who of American and British talent. Many memorable and outstanding scenes are immaculately acted out in this historically accurate movie.

A considerably mammoth effort by director Richard Attenborough and his efforts have created a stimulatingly magnificent film.

A Bridge Too Far on Amazon

15 The Dirty Dozen (1967)

Train them! Excite them! Arm them!...Then turn them loose on the Nazis!

Director:Robert Aldrich

Starring:Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel, Ralph Meeker, Robert Ryan, Clint Walker, Trini Lopez

The ultimate "men on a mission" war movie, the Dirty Dozen is a brutal and action packed humdinger of a blockbuster.

An almost legendary cast of Hollywood hard men (some of whom had actually fought in the war) have a blast as the murderers, rapists and psychopaths sent on a suicide mission behind German lines.

Knocking all conformities into a hat, the Dirty Dozen betrays the heroics portrayed in earlier made American movies and introduces us to U.S soldiers as Ruthless and vicious as their German counterparts.

Violent, cynical and anti establishment to be sure but also immensely energetic, bold and incredibly entertaining.

The Dirty Dozen on Amazon

14 Where Eagles Dare (1968)

One weekend Major Smith, Lieutenant Schaffer and a beautiful blonde named Mary decided to win World War II.

Director:Brian G Hutton

Starring:Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Patrick Wymark, Mary Ure, Michael Hordern, Robert Beatty, Donald Houston, Peter Barkworth

Although it is preposterous and far fetched to the extreme, Where Eagles Dare is also one of the most entertaining war movies ever.

Jam packed with Nazis, explosions, double crosses, triple crosses, fights atop cable cars and even more explosions, this is a move rich in escapism and unlimited energy.

The casting gods were also working overtime in teaming up Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood and obtaining a splendid international ensemble as supporting players.

An extremely well crafted boys own adventure that has become an undisputed classic genre film.

13 Downfall (2005)

In a war as such there are no civilians.

Director:Oliver Hirschbiegel

Starring:Bruno Ganz, Corinna Harfouch, Ulrich Matthes

The final days Of Nazi Germany and its maniacal leader Adolf Hitler are stunningly told in this unforgettable movie.

Even 60 years on from events, there is still a lot of sensitivity regarding the portrayal of Hitler in German cinema and this film earns its fair share of controversy.

Blending matter of fact, almost banal everyday occurrences with disturbing and shocking images, Downfall creates a claustrophobic induced aura that hooks the viewer in.

Neither condemning nor (heaven forbid) glorifying Hitler, this is a movie, which tells a story about the end of one of modern history's darkest hours. It also offers a bleak and chilling reminder of the destructiveness and chaos of human life.

Downfall on Amazon

12 The Longest Day (1962)

A landing at Normandy would be against military logic. It would be against ALL logic.

Director:Bernhard Wicki

Starring:John Wayne, Richard Burton, Henry Fonda, Robert Ryan, Sean Connery, John Gregson, Rod Steiger, Mel Ferrer.

My abiding memory of The Longest Day will forever be Red Buttons as paratrooper Pvt John Steele hanging from a church steeple helpless and terrified as his colleagues are shot down around him. This is predominantly the reason for this movies considerable success, the blending of personal individual stories and mammoth battle scenes featuring (literally) a cast of thousands.

A labor of love for producer Darryl F. Zanuck who rolled the red carpet out for an astonishing cast of international stars of which John Wayne is the standout.

Impressive, epic and richly detailed, the Longest day remains a stunningly observed acheivement.

11 Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)

I pray that I may never see the desert again. Hear me, God.

Director:David Lean

Starring:Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Alec Guinness, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Arthur Kennedy, Claude Rains.

Incredibly handsome and sweeping production of the life of T.E Lawrence, a British Military Officer involved in the Arab Revolt in 1916-18.

A movie that has defined the word "Epic" and which continues to influence filmmakers nearly half a century on.

Although stunningly shot with almost serene cinematography, the film still hinges on an amazing and assured performance from Peter O Toole.

A grandiose and mesmerising achievement that is at home in the monumental battle scenes as it is in examining a historical legend and his many personal conflicts.

10 Das Boot (1981)

You have to have good men. Good men, all of them.

Director:Wolfgang Petersen

Starring:Jurgen Prochnow, Herbert Gronemeyer.

