Greatest War Movies


The Greatest War Movies
Title Screen
Film Title/Year/Director, War-time Setting and Brief Description

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
d. Kathryn Bigelow

During the decade-long search for fugitive Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, from 9/11 to his location in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011 where he was killed

Scriptwriter and former war journalist Mark Boal's account was partly fictionalized in the film with Best Actress-nominated Jessica Chastain portraying CIA intelligence-gathering analyst Maya playing a key role. The war film was a gripping historical account of the events leading up to the successful night-vision raid on bin Laden's headquarters with stealth helicopters and a group of SEALs. The confirmation of the mission's success included snapshots of the dead body and the message: "For God and country, Geronimo."

Controversy arose over the political timing of the film's release, improper acquisition of classified information by the filmmakers, the depiction of Maya's fight against the "system," some factual inaccuracies, and the propagandistic position that the film took toward torture ('advanced interrogation techniques').

American Sniper (2014)
d. Clint Eastwood

Four military tours during the Iraq War from 1999 to 2009

A biographical (although somewhat controversial) true story of US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (portrayed by Bradley Cooper), who became known as the deadliest marksman in US military history. It became the highest-grossing war film of all time, and was based upon Kyle's own memoirs detailed in his best selling book in 2012 - American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.

The Texas-bred sharpshooter Kyle enlisted in the Navy after learning of the horrific series of US Embassy terrorist bombings that occurred in 1998. After the 9/11 attack, he was sent on his first tour to Iraq. Eventually, he was credited with over 250 combat kills (many of which were officially confirmed by the Pentagon).

However, his many legendary missions overseas and his witnessing of war atrocities were overshadowed by the adjustment struggles he faced when on leave as a civilian, and at home with his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and young children.

Fury (2014)
d. David Ayer

In Nazi Germany at the end of World War II (April 1945)

The title of this episodic, realistic and tense war film was taken from the name painted on the barrel of the US Marine tank’s big gun.

US tank forces and brigades during the final days of WWII in Europe were battered, as evidenced by a Sheman ("Easy Eight") tank warfare crew commanded by weary, battle-hardened Sgt. Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Brad Pitt). They were on a deadly mission, now fighting their way across Nazi Germany in the waning year of the war, and facing very bloody conditions (graphically portrayed) as the Nazis fought more viciously in their retreat to Berlin.

Wardaddy's four-man veteran crew, composed of Bible-quoting gunner Boyd "Bible" Swan (Shia LaBeouf), Southerner loader-mechanic Grady "Coon-Ass" Travis (Jon Bernthal), and Hispanic lead driver Trini "Gordo" Garcia (Michael Pena) had become hardened to war and murder. They often were heard saying: "Best job I ever had." The arrival of innocent rookie recruit and sensitive novice Pvt. Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a cultured desk typist, changed everything in their perspective until he also became corrupted by war's horrors.

In one confrontational scene, "Wardaddy" forced the incompetent, endangering Ellison to execute an SS officer, and in another, encouraged him to lose his virginity with young German Emma (Alicia von Rittberg), although she became a victim of the war shortly later.

By the end of the film, Norman had earned his own nickname, "Machine" - and he was the only survivor of a last stand of the tank crew against a huge battallion of SS soldiers.

Unbroken (2014)
d. Angelina Jolie

Mostly during WWII, in 1943, and until the end of the war in 1945 (with some flashbacks)

This inspiring war film about a resilient WWII war hero, based on a true story, was adapted from the 2010 book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand.

The war biopic told the incredible life story of Italian-American Louis "Louie" Zamperini (Jack O'Connell), a 1936 Berlin Olympics medal-winning runner in the 5,000 meter race, who was recruited into the US Air Force during WWII. In 1943, during a search mission for a lost US aircraft over the Pacific, his own damaged B-24 bomber plane The Green Hornet crashed into the ocean off the coast of the Japanese-held island of Nauru.

With only one other survivor Russell Allen 'Phil' Phillips (Domnhall Gleeson) after many days, the two struggled on a small inflatable life raft with enemy planes, threatening sharks, extreme weather conditions, and lack of food and water.

After 47 days, they were captured by the Japanese and imprisoned. Louis endured further hardships, beatings and torture for two years as a POW in a Tokyo camp known as Omori, administered by sadistic and deranged Japanese commanding officer Mutsuhiro "The Bird" Watanabe (Miyavi). Zamperini survived until being liberated at the end of the war in 1945, by remembering childhood principles: "If you can take it, you can make it," and "A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory."

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
d. Mel Gibson

In Lynchburg, Virginia, and on the WWII war front (in the Pacific Theatre at the Battle of Okinawa in 1945)

This was an inspiring, true-to-life, anti-war WWII epic and character study about conscientious objector/corporal Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield). He refused to carry a gun due to his Seventh Day Adventist beliefs, although he still enlisted after Pearl Harbor to serve - and was fighting as an unarmed medic.

During one extremely fierce and horrific battle to take the Maeda Escarpment cliff face (nicknamed "Hacksaw Ridge") from Japanese forces, Doss exhibited unprecedented courage and bravery (proving his naysayers wrong). He saved dozens of wounded fellow soldiers by lowering them, in the face of live enemy fire - one-by-one - down the escarpment by rope (while praying to his Lord: "Help me get one more").

Subsequently, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Truman for saving seventy-five men on the battlefield - it marked the first time that the award was given to a conscientious objector.

The Greatest War Movies
(chronological by film title)
Introduction | 1900s-1920s | 1930s | 1940s-1 | 1940s-2 | 1950s
| 1960s-1 | 1960s-2 | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s

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