Happy Memorial Day to all the amazingly brave men and women who fought and died for us all. Over the centuries many, many, many solidiers have died while others survived but were left with scars both physical and emotional. But today let’s celebrate all of these heroes by talking about the ten best military\war movies ever made that repped the military proud as well as show the ugly realities of war whether it’s the Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force.
10. The Dirty Dozen. 1967.
Synopsis: As D-Day approaches, Colonel Breed hands the roguish Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) an important assignment: He must train a team of soldiers to parachute across enemy lines and assassinate German personnel at a French chateau. The soldiers, recruited from murderers, rapists and criminals on death row, are promised commuted sentences. In spite of their history, the 12 men prove a spirited and courageous unit. Led by Major Reisman, they will exact revenge.
9. Three Kings. 1999.
Synopsis: Just after the end of the Gulf War, four American soldiers decide to steal a cache of Saddam Hussein’s hidden gold. Led by cynical Sergeant Major Archie Gates (George Clooney), three of the men are rescued by rebels, but Sergeant Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg) is captured and tortured by Iraqi intelligence. The Iraqi rebels beg for the American trio to help fight against the impending arrival of Hussein’s Elite Guard. The men agree to fight in return for help rescuing Troy
8. The Great Escape. 1963.
Synopsis: Imprisoned during World War II in a German POW camp, a group of Allied soldiers are intent on breaking out, not only to escape, but also to draw Nazi forces away from battle to search for fugitives. Among the prisoners determined to escape are American Captain Virgil Hilts (Steve McQueen) and British Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett (Richard Attenborough). Outwitting their captors by digging a tunnel out of the prison grounds, the soldiers find the stakes much higher when escape becomes a reality.
7. Full Metal Jacket. 1987.
Synopsis: Stanley Kubrick’s take on the Vietnam War follows smart-aleck Private Davis (Matthew Modine), quickly christened “Joker” by his foul-mouthed drill sergeant (R. Lee Ermey), and pudgy Private Lawrence (Vincent D’Onofrio), nicknamed “Gomer Pyle,” as they endure the rigors of basic training. Though Pyle takes a frightening detour, Joker graduates to the Marine Corps and is sent to Vietnam as a journalist, covering — and eventually participating in — the bloody Battle of Hué.
6. Crimson Tide. 1995.
Synopsis: After the Cold War, a breakaway Russian republic with nuclear warheads becomes a possible worldwide threat. U.S. submarine Capt. Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) signs on a relatively green but highly recommended Lt. Cmdr. Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington) to the USS Alabama, which may be the only ship able to stop a possible Armageddon. When Ramsay insists that the Alabama must act aggressively, Hunter, fearing they will start rather than stop a disaster, leads a potential mutiny to stop him.
5. Glory. 1989.
Synopsis: Following the Battle of Antietam, Col. Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) is offered command of the United States’ first all-African-American regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. With junior officer Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes), Shaw puts together a strong and proud unit, including the escaped slave Trip (Denzel Washington) and the wise gravedigger John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman). At first limited to menial manual tasks, the regiment fights to be placed in the heat of battle.
4. Platoon. 1986.
Synopsis: Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) leaves his university studies to enlist in combat duty in Vietnam in 1967. Once he’s on the ground in the middle of battle, his idealism fades. Infighting in his unit between Staff Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger), who believes nearby villagers are harboring Viet Cong soldiers, and Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe), who has a more sympathetic view of the locals, ends up pitting the soldiers against each other as well as against the enemy.
3. Braveheart. 1995.
Synopsis: William Wallace is the medieval Scottish patriot who is spurred into revolt against the English when the love of his life is slaughtered. Leading his army into battles that become a war, his advance into England threatens King Edward I’s throne before he is captured and executed, but not before becoming a symbol for a free Scotland.