Powerful and extremely gripping portrayal of life aboard a German U-Boat in 1942 during the Battle of the Atlantic. Claustrophobic and panic inducing, Das Boot is a remarkable achievement and the finest Submarine war film ever.

Capturing all the horror and fear faced by ordinary man entrapped in what is basically an "iron coffin"; this movie takes the viewer on an unrelenting trip to the edge of insanity.

One of the finest German movies ever made, Das Boot is a worthy testament to the skills of director Wolfgang Peterson and as realistic a war movie as your ever likely to see.

9 Paths Of Glory (1957)

The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Director:Stanley Kubrick

Starring:Kirk Douglas, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris, Richard Anderson, Ralph Meeker, Timothy Carey.

Although it failed at the Box Office due to its controversial stance on French Military blunders that occurred during the First World War (it was also not shown in France until 1975), Paths of Glory is one of the most powerful and compelling films about the futility of war ever made.

Director Stanley Kubrick uses impeccable technique as he carefully structures the story.

Quite rightly regarded as his first masterpiece, Paths of Glory isn't quite trademark Kubrick and has more sentimental and inspiring moments than his later efforts.

Exploring a theme of anti authoritarianisim that he would revisit in later films, Kubrick with the help of an excellent cast delivers an outstanding and quintessential anti war movie.

Paths Of Glory on Amazon

8 The Deer Hunter (1978)

A deer has to be taken with one shot. I try to tell people that but they don't listen.

Director:Michael Cimino

Starring:Robert De Niro, John Cazale, John Savage, Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken.

A movie which over the years has withstood some criticism and controversy.

Hardly liked by Vietnam Veterans and deemed by some to be racist, the Deer Hunter is nevertheless a powerful and harrowing experience.

More about male friendship than the horrors of battle, this is a film that concentrates on the effects and aftermath of going to war.

Emotionally potent, at times devastatingly so, the Deer Hunter is a compelling study of insanity, intolerance and grief.

Stunningly directed with powerhouse performances from De Niro, Walken and Streep, the Deer Hunter may not be the most accurate depiction of combat ever, but it would be difficult not to put it on anyone's list of the best War movies of all time.

The Deer Hunter on Amazon

7 Apocalypse Now (1979)

We must kill them. We must incinerate them. Pig after pig. Cow after cow. Village after village. Army after army.

Director:Francis Ford Coppola

Starring:Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Dennis Hopper.

For a movie with an extremely troubled production, it would be very difficult to dispute Apocalypse Nows legendary status.

A mind blowing serious acid trip of a movie, Apocalypse is an ugly and surreal venture into the darkest realms of war as Vietnam is merely a backdrop for the madness and the feeling of confusion and bewilderment.

A sprawling epic that is spectacular in its vision and resolute in its subtle condemnation of the war.

A stonewall classic, Apocalypse Now lives with you long after the event.

6 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

War starts at midnight!

Director:Emeric Pressburger

Starring:Anton Walbrook, Deborah Kerr, Roger Livesey, John Laurie, A E Matthews, Roland Culver, Valentine Dyall, Albert Lieven, Ursula Jeans.

The Second World war and Boer war veteran Major Clive Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey) finds himself in charge of a home guard unit under attack from a young ambitious lieutenant.

Wynne-Candy,now a rotund and seemingly blustery old duffer is outraged when the Lieutenant and his troops invade his London Club breaking all the rules of fair warfare.

The two men argue then wrestle each other and end up falling into a swimming pool. As Wynne Candy emerges from the pool he has now become a young man and his life in the military is told in a series of flashbacks.

Audacious and simply brilliant, Blimp is years ahead of its time in its structure and sentiments.

Although this is far from been an anti-war movie, it certainly isn't a drum beating, flag waving slice of propaganda.

Made at the height of the Second World War, Colonel Blimp is more of an attack on the British military system and its rather staid institutionalism's. Winston Churchill disliked the movie and made moves to get it banned because of the appearance of a sympathetic German although many historians note the resemblance between Blimp and Churchill himself.

Made in 1943, Blimp is now rightly considered a masterpiece of British Cinema, the acting is exemplary, Roger Livesey gives the performance of his life and Deborah Kerr is simply mesmerising.

A considerable legacy of Powell and Pressburger films, the colour cinematography leaves the viewer in awe and introduced the legendary Jack Cardiff as one of the camera operators.

