Happy Veterans Day, or early Veterans Day if this goes up early, or belated Veterans Day if it goes up late! Don’t blame me, blame our unpatriotic commie editors. (Note to editors: It was just a joke! Haha! Please give me back my family.)
And what better way to celebrate our veterans than a good old fashioned war movie! But what if, like me, you’re not really a fan of war movies? Well, never fear, because I am here to help with these war movies for people who don’t like war movies. Simple enough? Good.
7. Inglourious Basterds
Private, this is the closest you can get to a war movie with little to no actual war. It’s Quentin Tarantino, so it’s highly watchable and full of slick action and excellent dialogue. Plus, it has amazing performances from a huge ensemble cast. And yet it still touches (never too heavily) on the horror of war, oppression in Nazi-occupied France, anti-Semitism and the plight of German defectors.
Also, it has plenty of gnat-see killin’, alternate history and a ragtag group of lovable characters. Even if you don’t like Tarantino (I’m not his biggest fan, but I find myself pretty consistently enjoying his films, for whatever reason), I think it still has a lot to offer.
Speaking of war films with little to no actual war, Jarhead is this in spades. It’s the story of a highly trained fighting force and what they’re left to do when there’s no one to fight, which is, essentially, to lose their minds. It’s probably got the absolute least action you’ll ever see in a war film, but it’s a fascinating look into what my veteran friends say they spent most of their time doing: absolutely nothing.
It also has your favorite actor, which is either Jake Gyllenhaal or Jamie Foxx. I’m sorry, but those are the only two options you have. Whichever you choose, though, both do excellently.
5. Saving Private Ryan
This is basically the opposite of the previous two. It is nothing but action and war scenes. In fact, that’s the reason Saving Private Ryan is so damn good. It’s nothing but spectacle. Well, okay, not nothing. It does have a nice ensemble cast and a fairly rudimentary plot, but it’s also one of the most visceral and jaw-dropping war movies ever made.
Yes, that does mean it’s violent. Super violent, even. But if you can make it past that, it’s a beautifully shot film and brutally realistic. Make sure to follow it up with Spielberg’s other World War II movie which isn’t necessarily a war movie, Schindler’s List, if you need to decompress.
4. The Deer Hunter
Look, you don’t need me to tell you that The Deer Hunter is a good movie. It won a ton of awards and stuff. But my point is that it’s not just a war film. It’s about war, yes, but it’s also about other things, like strained friendships and torture and life in a small town. Oh, and, uh, Russian roulette.
Yeah, I should mention that it’s pretty intense, super disturbing and incredibly depressing. But still a good movie! Just don’t watch it if you’ve had a bad day. Or maybe after seeing Schindler’s List.
3. Full Metal Jacket
Everyone knows at least the first part of this movie. You know, the section where R. Lee Ermey screams at everyone. But did you know there are two more sections after that one? Because it sure seems like a lot of people don’t. All three are worth watching, even if the first is the most iconic. But I’m also a fan of the final section, which I’ve always heard called “The Sniper.”
So, yep, it’s another dark, depressing movie. Sorry about that.
Let’s lighten things up with a comedy! A dark comedy. Where people die and stuff. Look, war movies tend to be pretty bleak, okay? But at least this one’s got some laughs. It’s not as funny as the book, but when you’ve gotta condense a weird, non-linear book into a two-hour film, sacrifices have to be made. But it does have Alan Arkin, Jon Voight, Buck Henry, Art Garfunkel (yes, that Art Garfunkel), Bob Newheart and Orson Welles, among many others.
And it’s funny and smart and worth your time. And if you like it, read the book. It’s one of the few I’ve ever laughed out loud at while reading.
1. Apocalypse Now
For my money, this is the greatest war movie ever made. It’s dark, it’s dirty, it’s weird and probably half of the people involved (including Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Sheen) were basically insane by the end of it. It’s literally a journey into madness, and one that I probably should have included in my list of movies that are better than their source material. (I like “Heart of Darkness,” but Apocalypse Now is an amazing adaptation.)
But here’s a tip from me to you: Skip the Apocalypse Now Redux version if you’re not already a fan. The original version is excellent and Redux doesn’t add anything strictly necessary. While the scenes added back in are fine, it also makes the pacing of the film slow down to a crawl (which is something I intend to talk about in a future article, so keep an eye out for that one).
Okay, this list is very America-centric. Tell me about foreign war movies (and Three Kings, which I’ve not seen) in the comments!
Related Topics: War