One of Those Lists: War Movie Edition (My Top 10 Favorites)
10. Kelly's Heroes: You couldn't go wrong with Clint Eastwood movies from this era, and he's as cool as he is in any movie here. The story is unique in that it's less about the war itself, and more about the morality of men involved. Donald Sutherland's “Oddball” character is way out of place for the era, but is still good. The end in which they convince a Nazi Tiger tank Commander to help them break into the bank and steal the gold is also a pretty cool twist. It also get's bonus points for having Uncle Leo from Seinfeld in it, who was a real Army veteran that joined the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked and served in the Pacific.
09. The Bridge at Remagen: I love a good WW2 “Bridge” story and this one is a bit of an underrated classic. It's a highly fictionalized telling of a real battle, but done believably. The lead (George Segal) does a good job in making you care about the mission and the troops involved. It has some nice action scenes, as well. Late '60s/Early '70s WW2 movies always had a more authentic feel to them, thanks in part to not being that far removed from the real war.
08. Inglourious Basterds: Not everyone is a fan of Tarantino's style of movie-making, and I'll admit that some of his choices are weird and annoying and ruin some of the authenticity of his films, but this one makes up for it. The acting is superb from everyone involved (Christoph Waltz and Michael Fassbender especially, as well as Brad Pitt playing his role perfectly). The over-the-top Tarantino violence gets in the way of the battles, but doesn't completely ruin them from being exciting enough. I would probably edit out a lot of stuff from this, and enjoy it just as much, but it's still a fun movie.
07. Hamburger Hill: I've only seen this from start to finish once, but I would certainly recommend it to anyone who wants to see a more “realistic” and gritty version of a 1980's Vietnam movie. The real-life story is just as brutal as the movie, and if you know anything about it going in, it really makes you feel more for the characters going through it. If you aren't familiar with the battle, the outcome, or the reasons as to why it happened, I suggest reading a bit about it before watching this. It'll ensure that the movie leaves more of an impact.
06. Glory: This movie, which very much involves the issue of race, does an incredible job of making it not feel like that is the only concern. It's not just a movie about an “all black Union Regiment” but instead is a story about the 54th Massachusetts and their Commanding Officer. Matthew Broderick does a wonderful job as Colonel Shaw, and both Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman are as good as they usually are. I always like a story that shows you Soldiers who train together and eventually have to fight together. Glory's final battle scene is awesome, and the soundtrack is great too. Easily the best Civil War movie, in my opinion.
05. Saving Private Ryan: The action scenes in this movie might just be the best in any movie ever. The D-Day invasion sets the tone, and might just be the best opening to a movie on my list. Tom Hanks plays his part perfectly, and the rest of the cast does a good job, also. Some of the foreshadowing is pretty obvious and poorly done in an attempt to get more of an emotional reaction from the scene later. (Medic has heartwarming talk about how he pretends to be sleeping when all his Mom wanted to do was talk. Then he dies five minutes later crying for his mom.) Also, the premise sort of makes me as frustrated as the Rangers in the movie are. Risking an entire squad of highly elite Soldiers during the most important military action in history just to rescue one guy seems silly. Even Private Ryan thinks that it's dumb, and wants to stay with his unit to fight. But the action, the acting, and the pace of the story outweigh any of that and it's probably the best modern war movie ever made. Just not my number one favorite.
04. The Dirty Dozen: Another classic from the best era of WW2 movies, some people might be surprised to find out that this movie was inspired by a group of real Soldiers. The great cast, original story idea, and overall action of this movie make at an easy Top 5 choice for me. It's another movie that has kind of a “yeah right, that would never happen” feel to it, but somehow does it in such a way that it doesn't take me out of the movie at all and makes you really feel for the guys on the mission by the end of it.
03. Black Hawk Down: The book that this movie was based on was what inspired me to join the Army Infantry, and I continued to have ties with the story due in part to being a member of the unit that was involved in helping the Rangers escape the city. I've done my share of “Mogadishu Miles” and think that this movie does a nice job of showing just how awful war can really be. The action, the soundtrack, and the history of the battle itself make this a classic. The Shughart and Gordon scene might just be the most emotional scene in any movie, knowing what those two did both in the film and in real life.
02. Platoon: While being a bit “over the top” at certain parts, this movie keeps enough true grit that it really leaves a strong impression after seeing it. Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, and Willem Dafoe all do incredibly jobs with their characters, as do most of the side-characters. They all “feel real” to anyone who's actually served in the Army. The message of how war can be hell is built up nicely and the action is intense. And the soundtrack is great, too. This movie was well deserving of it's “Best Picture” win and is one that I consider one of my favorites in any category.
01. A Bridge Too Far: This one gets the nod as my all time favorite due in large part to the fact that it's the story of my favorite World War 2 battle, Operation Market Garden. The real life story is just as interesting as this movie is, and I think that's what helps put this one over the top as my favorite. The cast is stacked with some of the greatest Actors in history, and they all play their parts perfectly. The music fits nicely, and the action exciting. It's a long movie, but well worth the watch.
Honorable Mention: Band of Brothers. It doesn't really count as a movie, but if it did, it would be pretty high up the list. As I said before, I love war movies that follow the groups from training into battle. And this one is great.
Dishonorable Mention: Full Metal Jacket. I hate seeing this preachy mess of a movie always near or at the top of “Best War Movie” lists. Sure, the Boot Camp stuff with R. Lee Ermy and Private Pyle is iconic, and anyone who's ever been through Basic Training or Boot Camp can relate to a lot of what goes down early in the movie (at least anyone who's gone through training before they decided to make everything “friendly” and watered-down because people couldn't handle it.) But it should have just ended after Pyle kills himself, because the Vietnam part of the movie is complete anti-war garbage with no pacing and horrible story telling.