Veteran's Day is a great day to remember the sacrifice of our military heroes with a great war film. Hollywood has made many fantastic war films over the years. But these are a few of my highest recommendations:
SERGEANT YORK(1941) Gary Cooper was just plain great is his portrayal of Alvin York, the most decorated soldier of WWI. Interestingly, the real Alvin York was a very religious man who objected to having a film made about his life, but needed the money to found a Bible school, so eventually went along with this biographical production. Alvin York was essentially a Tennessee backwoods young man who objected to war on religious grounds, but was a master marksman, who penetrated behind German lines when he witnessed so many men in his unit dying at the hands of the enemy. Almost singlehandedly, Sgt. Alvin York captured 132 German prisoners, actually saving their lives from combat deaths as well. In his own way
Gary Cooper was a great actor of yesterday, who well captured the folksy persona of Alvin York, who was a very reluctant war hero.
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT(1930) Was a great early war film, that awes for it's greatness this day, and is still considered as one of the greatest movies ever made. Written from the German viewpoint, the film explores the awful circumstances that the Germans made for themselves by their entry into WWI. Fighting off rats for food, spending nights in cold trenches with dying soldiers, losing their lives to snipers, the film is a shocking and realistic portrayal of warfare that was a landmark for it's time. The great early actor, Lew Ayres is excellent here.
TORA! TORA! TORA!(1970) Was an incredible 1970 joint effort of American and Japanese producers to present a very historically accurate vision of the assault on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Navy. It was a very expensive epic costing $25 million at the time, and involved some actual aviation accidents of some vintage planes that were included in the film. It took three years of planning and about eight months of actual film work to bring this great epic to the screen. But, the result was well worth it. Any well stocked war DVD library needs to include this film.
Surprisingly, the film flopped at the U.S. box office, but was a major hit in Japan.
MIDWAY(1976) This film featured an all-star cast, and attempted to present a catalog-like history of the events surrounding the major sea battle that took place near Midway island in the Pacific where the Japanese Navy lost their aircraft carriers and their Navy suffered a huge defeat that turned the tide of the war. While true military historians will find fault with the facts of the film such as the wrong planes from an American aircraft carrier attacking the wrong Japanese aircraft carrier, still the film is an enjoyable war film of the best caliber.
Strangely, the film shows a Japanese Kamikaze type attack on one of the U.S. ships when in truth it was a U.S. Marine dive bomber pilot who actually crashed his plane into the Mogami, a heavy Japanese cruiser that was designed to take substantial punishment from bombs and not sink. But as far as a war film goes, this stands as one of my favorites, and I've enjoyed it many times on DVD.
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN(1998) Is a great war film entry by Steven Spielberg, and it stands as one of his best films. Tom Hanks is excellent here, well proving what a great actor he is while on search to save the last surviving brother from death in combat after his other brothers lost their lives in the war. The war action is realistic, tough and gritty. And like the awesome, SCHINDLER'S LIST, Spielberg created another great epic about WWII that stands the test of time. Certainly one of the greatest war films ever made.
ENEMY AT THE GATES(2001) Must be compared to SAVING PRIVATE RYAN in some ways. It's a very gritty war epic written from the Russian point of view with the 900 day siege of the city of Stalingrad by the German Wehrmacht Army. Jude Law well portrays a thinly educated Red Army volunteer who manages to kill a number of Germans with expert marksman shooting skills who is quickly spun into a propaganda hero by the Communist government to inspire the war effort. The film develops into a type of death duel between the two expert Red Army and German snipers. It's a great film by all means and highly recommended.
THE DIRTY DOZEN(1967) Is a great fictional tale starring tough guy actor Lee Marvin as a Major in the army who whips twelve twisted criminals into a crack military unit who would normally be facing capital offenses for their crimes. Some actors like Telly Savalas well portrayed a sadistic sexual psychopath, who was indeed a very twisted and dangerous personality. It's an epic bit of war fiction, and a great action film. It belongs in your war DVD film library.
PORK CHOP HILL(1959)Not many good films exist about the Korean War, but PORK CHOP HILL is among the very best. Great actor Gregory Peck is excellent here in this epic about American attempts to hold one small hill against the Chinese invasion as war negotiators work on terms of a ceasefire setting held territory boundaries for each side. Unfortunately, because of segregation the 24th Infantry Regiment, an all-Black military unit were often not well-equipped or trained, and were faced with the very difficult task of defending this hill against tough crack Communist People's Liberation Army troops. This is a very good war film that doesn't always come to mind, but should.
PATTON(1970) With the great star, George C. Scott, PATTON is a pretty obvious choice for one of the best war films ever made. Great effort was put into creating a great movie here. And George C. Scott well portrays the gritty general who helped to win the war. This film deservingly won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture.
THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE(1965) Is a quite good, and lengthy epic film about the last ditch attempt by the German tank forces to repel the Allied invasion by grouping together what remnants of their armor forces existed. Plenty of good war drama action here. And as usual, Henry Fonda adds a great presence to this classic war film as well. One of my favorite films.
THE RAT PATROL(1966-68) Wasn't a true war film, however on DVD as a box set this is one war series not to be missed. Tough guy actor Christopher George, a former Marine himself, is so good here. A group of just four tough soldiers with various skills and abilities cause nothing but trouble for the troops of Rommel's Afrika Corps. Due to the antiwar hysteria that swept the U.S. by 1968, this great show was ended by ABC who sought to satisfy antiwar critics. Otherwise, THE RAT PATROL would have probably lasted many more years, although it was never any ratings blockbuster. But great TV. I absolutely love this show, and even have paid way too much for items from Ebay based on this great show.
Certainly, THE LONGEST DAY(which also seems like about the longest film ever made about war), APOCALYPSE NOW, THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, THE GREAT ESCAPE, FULL METAL JACKET, DAS BOOT, PLATOON and a number of great films also deserve mention here as well. But, the films listed are among my very favorites. Buy them on DVD and celebrate the service of our soldiers today.