This weekend it’s Memorial Day here in the States and we remember those who fought in wars foreign and domestic so that we might enjoy the freedoms we have today. The war movie has been a part of film since the beginning. A staple of cinema through the early 1970’s, the genre virtually died off until it was redefined and revolutionized by one of the most important films ever made: 1998’s Saving Private Ryan.
SPR took the mask off of war; stripped it of its glory. The heroism and stories were still there, but this was no longer a fantastic enterprise that forged men. This was a hell you survived. In my top 5 list, I have three from before SPR and itself and one after. The films that are before SPR are not solely war stories, though, as they deal with P.O.W. situations in two films and racism in the armed forces in a third. I’ve also focused this just on American soldiers since the list is in honor of our holiday, so no disrespect meant to Gallipoli, Red Cliff, Schindler’s List, etc.
1. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
2. Glory (1989)
3. Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
4. The Great Escape (1963)
5. Black Hawk Down (2001)
Honorable Mention: Patton, The Caine Mutiny, Inglorious Basterds, We Were Soldiers, The Hurt Locker