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Best War Films of all times (20+1list)

Best War Films of all times

written by Souranath Banerjee

Best War Films can be generally categorized into two basic types. Firstly the ones that glamorize and romanticize the concept of war for the War-Films-postersheer entertainment of the audience, as most of us want to enjoy the thrill of the battle-zone but shy away from the horrors and perils of it – more like a harmless video game!

And then the second kind that actually portray war as realistically as possible; the action, the bloodshed, the destruction, the cries of the wounded and the death of the young and innocents.

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

The films listed below mostly belong to the second category; they are the Best War Films of all times that have the audacity to paint the ugly face of war and tell stories of not only courage and strength but also of the brutality and helplessness of both the armed and the civilians.

Let the battle begin.

20. The Beast of War (1988)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcJuxYXpI5w

Best-War-FilmsA much underrated war film based on the Afgan-Soviet conflict, but it superbly portrays the brutality of a battle zone, the psychology and instincts of the armed and civilians.

Directed by Kevin Reynolds, a war drama mostly based on a Tank crew led by an eccentric commander who needs to be stopped for good.

Far more realistic than the 2014 star-studded Tank-movie – Fury.

19. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51lo2dpaZ_g

Best-War-FilmsNominated for 4 Oscars, won one; brilliantly directed by Clint Eastwood, this film is a heroic take of the 40 days war between America and Japan to capture the island of Iwo Jima (a potential strategic point).

A brilliant war drama from the Japanese soldiers perspective, outstanding performances, a thrilling yet emotional storyline and very realistic depiction of the battle.

18. Red Cliff (2008)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pd0bqLQrtdE

Best-War-FilmsEmperor Han under the influence of his Prime Minister Cao Cao fought epic battles to unite all of China under his sole command.

Directed by John Woo, this film is the first part of the monumental battle of Red Cliff which altered the Chinese history forever.

Red Cliff II (2009) is probably even a better cinematic experience. Another must watch war-film. 

17.  The Battle of Algiers (1966)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca3M2feqJk8

Best-War-FilmsBased on the Algerian revolution in the 1950s, as the people of Algeria seeking independence rebel against the French government and fight a ruthless war that ends after a series of tortures and bombings.

Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, commissioned by Algerian government, banned in France until recently, nominated for 3 Oscars in two separate non-consecutive years!

16. Kanal (1957)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LnLszHOLNs

Best-War-FilmsSet in the last days of the Warsaw uprising in 1944, a group of Polish resistance fighters reluctantly use the sewer system to escape the indomitable German wrath.

Directed by Andrzej Wajda, this is a unique war drama that explores the human instinct of the soldiers to survive above everything else. A tragic yet highly realistic depiction of the ugly face of war.

15.  The Hurt Locker (2008)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIbFvqFYRT4

Best-War-FilmsFinally a film on the bomb squad – the so-called technicians of the military who risk their lives many times a day to ensure safety for their troops.

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this tensed war drama follows a maverick Sergeant (Jeremy Renner) who leads his bomb squad-team through the heart of the Iraq war’s modern IED warfare.

14.  The Cross of Iron (1977)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AonZdAfEQgA

Best-War-FilmsCross of Iron is one of the top military decorations awarded for extraordinary courage but what if somebody undeserving wants to claim it for his personal ambition?

Directed by Sam Peckinpah, a brutal portrayal of WWII as the film follows the fate of a German unit that faces extreme danger due to the treachery of their own commander. James Coburn‘s performance is exceptional!

13. Stalingrad (1993)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlMw8CjyV80

Best-War-FilmsAs the name suggests, this one is an epic portrayal of the battle of Stalingard; from the time when the German Army… tries to invade the city till their struggle to maintain dominance in the cold Russian winter.

Directed by Joseph Vilsmaier, the sheer scale of the film is highly commendable, and then the brilliant performances, the realistic story-line, the music and the depiction of the ugly face of human devastation in a war – probably the best War film ever made.

12. The Cruel Sea (1953)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joUDAD3GB3g

Best-War-Films

Though pretty successful when released, and yet so underrated, one of the lesser popular war films but believe me, it surely deserves a spot in this list.

Directed by Charles Frend, this one is a terrific war drama of a British convoy ship in action over the North Atlantic during the WW II. 

A powerful script, intense situations and superb acting, specially by Jack Hawkins.

11. Platoon (1986)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KztP7SKe0uk

Best-War-FilmsWar often gets too brutal for the young recruits and the Vietnam War was no different.

The film is directed by Oliver Stone (a Vietnam veteran himself) and he won the Oscar for this film!

It is said to be the most complete war film ever made, though it’s banned in Vietnam because of its depiction of the Vietnamese people. A must watch in the list!

