Top War Movies, Part 4

The Battle of Algiers (1966) / Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
Wars have many battlefields, including protracted civilian resistance to foreign subjugation. Based on the prison autobiography of Saadi Yacef, this film focuses on Algerian rebels seeking liberation from French colonization in the 1950s, illustrating in faux documentary style a lesson that occupying forces often forget: the locals will always vastly outnumber them and when the locals are fed up and feel they have nothing left to lose except their chains, they can make enough trouble to drive out their overlords.


Gallipoli (1981) / Director: Peter Weir / Stars: Mel Gibson, Mark Lee
Two Australian sprinters are tasked as messengers on the hellish Turkish front in World War I, trying to outrace the folly of arrogant generals. But, sadly, no one is that fast.

Three Kings (1999) / Director: David O. Russell / Stars: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze
At the end of the first U.S.-Iraq War (aka Desert Storm), four U.S. soldiers go on a treasure hunt for Kuwaiti bullion seized by Saddam Hussein. What they discover are forlorn, abused people who desperately need their protection. We tag along on the sunbaked, surreal adventure and witness our heroes’ frailties and redeeming strengths. Leading man Clooney and director Russell took the “war” theme a little too personally in this film, reportedly coming to blows off camera. But what ends up on screen is tremendous: funny, suspenseful, and moving.


Platoon (1986) / Director: Oliver Stone / Stars: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe
A young recruit (Sheen) in the Vietnam War discovers the horror and duplicity man is capable of. One of the first movies to show the tense psychology of guerrilla warfare, where there are no clear battle lines or enemy. Notable moment: the heartbreaking death of a central character set to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Best Picture and Director Oscars.


Oh, What a Lovely War (1969) / Director: Richard Attenborough / Stars: Lawrence Olivier, John Mills, John Gielgud, Maggie Smith
This is one of the more unusual and inventive war movies ever made. British soldiers satirize the absurdity of World War I and social class distinctions by altering lyrics to popular songs in a music hall setting. Jaunty tunes of recruitment (“We Don’t Want To Lose You But We Think You Ought To Go”) sour to ones of disillusioned reality (“Hanging On The Old Barbed Wire”). The film’s last image: fields of the dead in their cross-marked graves.

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