The best war movies that had us on the edge of our seats and captured our hearts.
War films could easily be defined by the number of explosions that occur throughout their runtime and of course, how well those scenes of destruction are conducted, but while looking back at some of cinema’s most influential stories, we found that the most common aspect that makes them so powerful is the often the interesting themes that are explored.
So between unlikely talents, forced friendships and man’s utter descent into primitive madness, let’s take a look at what made the cut in our list of the best war films of all time.
Saving Private Ryan
All it takes to realise that Steven Spielberg’s beach-bound epic is a flat-out war masterpiece is to watch the opening sequence.
An obvious choice to make our list of the best war movies of all time, Saving Private Ryan hits like a cannonball. Although hard to watch, Saving Private Ryan is a gripping experience from the get-go and probably gives some of the most unfiltered insights into what it actually would have been like to experience real-life combat back in 1944.
Tom Hanks leads an incredible cast and Spielberg once again proves that he is one of the world’s most versatile and powerful storytellers.
How to stream Saving Private Ryan
The true story of Wladyslaw Szpilman – a talented pianist who found work in a war-torn café during the Nazi Occupation and was ultimately forced into hiding amongst the ruins of Warsaw city.
Roman Polanski took this incredible man’s story and transformed it into one of the most artfully respected films about WWII of all time, and unsurprisingly, the film went on to win the Palme d’Or prize at Cannes and Best Director at the Oscars, which is already enough to prove how great it really is.
Cast: Adrien Brody, Emilia Fox, Frank Finlay and more
How to stream The Pianist
Francis Ford Coppola once said “anything you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos”, which is something that feels inevitably connected to his wartime masterpiece, Apocalypse Now.
As palm trees are blown to smithereens in slow motion to the soothing sounds of Jim Morrison’s vocals in its opening scenes, you can immediately tell you’re in the company of something special and Coppola knows it.
Apocalypse Now submerges its audience straight into the madness that war itself is and the madness war itself causes. Coppola’s firm grip on his own narrative and technical skills is masterful in its own merit, often making you feel like you’re inside the movie and can feel the balmy weight of the Vietnam war suffocating you just as much as the characters on screen.
Cast: Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Laurence Fishburne and more
How to stream Apocalypse Now
Full Metal Jacket
If there’s one director who always managed to pull off an impressive balance of style and substance in the same movie, it was Stanley Kubrick.
From transforming one man’s psychological collapse into a supernatural horror and a commentary on marriage politics into a mesmerizing erotic thriller, we shouldn’t be surprised that Kubrick’s attempt at making a war film would be an unconventional one to say the least.
Full Metal Jacket makes the list of best war movies of all time with an odd mix of dark comedy and sire situations that unveil the hardships of troop training, but it all works so well because of Kubrick’s assured direction and the strength of its top-notch cast.
Cast: R. Lee Ermey, Vincent D’Onofrio, Matthew Modine and more
How to stream Full Metal Jacket
What happens when you get the acting bravado of William Dafoe, the screen presence of Charlie Sheen and the mighty scale of Oliver Stone’s direction altogether in the same project?
Platoon is what you get, and boy does it make an impact. Once again, this is a film that only grows more significant with time and even more so because it is derived from Stone’s personal account of serving in the war, which is probably why it’s in the more personal moments that this tropical nightmare really reigns supreme.
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Johnny Depp and more
How to stream Platoon
Propulsive and visceral from beginning to end, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk saw the filmmaker take a welcome detour from his usual time travel endeavours and into the realms of World War II to make a film that is worthy of being named one of the best war movies.
Instead of documenting the years across that dark time in history, Nolan chose to focus on the evacuation of Allied soldiers from France, Canada, Britain and Belgium, who were surrounded by the German army over the course of one week.
Both historically fundamental and impressively cinematic from a technical point of view, Dunkirk is a singular experience like no other.
Cast: Tom Hardy, Harry Styles, Cillian Murphy and more
How to stream Dunkirk
Born On The Fourth Of July
While not as groundbreaking as Platoon (excuse the pun), Oliver Stone’s biography of Ron Kovic is a true testament to what it means to be an American.
Left paralyzed from serving time in the Vietnam War, Kovic (played by Tom Cruise) went on to become one of the world’s most renowned political activists after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for.
Stone’s examination of a broken man who had the courage to stand up against the negligent forces in power at that time is an enthralling watch indeed, and Cruise’s enigmatic performance still manages to cut deep even 30 years later.
Cast: Tom Cruise, Oliver Stone, Kyra Sedgwick and more
How to stream Born On The Fourth Of July
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