10. Enemy at the Gates (2001)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4O-sMh_DO6I

Best-War-FilmsWorld War II, the battle in Stalingrad will decide the fate of the war! And one Russian snipper Vassili Zaitsev (Jude Law), seems to be making all the difference!

But then the Germans send a master snipper to compete, and then the deathly game begins!

Based on true characters, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, starring Ed Harris, Joseph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz – a brilliant war drama full of action, suspense and romance. Definitely the best snipper movie ever made!

9. Paths of Glory (1957)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmDA60X-f_A

Best-War-FilmsDirected by none other than Stanley Kubrick, for me this film has always scored higher than Kubrick’s other two famous war-films Full Metal Jacket (1987) and Dr. Strangelove (1964).

The ruthlessness of the battle (WWI) and the dirty war-politics played by the higher army officials – portrayed to perfection.

One of Kirk Douglas‘s most memorable performances till date. 

8. Apocalypse Now (1979)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkrhkUeDCdQ

Best-War-FilmsMaster director Francis Ford Coppola shot nearly 200 hours of footage – a film that took 16 months of shooting and 3 years of editing!

Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando comes together in this psychologically disturbing Vietnam War saga. 

The sound of the helicopter wings panning from left to right as they are dissolve into a match cut with the ceiling fan – simply epic!

7. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiObc2XmVqw

Best-War-Films

Directed by Lewis Milestone, this was the first talkie war film to win the Oscar! (won both the best picture and the best director awards).

Banned in Germany soon after its release as they claimed that the Germans were shown as cowards!

Though visuals of extreme violence was consciously avoided but still the film’s depiction of WWI is damn honest and brutal.

6. Das Boot (1981)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMj0_wCn6jM

Best-War-FilmsDirected by Wolfgang Petersen this is the epic tale of the crew of a German U-boat (submarine) during the last phase of WW II. 

Highly claustrophobic as most of the film is shot inside the submarine and yet so dramatic and powerful. Some of the tensed moments in the film are deliberately slow with a nerve wrenching effect on the audience. Jürgen Prochnow is brilliant!

5. Come and See (1985)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-Ro0SZf438

Best-War-FilmsIn this film the horrors of war (WW II) is depicted in an ultra-realistic manner, often considered too graphic and brutal. 

Directed by Elem Klimov, the film revolves around a young boy who finds an old rifle and instinctively decides to join the Soviet Army. 

Original uniforms and live ammunitions were used for authenticity.

4. The Thin Red Line (1998)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCmlOhsIwBk

Best-War-Films‘Every man fights their own war’ and so does each of them!

Directed by Terrence Malick the film was nominated for Oscars in 7 categories!

A philosophical war drama starring Jim CaviezelSean PennNick NolteAdrien BrodyJohn CusackJohn C. ReillyWoody HarrelsonJared LetoJohn TravoltaGeorge Clooney.

3. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlC7XBayj0s

Best-War-FilmsDirected by  David Lean who is also famous for his other war films like In Which We Serve (1942) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

Based on the story when the British prisoners in a Japanese camp were ordered to built a bridge. The film took 7 Oscars that year, won in all the major categories!

William HoldenAlec Guinness and Jack Hawkins in their career-best performances.

2. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EsVtn2GvBo

Best-War-Films

A team lead by Tom Hanks was set to save Private Ryan (Matt Damon) and bring him home.

Steven Spielberg directed this film and according to many film-lovers it contains some of the most authentic war scenes ever filmed (specially the Omaha Beach battle sequence).

Undoubtedly the most popular war film ever made. Also Voted #1 greatest war film in UK’s Channel 4 poll in 2005. 

1. Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=setzqMoEEUU

Best-War-FilmsThis is the story of 12 year old Ivan, a young war hero, a spy and most importantly a soldier!

Directed by the renowned Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky

The film is one of the most poetic and beautifully shot war films I have ever seen. Though it doesn’t show much of actual combat but still it manages to deliver the chills of war to its full effect.

and (The ‘+1′ film is not necessarily the best but certainly the most innovative one. A must watch)

+1. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2-1hz1juBI

Best-War-FilmsA biographical take on an American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield) who fought the Battle of Okinawa without a gun!

Directed by Mel Gibson, this one is an astonishing tale of a man whose religious views didn’t allow him to carry a weapon, or kill anybody. But it didn’t stop him from saving hundreds of lives and winning the Medal of Honor for his incredible courage – without firing one single shot!

Poster courtesy: www.impawards.comwww.imdb.com.

Best of Stanley Kubrick

Best of Stanley Kubrick.

written by Souranath Banerjee.

Regarded as the most talented and versatile film-maker of all times, Stanley Kubrick indeed was responsible for evolving Cinema to new heights.