2. Apocalypse Now. 1979.
Synopsis: In Vietnam in 1970, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) takes a perilous and increasingly hallucinatory journey upriver to find and terminate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a once-promising officer who has reportedly gone completely mad. In the company of a Navy patrol boat filled with street-smart kids, a surfing-obsessed Air Cavalry officer (Robert Duvall), and a crazed freelance photographer (Dennis Hopper), Willard travels further and further into the heart of darkness.
- Saving Private Ryan. 1998.
Synopsis: Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) takes his men behind enemy lines to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have been killed in combat. Surrounded by the brutal realties of war, while searching for Ryan, each man embarks upon a personal journey and discovers their own strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honor, decency and courage.
Of course there are enough amazing, powerful and inspiring films of this genre to make a top 50 or 100 list, but to keep this from going on forever I decided to limit this list to the top ten truly great ones. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t sneak a few more gems in here, including some well made television films of the genre.
Synopsis: Biography of controversial World War II hero General George S. Patton. The film covers his wartime activities and accomplishments, beginning with his entry into the North African campaign and ending with his removal from command after his outspoken criticism of US post-war military strategy.
The Deer Hunter. 1979.
Synopsis: In 1968, Michael (Robert De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken) and Steven (John Savage), lifelong friends from a working-class Pennsylvania steel town, prepare to ship out overseas following Steven’s elaborate wedding and one final group hunting trip. In Vietnam, their dreams of military honor are quickly shattered by the inhumanities of war; even those who survive are haunted by the experience, as is Nick’s hometown sweetheart, Linda (Meryl Streep).
Band of Brothers. 2001.
Synopsis: This series, originally broadcast on HBO, tells the story of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army. Based on interviews with survivors of Easy Company, as well as soldiers’ journals and letters, this 10-part series chronicles the experiences of these young men who knew extraordinary bravery and extraordinary fear. Based on the book written by Stephen Ambrose.
The Tuskegee Airmen. 1995.
Synopsis: A semi-fictionalized account of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all-African-American Air Force squadron during World War II, the film centers on ambitious young pilot Hannibal Lee (Laurence Fishburne). Despite initial reticence by higher ranking white officers, Lee, along with Walter Peoples (Allen Payne), Leroy Cappy (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), and others, are deployed into combat. As the successful missions mount, the Tuskegee Airmen develop a reputation as an able, fearsome group of pilots.
Good Morning, Vietnam. 1987.
Synopsis: Radio funny man Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) is sent to Vietnam to bring a little comedy back into the lives of the soldiers. After setting up shop, Cronauer delights the G.I.s but shocks his superior officer, Sergeant Major Dickerson (J.T. Walsh), with his irreverent take on the war. While Dickerson attempts to censor Cronauer’s broadcasts, Cronauer pursues a relationship with a Vietnamese girl named Trinh (Chintara Sukapatana), who shows him the horrors of war first-hand.
The Hurt Locker. 2008.
Synopsis: Following the death of their well-respected Staff Sergeant in Iraq, Sergeant JT Stanborn and Specialist Owen Eldridge find their Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit saddled with a very different team leader. Staff Sergeant William James is an inveterate risk-taker who seems to thrive on war, but there’s no denying his gift for defusing bombs.
Synopsis: Marine Joe Enders (Nicolas Cage) is assigned to protect Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach) — a Navajo code talker, the Marines’ new secret weapon. Enders’ orders are to protect his code talker, but if Yahzee should fall into enemy hands, he’s to protect the code at all costs. Against the backdrop of the horrific Battle of Saipan, when capture is imminent, Enders is forced to make a decision: if he can’t protect his fellow Marine, can he bring himself to kill him to protect the code?
Courage Under Fire. 1996.
Synopsis: During the 1991 Gulf War, Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) accidentally caused a friendly fire incident, a mistake that was hushed up by his superiors. Following the war, he is assigned to investigate the case of Army Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan), killed in action when her Medevac unit was attempting to rescue the crew of a downed helicopter. But, as Serling interviews the members of Walden’s crew, he realizes their stories about the incident don’t add up.
Till next time, folks! I salute you all.