Top War Movies, Part 2

Saving Private Ryan (1998) / Director: Steven Spielberg / Stars: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns
The first 27 minutes are unequaled in conveying the terror and chaos of retaking Omaha Beach from the entrenched Nazis on D-Day in 1944. The movie then shifts from the harrowing to the somewhat sentimental, as a group of U.S. soldiers (led by Hanks) go behind enemy lines to retrieve paratrooper Ryan (Damon) whose three brothers have been killed in action.


Full Metal Jacket (1987) / Director: Stanley Kubrick / Stars: Matthew Modine, R. Lee Ermey, Vincent D’Onofrio
What happens when we try to turn men into killing machines? The first tragicomic half of Kubrick’s meditation on the Vietnam War focuses on how the Marines’ Parris Island training camp breaks down recruits; R. Lee Ermey’s foul-mouthed Drill Sgt. Hartman is a classic caricature of the ball-busting military ethos. The second half follows Pvt. “Joker” (Modine) and his fellow soldiers through the Tet Offensive and a sniper-hunt. The movie’s final shot: a chilling rendition of troops singing the Mickey Mouse Club anthem.

Black Hawk Down (2001) / Director: Ridley Scott / Stars: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore
Based on a true story, an elite team of 123 soldiers (led by Josh Hartnett) drop into Somalia to thwart a wicked regime that has killed hundreds of thousands of its own people. They can barely rescue themselves as they face thousands of armed and angry locals. The unrelenting depiction of street-to-street fighting in Mogadishu lets you feel the heat, fear, gallantry, and chaos of war.


The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) / Director: David Lean / Stars: Alec Guinness, William Holden
A captured British colonel (Alec Guinness) obsessively leads fellow prisoners in a morale-boosting construction project outside an isolated Japanese POW camp in WWII. Meanwhile wily American POW William Holden plots escape and sabotage. Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director and Actor (for Guinness)


Lawrence of Arabia (1962) / Director: David Lean / Stars: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn
A flamboyant and controversial British military figure has conflicted loyalties during his World War I service in Arabia in this three-and-a-half-hour long epic. Another Best Picture and Director Oscar for Lean’s directorial genius.

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