Blimp is a lovely, sad romantic (and at times, very funny) movie that leaves more questions than answers, its complex and bold narrative is startling and is a triumph of deft editing. The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp is one of the finest war movies ever, one of the best British movies of all time and quite possibly a contender for one of the best movies of all time.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp on Amazon

5 Come and See(1985)

and I heard one of the four living creatures saying, as with a voice of thunder, "Come and see!"

Director:Elem Klimov

Starring:Alexei Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Liubomiras Lauciavicius

Come and See takes its title from an oft-repeated line in the Book Of Revelation and relates to the oncoming apocalypse.

The movie deals with Germanys occupation of Byelorussia (Belarus) during the Second World War and the devastating loss of life inflicted by Hitler's SS.

Other realistic war films almost pale into insignificance when compared with Come and See.

It has a raw brutality that is unflinching and emotionally draining.

Lead actor Aleksei Kravchenkos performance is mesmerising and vivid and the atrocities depicted in the movie are gruesome, unrelenting and disturbing even when some scenes become surreal and intimate.

Propaganda of the highest level (made at the height of the Cold war) but incredibly effective all the same.

Director Elem Klimov (who died in 2003) never made another film after Come and See. In 2000 he said "I lost interest in making films ... Everything that was possible I felt I had already done", his undoubted legacy is one of the finest war films of all time.

Come and See on Amazon

4 The Great Escape (1963)

It is the sworn duty of all officers to try to escape

Director:John Sturges

Starring:Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Coburn, Donald Pleasence, James Donald.

Forever one of the Great War Movies, The Great Escape refrains from all preaching and any political undertones. It is on any terms pure escapism.

Boasting an unbelievably good cast, a brilliantly written screenplay and an unforgettable score (as England Football fans will testify) this is a movie that redefines "cool". Surprisingly accurate to the true story (although obviously a few liberties were taken), the Great Escape never fails to astound and entertain however many times you watch it.

Successfully blending Humor, tension and great drama, the Great Escape is ultimately tragic but its overall effect is uplifting and enticing.

3 Schindler's List (1993)

Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.

Director:Steven Spielberg

Starring:Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Embeth Davidtz, Ben Kingsley.

First-rate movie about the true story of Oskar Schindler, a Nazi Industrialist who saved hundreds of Jews from the Death Camps.

Undoubtedly a personal project for director Steven Spielberg, Schindlers list is a powerful and harrowing film, which uses stark black and white cinematography to immense effect.

Electrifying performances from all concerned help to create a haunting and fear-laden atmosphere, which is heart rending in its scope.

It is sad to reflect that towards the end of the 20th century, ethnic cleansing would once again make the news after the horrors in the former Yugoslavia were disclosed.

There are many reasons to watch Schindlers List but forefront is its aim to dispel any Holocaust ignorance that still exists and help to prevent any such occurrence of events ever happening again.

Schindlers list, although tragic and disturbing also offers hope and salvation

2 Zulu (1964)

A prayer's as good as a bayonet on a day like this.

Director:Cyril Endfield

Starring:Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobbson, James Booth, Michael Caine, Nigel Green.

An incredible recreation of an incredible battle, Zulu's main attribute is the fact that most of the story is completely true.

Rorkes Drift was a small British mission post which was held by less than 150 soldiers against overwhelming numbers of Zulus in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.

It also holds the record for the largest number of Victoria Crosses ever given to a regiment for a single action.

Taken in context, Zulu could be construed as highly politically incorrect, its leanings towards the British Empire and the madness of Colonialism are not in doubt but what makes this film so rich and powerful are its almost constant battle scenes and the stylish and classic study of heroism and fortitude.

Michael Caine and (the vastly underrated) Stanley Baker are splendidly British and the supporting cast of familiar faces compliment each other to perfection.

A bona fide legend that continues to stand toe to toe with the very best war movies of all time.

Zulu on Amazon

1 Saving Private Ryan (1998)

You want to explain the math of this to me? I mean, where's the sense in risking the lives of the eight of us to save one guy?

Director:Steven Spielberg

Starring:Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Matt Damon, Ted Danson, Vin Diesel.

Sometimes, a number of critics miss the point when reviewing movies. this film has a number of historical inaccuracies and yes, its also a slightly clichéd "American won the war single handily" type of film but casting aside any criticisms, Saving Private Ryan is quite comfortably the finest war movie ever made.

