War is never pretty nor should it be ever be glorified or praised. Going into conflict is hardly presented in such a way that it should scare the audience into seeing the horrors of combat, but these five films do just that. War is something that no one should have to go through nor is it something that I would want to wish anyone have to incur. These five films are essential to understand what war really is and remind us over and over again that war is never the answer to solve the problems of the world. Let’s look at these films and remember them for their truth in showcasing the horrific nature of combat.
While fictional in terms of its story, Oliver Stone’s Vietnam epic draws on what he experienced as a soldier during that conflict and the result is an unforgettable piece of work. Drawing on powerful acting from its cast, Platoon captures the war in Vietnam as sheer hell and dives deep into the actions of the soldiers who had to endure the harsh conditions of the jungle. Anchored by unforgettable moments, shocking and realistic scenes of combat and a powerful opening that features grim imagery combined with Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings playing as an overture, and you have the essential Vietnam movie that packs one strong punch. It’s the best of Oliver Stone’s Vietnam trilogy and even thirty years later, Platoon is as magnificent as ever.
We rarely get movies that talk about the Civil War and Glory is the best of the best. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw led the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the first all-black regiment in the Union Army and we get to see them in action on the battlefield. We are introduced to these soldiers when they were just regular civilians and we see them become the brave soldiers who risked their lives in the fight for freedom. While some of the soldiers are fictional, the acting in the movie is stellar, especially from Denzel Washington. The battle scenes are depicted with brutal realism and seeing the men march toward Fort Wagner is a highlight of the movie that no one forgets. Edward Zwick’s direction makes this movie one of the finest of his career and Glory is even better when it gives us black soldiers with an identity so that we can know them. Glory is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Black Hawk Down
An event in history that is hardly talked about, mentioned or even studied; The Battle of Mogadishu. Ridley’s Scott’s war film details the event in which Army Rangers, Delta Force Operators and members of the SOAR were pinned down against armed militia when a military raid went awry. It’s certainly one of the best looking war movies ever made and Scott takes us on the streets of Somalia to experience the combat firsthand. While the mission was supposed to take thirty minutes, the fighting lasted nearly an entire day resulting in the deaths of nineteen American Soldiers. From the intense battle scenes that last nearly two hours in total, to the deft cinematography courtesy of Slawomir Idziak and lastly, the direction of Ridley Scott makes Black Hawk Down one of the most riveting war films ever put on screen. While weak in character development, the movie succeeds in capturing the events of one day in such exacting detail. It’s a shame that this movie wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture because it’s certainly Ridley Scott’s crowning achievement.
Saving Private Ryan
Steven Spielberg’s unflinching and emotionally wrenching war film details the true horrors of war in ways that had never been seen before. The opening Ohama Beach Landings alone are among the most intense and unforgettable sequences ever filmed. Bringing World War II to life, Saving Private Ryan is bolstered by actors who bring their characters to life by playing them pretty close to the bone in terms of reality. It’s without a doubt, the most violent movie made by Spielberg and the most emotional (besides Schindler’s List). This is the war movie that all new recruits should watch before deploying as a reminder that war is not all fun and games. Saving Private Ryan is also the movie that was robbed at the Oscars when it lost to Shakespeare in Love for Best Picture. There is no movie that captures war like it really is quite like this Steven Spielberg epic.
They Shall Not Grow Old
World War I is a major event in history that had dramatic changes to the entire planet, in more ways than one. Peter Jackson’s amazing documentary examines a small part of that war with archival footage courtesy of the War Museum in England. Using technology of today, Jackson and his team bring the Great War to life by adding color and sound effects making the audience feel that what we are seeing was filmed to make a movie when in fact all the footage we see was recorded during the war itself. No interviews are present, no recreations were made; everything we see is real and much like All Quiet on the Western Front, this documentary captures the war and all the horrors that followed. It’s a powerful and informative documentary to watch so that we never forget the events of the Great War that forever shaped the world that we know today. World War I may have occurred over a hundred years ago, like many wars, but it’s one that no one shall forget and the title of the documentary is further proof of that.
What’s your favorite war movie? Which ones did you find captured the conflict and settings realistically? Which films moved you the most? Let us know!