The 30 best war movies in history, it’s war!
On June 6, 1944, the Allied army reached the shores of France to mark the beginning of the end of World War II. The Normandy Landing. That milestone of war is masterfully captured in our favorite war movie of all time, Saving Private Ryan . But there are many others that fascinate us for their way of approaching the horror of battle, the sense of honor and loyalty, or as a portrait of an era, of a society, of a collective soul. Here are our proposals:
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Director : Steven Spielberg.
We love it because : That first scene in the Normandy landings will never be erased from our minds. And yet, that is only the beginning of a deeply violent and exciting story, with that undeniable ability of Spielberg to bond us for life – or, at least, for three hours – with iconic characters.
The Thin Red Line (1988)
Director : Terrence Malick.
We love it because : It’s not what you expect from a war movie. And he certainly has nothing good to say about the war. Instead, Malick uses the conquest of a strategic hill on a Pacific island to play with more philosophical concepts. And with empathy. We are talking about the man who made The Tree of Life .
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Director : Francis Ford Coppola.
We love it because : It’s possibly the most troublesome war movie of all time. There’s even a documentary – Hearts in Darkness – about his creation! But it’s not just that: the smell of napalm in the morning, the hallucinations of Martin Sheen, the star appearance of Marlon Brando …
The Hunter (1978)
Director : Michael Cimino.
We love it because : Although it is a war movie, its true portrait is that of two good friends constantly separated by the things of life. And, as the culmination of this, the Russian roulette scene .
The Metallic Jacket (1987)
Director : Stanley Kubrick.
We love it because : It is a scandalous, violent and critical portrait of the military camps and the war itself. Because his madness is almost contagious. The Virgin Mary loves it too.
Twelve from the gallows (1967)
Director : Robert Aldrich.
We love it because : Because in his luck as Snow White and the Twelve Dwarfs (all of them, from Donald Sutherland to Charles Bronson, spectacular) he takes us on a suicidal adventure against the Nazis that never leaves us indifferent.
Director : Yann Demange.
We love it because : In all its simplicity, in a story that does not leave the streets of Belfast (Northern Ireland), it strongly conveys the overwhelm, fear and despair of a soldier in the middle of a conflict that surpasses him. And of the one who has to survive. Jack O’Connell, wonderful.
Beasts of no nation (2015)
Director : Cary Fukunaga.
We love it because : It was the film that began to put Netflix on the map of high-profile cinema, and no wonder. A look at the war in Africa, the situation of child soldiers and the harshness of an express learning taught by the great Idris Elba.
Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
Director : Clint Eastwood.
We love it because : It finally shows sensitivity for the Japanese side in the battle between the United States and Japan in World War II. Although he later clung to patriotism with The Sniper , it is clear here that Uncle Clint has very interesting perspectives to tell.
City of Life and Death (2009)
Director : Lu Chuan.
We love it because : Rarely have we seen such a raw, violent and realistic review of history on screen. The Sino-Japanese war is shown here in imposing black and white, and images like this one above, which even Carlos Boyero himself described as “chilling.”
Iron Hearts (1989)
Director : Brian de Palma.
We love it because : The tour de force between Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn is to frame. In addition, De Palma knows well how to stretch time in the jungles of Vietnam, and put a question of moral health on the table in the middle of hell. And that music by Ennio Morricone!
From Here Eternity (1953)
Director : Fred Zinnemann.
We love it because : That Burt Lancaster look on the beach is priceless. This is another of those films devastated by the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, in World War II, and how its different characters and stories will have to survive it. What movie.
Director : Christopher Nolan.
We love it because : It’s not what counts, but how it counts. How hundreds of private ships helped rescue British soldiers off the Dunkirk beach during WWII is great. But Nolan’s ability to get us into conflict (with the noise of the bombs or the agonizing deaths underwater) is mind-boggling.
Paths of Glory (1957)
Director : Stanley Kubrick.
We love it because : It is the graphic definition of an anti-war war film, but that does not make it simple. On the contrary, this masterpiece that elevated Kubrick in the late 1950s is as complex historically as it is emotionally. Those trench traveling are an essential part of the genre.
the hurt Locker
Director : Kathryn Bigelow.