Plunging the viewer headfirst into an opening combat sequence that is almost certainly the most searing and intense ever committed to celluloid, SPR pulls no punches and redefines the future of war movies.

Blazing action makes way for philosophy and an emotional commentary which explores the decency and righteousness that sometimes leads man to war.

SPR hardly puts a foot wrong and with an exemplary cast (Tom Hanks on incredible form), a spot on soundtrack and grainy cinematography second to none, SPR is an accomplished and terrifyingly realistic masterpiece.

Mentioned in despatches

The also rans and the ever so near

The Hill (1965)

Red Badge Of Courage (1951)

Guns Of Navarone (1961)

Reach For The Sky (1956)

The Cruel Sea (1953)

Born On The Fourth Of July (1989)

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    • profile image

      Hatchet Madness 2 years ago

      Great Movies but I would prefer to watch Band of Brothers the tv series. It is an excellent war series and I've watched it over and over again. war is hell.

    • imagelist lm profile image

      imagelist lm 4 years ago

      Nice lens...

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Great List. I might have added some other movies like "No man's land" (by Danis Tanovic) too. But thank you so much for writing this article

    • gideon43 profile image
      Author

      gideon43 4 years ago

      @Eric Mayo: I love the Battle Of the Bulge. It was one of the first war movies I ever saw with my dad and have a soft spot for it. Great great cast.

    • Eric Mayo profile image

      Eric Mayo 4 years ago

      One of my absolute favorites is "The battle of the Bulge." The panzer officers singing "Panzerlied" waz great. Great lens.

    • gideon43 profile image
      Author

      gideon43 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Yea.I like it. Great film.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Where is 'Waterloo?' Christopher Plummer as Wellington and Rod Steiger as Napoleon. Soon to be re-enacted again in 2015 - 1815. It was made in 1970 fantastic battle scenes, great cast and a beacon shining out against all the usual WW2 and Vietnam war films.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thanx. a most interesting list including some of my favorites like Zulu. There are a couple new films around which can be added to an extended list,,,,

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      where is the thin red line?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Where is "The Cruel Sea"? A must-see classic war movie!

    • choosehappy profile image

      Vikki 5 years ago from US

      I hadn't heard of a couple of these; I'll have to check them out. Great list though!

    • profile image

      les777 5 years ago

      Great lens. Some films I've never heard of but am going to check them out further. Well thought out.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Guns of Navarrone might be one of the 25.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Crap list to be honest what about Midway, kelly,s heroes, Glory, Full Metal Jacket,

      Black Hawk Down, Braveheart, Gettysburg these are off the top of my head but im pretty sure there is more that deserve to be in this list then some that is mentioned

    • profile image

      ravedid 5 years ago

      Great war movie list Well thought out lens appreciated Thank You

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Where's hamburger hill or we were solidiers there all amazing films especially windtalkers and 39th battalion come on you gotta have em all!!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      what about enemy at the gate....that's a great movie

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: black hawk down thin red line we were soldiiers inglorious basterds full metal fuckig jacket

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      HOW about THin RED LINE... GREAT MOVIE

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great war movies in this list but, I must agree with SunshineDaydream, not to include "Full Metal Jacket" in the list?!?!? Come on....

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Saving Private Ryan generates a lot of response, If it is a film that is realistic i would include Saving Private Ryan, If it was about being unrealistic i would include Saving Private Ryan after the half hour mark. Maybe a selection that includes most realistic and a selection about most entertaining would better cover things.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I agree that the opening of Saving Private Ryan is about the best 30 mins in war cinema but what followed was garbage, The film The Great Escape has no real connection to history but i thought the other selections were a good take on the best films, I would have had the Cruel Sea in the top 25 but can understand all the other selections as being reasonable.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Really?! We Were Soldiers is not even listed? No Full Metal Jacket, but you list Platoon?! Crap ass list.

    • chuckholmes301 profile image

      chuckholmes301 5 years ago

      Great movies on your list. Many of these I haven't watched yet, so I will be sure to check them out. Thanks for sharing.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Are you guys not missing out on Black Hawk Down?

