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13 Movies About Soldiers That Will Leave You Shell-Shocked

These cinematic gems go above and beyond the call of duty
by Chiara Cui | Apr 9, 2018
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Today, the country celebrates Araw ng Kagitingan, or Day of Valor, to mark the historic battle in Bataan when Filipino soldiers defended the peninsula against Japanese forces.

War movies are a grim reminder of what it means to be human, and the inevitable bloodshed that comes with it. They hold up a mirror to society and force us to confront the horrors many of us are willing to endure in order to uphold (whether misguided or otherwise) ideals of nationalism and sovereignty.

Here are our 13 favorite war movies of all time:

1) Saving Private Ryan

Directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat, the first 27 minutes of this film will go down in cinematic history as one of the most harrowing and violent opening scenes of any movie. The film is set during the Invasion of Normandy during World War II. It follows a group of soldiers as they search for paratrooper, and the last surviving brother of four soldiers, Private James Francis Ryan.

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2) Black Hawk Down

Based on the non-fiction book of the same name, the film chronicled the events of a 1993 raid by US troops in Mogadishu and the ensuing battle that resulted from the capture of faction leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid. More than just a war movie, it depicted soldiers as heroes who were willing to die for their brothers at arms.

3) Full Metal Jacket

A Stanley Kubrick classic, this 1987 film follows a platoon of marines as they go through training camp and endure the sadistic methods of Drill Sergeant Hartman. Full Metal Jacket revolves mostly around two marines-in-training named Joker and Gomer Pyle, who struggle to get through the camp. At its core, the film is criticism of masculinity and an indictment of war and pornography as part of the same machine.

4) Jarhead

This biographical war drama, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Jake Gyllenhaal as US Marine Anthony Swofford, paints a painfully accurate portrait of marine life and all its trappings: all the good, the bad, and the mundane.

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5) Three Kings

The Gulf War is over, and three soldiers are looking to return home with considerably fuller bank accounts. Directed by David O. Russell, this 1999 dark comedy hooks you with the seemingly benign plot to steal Saddam Hussein’s gold, but it ends up being an indictment of the disconnect that exists between the soldiers on the ground and the people they’re supposed to be liberating.

6) Platoon

The first film Oliver Stone directed for his trilogy on the Vietnam War, followed by Born on the Fourth of July and Heaven and Earth. The film darkly portrays the duality of man, and the demons war can uncover in people. Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe give spellbinding performances as two sides to the same thoroughly fucked up coin.


7) Apocalypse Now

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now revolves around Captain Benjamin Willard, played by a young Martin Sheen, as he goes on a secret mission to kill Colonel Kurtz, a renegade officer who’s believed to have gone insane. More than just a criticism of war, Apolcalypse Now revealed the truths and dark places of the soul.

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8) The Hurt Locker

No other film has captured the psychological effects of the stress of combat has on a person better than The Hurt Locker, Katheryn Bigelow’s 2008 film about a explosive ordinance disposal team during the Iraq War. The film earned Bigelow an Oscar for Best Director. To this date she remains the only woman to ever win the award.

9) Dunkirk

Hailed by many as a triumph, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is the highest grossing World War II film of all time. The film centers on the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II, told from three perspectives: land, sea, and air. It was an unsentimental look at battle and the men who made the seemingly impossible happen.

10) Inglorious Basterds

Only Quentin Tarantino can make a war movie as fun as this. Sure the violence borders on pornographic, but that’s just par for the course when you’re talking about both war films and Tarantino movies. Basterds tells the alternate history of two plots to assassinate Nazi leadership. It’s the revenge film to end all revenge films, and it’s the movie that gave us Michael Fassbender, for which we should all be forever grateful.

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11) Letters from Iwo Jima

Directed by Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima is the companion piece to Eastwood’s other film Flags of Our Fathers. It’s a sobering depiction of the Battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of Japanese soldiers, providing the often-neglected other side of the story.

12) Rescue Dawn

Directed by acclaimed German director Werner Herzog, Rescue Dawn follows a US fighter pilot whose plane gets shot down as he flies over Laos during the Vietnam War. After being captured by enemy soldiers and enduring years of torture, he, along with his fellow prisoners, stage an escape that will have you on the edge of your seat the entire film through. In the film, Christian Bale turns out a performance that proves he really is one of the greatest actors of our time.

13) Behind Enemy Lines

Although it was panned by critics as jingoistic, we’re gonna take the unpopular opinion on this one. While it might’ve been schlocky, it was undeniably fun to watch. It's the kind of film that didn’t take itself too seriously, which the genre could maybe learn a thing or two from.

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