By Don Gillette
War movies are a real niche genre. For veterans, male and female, the movies have to be right around 100% realistic or we start yelling at the screen. If we hear somebody say, “Over and out” on the radio, it sends us into a wall-punching fit (you’re either “over” or you’re “out” but never both.) For men who never served in the Armed Forces, it gives a taste of what it might be like in battle, but with a bag of chips and a beer on the table next to the chair—nothing wrong with that. Not everybody is Audie Murphy. For women who never served… well… to be honest, I don’t know any non-veteran women who actually like war movies unless they happen to be married to a veteran and even then, it’s iffy. Before the hate mail shows up, I’m sure there are women who love war movies and don’t fit into that category. I just don’t know any.
Netflix has quite a selection of war movies currently streaming. Some of them are great and some are dogs; this might help you decide how to spend your evening if you’re in the mood…
One of the greatest war movies ever made, The Longest Day tells the story of the D-Day invasion of Normandy that led to the end of World War II. Although it’s an all-star cast headed by the likes of John Wayne, Richard Burton, and Henry Fonda (among others), the movie is so gripping that you don’t even notice who you’re watching because they all become their characters. This is a long film—3 hours—but well worth your time. If you’ve ever wondered why they call the folks from this era “The Greatest Generation,” watch this film and you’ll know.
This is the story of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry’s battle against the North Vietnamese Army in La Drang valley in 1965—the first battle of the Vietnam War. Mel Gibson does a super job as Lt. Col. Hal Moore, the battalion commander, and the re-telling of the operation along with the battalion’s training and preparation are right on the money. Equally interesting are the back stories of the wives and families of the combatants. They got this one right—there are no heroes, no glorification of war; just a story of guys doing their job and the families they left behind waiting.
An outstanding war movie that will have you shaking your head constantly at the blunders and mistakes the United States made that allowed the brutally savage Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to occur. This film tells the story from both sides and is almost “documentary” in style, but that does nothing to detract from the dramatic and gut-wrenching attack scenes. One of the great history lessons every committed to film, this powerhouse explains the stupidity of countries going to war better than almost any other movie out there.
This is “Patton” in the air. Gregory Peck plays Brigadier General Frank Savage, the meanest S.O.B. to ever fly through the sky. He takes over a demoralized, resentful, slipshod B-24 squadron and whips them back into shape by being a hard-ass; but underneath, we get a glimpse of the emotional and psychological cost of command. Based on the 306th Bomber Group (the first American bomber group to fly over Germany), this movie is a nice glimpse into how the air war was conducted.
Nobody cares that Mel Gibson turned into a flaming asshole over the past few years because he was William Wallace, Colonel Hal Moore, Mad Max, Fletcher Christian, Martin Riggs, Bret Maverick, and Benjamin Martin. And you do not want to piss any of these guys off. In Braveheart, when his secret bride is murdered by an English soldier who tried to rape her, William Wallace starts a revolt against King Edward I of England. No, it’s not completely, historically accurate; no, it’s not a history lesson. But it’s action-packed and has every element you should look for in a war movie including one of the greatest battle scenes every put on film.
Quentin Tarantino hit another one out of the ballpark with this masterpiece. The real Inglorious Bastards were a British commando force of Jewish exiles from Germany and Eastern Europe who operated as spies during World War II. Chances are good that this film is 99% fiction, but nobody does violence, characters, and plots like Tarantino when he’s in the zone and he’s definitely in the zone with this one.
I’m not going to waste your time giving you links to these turds–just pass them by.
Jarhead with Jake Gyllenhaal and Jamie Foxx was a great movie. Jarhead 2 with a couple of guys I’ve never heard of was a joke.
Seal Team 8
Poor old Tom Sizemore can’t catch a break or a good role in a decent move. I guess it’s tough to play a convincing member of a Seal Team when you’re 55 and you look like you’re 90.
Saints and Soldiers: The Void
An extremely low-budget, preachy attempt to inject racism into a World War II tank movie. There are no racists in foxholes. When you’re being shot at, you don’t care what color the guy next to you is.
Field of Lost Shoes
Day of the Siege
Makes you wonder what F. Murray Abraham was thinking when he signed on to this. Probably “$$$.”
Boys of Abu Ghraib
One of the truly stupidest war movies ever made and completely inaccurate in every way.
I wanted to like this because it’s based on actual events concerning an Irish-American B17 bomber crew, but I didn’t.
“The Good” are films you really should see. I don’t mean to sound preachy, but they should be mandatory viewing for anybody who thinks war is fun and for anybody who glorifies war without ever having been in one. “The Bad” aren’t really awful—they’re just not… good. But “The Ugly” are truly ugly, so don’t waste your time.
Don Gillette is a novelist from Nashville, Tennessee who also spent 25 years in the US Armed Forces. His latest book, Old Leather, is a collection of short fiction and is available world-wide at booksellers and on-line retailers.