The 50 greatest war films of all time
Fall in for our list of mighty military movies
Thu May 26 2011
War films: Black Book (2006)
War films: The Dirty Dozen (1967)
War films: Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983)
War films: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
War films: Germany Year Zero (1948)
War films: Gallipoli (1981)
War films: The Deer Hunter (1978)
War films: All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
War films: Three Kings (1999)
War films: Paisan (1946)
War films: Black Book (2006)
Black Book (2006)
Pervy Dutch director Paul Verhoeven is better known for Basic Instinct and Showgirls, but war movies are his true métier. In this deliciously plotted WWII survival tale (a comeback of sorts for the Hollywood exile), a hotcha Jewish singer becomes a spy, a freedom fighter and a bed partner of Nazis. Talented Carice van Houten commits fully.—Joshua Rothkopf
The Dirty Dozen (1967)
It's become one of the most beloved "dad movies" of all time—but maybe Father knows best. The murderous "dozen," conscripted for a suicide mission on the eve of D-Day, includes a shifty-eyed psychopath (John Cassavetes), a religious fanatic and woman-beater (Telly Savalas), and a slow-witted "General" (Donald Sutherland). They get the job done.—Joshua Rothkopf
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983)
Can it be that between The Man Who Fell to Earth and this quietly powerful film, David Bowie is the most underrated actor of his generation? The art-pop star effortlessly embodies the guilty conscience of a WWII British prisoner of war, striking up a complex friendship with camp sergeant Ryuichi Sakamoto (also the composer of the movie's gorgeous score).—Joshua Rothkopf
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Hark! Is that the "Colonel Bogey March" we hear? In David Lean's rousing WWII epic, American POW William Holden plots a daring escape from a remote Japanese prison, while captured British colonel Alec Guinness and camp commandant Sessue Hayakawa determinedly vie for power. The title bridge figures in one of the most suspenseful action sequences ever filmed.—Keith Uhlich
Germany Year Zero (1948)
In the spirit of war photography itself, Roberto Rossellini focused on the ravaged aftermath of a city's destruction (here, actual locations in Berlin). Thus we have one of the purest records of the violence of World War II, an invaluable time capsule as well as a neorealist landmark.—Joshua Rothkopf
Peter Weir's tragic, superbly mounted tale of two professional sprinters who join the Australian army circa WWI sheds some light on the casualty-heavy Turkish campaign. Weir's facility with action scenes is fully evident, especially during the gut-wrenching climactic battle. The film also helped to put a young actor named Mel Gibson on the international stage.—Keith Uhlich
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Based on its most notorious scenes—games of Russian roulette, one of them with vicious Vietcong captors—this actorcentric POW movie (featuring an unhinged Christopher Walken) earns its place on our list. The metaphor is a provocative one: Many saw holding a loaded gun to one's head as an obvious parallel to the United States' entrance into the war itself.—Joshua Rothkopf
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
A pacifistic masterpiece that showed the horrors of WWI trench warfare to a curious if unprepared audience, this epic (based on Erich Maria Remarque's popular novel) also positioned the genre of the combat film as a Hollywood mark of pride: It was one of the first movies to earn a Best Picture Oscar.—Joshua Rothkopf
Three Kings (1999)
Production was reportedly hellish, with director David O. Russell and star George Clooney coming to physical blows. (Guys, it's a war movie.) But the ultimate payoff was rare: a combat film that achieved political profundity via off-the-wall comedy. Call it the lure of Saddam's gold.—Joshua Rothkopf
The masterful second film in Roberto Rossellini's WWII trilogy—in between 1945's Open City and 1948's Germany Year Zero—is built out of six vignettes set during the Allied invasion of Italy, exploring stories about street urchins and soldiers, prostitutes and priests. There's not a dud in the bunch, and the director's clear-eyed appraisal of the moral havoc wrought in his homeland is particularly astonishing considering how recently the fighting had ceased.—Keith Uhlich
We polled over 50 experts in the field, from essential directors like Die Hard’s John McTiernan to the actual folks in the line of fire, such as Tarantino favorite Zoë Bell (the fearless stuntwoman behind Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill movies). The result: The 100 best action movies, a definitive look at the genre from the earliest silent classic short film of 1896's “Arrival of Train at La Ciotat” to Marvel's big-screen fighting force of 2012's The Avengers.
