Best War Movies

What are the best war movies ever made? My favorite current war movies have been Glory and Thin Red Line. What are some of the others?

Glory and Thin Red Line are both favorites of mine, but the latter has more than its fair share of detractors on this board and elsewhere.

I’m a fan of Verhoeven’s Soldier of Orange, and I’m really looking forward to the release of Coppola’s revised version of Apocalypse Now.

My number one war movie, though, has to be Bridge on the River Kwai. It’s got everything, and then some.

Tora, Tora, Tora and Full Metal Jacket

i think this has been done before, but what the heck.

In sort of chronological order, I like:

“All Quiet on the Western Front” (the original.) Very moving, and a landmark in cinema.

“The Sands of Iwo Jima” - seems dated now but way ahead of its time then. Gotta love the Duke.

“The Bridge on the River Kwai” - One of the things about a lot of war movies is that amidst the explosions and war-is-hell talk they don’t have time to flesh our REALLY neat characters. Not this movie. And what acting!

“Lawrence of Arabia” - a bit long but more great scenes and moments than in a dozen Titanics.

“Tora! Tora! Tora!” - One of the best movies for telling a balanced, accurate war story I’ve ever seen.

“Das Boot” - Amazingly atmospheric. No need for the “Director’s cut” that’s four hours long though.

“Full Metal Jacket” - Not my favourite movie on the list because some of the acting is terrible and it’s not as faithful to the book as it could have been, but still has some outstanding moments.

“Glory” - a very moving and uncompromising peice. Very underrated now, despite winning a few Oscars. One of the few really realistic Civil War films. Best original score of any war film.

“A Midnight Clear” - a forgotten but outstanding film.

“Saving Private Ryan” - it’s fashionable to bash this movie now and yes, the bookend scenes are cloying, but the staggering realism and uncompromising nature of the film make it worthwhile. One of the few films that conveys the arbitrary nature of death in battle.

“The Thin Red Line” - I think Malick could have put a more cohesive story in here, yes, but the movie works brilliantly on many other levels. Better the second time you watch it. Terrific score.

I didn’t include “Schindler’s List” because it isn’t exactly a war film, nor did I include “Apocalypse Now” because it has great scenes but as a movie I think it’s overrated. “Platoon” is dated now.

Hmmmph, so except for ‘Glory’, we’re sticking to the 20th century. My suggestions:

Waterloo: If it had been better edited, it would have been incredible. Rumors abound of longer versions.

Charge of the Light Brigade: The later version, very gritty and realistic about warfare in that age. Not for Errol Flynn fans.

Henry V, either version. One pretty, one gritty. Shakespear. N’uff said.

Alexander Nevsky: Many odd elements to this pro-communist propaganda make it fun to watch.

Ran: Not a real war. Nor a war movie. Too bad.

Zulu & Zulu Dawn: You just could not make these movies these days.

In the 20th century category I’ll toss out a few lesser-knowns:

All Quiet on the Western Front, Both versions. The 70’s TV movie version was very good too. I’m surprised nobody has done a remake. Not exactly summer movie material I guess.

A Midnight Clear, I think someone already mentioned it.

The Longest Day: Some scenes in this kick SPR’s ass IMNSHO. (such as the beach strafing scene)

A Bridge Too Far: Lotsa folks don’t like this one. My opinion of it has grown over time.

That HBO Movie about the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest: Damn it, what was its name?! Good stuff.

The Thin Red Line: My opinion of this has grown from when I first saw it in the theater. I like it a lot better now for some reason.

That’s enough for now.

I can guess you count Braveheart as a war movie also. I will choose that as one of my favorites.

I have liked A Thin Red Line since I first saw it. I have seen it several times since then and like it even more now. I can sit down and watch the whole thing, or I can watch specific scenes. I definitely enjoyed it more than Saving Private Ryan which came out about the same time.

Many of my faves have been mentioned already:

“Lawrence of Arabia” – one of my favorite films of all time. If you have 4 hours to kill, there are definitely worse ways to do it than watching this.

“Saving Private Ryan” – I have some problems with the screenplay, but the acting, directing, and camerawork more than make up for it.

