In honor of Veterans Day 2012, we are taking a look at our favorite classic war films that best define the heroism, horrors, camaraderie, and honor you find during wartime.
Some of these films make political statements; others zero in on the soldiers and the fighting. All of these films make sure we never forget the sacrifices made by our fighting men and women.
Happy Veterans Day to all.
Saving Private Ryan – Following the Normandy landings, a group of US soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.
The Longest Day – The events of D-Day, told on a grand scale from both the Allied and German points of view.
Full Metal Jacket – A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the Vietnam War has on his fellow Marine recruits from their brutal basic training to the bloody street fighting set in 1968 Hue, Vietnam. Directed by Stanley Kubrick.
Apocalypse Now – In Francis Ford Coppola’s classic film, during the ongoing Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade Green Beret, who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.
The Hurt Locker – Forced to play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in the chaos of war, an elite Army bomb squad unit must come together in a city where everyone is a potential enemy and every object could be a deadly bomb. Kathryn Bigelow’s film won Best Picture at the 2009 Academy Awards.
Black Hawk Down – 123 elite U.S. soldiers drop into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.
Paths of Glory – When soldiers in WW1 refuse to continue with an impossible attack, their superiors decide to make an example of them. Along with the previously mentioned Full Metal Jacket, this film was directed by Stanley Kubrick.
Tora! Tora! Tora! – A dramatization of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the series of American blunders that allowed it to happen.
M*A*S*H – The staff of a Korean War field hospital use humor and hijinks to keep their sanity in the face of the horror of war.
Flags of Our Fathers – Clint Eastwood’s film tells the life stories of the six men who raised the flag at The Battle of Iwo Jima, a turning point in WWII.
Glory – Robert Gould Shaw leads the US Civil War’s first all-black volunteer company, fighting prejudices of both his own Union army and the Confederates.
The Patriot – Peaceful farmer Benjamin Martin is driven to lead the Colonial Militia during the American Revolution when a sadistic British officer murders his son.
A Bridge Too Far – An historic telling of the failed attempt to capture several bridges to Germany in World War II in a campaign called Operation Market-Garden.
Patton – The World War II phase of the controversial American general’s career is depicted in this 1970 film starring George C. Scott, which cleaned up at the Academy Awards.
The Great Escape – Allied POWs plan for several hundred of their number to escape from a German camp during World War II.
The Green Berets – Col. Mike Kirby picks two teams of crack Green Berets for a mission in South Vietnam. First off is to build and control a camp that is trying to be taken by the enemy, the second mission is to kidnap a North Vietnamese general.
Midway – A dramatization of the battle that turned out to be the turning point of the Pacific theater of World War II.
Casablanca – Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II, the film focuses on an American expatriate who meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications. One of the best-known films of all time, it stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
We Were Soliders – The story of the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War and the soldiers on both sides that fought it.
Sands of Iwo Jima – John Wayne stars in this dramatization of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.
Kelly’s Heroes – A group of U.S. soldiers sneaks across enemy lines to get their hands on a secret stash of Nazi treasure.
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo – In the wake of Pearl Harbor, a young lieutenant leaves his expectant wife to volunteer for a secret bombing mission which will take the war to the Japanese homeland.
Pork Chop Hill – A grim story of one of the major battles of the Korean War. While negotiators are at work in Panmunjom trying to bring the conflict to a negotiated end, Lt. Joe Clemons is ordered to launch an attack and retake Pork Cop Hill.
Platoon – A young recruit in Vietnam faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man.