If you’re looking for drama, action and emotion, all rolled up into one, there’s no need for superheroes or made-up crimes. The past provides plenty of inspiration, and many of the best movies delve into a seemingly unavoidable source for storytelling: war.
What Are the Top 10 War Movies?
The need to examine what it is that makes us make war has been around since the existence of humans. Film just gave us one more way to do it. The result? Excellent wartime movies that will stick with you.
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Patton is an epic biography of General George S. Patton, a hero of World War II who was also an eccentric, arrogant and controversial figure. Written by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North, this war film captures the ugliness of war and human nature with nuance and complexity. It also captured seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Writer and director Oliver Stone based Platoon off his own experience in the Vietnam war, which could be why it’s one of the most emotional wartime movies you’ll find. It follows Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen), a university student who enlists in combat duty and promptly has his idealism dashed. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture and Best Director.
‘Full Metal Jacket’ (1987)
Stanley Kubrick directed 13 movies over his lifetime, but Full Metal Jacket might be his most famous. This take on the Vietnam War focuses on a group of recruits facing not only the horrors of battle, but also of the politics behind the battles. The film was nominated for 11 awards, including a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
‘Saving Private Ryan’ (1998)
With a star-studded cast that includes Tom Hanks and a not-exactly-unknown director by the name of Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan quickly became one of the top 10 war movies of all time. Hanks plays a captain who must lead his men to rescue a soldier behind enemy lines. If you’re wondering what war movie has the most realistic battle scenes, look no further than its opening scene.
‘Black Hawk Down’ (2001)
Black Hawk Down isn’t your typical warfare movie. It’s about the Battle of Mogadishu, which took place between U.S. forces and the Somali National Alliance. After a helicopter was unexpectedly downed, an intense battle ensued, with casualties on both sides. The film is accurate and realistic, earning it a place on the list of best Memorial Day movies. It also earned four Academy Award nominations and won two Oscars.
‘Letters from Iwo Jima’ (2007)
Letters from Iwo Jima is another interesting take on the traditional wartime movie. It’s told from the point of view of Japanese soldiers during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, portraying their courage, loss and incredible military prowess. It gained accolades for its accurate depiction of the battle, and was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning one.
‘Inglourious Basterds’ (2009)
Even Quentin Tarantino has a take on World War II. Inglourious Basterds stars Brad Pitt as an Allied officer who gathers a group of Jewish soldiers to do the unthinkable to any Nazi they can find. It’s more satire than realism, with plenty of Tarantino’s signature banter, violence and genre-shifting, but it’s still one of the top 10 war movies.
‘The Hurt Locker’ (2009)
War-based movies about the Iraq War aren’t nearly as common as those about World War II, but The Hurt Locker aimed to change that. Jeremy Renner plays a staff sergeant leading a bomb unit in Baghdad — a naturally suspenseful situation made even more intense by excellent acting and directing. In fact, its director Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director.
If you’re looking for an epic, sweeping, big-picture war film, look no further than Dunkirk. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (yes, of Batman fame), Dunkirk quite literally makes you feel like you are in the center of a World War II battle. With no real main character or narrative arc, it’s all about the emotions of war — and you will feel them in your bones.
The only World War I movie on our list, 1917 tells a fictionalized account of two British soldiers who must carry a life-saving message behind enemy lines. Shot in a way that is meant to look like a single continuous take, it’s an ambitious, detailed and precisely choreographed wartime movie. It’s no surprise that it won Best Drama and Best Director at the Golden Globes and was nominated for the same at the Academy Awards.
Watch War Movies on DIRECTV
War movies are more than a casual watch — they’re an experience. Whether you choose DIRECTV or DIRECTV STREAM, you get a crystal-clear picture and reliable connection that make you feel like you’re right there. So grab your popcorn and get ready for an epic night.
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