Later this week our attention will turn to the decisive battles of Midway and D-Day in WWII, so it’s time to get prepped with some good war movies. This is dangerous territory with Military Times readers – it’s like discussing the best baseball games with a die-hard Yankees fan. Nevertheless, here are some of my top war movies – judge for yourself and feel free to chime in.
1. The Longest Day. This movie tops my list because of its historical accuracy and star power – almost a who’s who of Hollywood actors in the prime of their careers.
2. Saving Private Ryan. Loosely based on Stephen Ambrose’s book, “D-Day”, the first 20 minutes (and the last five minutes) will make it obvious why this is in the top 10.
3. Band of Brothers. Not a movie, per se, but a great mini-series. I will continue to hint to my wife that this will make a perfect Christmas present until I wear her down.
4. Twelve O’Clock High. Still used as a leadership tool in military schools, this movie is one of my all-time favorites. Trivia – Gregory Peck never takes more than two drags off any cigarette he smokes in the movie before twisting it out of his mouth and tossing it to the ground.
5. Gettysburg. The fight scenes aren’t exactly the most realistic, but you can’t beat its historical accuracy. Jeff Daniels does a stellar job as Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. You can really feel the tension when he prepares the 20th Maine to hold the line on the Union left flank. Sam Elliot does a fantastic job playing Brig. Gen. John Buford.
7. We Were Soldiers. Based on the book, “We Were Soldiers and Young,” it tells the story of the “first major engagement of American troops in Vietnam.” Sam Elliot’s Custer comment is a classic.
8. Blackhawk Down. The movie does a good job of representing the book, right down to the professional and level-headed demeanor of the special forces.
9. The Cruel Sea. This is a film adaptation of the book by the same name. It tells the story of the Battle of the Atlantic from the British perspective. It is a classic and a must-see for anyone in the Navy.
10. Das Boot. You can almost smell the stench of the cramped U-Boat.
Bonus: The best war movie disguised as a love story (i.e. good date movie): Hanover Street with Harrison Ford.
Now that my top 10 is complete, I can easily think of another 10 that could be on the list. If you have some good ones, I’m all ears.