This list and the facts and descriptions about each movie are both so great, I'm excited to re-watch a bunch of these now knowing all the lore and defining factors i didn't know. Thanks guys!
Since they included Gallipoli they should have included Joyeau Noel...they usually play it on cable during the holidays. It's in French, German and English and features the lovely Diane Kruger in a small role. See it.
There was a WWII movie that I can't remember the name but it was about the Germans building a fake American military hospital complex and then capturing an American intelligence officer, making him believe the war had been over for several years and he had been in a coma. They tried to get him to talk about the American invasion plan but after a few days he realized that the cut on his finger was from a paper cut he had gotten in his office previously and then knew he was being fooled.
Does anyone remember the name?
I would add U-571 and Black Hawk Down to this list and Saving Private Ryan should definitely be in the top 5.
Breaker Morant, The Odd Angry Shot...the list goes on. And somehow Starship Troopers comes in at number 5? I was enjoying this list up until that point.
Oh come on Starship Troopers? Battle of the Bulge, MacArthur, Hamburgel Hill, From Here to Eternity, The lost Platoon. LMFAO.
i think "Saving Private Ryan" no 1
and where "Black Hawk Down" ?
now "Lone Survivor" appropriate in to list :D
Really, Starship Troopers? Why not just throw Tropic Thunder on the list. Patton & Platoon don't even break below 30. What about From Here to Eternity, In Harm's Way, Tora Tora Tora, To Hell and Back. Sure they from an older generation of movies many of the actors and crew actually served in the military.
Missing movies ----- The Enemy Below
Captain Horatio Hornblower
Sink the Bismarck
Courage Under Fire
This is ridiculous. Saving Private Ryan not top 10? WHAT??!! Where is Glory in the top 10 as well? No Hamburger Hill?
Bingo! Good List because he got "Paths of Glory" at top. Good Choice. The man knows how to value and review a movie.
How come The Fall (Der Untergang) depicting last 48hrs of Hitler's reign in the bunker NOT on the list!????
Come on - what a joke of a list. This guy is a Disney lover! Assembly, Johnny Mad Dog, Stalingrad to name a few are missing. Someone please compile a serious list .
who ever made this list is an idiot with no understanding of movie quality, maybe go review cartoons instead cant believe I spent a couple minutes of my life reading the order of that list.
I nominate this piece as number one worst list of great war films. No Blackhawk down? Apocalypse now as #2? WTH
its a good list Ive seen over half these movies and enjoyed everyone. the only problem I have with this list is WHY is Starship Troopers on here and not Enemy at the Gates?
This list could use some work. Hamburger Hill, Blackhawk Down, We were Soldiers could all certainly replace a few movies on this list for top 50. Yet, the biggest mistake is not making "Band of Brothers" the #1 war movie. Some films such as hurt Locker should not be in the top 50. As a military veteran I am giving you a combat experienced point of view. The Pacific could also easily beat a few of these films.
this list is incredibly poor, the longest day is one of the epic war films of all time, but doesnt make the list, neither does a bridge too far, both epic productions..so many films missing from this...
David, Joshua and Keith, you guys must be on drugs or something, STARSHIP TROOPERS!!! OMG!!! Why not Star Wars or maybe Star Trek or the Lord of the Rings but no no it has to be STARSHIP TROOPERS !!! WOW!!! I'm lost for words.....STARSHIP TROOPERS!!!
I got a good pointers for movies I had forgotten or didn\t know about, which I think makes this a good list. Seen way too many all/too/obvious lists of movies I have already seen. I\d add a couple of very good ones for anyonewho is looking for some good suggestions to watch instead of a reason to complain about how their obvious favs are not included. Stalingrad (1993), Ghetto(2006), Bretskaya Krepost (Brest Fortress/fortress of war (2010)...