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      anonymous 6 years ago

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      i agree with saving private ryan but i also think that platoon kinda got the short end of the stick. maybe top 10

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      great lens, don't see many of these so I applaud you for writing it. Gave your lens a 'thumbs up' too!

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Where the heck is Glory? (1989)

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Full Metal Jacket is missing and Apocalypse Now should be first.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      wheres full metal jacket?

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: jerry saving private ryan was an emotional film and it is very realistic according the the old war veterans because the film was shown to them first and you probably thought the start took so long because you were trying to watch it on some dodgy website

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: *read a book* you fairly got owned there you can learn a lot from *none* you know like just when not to be a cocky little s***

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: If that' true, why shouldn't he have traded with Germany before world war 2? No reason not to at that time unless of course your of the opinion that he should have been able to see the future? Many countries traded with Germany before world war 2.

      Despite the fact that you are exaggerating a fair bit about the similarities between Nazis and Republicans it doesn't matter. Opinions, views, goals, interests or whatever that are similar to the Nazi Party are fine. You see there's this little thing called freedom here in the states. It allows people to hold whatever views they want. Heck I don't agree with half the Republican's opinions but it doesn't mean I don't respect their right to them.

      It seems your the one getting your views from popular opinion here with your "Americans are all ignorant Fascists!" post. Perhaps its you that should expand your horizons, take your own advice, and do a little independent research yourself instead of pretending you've formed your own independent opinion and not regurgitated something that's been thrown around for years.

    • BryanLSC profile image

      BryanLSC 6 years ago

      I haven't seen most of them but I like the fact that Saving Private Ryan is top of the list! :)

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: "If you don't shed a tear, your not an American" Bah !, you dam yanks. You most likely are not even aware the GW Bush's grandfather Presscott Bush sold metals to the germans piror two WW2. I assume your also unaware of the Republicians simlar intrests to the Nazi party piror to WW2 - try reading a histroy book instead of getting your veiws from TV or movies

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      If you don't shed a tear at the end of Saving Private Ryan ,your not an American

    • filmic profile image

      filmic 6 years ago

      Very Good Lens. My general rule with a War movie is this: Funded in some part by the Military = BAD FILM. This DOES apply to Saving Private Ryan. There may be some exceptions but I don't think Kubrick ever got funding. I know Apocalypse Now didn't. (hence 1 and 2 in my book. Some on your list I'd like to see though.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Defiance was a good movie, I think it could have landed in the top 15. Other than that, these were all great picks of really good movies.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      what about.. we were soldiers, windtalker, kakoda

    • SlipAwayDesigns profile image

      SlipAwayDesigns 6 years ago

      I agree with "Saving Private Ryan" as number 1, but "Platoon" is way better than #20, and for me "Apocolypse Now" is def. number 2! Cool Lens!

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      Pierre Pine 6 years ago

      Great list, well put together. The only omission I could think of that I would have included was "Force 10 From Navarone."

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: you didn't watch saving prvt Ryan all the way did you it has quite a bit of emotion [and to tell the truth i didn't even know that tom hanks was in it till about halfway through] your probably agenst it because it is considered the best by a lot of people maby its not THE best but it certainly deserves a top 5 on any war movie list.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      and what about Empire of the Sun????

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      gideon43 6 years ago

      @fleur-de-lis: A little bit unfair fleur-de-lis as I am not that young (45). Not sure "The Tin Drum", Sophie Scholl and "Come and See" would be considered mainstream and there is 2 movies on the list from the 50s, Paths of Glory and The Bridge on the River Kwai.

      And yes this is the 25 Greatest War Movies of all time in my humble opinion.

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      fleur-de-lis 6 years ago

      Your favorites VS all time best, are very different things. I feel like you are young and/or stick to watching very mainstream fair, which is fine, but not for making all time, lists. Do you know what I mean?

      Did you consider or have you even seen any movies from the 50 decades from which you have no movies on your list?

      Not that you do not have some great movies listed.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      A list of this kind relies mainly on taste. And in that sense, any list would be perfect for some and wrong for others... Talking about 20th century wars, I think "Full Metal Jacket" and "MASH" ought to be there in very high positions. Also, "Les Unes et Les Autres", "La Vita e Bella" and "Auvoir Les Enfants".

    • gideon43 profile image
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      gideon43 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Jerry, You need to chill out a bit. If you took the time to read the full list you might have noticed Platoon in at 20. Since when does a war movie have to be Psycological?.

