Ok this topic came up last night in the Staff Bar after the weekly War Studies Seminar at uni, like all good topics of conversation do! What is here is my list. This was done quickly and off the top of my head so is probably a fair representation as it was instinctive. As you can see there are some obvious films left out and I am left asking myself why is this? I suspect they just did not stick in my conscious. This is not too say they are not great films but just that I think these were more enjoyable…

  1. Battle of Britain
  2. Waterloo
  3. Zulu
  4. A Bridge Too Far
  5. Black Book
  6. The Longest Day
  7. The Desert Fox
  8. Dambusters
  9. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
  10. Das Boot

So what is your top 10?


24 thoughts on “Top 10 War Films…

  1. I definitely agree on Battle of Britain, Zulu, A Bridge Too Far and Das Boot — they’re films I watch at least once a year and they never get old. I’d also put Black Hawk Down, Gallipoli and Enigma (a somewhat non-traditional war movie) in that category. Thirteen Days too, though it’s only an almost-war movie. Of the others you mention, I haven’t seen Waterloo or Black Book. And I’m afraid The Longest Day has a tendency to put me to sleep!

  2. Both Waterloo and Black Book are great films. One I would add but forgot about was Downfall. One of the best films of recent years.

    Picked up the 39th Battalion today about the Kokoda Trail. Hopefully it will be a good film.

  3. Downfall might be another one, but I’d have to watch it again first. Gallipoli was a great film, but not great history. If 39th Battalion is the film released in Australia a few years ago as Kokoda, then it’s not great in either sense, imho.

  4. Actually Gary it was Full Metal Jacket that started the conversation in the bar at Uni. One of the lecturers had not watched it and we then started to populate our top 10. Good choices though I have tended to avoid Vietnam War films with the exception of We Were Soldiers.

  5. Great list. Hard to replace any of them. I would add The Hurt Locker – a bit new, though I think it will stand the test of time, Downfall and The Great Escape. Any reason why you chose to ignore Vietnam?

  6. Nothing in particular I just find many of the 70’s/80’s era Vietnam films preachy about the anti-war message that pervades them. To me they do not really explore the experience in an effective way. I know many people say Full Metal Jacket is an excellent film and it probably is but I just have never really gotten in to them, though that may change as I have been reading up on the war a bit more recently. I would also say that the list was a gut feeling. I did not think about it too much just wrote down the first ten that came to mind. Probably the best way to get an accurate depiction of your top ten. Downfall was one I thought of when walking through HMV the other day and I thought to myself ‘How could I forget that!’

  7. I suggested We Were Soldiers because of its take on the Vietnam War. To me the film has never felt preachy nor anti-war. While other Vietnam War movies speak of the senseless of the conflict, We Were Soldiers focuses on understanding the people who fought.

  8. I have always considered Western war films to be split into two categories. You have the pre-1970’s films (e.g. Bridge Too far), which are propaganda films of heroism. They may offer some hardships but on the whole they view the enemy as baddies and offer little question to the role and motivation of the good guys. A string of films in the 70/80’s changed this. The best example is Full Metal Jacket which offered a very bleak and realistic portrayal of war. This is also seen in Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July. The reason Vietnam features so strongly is that they were made by Americans, for an American audience. Platoon is actually a reflection of the direction time in the army.

  9. Full Metal Jacket is a good film, but filming it in the UK was a bad idea. The light’s all wrong for the tropics, I can just never suspend my disbelief for the Vietnam scenes.

  10. Gary I would agree that there is split in the portrayal of war films in the post-war era. I would also argue that films dealing with the Second World War have the tendency of portraying the Germans in a more positive light than would have happened had there not been the Cold War. The Germans are often depicted as great soldiers who fight well and are really on let down because of the numbers game and bad political leadership i.e. there is an attempt to split the normal soldier from the politcal regime of the Thrid Reich. Obviously this is partly explained by the fact that West Germany was an important bulwark during the Cold War. It also does not help that NATO doctrine tended to look towards the German example of defence in depthh as a basis for planning against the feared Soviet attack.

    Brett I did not realise it was filmed in the UK.

  11. WW2 depiction of Germans changes once the full horror of the holocaust comes to light. What is also interesting is the US depiction of the Japanese, very much the Yellow Peril in the early days (Torra Torra). It has not really changed until the recent films about Iwo Jima.

    Full Metal Jacket was filmed in Battersea.

  12. I’m mostly into WW2 movies, A Bridge Too Far and The Longest Day are two of my favorites. I can say one of my least favorite films is Enemy at the Gates about a duel that likely never happened, I just blogged about that earlier today.

  13. I have recently begun a project to watch the The 100 Greatest War Movies as determined by Military History magazine. Visit my blog at “warmoviebuff.blogspot.com” to participate. For now (and this will obviously change as my project progresses) I would say:
    1. Saving Private Ryan
    2. Platoon
    3. Black Hawk Down
    4. Glory
    5. The Great Escape
    6. The Longest Day
    7. Gettysburg
    8. The Hurt Locker
    9. Master and Commander
    10. Enemy at the Gates

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