Friday Five: This Means War

I’ll try to revive the Friday Five today. Lately, I’ve seen several movies either set in a war or dealing with the aftermath of a war (M*A*S*H, Best Years of Our Lives). So how about a war thread? They can be about a war or the aftermath; they can be pro- or anti-war. Inspiring or harrowing. This list quickly got out of control, so I narrowed it to movies that focus on the military in particular, therefore excluding films like Gone With the Wind, where the war is just part of a bigger film or movies like The Pianist, which are more focused on the Holocaust. YMMV.

My five?

Saving Private Ryan: I can still remember how devastated I felt walking out of the theater. The recreation of D-Day was so harrowing that veterans started having flashbacks. It changed the way action films would be filmed forever (although, unfortunately, its red-headed stepchild was the fast-edited shaky cam action scene that you can’t see).

Patton: George C. Scott. That is all.

Letters from Iwo Jima: I know a few people had issues with this one because it is told from the POV of the Japanese. But I found it brilliant and touching, with some incredible performances. Flags of Our Fathers is not bad, either.

Das Boot: Feature film or the entire mini-series. Another film told from the point of view of our Axis enemies but another film that emphasizes the common soldier who is motivated less by ideology than by his sense of duty and his band of brothers.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World: How good was this film? I read the entire Aubrey-Maturin canon because of it. Just a great film. Also worth your time: A&E’s Horatio Hornblower made-for-TV movies.

Honorable Mention: Platoon, The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far, Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Gallipoli, The Big Red One, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, Black Hawk Down.

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  1. Thrill

    Nice list. I have a few favorites to add:

    Glory: Great cast, awesome performances, and it’s an inspiring story. It’s pretty much impossible not to be all weepy by the end.

    Gettysburg: Another Civil War epic with wonderful actors. The scene where Col. Chamberlain gives a speech to the mutineers and ultimately wins them over should be played in every leadership course everywhere as an example of how it’s done.

    Downfall: Yes, it’s almost been completely ruined by the bunker parodies, but you’ll never see a better depiction of what Berlin’s and Hitler’s final days must have been like as the Soviets closed in. I was shocked to learn that the SS was still running around and killing “traitors” even at the 11th hour. So strong was Hitler’s control. The scenes with military officers alternately partying and committing suicide were jarring too. Don’t even get me started on Frau Goebbels murdering her children.

    Braveheart: This was the movie that DEFINED the modern battle scene. I never saw edged weapon warfare depicted so graphically and it seems that every war movie since has tried to capture the noise, chaos, and gore in the same manner.

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  2. Hal_10000 *

    I love Gettysburg because it depict neither side as the villain. Chamberlain’s defense of Little Round Top is excellent as well. And Richard Jordan is great as Armistead.

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  3. Xetrov

    Braveheart – hands down my favorite “war” movie.

    Not a movie per se, but Band of Brothers is absolutely awesome.

    I’ll take a different approach on my last three –

    Inglorious Basterds – “We’re in the killin Nazi business, and cousin, business is a-boomin.”

    Spies Like Us – “For once I’m completely in agreement with my partner. I’m not going down there. Do you know what those things can do? Suck the paint off your house and give your family a permanent orange afro.”

    Top Secret – “Nick, I’ve tried everything: the embassy, the German government, the consulate. I even talked to the U.N. ambassador. It’s no use, I just can’t bring my wife to orgasm.”

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  4. West Virginia Rebel

    My list:

    All Quiet on the Western Front-The original 1930 version, told from the German POV.

    Pork Chop Hill-one of the few movies made about the Korean War during the 1950s.

    Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo-exciting version of Doolitle’s famous raid.

    Three Kings-One of the few movies made about the Gulf War.

    The Patriot-Mel Gibson’s Revolutionary War epic.

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  5. AlexInCT

    Heartbreak Ridge baby! Just for the quotes.

    And what about Ben Hur? That’s a war from long ago, but it was a war.

    What about Scarface? Does that qualify as war movie? I mean paccino goes to war there at the end doesn’t he? It is defenitely a good drinking movie with the record for the most uses of the f-word.

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  6. Dave D

    Enemy at the Gates is one of my favorites. The Eastern front gets so little attention from hollywood.

    Stalingrad (German film) is OK, but the story is a bit scattered.

    Band of Brothers is the DEFINATIVE WW2 movie/series, but Cross of Iron is also a very good WW2 movie.

    Agree with Gettysburg, and SPR. I guess that would be my top five with Longest Day and Braveheart getting honorable mention, although the depictyion of Wallace and his contemoraries is fantasy at best in this movie.