We love it because : Not just because it won the Oscar for Best Picture, but because its portrayal goes beyond a glorification of the American role on Arab soil. Forgetting patriotism, this film – in addition to being tense and exciting to the core – talks about the addiction to death.
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Director : Isao Takahata.
We love it because : The war is only the backdrop for the story of two brothers who are isolated after not being able to reach the refuge where their mother is. His story of survival is one of the most heartbreaking in movie history. Animated or not.
The great illusion (1937)
Director : Jean Renoir.
We love it because : It is an absolute masterpiece of cinema. And it is because it takes the great illusion of its title – war, victory – and breaks it down to pieces, just like the lives of soldiers and prisoners in a German prison camp in the First World War. The scene where the Marseillaise is sung is just great.
The Lost Image (2013)
Director : Rithy Panh.
We love it because : On a list full of fictions, this documentary is a masterful breath of fresh air. Because, above all, the most important thing to tell a story in pictures is the imagination. Because if there are no images of the Cambodian conflict, the filmmaker had to create them himself … with clay dolls.
Ivan’s childhood (1962)
Director : Andrei Tarkovsky.
We love it because : A child’s gaze always gives war a particularly dramatic perspective (see Empire of the Sun ). In his debut work, the Russian filmmaker already showed his taste for poetic images and existentialist readings. A different and hypnotic war movie.
Ties of War (2004)
Director : Kang Je-Gyu.
We love it because : It has some of the most spectacular action scenes seen in recent cinema. A story about two brothers fighting to survive the Korean War and a hit in South Korean cinema.
Director : Franklin J. Schaffner.
We love it because : It’s one of those biopics that ironically captures the contradictions of a character as controversial as General Patton. His image with the United States flag in the background is one of the most iconic of the genre.
Director : Samuel Maoz.
We love it because : Single-setting stories are always exciting … if done right. And this is the case. These are the 24 hours of a group of soldiers inside a tank, in the midst of Israel’s war against Lebanon in the 80s, and who are committed to transmitting through the screen what it would feel like to be inside. And it’s not pretty.
The Guns of Navarone (1961)
Director : J. Lee Thompson.
We love it because : More than half a century has passed, but the cannons are still as thunderous as the day they were released. The reconquest of the Mediterranean Sea in the middle of World War II is the setting for Gregory Peck and his team to become the heroes of this spectacular story.
Director : Robert Altman.
We love it because : Not everything in war cinema has to be a drama. This film with Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould pulls comedy to make the stay of an American medical group in the Korean War more bearable. A delicious satire filled with black humor and a critique of the contradictions of the army’s tasks.
Director : Oliver Stone.
We love it because : Stone knows exactly what keys to play when making a war movie. And this is one of its best examples. With an iconic image for the genre, it shows the hell of the Vietnam War. The sweat, the blood, the unforgiving vegetation, and death around every corner. So graphic that sometimes it is difficult to look.
Director : Akira Kurosawa.
We love it because : Shakespeare’s King Lear never looked so good. Kurosawa moved the story to medieval Japan – as was customary in him – to tell with a lyrical and astonishing spectacular the Game of Thrones in a powerful family. A movie that never ends. One of the best in Kurosawa.
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983)
Director : Nagisa Ôshima.
We love it because : David Bowie comes out. Anything else?
Dawn Rescue (2006)
Director : Werner Herzog.
We love it because : It is not only a great war movie, but also one of that great genre that is prison escape. This Prison Break with the Vietnam War as an imposing background plays with narrative tension, the ingenuity of its characters and a skeletal Christian Bale in a state of grace.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
Director : Ben Stiller.
We love it because : It doesn’t parody war, but war movies. This comedy with Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. set out to tackle genre topics by making a film about characters who make a movie. Metacine for satire. The result can have critical readings, but what no one can deny is that it is hilarious.
Waltz with Bashir (2008)
Director : Ari Folman.
We love it because : It makes awesome use of animation. It is a film with a clear anti-war message, navigating between the real and the dreamed, but always hand in hand with History. Shocking as it is by itself, it is one of the best films of the genre, even though it is radically different from any of its precedents.