Inspiration to the likes of Martin ScorseseSteven SpielbergJames CameronWoody Allen,The Coen brothersRidley Scott – in 2000, BAFTA renamed their lifetime achievement award in the name of Stanley Kubrick!

He never won an Oscar in the ‘best director’ category (the only time he won was in 1972 for his film 2001:A Space Odyssey in ‘best visual effects’ category) but all his films are immensely popular and groundbreaking in their own ways.

Introducing visual effects never seen before, using steady cams for the first time ever, shooting with lenses meant to be used by NASA and combining all that with brilliant selection of music – Stanley Kubrick is unique and awesome.

All of Stanley Kubrick’s films are favorites of mine and this list almost covers his entire life’s work.

Ok then, here we go.

10. Spartacus (1960)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcIMY1Ah3aw
Spatacus

A slave revolting against an empire – this film was the first of it’s kind.

Thanks to Kirk Douglas not only for his superb acting but primarily for looping in Kubrick as the replacement director for this film.

Won four Oscars Spartacus is one of the best historical film ever made.

Kubrick’s last Hollywood project.

9. The Killing (1956)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiDUFG56wT4

the killling

Kubrick’s first so-called professional film that has the touch of his genius.

Only in his twenties Kubrick managed to create a superb suspense thriller. One of the best in it’s genre till date.

Good performances and a gripping story line.

A classic heist story told in style – film noir at it’s very best.

8. Lolita (1962)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRVqgvW8100

lolita

Kubrick was bold enough to adopt Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel and that too successfully.

A young girl ‘a nymphet’ and a middle-aged professor (her step dad) – a scandalous affair in the making.

In those days when censor boards were proudly rigid only Kubrick could have done justice to such a plot. And believe me he did.

7. Paths of Glory (1957)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmDA60X-f_A

paths of glory

WWI was never been shown in such realistic and non-glamorous way before this film.

According to many this film is Kubrick’s first masterpiece. Shot beautifully, superb script and great acting by Kirk Douglas.

An anti-war film that stands the test of time, one of my personal favorite.

A must watch.

6. Barry Lyndon (1975)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lzSoKOs1fc

barry lyndon

An artistic, slow yet passionate film that got seven Oscar nominations and won four of them.

A simple story of an Irish man, his love and his passion shown in gorgeous details.

Kubrick’s craftsmanship as a director is simply extraordinary in this film; each frame looks like a painting.

 

5. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9f6JaaX7Wg

Full metal jacketThis time Kubrick tags the audience with a soldier’s journey- through the training till the actual war in Vietnam where as the poster says ‘the wind doesn’t blow, it sucks’.   

The first half connects us more strongly but the second half is equally important – the film is like an open-ended justification. (if that makes any sense at all).

The music is awesome – a special treat for war-film lovers.

4. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) 

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IE9CmX15PYA

Dr. Strangelove

A cup of fresh, dark, black comedy for you.

Only few filmmakers can take the most serious topic of the season and turn it into something hilarious. Kubrick yet again proves to be the master of it.

George C. Scott is too good in the film but Peter Sellers steals the show by playing three different characters in the film including Dr.Strangelove (as the title goes).

3. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEfyfcEdW4Y

Eyes Wide Shut

The last film of Kubrick – a film that denies to clarify realism from fantasy.

It talks about sexuality in a way completely different from any other so-called sexual films.

The suspense that a single note of piano can create, the exquisite acting capabilities displayed by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman – Kubrick’s ultimate swan song.

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2UWOeBcsJI

2001

According to many this film is Kubrick’s artistically most productive one.

A slow-paced film that tops the Sci-Fi genre (as most of Kubrick’s films tops their individual genre ratings).

Incredible advancements in visual effects (the film got an Oscar in this category), Kubrick not only makes a futuristic film but also enlightens the future of Cinema.

1. The Shining (1980)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S014oGZiSdI

the shining

It’s time to get scared as Kubrick contributes to the horror genre.

The film is interpreted in many different ways but still at the core it is a terrific horror thriller and probably Kubrick’s best creation ever.

Great performances by Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and the kid who knows how to shine – Danny Lloyd.

and (The ‘+1′ film is not necessarily the best but certainly the most crazy one. A must watch)

+1. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmm5jeeH8mY

Clockwork Orange

Extreme violence, painfully sexual, emotionally draining, often perverse and deeply wicked – according to me this is the ultimate film that Kubrick made in his lifetime.

A crazy film and hat’s off to Malcolm McDowell for such a performance.

Art of film making at it’s best, Kubrick’s disturbing yet entertaining satire will make you uncomfortably satisfied.

Famous quote by Stanley Kubrick.

“How could we possibly appreciate the Mona Lisa if Leonardo had written at the bottom of the canvas: ‘The lady is smiling because she is hiding a secret from her lover.’ This would shackle the viewer to reality, and I don’t want this to happen to 2001″