Monday, March 21, 2011

World's Best War Films

A scene from David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, who used
guerrilla tactics with a small army to sever communications
and supply lines against the Ottoman Empire in WW1

Updated: 6.01.11 (* = new additions)

I’ve expanded this list to include civilian stories during wartime (A Canterbury Tale, Mrs. Miniver), to the “Indian Wars” (the U.S. vs Native Americans, ie Dances With Wolves, Into the West), Asian wars (Samurai I, The Emperor and the Assassin, Hero, Mongol), even small wars (Gangs of New York, The Wind That Shakes the Barley), and terrorism (The Kingdom, Rendition, United 93)

Check out our recent post "100 Great War Films for Memorial Day", sorted by wars

The Best 100
[AA] - Academy Award for Best picture
The Rest
Band of Brothers is probably the best war on film, so it had to be included; Hanks and Spielberg reportedly spent over $100 million to film the 12-hr series. The Pacific is their followup, the counterpoint that follows the stories of several marines in the war against Japan.

I include Best Years of Our Lives here because it's about the effect of war on its participants and their families for the rest of their lives. Many films on this list won Best Picture oscars: Best Years, Bridge on Kwai, Deer Hunter, Lawrence, Patton, Platoon, Schindler's, All Quiet on the Western Front. Many others were nominated.

Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace still has the soapy parts of the novel but also has 250,000 extras from the Red Army, in costume and at the time was the most expensive movie ever made (est. 100m in 1968)

Even though Seven Samurai is a small skirmish, not a war, it still looks like a war film, and as such is one of the best ever.

Apocalypse Now! I like the longer, director's cut version, called "Redux" - it seems to flow more leisurely like a relaxed boat ride up the Mekong (!) Not at good artistically, just more interesting and at nearly an hour longer, if you like something you don't want it to end, right? "One day this war film's gonna end." (Robert Duvall)

I added Breaker Morant (thanks for the commentarian), though not technically a war film, it's a court martial, so really a "legal film", similar to Paths of Glory, but based on a true event of the Boer War. An early Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) masterpiece.

I also added La Grande Illusion, Jean Renoir's anti-war masterpiece, which also has no war scenes but is about Allied prisoners in a WW1 German prison castle. It's a beautifully shot b&w film, the first foreign film nominated for the best picture Oscar®

Seven Beauties garnered Lina Wertmuller the first Oscar® nomination for directing for a woman. Kathryn Bigelow became the first female Oscar® winner for director for The Hurt Locker.

Update - just added these: Lebanon (Israel), Days of Glory (Algeria), El Alamein (Italy), Green Zone, Red Cliff (China), War Photographer (Switzerland), I Am Cuba (USSR-Cuba), Prisoner of the Mountains (Russia), Samurai 1 (Japan), United 93, Black Hawk Down


    Anonymous said...

    What about Paradise now, Downfall, The Counterfeiters and Beaufort? These are great movies too.

    Jose Sinclair said...

    Check out the new war list, I added Glory, then some runners up that include Downfall and Counterfeitors... have NOT seen Paradise Now or Beaufort.. I'll check them out - thanks!
    ..the Jman..

    Pump said...

    The thin red line?

    Jose Sinclair said...

    Good one - I liked Malick's Thin Red Line (but not Nolte growling all his lines). The opening sequence of the jungle, underwater shot of swimmers, great stuff...
    Think I'll add it as a runner-up..

    thanks!! - Jman

    Ganesh said...

    No Brotherhood of Wars (Tae Guk Gi)? That will be surprising...

    Jose Sinclair said...

    Thanks Ganesh - I'll check this one out.. it's on my list at Netflix, I'll move it to the top!
    There are many foreign films I haven't seen yet, many have only just become available to us.

    I'll watch any recommended films!

    Jose Sinclair said...

    Hi Ganesh..
    I saw Tai Guk Gi on cable - it was ok, but not a list maker.. not sure why, it just didn't grab me. Certainly a long, epic effort just not very compelling for me.

    I did just see and will add the Russian masterpiece "Ballad of a Soldier"
    .. Jose ..

    Jose Sinclair said...

    just saw BEAUFORT, was recommended by anonymous - now I know why you're not using yer name! IT WAS A BLOODY BORE! dang, thought it would never end...

    not only that, the ending just plain PISSED me off! F-g idiots, nothing is sacred to some nations..

    THIS film has NO action, you keep waiting for anything to happen just like the soldiers - well, I don't want to spend 2 hrs on "watch" with no movement in the night!

    AVOID this one like the plague - JOSE

    Anonymous said...

    Gallipoli? Breaker Morant? Stalingrad?

    Jose Sinclair said...

    I expanded my original list and added Breaker Morant to the top 100, and Gallipoli and Stalingrad in "the rest" list..

    I added many more foreign films: Lebanon, Days of Glory, El Alamein, Guerreros, Fateless, Seven Beauties..

    Rick345 said...

    A good ol southern boy like you leavin' out "Birth of a Nation" and "Shenandoah". Not memtion I didn't see "The Dirty Dozen" and
    "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" however, I could have over looks them

    Best Movies said...

    Great movies list, thanks. I'll add most movies in my list for watching

    Anonymous said...

    No Braveheart, this list is a bunch of liberal crap!

    Jose Sinclair said...

    I found Braveheart to be one of the worst pieces of mock heroic crap I've ever witnessed.. and my ancestors are Scottish! If not for "revenge flicks" Mel Gibson wouldn't have any subject to film, his mental prowess seems to be severely limited.. the man has little that appeals to me.. I did enjoy Road Warrior, but that's b/c of George Miller (Babe producer, Happy Feet director) not Mel.. Mel is, in a word, BORING
    ..and I won't even bring up his politics and personal vitriol..
    Maybe he thinks he's the new John Wayne, they are similar in taking roles where the only solution is violence vs violence.. how medieval, we may as well go back to the Dark Ages (we may have anyway)

    Jose Sinclair said...

    the rest of the list has plenty of non-liberal, patriotic, flag-waving b.s., ie Deer Hunter, Patton, Longest Day, Band of Brothers.. if that's what you like..

    Anonymous said...

    'Life is Beautiful' deserves to be here. It's not about combat but, about how victims of war suffer.

    Bud said...

    An old blog so I don't know if you're still monitorin' this but if you are; thank you.

    A very nice list. Has broadened my horizons and given me many more films to watch.

    If you haven't already, I recommend givin' "Beneath Hill 60" a try. About a group of Australian sappers tunnelin' under the enemy's lines to set off the biggest man-made explosion ever recorded. One of my many favourites but then again, as an Australian; I'm biased. XD