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Veteran’s Day Blog: Top 10 War Movies

bill bodkin looks at his favorite war movies in honor of veteran’s day…

My early movie life was heavily influenced by my dad. When I wasn’t watching classic Disney films or The Great Muppet Caper I was engrossed by the movies that my dad would turn on. Weekend afternoons (excluding Giants football on Sundays) would be filled with movies depicting cowboys and Indians, sword and sandal epics and of course, war movies. Black and white World War II pics, usually starring John Wayne or some of the films listed below. These films are ones that I particularly enjoy — not all of them are the required war classics like Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, The Longest Day, From Here to Eternity, Sands of Iwo Jima, etc. These films are all American-based war films that I grew up on. I’m sure the movies my dad will no doubt leave a few glaring exceptions I made in the comments section below. I hope that you enjoy the films listed below, films of heroism and daring do. Enjoy and semper fi!

Black Hawk Down (2001)
One of the most intense American war films ever made about a conflict that is often forgot in the annals of American history — the Somalian conflict. In this Ridley Scott directed film we follow an all-star cast of US soldiers (Ewan McGregor, Josh Hartnett, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana, Tom Sizemore, Hugh Dancy, William Fichtner, Ron Eldard, et. al) as they are dropped into the middle of the uber hostile labriynth of Somalia. The film’s scope ranges from sweeping war epic to claustrophobic documentary creating an amazingly tense film.

Dirty Dozen (1967)
One of the all-time classics and an inspiration for The Inglorious Basterds. An unconventional officer (Lee Marvin) is charged with leading a crew of 12 soldiers convicted for murder (including Charles Bronson, John Cassevettes, Jim Brown, Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland) on what amounts to a suicide mission — but first he’s got to get them to work together without killing each other first. A deft blend of comedy and action with a classic us against the world theme, The Dirty Dozen is one of the most famous and aired movies about World War II ever.

Forrest Gump (1994)
While not a strick war movie, this is one of the best films that captures every aspect of the Vietnam war — from the soldiers to the protesters to everyone in between. The Vietnam segment of Forrest Gump, like the rest of the film, is a beautiful mixture of comedy and tragedy, of sweetness and sadness. These themes are embodied by the two men Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) meets in ‘Nam — Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise) a man determind to carry on the family tradition of dying in battle and Bubba (Mykelti Williamson), a Southern who’s heart is set on becoming a Southern shrimp magnate. It’s a major segment in one of the best films ever created about the Baby Booming years of America.

Glory (1989)
One of the best movies about the harsh cruelties of war ever. The film’s heart and soul is Denzel Washington, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His firey performance as Private Trip is one that Denzel has been chasing his entire career. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an amazing actor, but this is his best performance ever. The film also features career performances from Matthew Broderick as the reluctant leader of the all-black platoon as well as Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman and Andre Braugher. This is a bloody film that is not for the squeamish.

The Great Escape (1963)
One of the great popcorn movies of all-time. The Great Escape features an amazing cast of iconic actors — Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Garner, James Coburn, Donald Pleasance and Charles Bronson, as POWs in a German prison camp, all of whom are experts at escaping said camps. The movie features some of the most classic scenes in film — the famous whistling theme song, the famous McQueen motorcycle chase sequence. A breezy and fun film with tinges of ennui (Pleasances’ loss of sight) and tragedy. A classic.

The Hurt Locker (2009)
The most intense movie about wars I’ve ever seen. Hitchcockian suspense and tension fill the air as bomb disposal expert Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) searches buildings and diffuses bombs in Iraq. The Oscar winner for Best Picture is a mindblowing look at the mental state of the modern soldier. The tension that surrounds James as he tries to decompress after defusing a bomb or trying to acclimate himself back to civilian life is just as high as the tension around the action sequences. Longtime character actor Renner gives a breakthrough performance as James and this movie should launch him into a very long and acclaimed career. This is an absolute must-see.

Inglorious Basterds (2009)
Quentin Tarantino’s newest masterpiece takes cues from the great war films especially The Dirty Dozen. The film, like all of Q’s great works, focuses on a slew of characters and their amazing stories — the half-cocked Lt. Aldo Ray (Brad Pitt) and his scalp hunting unit of Jewish-American soldiers, Jewish fugitive turned French cinema owner Soshana (Melanie Laurent) and one of the great villains in cinema history, SS officer Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). The stories all come crashing together in a high pitched, frenzied climax where all hell breaks loose with guns, fire and Hitler breaking loose. The film is spied with razor sharp dialogue, off the chart visuals and a hint of historical revision.

