10. Schindler’s List (1993)
Our top 10 war movies list begins with a Spielberg classic. Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) and Ben Kingsley (Itzhak Stern) look to make a profit by working with the Nazis during World War II.
Schindler begins to question his motives after witnessing the persecution and abuse of his Jewish workers at the hands of Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) and his cohorts. Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List won seven Oscars including Best Director. Making it the undisputed king of war movies from the 90s.
Media giants like Amazon Prime and Netflix don’t always stream the best war movies of all-time, but when they do viewers should leap at the opportunity.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagall, Embeth Davidtz
Release date: December 15, 1993
Runtime: 195 minutes
9. The Killing Fields (1984)
One of the best war movies of the 80’s was The Killing Fields. Covering the U.S. pull out from Vietnam in 1975, New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg relies upon his Cambodian friend Dith Pran for inside information.
Schanberg has an opportunity to rescue Pran; instead, the reporter coerces his friend to remain behind to continue sending him news flashes.
Director: Roland Joffé
Cast: Sam Waterston, Haing S. Ngor, John Malkovich, Julian Sands
Release date: November 2, 1984
Runtime: 141 minutes
8. Apocalypse Now (1979)
We believe Apocalypse Now is one of the best war movies ever produced. You know the names–Brando, Sheen, Duvall, Hopper, Fishburne, and Ford all directed by Francis Ford Coppola. So many movies made regarding the Vietnam War but only one original take on the entire experience.
The confusion, the drugs, the fear, the insanity of it all captured on film. The line “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” sums up this classic and solidifies the number 8 spot on our top 10 war movies list.
Director: Francis Coppola
Cast: Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper
Release date: August 15, 1979
Runtime: 182 minutes
7. The Pianist (2002)
The fact that Adrien Brody took home an Academy Award at 29 years old (the youngest ever), is one reason The Pianist is a great world war movie–the other is director Roman Polanski.
Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) is an acclaimed composer who is credited for playing the last live music heard over Polish radio airwaves before Nazi artillery hit. He spends the entire war in hiding, and eventually comes face to face with his fears with the help of and unlikely ally.
Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Emilia Fox, Ed Stoppard, Julia Rayner, Jessica Kate Meyer
Release date: May 24, 2002
Runtime: 150 minutes
6. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
The #6 entry on our top 10 war movies list is about the preservation of life and not war. How can a million people be murdered and most of the world not take notice? The events in the country of Rwanda are some of the most horrific on record.
One man risks his life, and that of his family, to save a few. A career-defining performance by Don Cheadle tells the gruesome story. Starring along with Mr. Cheadle are Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix, and Sophie Okonedo.
One of the more modern war movies on our list, Hotel Rwanda is a film you will never forget.
Director: Terry George
Cast: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Joaquin Phoenix, Nick Nolte
Release date: December 22, 2004
Runtime: 121 minutes
5. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
General William T. Sherman famously said, “War is Hell”. The wartime staple follows a group of naive young men as they join the German Army during World War I and are assigned to the Western Front, where their patriotism is destroyed by the harsh realities of combat. They take in the horror and pain of war and can rely on it alone for solace.
Director: Lewis Milestone
Cast: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim
Release date: April 21, 1930
Runtime: 152 minutes
4. Life Is Beautiful (1997)
In his World War II tragicomedy, Guido marries Dora and together they have a son. Five years later they are imprisoned in a concentration camp. Guido does not want his son to know why they are there, so he says that it’s a game in which the winner receives a tank. A touching film that will keep you praying for a storybook ending.
Stop debating which war movies to watch first. Roberto Benigni wrote, directed, and starred in Life Is Beautiful. Oh yeah, and his movie won three Academy Awards too.
Director: Roberto Benigni
Cast: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi
Release date: December 20, 1997
Runtime: 116 minutes
3. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Another great war movie directed by filmmaking giant Stanley Kubrick. Dr. Stangelove explores the danger of thermonuclear weapons and what can happen when the chain of command is broken.
The multiple performances of Peter Sellers (President Merkin Muffley/Dr. Strangelove/Group Captain Mandrake) and the unforgettable performance of George C. Scott (General Buck Turgidson) should not be missed.
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, James Earl Jones, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, Tracy Reed
Release date: January 29, 1964
Runtime: 94 minutes
2. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Just missing the top spot on our best war movies Vietnam list is Full Metal Jacket. Famous director Stanley Kubrick made his return to filmmaking with this Vietnam War movie. This brilliant picture centers around a group of raw Marine volunteers.
The first half of the film follows these volunteers through the crazed boot camp training under the foul mouth, in-your-face direction of drill instructor Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey). His singular performance is hard to match. The second half of the film follows the Marines to Nam.
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Ermey, Dorian Harewood, Arliss Howard, Kevyn Major Howard, Ed O’Ross
Release date: June 26, 1987
Runtime: 116 minutes
1. Platoon (1986)
Our #1 top 10 war movie is Platoon. Oliver Stone’s breakthrough film as a director, is a brutally realistic look at a young soldier’s tour of duty in Vietnam. Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) is a college student who quits school, and volunteers for the Army in the late ’60s.
He’s shipped off to Vietnam, where he serves with a culturally diverse group of fellow soldiers. Under the leadership of his polar opposite commanders–Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) and Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger)–Chris now sees life through a different lens.
Director: Oliver Stone
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Keith David, Forest Whitaker, Francesco Quinn, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley, Reggie Johnson, Mark Moses, Corey Glover, Johnny Depp
Release date: December 19, 1986
Runtime: 120 minutes