With the recent announcement of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare reboot, the latest in the long-running franchise which has now covered from the second world war right up to futuristic space warfare, we decided to compile a list of five war films that you should watch to get you in the mood for its release on October 25th.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Spielberg’s WW2 film was universally acclaimed upon its release and it’s easy to see why even today over 21 years later.
With solid acting from an extremely impressive cast, including a young Vin Diesel and Matt Damon. A story with real emotional weight and praised for its realism of warfare with action sequences that make other films pale in comparison. The opening D-Day sequence is one that sets up the rest of the film to follow and makes you feel like you’re living the film as much as you are watching it.
If you’ve somehow missed this one make it your next film and see the grittiness and horror of WW2 through the eyes of the eight soldiers that gave everything to save one man.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
The late Stanley Kubrick was never a filmmaker to hide away from controversy and his war film Full Metal Jacket certainly has its fair share of shocking moments throughout to highlight the horrific side of warfare.
Kubrick’s auteur staples are all here. The one point perspective, the tracking shots, the voice over, the theme of humanity’s inner struggle and guilt of their actions. They’ve all been given a new coat of paint in the form of the Vietnam war.
The film covers a wide range of issues that come hand in hand with war. We see the mental toll of warfare in the films first act, from a group of soldiers on the same side. Throughout the film we see the soldiers committing terrible atrocities and enjoying what they’re doing but still be able to question why the people of Vietnam are not “grateful that they’re helping them”.
The film makes the viewer uncomfortable about warfare. From the brainwashing techniques of the drill sergeant in the first half of the film to the actions that the soldiers have to carry out in Vietnam in the second half, Kubrick intended to make us question the actions we were seeing on screen and make us ask. Is this really worth it?
If you like your films to pose philosophical questions by showing us the violence that is present in warfare explicitly then check out Kubrick’s brilliant film. His final one released during his lifetime.
Before David Ayer went a little off the rails with Suicide Squad (2016) he directed the impressive war film Fury starring Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf. This film differentiates itself by solely focusing on the US tank crews in WW2 Nazi Germany. It’d depiction of the life of war for the tank crews is gritty, realistic and often brutal.
The realism of the acting is likely due to the preparation Ayer had the main actors complete. Including a week-long boot camp run by Navy Seals and forcing them to live inside the tank they were filming in for extended periods of time.
Pitt’s character shows the duality of war and how a single individual can act both good and evil when put into a war zone situation. When watching we often feel we are in the tank with these characters.
If you want your war film to be brutal, realistic and explosive take a look at this one.
American Sniper (2014)
The Oscar-nominated, Bradley Cooper-led film about Chris Kyle. The man who became the most lethal marksman in U.S military history was met with some controversy over its portrayal of the Iraq war and its protagonist. Also because of a scene where it used a visibly plastic doll as a baby.
These points don’t stop the film from being a tense and enjoyable watch, however.
The film is admittedly a massive ode to American patriotism by the director, Clint Eastwood, and in some ways almost glorifies the war that is being fought. More of a character study than a war film we see how Kyle becomes affected by the war and the kills that he’s carrying out in the name of his country.
The scenes in which Kyle returns home and is affected by his PTSD of the war shows the longer repercussions that war has on the soldiers sent to fight and raises a larger discussion on if these veterans are discarded after their use in war on their return home with an ending tying up all the effects that we’ve seen Kyle go through during the film.
If you want your war film to concentrate on the effects on the soldiers returning home as a character study check this out.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
In contrast to American Sniper, Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of Desmond Doss. A pacifist who became a field medic in the US military in WW2 and refused to carry or use any weapons of any kind.
One of the best films of 2016 with one of Andrew Garfield’s best performances, the film received rave reviews upon its release. The conflicting behaviours of Doss and the other soldiers are the main driving force of the film and it becomes a real ode to faith and sticking by your beliefs no matter what the cost.
The heart-pounding final act is a marvellous work of filmmaking and highlights the courage that Doss and the other servicemen had to have in the face of the enemy. The character development of Doss throughout the film as he sticks to his faith despite everyone telling him to do differently is magnificently scripted and the emotional scenes of the film pack a punch from the opening sequence to when the credits roll.
If you want a war film that’s more about the strength of an individuals beliefs in warfare this is one for you.