Unless you have been on active duty in the military during wartime, it can be difficult to understand exactly what goes through a soldier’s mind during battle. For years, military movies have long been a popular genre in Hollywood and truth be told, there have been some solid hits and some serious misses. If you want to experience accurate portrayals of military life in film, then stick to the following ten films.
Saving Private Ryan – Widely regarded as one of the most accurate portrayals of the Allied Invasion of Normandy, this 1998 Steven Spielberg film stars a huge cast of award-winning actors including Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Paul Giamatti, Dennis Farina, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, and others. Arguably, no other film captures the brother-like bond of soldiers in World War II quite like Saving Private Ryan. With five Oscar wins, it is also one of the most honored films in the history of Hollywood.
Apocalypse Now – When Apocalypse Now was released in 1979, it gave viewers a stark and eye-opening look at life behind the lines during the Vietnam Conflict. Starring Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishburne, and other recognizable names, this Oscar-winning film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and remains one of the most gripping portrayals of military life ever put on film.
Full Metal Jacket – In 1987, Stanley Kubrick released Full Metal Jacket, a hyper-realistic look at life as a Marine recruit’s journey through boot camp to the front lines of the Vietnam Conflict. Starring Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, and R. Lee Ermey in his most memorable role, this film offers brutal realism and a startling observation of the dehumanizing effect war has on soldiers.
The Hurt Locker – The Hurt Locker follows a crew of highly trained bomb disposal specialists as they conduct one of the most dangerous jobs in one of the most dangerous locations on the planet – Baghdad, Iraq. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this engaging film snagged six Academy Awards including the Best Motion Picture of the Year.
Platoon – Platoon is often regarded as one of director Oliver Stone’s crowning achievements. A winner of four Oscar awards including Best Picture and Best Director, this 1986 epic follows a young Marine recruit as he faces the horrors of war and man during the Vietnam Conflict.
All is Quiet on the Western Front – All is Quiet on the Western Front was released in 1930 and it was one of the first military epics of the sound era. Directed by Lewis Milestone, this World War I film adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel of the same name still resonates as a gripping war drama that details the physical and emotional toll of war on a group of young German soldiers.
Kelly’s Heroes – Starring Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, and Don Rickles, 1970’s Kelly’s Heroes follows a ragtag group of soldiers sneaking across enemy lines in an attempt to steal a Nazi treasure. Directed by Brian G. Hutton, Kelly’s Heroes was less a historically-accurate piece and more of an action and comedy hybrid that nevertheless remains a favorite among lovers of military movies to this day.
The Big Red One – Written and directed by Samuel Fuller, The Big Red One stars Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, and Robert Carradine. The movie follows a gruff sergeant and the four long-time members of his unit as they try to survive World War II.
Paths of Glory – Paths of Glory is the second Stanley Kubrick film to be included on our list of Best Military Movies. Released in 1957, this grim film follows a group of soldiers who are forced to face dire consequences from their superior officers after refusing to continue on with an impossible attack.
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo – Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo is a film that was made about World War II, while the war was still going on! Directed by Mervyn LeRoy in 1944, the film follows the top secret Doolittle Raid bombing mission on Japan. The movie was released just two years after the actual bombing and featured several real-life accounts of soldiers who participated in the war.