    The historically inaccurate lunacy depicted in Patriot disqualifies it for me.

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  7. Santino

    One of my favourite guilty pleasures – An Officer and A Gentleman

    A David Keith twofer – Lords of Discipline

    Since Xetrov has already gone there, Hot Shots!

    Red Dawn – Wolverines! Borderline, but it is about the Cold War.

    Hotel Rwanda

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  8. Hal_10000 *

    Not a movie per se, but Band of Brothers is absolutely awesome.

    I almost included that but decided it violated the rules since I was focused on movies. Maybe I’ll do a future one on best miniseries. The best part of that, IMHO, is the interviews with the real Easy Company at the end when you find out who they are.

    Enemy at the Gates was another one I dropped at the last minute. The opening scene is amazing.

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  9. Thrill

    Now that I think of it, I enjoyed The Alamo (2004). The Crockett violin/Mexican Army Band music sequence was pretty sweet.

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  10. ilovecress

    I made a promise to myself to get more involved in these – even though its my weekend.

    My input is to give you the British perspective, because I’m feeling homesick this weekend for dreary weather, sarcasm and the premier league football.

    Bridge on the river kwai – awesome, that’s all there is to say
    The life and death of Colonel Blimp
    The great escape. Steve mcqueen. Most Brits introduction to Americans
    Henry V – a war movie that’s 400 years old
    Lawrence of Arabia – Nuffield said

    Just like band of brothers is a good crash course in the American war psyche, any of the Sharpe series do the same for us Brits. With added Sean Bean

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  11. Mississippi Yankee

    Some absolutely terrific movies here. But one suggestion; if you give us 5 favorites and the 5 or 6 honorable mentions you’re kinda hogging the limelight a bit.

    Star Wars – Am I the only geek?
    Gods and Generals – from the War of Northern Aggression
    The Longest Day – some future big stars
    The Halls of Montezuma – USMC
    The Deer Hunter – !!!!!

    I believe the anti-semite Thrill removed his comment but I think The Pianist makes a good war movie pick too.

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  12. Hal_10000 *

    Pianist, Grave of the Firefly, Deer Hunter — yes, yes, yes.

    One movie that missed the cut was We Were Soldiers. The movie isn’t really great. But I like it because it’s one of the few movies about Vietnam that doesn’t seem to wallow in its politics or come off as having an anti-war (or pro-war) position.

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  13. Mississippi Yankee

    One I forgot to mention (limelight hogged) is “The Blue Max” IMHO one of George Peppard’s best. All about WWI and the War in the Sky. The cinematography is spectacular.

    ” Northwest Passage” aka “Rogers Rangers” – Spencer Tracy, Walter Brennan, Robert Young… a little Fwench & Indian War fare.

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  14. CM

    Surprised to see Enemy at the Gates mentioned, I thought was appalling. The script and acting were just embarrassing.
    Born on the Fourth of July (the only movie I can stand watching Tom Cruise in)
    Hamburger Hill
    Three Kings
    Apocalypse Now
    Von Ryans Express
    Schindler’s List (obviously)
    Cold Mountain
    I would add Generation Kill to the mini-series list

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  15. CM

    Her acting was just terrible, even if she was good to look at (although I think she’s gotten hotter as she’s gotten older). If I want to see her, and her titties, in a far superior film, I’d go with The Constant Gardener.

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  16. Mississippi Yankee

    Hell she’s done full frontal in a Brit film or three. Why does humor escape you so often?

    BTW my opinion of The Constant Gardener.was mostly a whiny piece of crap. Not at all surprised you brought it up.

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  17. CM

    I laughed, and then responded.
    And now I’m laughing again. And responding.

    Pretty sure it was only a butt shot in EATG

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  18. Xetrov

    Star Wars – Am I the only geek?

    The back of my truck has this on it, so no, you’re not. I just didn’t think of it as a ‘war’ movie. It’s sci-fi to me.

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  19. Hal_10000 *

    I just recently introduced Sal 11000 Beta to Star Wars. We had this conversation:

    “Daddy, Star Wars is weird. Why do I like it?”
    “Sorry, honey. Bad genetic material.”

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  20. CM

    I’m still holding back on introducing Star Wars to my boys (6 and 4 years old). I don’t want to unleash it too early. They still have attention spans of ants. Although I was pleasantly surprised at how well ET went the other week. So, soon.

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  21. Xetrov

    My 6yo has been watching the Clone Wars cartoons (with dad) for a few years now. Haven’t had him sit through the movies yet, maybe this summer.

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