“The Longest Day” – those with stomachs too weak to watch SPR opening D-Day scene can enjoy this film. It is exclusely about the invasion of Normandy. Very well done and very factual.

“Henry V” – I’ve only seen Kenneth Brannagh’s version and I still think it is one of the greatest film versions of one of Shakespeare’s plays.

“Platoon” – I still think this film is better than the VietNam films that followed it.

“Das Boot” – Incredible, whether you get the subtitled or the dubbed version. Personally, I have the dubbed version and it is so well done, it’s not long before you forget that the actors weren’t really speaking English.

“A Midnight Clear” – gives a different look as to how wars are fought. I agree with others who’ve put this on their list as it being a very underrated film.

“MAS*H” – does this count as a war film?

Other movies which aren’t quite war films, but deal with WWII - “Schindler’s List” and “Life Is Beautiful”

One of my favorites: A Walk in the Sun, 1945. One of the first movies to make me sit up and notice the dialogue.


Simply because public opinion and public safety will not permit the random slaughter of every tenth audience member and the maiming of another ten percent, the experience of war can never be captured in a movie. Maybe, if the audience was grabbed off the street by a faceless and unsympathetic government bureaucracy, and forced into theaters with each audience member knowing that there was a fair chance that he would not survive the experience then the audience might be in a receptive frame of mind.

Guys of a certain age all know people who will not go to war movies. Some won’t go because their intelligence is offended. Some won’t go because the movie isn’t accurate enough. Some won’t go because of the nightmares.

People who should know tell me that there are moments in Private Ryan that come as close to the noise, confusion, filth and terror of reality as is likely to be achieved in the movies.

It was done here

I haven’t forgotten “A Midnight Clear.” Quite moving. And who says its fashionable to bash “Saving Private Ryan”? That’s my own pick. After watching that I was sure the military wasn’t for me.

I resent any film featuring John Wayne’s appearing on this list. I’ve seen some of his movies. They are ludicrous.

Another vote for Kenneth Branagh’s “Henry V”. When he gave the St. Crispin’s day speech before the battle of Agincourt, I was looking around for a sword! After that speech, I would have followed that guy into hell.

The first movies I thought of when reading the thread title were “Prison Camp” movies. The Bridge on the River Kwai has already been mentioned. A few other favorites are *Stalag 17, The Great Escape * and Grand Illusion.

Although the movie didn’t come near to matching the book, I’ve got to at least mention Catch-22. The scene with Alan Arkin giving morphine to the dying bombardier has stuck in my mind for years. Mr. Rogers was good, as well (if a little…well, a LOT overacted at times). I enjoyed Cary Grant’s performance in Operation Petticoat.

And I couldn’t possibly forget Casablanca or Gunga Din.

Mr. Rogers? Mr. Rogers?

I am embarrassed yet again.

Mr. Roberts.


And here too.

LOL–I wondered about that?? Never heard of it! LOL. Great movie though I never think of it as a “war” film. No “battles”.

My choice—

ZULU—One of my all-time top ten films though it’s another one that I didn’t think of in “war” terms. I will now.
DAS BOOT—I have the full mini-series version.

Guess I’d better look into ON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR. A lot of people think very highly of it.

My all time favorite war movie is currently Three Kings. Makes Saving Private Ryan look like GI Joe. One of the few war movies which does not in any way glorify war. Mostly, it makes it look tragically stupid, which IMO is mostly accurate.

I thought Three Kings glorified war more then Saving Private Ryan. In SPR war just looked horrible and scary. In Three Kinds it was played up for laughts in some scenes.


The topic is the best war movies. Not the best war movies with battle scenes. Not the best serious war movies.

  1. The General (Buster Keaton): This is my favorite war movie. I’ve seen it perhaps 30 times, and it’s still as fresh as the first time I saw it.

  2. Schindler’s List: It happens during a war. It deals with direct and indirect consequences of that war. The situations in the movie would not have occurred but for the war. It’s a war movie. It’s the best serious war movie ever made.

  3. Casablanca: See above for why this is a war movie. No battle scenes, but so what? Great characters, great dialog. It doesn’t need battle scenes.

  4. Duck Soup: One of the funniest movies ever made. And as good an indictment of the folly of war as has ever been made. Sometimes satire can do things that drama can’t.