My Memorial Day list of the top 10 best war movies ever
May 24, 2015
Memorial Day traditionally is the three day weekend we all go camping in the rain on then spend the rest of the summer telling each other how much fun it was. It is also the day we honor our armed forces and remember their service both past and present in the defense of our country. So, for all of you who are smart enough to stay out of the rain here is my top 10 list of the best war movies ever to watch this weekend while staying warm and dry at home.
George C. Scott’s performance in his portrayal of Gen. Patton is almost impossible not to watch. But the reason this makes #10 on my list is historical accuracy. Aside from being a great movie just about everything in this movie is true. I say just about because of the liberties in Patton’s speeches and events that were moved around on the time line of war for dramatic reasons. But those are minor gripes and doesn’t take away from how good a watch this is.
Twelve O’Clock High (1949)
Gregory Peck leads the cast in this war drama about the 918th Bomber group. This movie takes the #9 spot because I view it as simply the best movie about the U.S.A.F in WWII ever. That my grandfather was a waist gunner on a B-17 probably has something to do with it also. While not based on an actual event this movie’s portrayal of just how much a soldier can endure has little in which to compare it with.
This movie got a lot of criticism because entertainment value and character drama was sacrificed for the sake of historical accuracy. But here at The West Report you get extra credit points for doing just that. This movie does skip over some things mainly about the run up to the the battle but everything in it is right on. Not only are the facts solid but just about every movie star from the 1970’s is in it. Literally every other scene when you think there couldn’t possibly be any more a new actor is on screen. Add all these things up and I will have to disagree with the pro movie critics and put this at #8 on my all time list.
The Great Escape (1963)
The Great Escape is not only a great movie about breaking out of a German POW camp but it’s also a great way to escape into movie land for 170 minutes. The movie follows the attempt of 200 prisoners to break out of Stalag Luft III at the end of WWII and is dedicated to the 50 prisoners shot after being recaptured. Normally I wouldn’t enjoy a movie that trades historical accuracy with character drama but considering the subject matter and the dedication I don’t think it takes away from this movie. The all star cast, the fun characters and the overall final product of this film is just too entertaining not to give it my #7 spot.
Stalag 17 (1953)
It’s hard to find laughs in a POW camp but this movie finds them. Now don’t read that wrong, this isn’t a comedy, otherwise it wouldn’t be #6 on my list. However the depths we sink to in this movie’s we are lifted out of as the prisoners find reasons to smile while making the best of a bad situation. This is just an all around fun movie and should be in everyone’s DVD collection.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The first time I saw this movie I snuck out of work an hour early for lunch and watched it at the movie theater a few blocks down the street. What I didn’t know was that it was 3 hours long! Talking my way out of that one when my boss finally caught up with me an hour after break is a feat I am still proud of today. But it’s not for that reason it’s #5 on this list. Blending a mix of actual events and a compelling storyline this movie set a new standard that all war movies made after will be compared to. And I really don’t have to say more than that since chances are it’s already in your movie collection for the same reasons it’s in mine.
To Hell and Back (1955)
Audie Murphy is the most decorated combat soldier in U.S. Military History. This movie is based on his autobiography and not only that but he plays himself in the movie. How cool is that? Parts are a bit over dramatized for the camera and it has that 1950’s polish but it doesn’t take much away from how fun this movie is. While other films lower on this list were made better from a cinema production perspective this is a movie about a real American hero that sadly too many people couldn’t identify. For that reason it wasn’t a very hard decision to place it at #4.
Band of Brothers (2001)
I know what you are thinking, “Hey that wasn’t a movie!” But it’s my blog so I get to place it at #3 on my movie list. The film making is great. The acting is great. The pace keeps you watching and everything is true in this well directed story about Easy Company of the US Army 101st Airborne in WWII. There are a few movie goofs but to be honest I had to watch the series a few times before I caught them. Not only is this a great movie but it is one of the few exceptions out there where the movie is better and more informative than the book.
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Taking place during 1943 in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Burma this movie deserves every award it won. The only gripe I have is how much it glazed over the true conditions in those camps for the prisoners. Of course if it hadn’t I doubt it would of ever gotten past the censors in 1957. That aside the movie has aged well and is still a gripping tale that earns a #2 spot on my list.
Das Boot (1997) Director’s Cut
Best war movie ever. Originally a 6 hour TV Mini-Series it was cut down and released in 1981 as a feature film. Rather than that release however it is the 1997 Director’s Cut with added footage and commentary that sits on top of my list at #1. Filmed on location at the actual German sub pens in La Rochelle, France, Das Boot is simply the best most authentic submarine movie made. No other movie has come close to the portrayal here of life aboard a WWII submarine. To top things off everything in the movie actually happened. I know it might seem a little odd to place a movie about a German crew on top of my Memorial Day movie list. But as a movie that crosses borders and conflicts to portray the hardships and agony of war our soldiers endure I stand by that #1 spot. Just watch it. You’ll understand.
Top 10 Honorable Mentions
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Go for Broke! (1951)
Only Old Men Are Going to Battle (1974)
A Bridge Too Far (1977)
First Blood (1982)
The Killing Fields (1984)
Schindler’s List (1993)
Enemy at the Gates (2001)
The West Report
The opinions expressed in The West Report are the author’s own. Feel free to repost or share, we just ask you credit or link to this article as a source. Movie posters are from http://www.imbd.com and used only for informational purposes. The screen cap at the top is from the movie Patton 1970.