Kelly’s Heroes (1970)
A heist movie set during World War II. Clint Eastwood is the cool as ice Kelly who’s got a plan — steal a whole ton of gold from a bank behind enemy lines. Tagging along with him on the caper is the tough as nails Big Joe (Telly Savalas) and his platoon, the wise-crackin’ hustler Crap Game (Don Rickles) and the hippie dippie tank commander Oddball (Donald Sutherland). Like any good heist, there’s twists and turns and funny dialogue and like any good war movie there’s lots of heroics and intense action sequences. However, it’s Sutherland who steals the show as the hippie Oddball, definitely not a character you find during WWII, the character is more of a wink and a nod to the decade it was filmed in.

Three Kings (1999)
Much like Kelly’s Heroes, Three Kings is a caper film set during wartime. This time George Clooney, Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg and Spike Jonze are soldiers during the first Gulf War who go on a mission to find Iraqi gold. What starts out as a breezy action/buddy comedy turns serious when the four soldiers find out that local villagers are in big trouble with Saddam’s royal guard. They’re faced with a big question — do they cut and run with the money or do they stand up for the fight for the rights of innocent people? The visuals from director David O. Russell are awesome and visionary, really adding another dimension to this very underrated film. Spike Jonze as the geeky and hyperactive Vig is great as is Clooney in his first “vintage Clooney” role.

Where Eagles Dare (1968)
Two allied agents (Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood) stage a daring raid on a castle where the Nazis are holding an American General prisoner, but not everything is at it seems. The team of the stone cold American Eastwood (in a rare supporting role) and the slick Englishman Burton is a dynamic team. Their raid on a Nazi held castle is one of the most epic action sequences you’ll find (that was until the Normandy Beach sequence in Saving Private Ryan). The twists and turns in the plot are terrific as is the thrilling winter cable car sequence in which Burton gets into fist fights with various German soldiers which result in him clinging for life on more than one occasion.

Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.


  1. Where’s the Guns of Navarone? I know you probably never saw any of these but they cerainly rank up with what you have listed
    Battle Cry, Sands of Iwo Jima, Guaducanal Diary, The Fighting 69th, The Fighting Sullivan, Midway, A Walk in the Sun, and there are several I missed. However I thank you for remembering.

  2. I was really happy to see Glory on here! I grew up watching war movies with my dad as well. That was his idea of family time 🙂

  3. Thanks for the list. Some other favorites are Stalag 17, The Longest Day, D-Day and many more from the 60’s and 70’s.

  4. Hey people, Happy Veteran’s Day!

    We simply planned to wish America’s twenty four million old soldiers a happy veteran’s day. And also lets me quote veteran’s day quote which I really like:

    “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave … – – – Elmer Davis”… ..

    In case that you really need related information on veteran’s day parties, coupons, it’s The historical past, movies and also even more, Military.com have the ideal web based archive with everything to help you… .

  5. You missed “A walk in the sun”– placed in Italy, “Finding Prv. Ryan”, “Brave men”- based on Ernie Pyle’s book.
    Would not include Twelve O’clock high”– made the air force think they won the war and set the stage for the way we bombed North Vietnam.
    Tom Bartz

    • Come on, Tom, where did you get this off the wall opinion about “Twelve O’Clock High”? There is no factual basis for your opinion. The movie is a study in the stress of command and not about the bombing campaign except as background to the story. It certainly does not glamourize the USAF (USAAF at the time) and had absolutely no influence on the bombing strategy in Vietnam.

  6. This is not a bad list, but including “Forrest Gump” takes away a little credibility. It is not a war movie by most experts’ definitions of war movies. Aside from that, you have respectable list here.

  7. Where is the top war movies such as Saving Private Ryan,Enemy at the gates,Pearl Harbor,Thin Red Line
    The above movies are the best war movies in the world

    • A lot of people have asked the same question. Please refer to this quote from the intro: “These films are ones that I particularly enjoy — not all of them are the required war classics like Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, The Longest Day, From Here to Eternity, Sands of Iwo Jima, etc. These films are all American-based war films that I grew up on. ”

      I will strongly disagree with you on Pearl Harbor though.

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