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The Best War Movies Ever Made

The Best War Movies Ever Made

While we have no problem agreeing that Bogey and Bergman’s performances in Casablanca are some of the best ever recorded on film, the fact that their movie takes place during wartime does not make it a war film. To us, for it to be a war movie, there are certain things that have to appear. We want the grit. We want the action, adventure. And everything has to be in an active combat zone or military setting. The movie has to take us into the trenches or to the front lines or wherever else people decided to meet up and fight that day. For us, these are the movies that did it best.

Full Metal Jacket

Come for R. Lee Ermey’s entirely new lexicon of expletives and insults, stay for Stanley Kubrick’s epic and unnerving film about the effects of the Vietnam War. The movie follows a small group of Marines as they live through basic training and, ultimately, through the war itself and expertly shows what war can do to people. This adaptation of Hasford’s The Short Timers might lack an on-screen villain or a completely original theme, but this truly iconic war film puts you in the shoes of the men involved as they work through an evolving, almost completely new kind of war. Netflix


While the 70mm, 35mm and IMAX options certainly don’t hurt, it’s Christopher Nolan’s direction and the ensemble cast’s performance that really elevate this World War II film to instant classic status. Widely cited as one of Nolan’s best films to date (high praise given Nolan’s previous work) and one of the greatest war films ever made, Dunkirk tells the story of the evacuation of British and Allied forces from Dunkirk, France through separate land, sea and air perspectives with little dialog and plenty of visceral suspense. If you haven’t seen it yet, get yourself to an Imax theater. Link

Apocalypse Now

The general critics consensus for Apocalypse Now is that “Francis Ford Coppola’s haunting, hallucinatory Vietnam war epic is cinema at its most audacious and visionary.” We won’t dispute that because it’s absolutely true. Coppola’s treatment of ‘Nam with this film’s loose Heart of Darkness premise, is a genius combination and is what pulls the audience through the ugly psychological effects of a war like the one in Vietnam and makes this one of the best films ever made. Amazon Prime | Hulu

Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan is the first film that will come to mind when many of you think of war movies and for good reason. Certified Fresh with 92% on the Tomatometer. IMDB score of 8.6 out of 10. Number 28 on the AFI Top 100 list. Award-winning performances from everyone involved. Spielberg at the helm. The WWII drama combines history, an intimate story and some of the most epic action sequences that will ever be committed to film. The landings at Normandy will never be better illustrated than it was in the chaotically realistic sequence from this movie. Hulu

Das Boot

Considered by many to be one of the most gripping and authentic war movies ever made, Das Boot tells the tale of a U-Boat captain and his crew as based on an autobiographical novel by German World War II photographer Lothar-Guenther Buchheim. While the plot definitely takes a backseat to epic battle scenes, excellent cinematography and suspense, it’s still strong and keeps you around until the very end. The greatest submarine movie ever, and also one of the most expensive films in the history of German cinema, is best enjoyed in its native German (with English subtitles, obviously). Link

The Battle of Algiers

Yes, this film is highly political, not in English, and more than half a century old. And yet, La bataglia di Algeri, La Bataille d’Alger or The Battle of Algiers remains relevant to this day, especially as a war film, because of the way it depicts the Algerian struggle for independence as told primarily through flashback. We can’t fault you for not having seen Rotten Tomatoes #3 “100 Best War Films of All Time” because it tends to fly under the radar due to its age and native language, but there’s no time like the present to round out your war flick repertoire. Link

The Bridge on the River Kwai

7 Academy Awards. 27 international awards. 94% Tomatometer. 8.2 IMDB rating. Thirteen on the AFI Top 100 film list. This movie, from the makers of Lawrence of Arabia, is memorable war epic based on a novel of the same name that sees a British colonel helping his captors to construct a railway bridge that the Allies plan to destroy. The Bridge on the River Kwai is a rousing WWII epic that combines courageous heroes, stirring drama, honorable sacrifice, fantastic cinematography and direction to create one of the most sweeping war films in the canon. Link


In what is certainly going to go down as one of the most controversial picks in history, we’re putting Fury on our list of the best war films ever made. Not because it’s about a tank commander and his team. Not because it’s a bunch of renowned actors with even better haircuts. Not even because it’s a suitably raw depiction of the horrors of war. The reason Fury ended up on this list is because the film is so visceral it made us feel like we were a part of the tank platoon… and we’ll be damned if we’re not picking up a sweet ass nickname in the process. Link

All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front, the film that follows a group of idealistic young men stationed on the Western Front as part of the Germany Army during World War I, is consistently ranked in the top 25 across multiple sources because of the unforgettable performances and the stunning cinematography. Like the novel did for literature, the movie is one of the first to suggest maybe war isn’t all that great and sending kids off to die after lying to them is a pretty shitty thing to do. Link


Famously described by Nixon as his favorite film, Patton is a film that puts George C. Scott in the title role of George Patton as he’s assuming command of American forces in North Africa in 1943 when they were going up against the Desert Fox, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Co-written by the iconic Francis Ford Coppola, this film stands as a testament to the eponymous general for which this film was named, even if the silver screen character was more folk hero than real life revolutionary. Netflix