Throughout history there have been many wars and battles and Hollywood has been there pretty much since the beginning to depict these epic events. While some are completely fictitious but just centered around the war, some are based on true tales with actors portraying real people and real battles.
Personally, I am a big fan of war movies and history so I have watched a lot of them. I also love watching military documentaries, but that is a completely different list to make. With this list I am focusing on modern war movies made at least by the 1950's and it will only include live-action. Sorry animation fans, but you guys will be left out. This list is also in no particular order, so let's keep the comments section respectful and free of "why is this movie before that one?!" Calm down.
Disclaimer: This list is in no particular order and a few pictures contain some graphic imagery.
17. The Patriot (2000)
The Patriot followed a man who joins the American Revolution after the British threaten his family and want to take his farm property. This was one of the more graphic war movies that was pretty much the trend of the 2000's, but it was a really good story with a great cast. It's also one of the few focused around the Revolutionary War.
16. Black Hawk Down (2001)
Centered around the bloody 1993 humanitarian mission in Somalia, Black Hawk Down follows a unit of United States Army soldiers as they push through Somalian streets in an effort to deliver food and aid to its starving population. The soldiers are attacked by local militants and has two of their Black Hawk helicopters shot down. Black Hawk Down is another one that is extremely graphic but it's a good one.
15. Unbroken (2014)
The latest directorial effort from Angelina Jolie, Unbroken is the true story of the late WWII veteran and Olympian, Captain Louis Zamperini. The film follows his war experience as he is shot down by Japanese forces, lost at sea, captured, and tortured in a Japanese POW camp. What made Unbroken so powerful was knowing this story was true and that Captain Zamperini worked directly with Jolie to create this film. Despite his struggles both in the war and after, he lived a long life and I was happy that the movie was as well done as it was.
14. Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
How could we possibly forget the penis scene?
That aside, Born on the Fourth of July is actually a pretty good war movie. Tom Cruise starred in this Vietnam War depiction of a young Marine who is paralyzed during his second tour of duty. What this movie did is what a lot of war movies don't do; it followed what happens after you come home. Sure, it's all well and good to show the battles and what happens while you're there, but many forget the struggles are just as real when you arrive back on American soil.
13. Fury (2014)
Probably one of the most gory of the list, Fury is the story of a US Army tank team stationed in Germany during the last days of WWII. Other than the rounds looking like Star Wars laser blasts, this was a very well done movie and I enjoyed it a lot. The characters are sympathetic and tough all at once and it shows the real gritty nature of the final push to defeat the Nazis.
12. Platoon (1986)
What Platoon does right is it shows both sides of war. After a young college student leaves his studies behind to fight in Vietnam, he sees both sides of the battle with his paranoid Staff Sergeant Barnes and a sympathetic Sergeant Elias. You see that the war isn't always between you and the enemy, but sometimes within your own ranks.
11. Apocalypse Now (1979)
Apocalypse Now is just one of those movies you have to see to fully understand it. Yet another set in the Vietnam War, it follows a Captain that takes a mission to find and destroy a missing Colonel. It also received an extended cut in 2001 promptly titled, Apocalypse Now Redux.
10. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Saving Private Ryan kind of became a template for war movies to follow as it was one of the first more modern gory and extremely graphic films to hit, but it is one that is so well done it feels real. Tom Hanks stars as Captain Miller as he takes his company behind enemy lines to search for Private James Ryan. Throughout the search, the soldiers begin to see the true face of war and learn a great deal about themselves, courage, and the price of freedom.
9. Das Boot (1981)
The only foreign film to make the list, Das Boot is a German WWII epic that was originally supposed to be a television mini-series. The film follows the crew of a German submarine U-boat as their Captain struggles to keep morale up in the wake of grizzly battles and dwindling supplies.
8. The Hurt Locker (2008)
The Hurt Locker is one that I think actually got hurt by Oscar nominations and wins. A lot of people didn't see it thinking it was overrated but I completely disagree. This one was one of the more realistic feeling films centered around the Iraq War and the events portrayed shake you right to the core. The film follows a group of EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) specialists as they do their dangerous tour of duty in Baghdad.
7. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
You don't have to be a Tarantino fan to enjoy the hell out of this movie. Although it's completely fictitious, and sometimes downright silly, Inglourious Basterds is a great war film. Set in the first year of the occupation in France, it follows a group of Jewish-American soldiers in their elaborate plan to assassinate top leaders of the Nazi party. This movie is extremely gory and contains very colorful language, but don't all war movies? It also has an ending that makes you wish it really turned out that way.
6. American Sniper (2014)
Creepy fake babies and political agendas aside, this true story of a US Navy sniper wasn't a complete loss. It was actually a very good war movie. American Sniper follows US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle throughout his four tours of duty in Iraq where he raises to the status of becoming the most deadly sniper in American history. It did what many don't do and not only followed his struggles overseas but the struggle of dealing with the trauma while trying to be a good husband, father, and citizen.
5. Starship Troopers (1997)
Knock me all you want for this choice, but this is a great war movie. Although this is not based on any real events or real war, Starship Troopers tells a great story of what war is like for the soldiers and the planets it takes place on. Following a group of young friends as they join the armed forces in the wake of an arachnid invasion of Earth, they learn hard lessons in courage, friendship, and loyalty. It's high stakes, dirty, graphic, and gritty just the way it should be.
4. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
Yet another war movie brought to us by Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima flipped us on our heads a bit as it told the story of the epic Japanese battle from the opposite point of view.
3. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Yes, we all know and love the Gunny and Pyle, but this is probably one of the more iconic war films in Hollywood history. Full Metal Jacket follows a young Marine as he enters boot camp and witnesses the dehumanizing effect both the Vietnam War and boot camp has on him and his fellow recruits, specifically at the hand of a foul mouthed Gunnery Sergeant.
2. Jarhead (2005)
Although not very well recognized, Jarhead is one of my favorite war movies. Based on the real experiences of and memoirs written by former Marine Anthony Swofford, it follows a company of Marine scout snipers as they are deployed overseas during Operation Desert Shield. The character development alone makes Jarhead a great film altogether, but being based on the true experiences of a veteran makes it a bit more interesting because it not only focuses on the war itself but the struggles within the Marine as an individual.
1. Schindler's List (1993)
One of the most tear jerking war films on the list, Schindler's List is one of many WWII epics but is told from the perspective of the Nazi party. The film follows a Nazi businessman as he sets out to make his fortune during the war by staffing mostly Jewish workers in his factories. After learning about the extermination of Jews across Europe at the hands of the Nazis, he moves to have his workers and potential fortune protected.
It's impossible to talk about every great war movie, so here are some honorable mentions:
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Flags of Our Fathers (2006)
The Thin Red Line (1998)
Think I forgot any films or want to talk about your favorite war movies? Mention it in the comments section! Just keep it clean, folks.