We’ve combed through the internet to find the best lists of war movies and came up with a list that is sure to suit every war movie fan in the world. The criteria was pretty straightforward; there had to be actual acts of war involved in the story line (in other words; soldiers’ stories) and the movies had to be based on true historical events. Once we found 10 candidates they were ordered by gross theater sales, post theater sales, critical reviews and cultural relevance.
10 – Palatoon
Crazy that the list STARTS with Oliver Stone’s Platoon. This began the whole practice of training actors to toughen them up for roles as soldiers. Stone’s Vietnam story brought realism to the screen and touched millions of Vietnam veterans in ways that no other movie had at that time. A young recruit in Vietnam faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man.
9 – Braveheart
Braveheart is a 1995 epic historical drama film directed by and starring Mel Gibson. The film was written for the screen and then novelized by Randall Wallace. Gibson portrays Sir William Wallace, a 13th century Scottish knight who gained recognition when he came to the forefront of the First War of Scottish Independence by opposing King Edward I of England, also known as “Longshanks” (Patrick McGoohan).
The film won five Academy Awards at the 68th Academy Awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director, and was nominated for an additional five.
8 – Tora! Tora! Tora!
The commanders in Hawaii, General Short and Admiral Kimmel, though scapegoated for decades, are portrayed as taking defensive measures for the apparent threats, including relocation of the fighter aircraft at Pearl Harbor to the middle of the base, in response to fears of sabotage from local Japanese insurgents. They received limited warning of the increasing risk of aerial attack, which was better understood in Washington than in Honolulu. The film is famous for Isoroku Yamamoto’s quote likening the attacks to “awakening a sleeping giant”, although it may have been apocryphal.
The title is made up of the code-words that were used by the Japanese to indicate that complete surprise was achieved and is translated “tiger”, hence making the code for achieved surprise “Tiger, tiger, tiger”.
7 – Full Metal Jacket
Full Metal Jacket is a 1987 war film by Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford. It stars Matthew Modine, Vincent D’Onofrio, and former U.S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey. The title refers to the full metal jacket bullet used by infantry riflemen. The film follows a platoon of U.S. Marines through their training and depicts some of the experiences of two of them in the Tet Offensive (1968) during the Vietnam War.
6 – Inglorious Basterds
Inglorious Basterds is a 2009 war film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz and Mélanie Laurent. The film tells the fictional story of two plots to assassinate the Nazi Germany political leadership, one planned by a young French Jewish cinema proprietor (Laurent), and the other by a team of Jewish Allied soldiers led by First Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Pitt).
5 – The Bridge Over the River Kwai
The Bridge over the River Kwai (French: Le Pont de la Rivière Kwai) is a novel by Pierre Boulle, published in French in 1952 and English translation by Xan Fielding in 1954. The story is fictional but uses the construction of the Burma Railway, in 1942–43, as its historical setting. The novel deals with the plight of World War II British prisoners of war forced by the Imperial Japanese Army to build a bridge for the “Death Railway”, so named because of the large number of prisoners and conscripts who died during its construction. The novel won France’s Prix Sainte-Beuve in 1952.
4 – Das Boot
Das Boot (The Boat) is a 1981 German epic war film written and directed by Wolfgang Petersen, produced by Günter Rohrbach, and starring Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer and Klaus Wennemann. It is an adaption of the 1973 German novel Das Boot by Lothar-Günther Buchheim. Set during World War II, the film tells the fictional story of U-96 and its crew. It depicts both the excitement of battle and the tedium of the fruitless hunt, and shows the men serving aboard U-boats as ordinary individuals with a desire to do their best for their comrades and their country. The screenplay used an amalgamation of exploits from the real U-96, a Type VIIC-class U-boat commanded by Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, one of Germany’s top U-boat “tonnage aces” during the war.
3 – Saving Private Ryan
Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 American war film set during the invasion of Normandy in World War II. It was directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat. The film is notable for the intensity of its opening 27 minutes, which depict the Omaha beachhead assault of June 6, 1944. Afterwards, it follows Tom Hanks as Captain John H. Miller and seven men (Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg, and Jeremy Davies) as they search for paratrooper Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), who is the last surviving brother of three fallen servicemen.
2 – Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence of Arabia is a 1962 British film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence. It was directed by David Lean and produced by Sam Spiegel through his British company, Horizon Pictures, with the screenplay by Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson. The film stars Peter O’Toole in the title role. It is widely considered one of the greatest and most influential films in the history of cinema. The dramatic score by Maurice Jarre and the Super Panavision 70 cinematography by Freddie Young are also highly acclaimed.
1 – Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now is a 1979 War film set during the Vietnam War. The plot revolves around US Army special operations officer, Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen) of MACV-SOG, who is sent into the jungle to assassinate the rogue and presumably insane Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) of Special Forces.
The film was produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola from a script by Coppola and John Milius. The script is based on Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness, and also draws elements from Michael Herr’s Dispatches, the film version of Conrad’s Lord Jim (which shares the same character of Marlow with Heart of Darkness), and Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972).