This list is not up to your usual standards. Sorry, but you rate an automatic fail for omission of. . . Do I have to say it? Fail Safe (original sixties version). Best war movie ever. And what about its black comedy counterpart Dr. Strangelove? Still more points lost for failure to include The Enemy Below, which Das Boot was a bit of a ripoff of. Better revise this one, boys.
Horrible List. I stopped looking at it when The thin Red Line was ranked higher than Saving Private Ryan. Seriously, Apocalypse Now 2nd, ridiculous. Starship Troopers? How about putting spaceballs on the list.
We Were Soldiers, The Patriot, Enemy at the Gates, God and Generals, Gettysburg, Last of the Mohicans, Braveheart, Jarhead, SO MANY MORE.
Starship Troopers...Are you kidding? No Zulu? No Glory? No Gladiator? Platoon has to be rated higher than it is here. I'm glad to see that older films get their proper representation here. There is such a tendency to give higher ratings to more recent movies at the expense of earlier films.
gotta agree with some of the comments here, a list of top war movies is what is advertised...your description of starship troopers may or may not be true however put it on a different top list of ironic movies or whatever. To put it in the top five war movies of all time? that's just f*cking ridiculous.
Not a bad list although the Starship Trooper entry is just bizarre. So many of my favs like Mr. Roberts, Tora Tora Tora, Sand Pebbles, The Longest Day, Battle of Britain, Bridge too Far, From Here to Eternity, Run Silent Run Deep, Black Hawk Down, Midway, Where Eagles Dare and The Guns of Navarone ( I can go on and on) are not on the list.
Any set of "best movies of all time" is biased by the people who select it. I think some war movies do not deserve to be in this set (in fact, some of them are not war movies ...) and other must be in it: "The Lost Batallion", for instance, is a good movie that deserves to be among the "Top Ten" war movies of all time; and "The Thin Red Line" is not a war movie, but a dramatic movie. "Paths of Glory" can be the best war movie of all time only if you are a Kirk Douglas fan ... In my opinion, the best war movie of all time would be "Memphis Bell" and "Das Boot" the second ...!
Bolloxs, starship troopers in the top 5 and platoon is way back Terrible list and terrible taste in films
There are always going to be refutable omissions from a list like this. There are just too many great war movies out there. The films I was disappointed to see excluded were Glory, The Last of the Mohicans, Fort Apache, and Letters From Iwo Jima. But movies that I have been putting off seeing -- The Steel Helmet, Army of Shadows, Forbidden Games, Germany Year Zero, etc -- were so well argued for that I'm now even more excited to watch them. And to all the naysayers: Yes, Starship Troopers is indeed brilliant.
How can you have a list of the top 50 best war movies and not have Act of Valor on your list? Personally, I think it should be on the top ten, butat a minimum be on the list.
Steve MCQueen actually attempted to jump the barbed wire of the Swiss border NOT the barbed wire fence of his POW camp!!
What is wrong with this list? What happened to Schindlers List? U571? A Bridge Too far? Behind Enemy Lines, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, Defiance, Braveheart, Cold Mountain, Enemy At The Gates, Geronimo, The Flowers of War, K19: The Widowmaker, The Last of the Mohicans, Mongol, The Pianist, The Messenger...most of these movies are set with WWII as their backdrop and have many war elements and tragedies and triumps and its tragic they are not recognized.
@Paul C 36 Hours, Staring James Garner. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057809/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
@Mike Crowner Glory was a great movie,but Paths of Glory is the best War Movie ever,however he missed several great movies
@Paul Band of Brothers wasn't a movie was it?Paths of Glory won the Oscar and is rthe best war movie ever.Band of Brothers is certainly a decent mini series,but Kubrick's movie has much deeper meaning and is actually an indictment on the absurdity of war.Because we are veterans doesn't mean anything,this is about a movie.Band of Brothers merely followed a company from D-Day through the German offensive of the Bulge.
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