      If you can`t be bothered to do a list then its hardly fair to slag someone elses off.

      How is Saving Private Ryan a propaganda film. The Second World War finished 65 years ago. Not sure the Germans were too concerned about everyone declaring war on them after seeing SPR.

      I have never fought in warfare or been a member of the armed forces so I have no knowledge of the realisim in any of these films but at the end of the day they are only movies after all and I think the majority of the these films go some way to honouring the brave men and women who have either served their country or lived through terrible times .

      Thanks for your comment.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      This list is kind of dumb. I don't think you really understand what a war movie is if your rating Saving Private Ryan at number 1 and Apocalypse Now all the way down at 7. The three best war movies of all time are Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket and Platoon all due them being about psychology of war as well as the battles. Saving Private Ryan is nothing but battles with no emotional plot or meaning behind any of it. It doesn't even need to be set in a war, it could be Tom Hanks climbing a mountain to slay a dragon with magic and it could have the exact same meaning behind it. Also you describe how Saving Private Ryan opens with men in war, well watch Full Metal Jacket, it shows a much more accurate anticipation of war and how tiring it really is. Saving Private Ryan is not a bad movie by hollywood standards, but it's a fantasy like Harry Potter. Saving Private Ryan is NOT a good war movie. I'm not going to be bothered to a more accurate list since I believe its subjective what movie is the best but no way in hell can you preach that God awful piece of shit propaganda film Saving Private Ryan worthy of the best war film ever made. Once again the fact you left off Full Metal Jacket and Platoon prove that you have no idea what your talking about... that's okay if you don't know but please don't make a list like this and write as if you do

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great list...there's quite a few that I've not seen...I'll look forward to these in the future...Mr Robert's would certainly be on my list; I also enjoyed Von Ryan's Express; We Were Soldiers...and on the lighter side, Kelly's Heroes ("...not now we got the game on!..."); Operation Petticoat ("In confusion there's profit") and Victory.

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      chrisqw 6 years ago

      This is a great list with some superb movies. i just love The Great Escape.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      uh ? What about Patton ? The actual greatest war movie of all time, I loved where eagles dare as well, Richard Burton is Fantastic in that movie, an underrated performance of his.Kelley's Heroes was always a fun anti war WWII film as well.

    • zlipztream profile image

      zlipztream 6 years ago

      Great list you got here. Kinda surprised that Saving Private Ryan is at the top of the list. Also, I think Mel Gibson's We Were Soldiers somehow deserves a spot here (26th spot, perhaps?)

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      i do have to agree, Saving Private Ryan was a very great picture. Tom Hanks was a great surprise in his role.

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      italianizeyours 7 years ago

      I really liked Saving Private Ryan. It's kind of surprising that Vin Diesel is in it, and there aren't sporty Hondas being raced down city streets. I love the list.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great post. Generic Viagra The most of the people could do the best try to come across to learn more about that. And yeah dude, I'm agree the war sucks!

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Saving Private Ryan?

      You're kidding me. An awful film that didn't live up to the first ten minutes, with a plot that seems to devolve into 'it's okay to shoot prisoners, as long as their 'bad' prisoners'.

      Nowhere near the seminal 'Stalingrad' by Joseph Vilsmaier (which fails to make your list). SVP is an odious piece of jingoism and US particularism, and the final scene devolves into a rather sad deus ex machina. At least you didn't mention Black Hawk Down.

      That said, I fully concur with nearly all your other choices, and the much maligned Cross of Iron and Aces High (also politically dubious) is good to see being recognised to the good films they are.

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      Top drawer again Steve! Man, I don't have the time at the mo' for the movies I need to see, you give a good recommendation - i can vouch for that, so I now have a large wad of cinema added to my 'to view' list. The Great Escape, Schindler's List and The Deer Hunter are my current must watch in this genre countdown, but I need to ask where you stand on 'The Hill' and 'The Wooden Horse'? And where is Escape to Victory!!!!? - a guilty pleasure for any self-respecting footie fan? Final question - 'Triumph of the Will', an incredible insight into the Second World War and the culture of Nazi Germany, does that count as a war film??? Nice one my friend!

    • nickupton lm profile image

      nickupton lm 8 years ago

      Some great movies here. Lensrolled to my war movie lenses.