10Schindler’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 in 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.
9The Killing Fields (1984)
One of the most popular top 10 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 Dith Pran; instead, the reporter coerces his friend to remain behind to continue sending him news flashes.
8Apocalypse Now (1979)
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,” just about sums up this classic on our top 10 war movies list.
7The 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 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.
6Hotel 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.
5All 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.
4Life Is Beautiful (1997)
In his WW 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.
3Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Another great war movie directed by filmmaking giant Stanley Kubrick. This one explores the danger of thermonuclear weapons and what can happen when the chain of command is broken. The multiple performances by Peter Sellers (President Merkin Muffley/Dr. Strangelove/Group Captain Mandrake) and the unforgettable performance by George C. Scott (General Buck Turgidson), cannot be missed.
2Full Metal Jacket (1987)
The famous film director Stanley Kubrick made his return to filmmaking with this Vietnam War movie. This fantastic top 10 war movie 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 drill instructor Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey)–his singular performance is hard to match from that year to this. The second half of the film follows the Marines to Nam.
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 lense.