5 Best War Movies and What They Did Differently

war movies, war films, cinema, kingdom of heaven, apocalypse now, the hurt locker, saving private ryan, braveheart
Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now

Outstanding war movies: what makes them worth our time?

The history of humanity is a long and bloody one. Throughout its course, thousands of wars have been fought out of greed, love, revenge and blind ambition. We’ve selected five war movies for your viewing pleasure that are so good they serve as a definite benchmark for the genre, so let’s check them out. 

1. Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

King Baldwin of Jerusalem meets with Saladin on the battlefield.

Ridley Scott’s vision of the Crusades is an adventure of epic proportions, spanning two continents and following the journey of a young blacksmith to the Middle East. Along the way, in his quest for atonement and repentance the young Balian (Orlando Bloom) meets characters who teach him that blind faith is often a very slippery slope and that being under God’s banner does not necessarily make one righteous and virtuous. 

For a religious war, the Crusades were anything but divine, and this becomes more apparent as the over three hours long movie tells its story. Kingdom of Heaven features superb narration, a very strong cast (Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Liam Neeson, Edward Norton) and is chock full of messages on the futility of war. As the movie itself concludes: "nearly a thousand years later, peace in the Holy Land still remains elusive."

2. The Hurt Locker (2008)

Based on the screenplay of Mark Boan, who served as a journalist with a bomb squad in Iraq in 2004, the Hurt Locker follows a US Army Explosive Ordnance Diposal unit as they take part in the Iraq war.

The opening scene of the film where Staff Sergeant Thompson attempts to detonate an IED. 

Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) leads a three man team composed of Sergeant J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) through perilous missions where he displays outright recklessness and disregard for his safety and the safety of his fellow soldiers, leading to conflicts with the two men under his command. The movie explores something which is also present in wars although less often seen; men who are addicted to the destruction and adrenaline war brings and who have difficulties leaving it all behind and returning to civil life. 

3. Apocalypse Now (1979)

”Charlie don’t surf!”

There is too much to be said about Apocalypse Now for it to fit into one article, or for that matter, even one entire book. It’s considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, it is definitely the best Vietnam war film ever made and was met with critical acclaim upon its release.

It stars Martin Sheen as Benjamin L. Willard, a veteran US Army Captain, who is assigned to hunt down renegade Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, who has gone mad and now commands an army of native Montagnards from inside adjacent neutral Laos. Willard travels up the river Nung in a river patrol boat in an effort to hunt down Kurtz, and encounters progressively stranger and more disturbing and dark scenes that make him question his own sanity.

4. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Ask anyone to name some World War 2 movies off the top of their head, and you can bet Saving Private Ryan will be among them. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it focuses on a squad of American soldiers led by Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) who are tasked with finding Private James Francis Ryan, the only brother alive out of four in the Ryan family, so he can be brought home.

US soldiers storm the beaches of Normandy on June 6th, 1944. 

Their journey takes them through many dangerous situations and heated firefights, from the D-Day landings on Omaha beach to the desperate defense of the fictional town Ramelle. The movie excels at depicting scenes of warfare from World War 2 France and showing just how fragile human life was during one of the most lethal conflicts in human history.  

5. Braveheart (1995)

This masterpiece of a film both directed by and starring Mel Gibson tells the tale of the First War of Scottish Independence, which took place in the 13th century. William Wallace, a Scottish warrior wronged by the English, organizes a rebellion which sweeps the highlands and makes king King Edward "Longshanks" (Patrick McGoohan) fearful for his throne.

Freedom!

The film shows how one man, led by honest beliefs and a drive to set his people free from tyranny and oppression can topple a whole kingdom. Braveheart is defined by a stunning soundtrack and many memorable scenes brought to life by Gibson and the rest of the superb cast. 

A successful war movie needs to show more than fighting. It needs to show the pain and loss that is encountered on all sides and how war brings nothing good to anyone. These five movies excel at doing just that.

While you’re here, check out these great articles:

21 Best World War Games on PC

11 Best Medieval War Games To Play in 2015

15 Best WW2 Games You Must Check Out

 

Gaming since 2000, ever since I could reach the Street Fighter arcade cabinet. Student, athlete, writer.
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