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We, like the inhabitants of the tank, see outside the vehicle only via its gunsight. From their perspective, war is hell through a periscope lens, both frightening and unfathomable. Inglourious Basterds Director: Quentin Tarantino. What perversity, to make a war film all about people waiting for a chance to fight in a war and never getting a chance to actually do it.

That perhaps makes this film more conceptually interesting than compelling to actually watch; nevertheless, there is a thematic and structural integrity to this film that is admirable in the abstract. Overlord Director: Stuart Cooper. How can something so meager possess such power? Bolstering the fiction filmmaking with documentary footage achieves some mesmerizing effect here—rather than cheapen the film by highlighting its budgetary shortcomings, the decision to include archival material retains a vital tie to the past. The film basically plays one sustained note about the death of innocence, but Cooper chooses the perfect chord.

Air Force Director: Howard Hawks. What sets Air Force apart and keeps it vital is the way it keenly puts the viewer in the place of a U.

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Once in the air, instead of a score we hear the constant hum of the flight, and the mundane, repetitive exchanges of the crew. The point for audiences at the time was supposed to be that the U. Sergeant York Director: Howard Hawks. York is a masterpiece, a parable about a sticks sharpshooter dead set against slaughter: how a poor Tennessee farmer found marriage, religion, and a cause, in that order. In its own way, York tells us what soldiers have always known: the war is also fought within, as well as without. If so many of the glut of war movies made in the post-war period have failed to stand the test of time, it could be that the unrealistic moral monochromia and lack of psychological insight of many ring false in a world that views complexity as a given in its war movies.

Made at a time when John Wayne was still storming beaches with his uniformly loyal and capable grunts, Attack! Most movies get made because their creators wanted to make them. Then there are movies such as City of Life and Death , which one feels simply had to be made—for education, for posterity, for mere perspective. Lu begins with muscular battle scenes, then moves on to unflinching misery as occupation begins, with machine gun execution by the thousands, live burials, death by rape—human annihilation. Glory Director: Edward Zwick.

Matthew Broderick may appear in the lead as Col. Trip , Morgan Freeman Sgt.

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John Rawlins , Andre Braugher Cpl. Thomas Searles and Jhimi Kennedy Pvt. Jupiter Sharts. These actors deliver incredible performances as members of the first all-black regiment in the Union army, during the Civil War, with Washington going on to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Instead of focusing on the obvious North vs.

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Navy during the Vietnam War, shot down over Laos then captured and tortured for months before escaping. When Zack shoots a prisoner in cold blood, this earned Fuller the ire of the military brass. I fought a war. Things like that happen! And you know it! Stalag 17 Director: Billy Wilder. In comparison with a film like The Great Escape , which would later come along and tell a story ringing with many of the same tropes, albeit without the screwball sense of humor, Stalag 17 is both an escape story and a light mystery, centered around the identity of the German informant who is sabotaging each attempt by the Americans to flee the camp and defy the Germans.

With a cast of colorful characters and good-natured humor, Stalag 17 somehow takes a horrific premise and mines it for laughs more successfully than one would have thought possible. Gallipoli Director: Peter Weir. Director Peter Weir has always been a master heartstring-puller; whatever his subject matter, he takes a very emotion-forward approach.

That said, please understand that Gallipoli will not tug at your heart: It will flat out break it. A group of young men from rural Australia enlist in the Army during WWI and are sent to the Gallipoli peninsula in present-day Turkey to participate in the campaign that culminates in the tragic Battle of the Nek in This is a story about idealistic young men-primarily Archie Hamilton Mike Lee and Frank Dunne Mel Gibson losing their innocence about the real meanings and purposes of war.

In this film that emotional investment cruelly underlines the devastation of war. All the while, the more interesting rivalry is happening within the American sub, where Richardson has to contend with his ambitious younger XO Bledsoe Burt Lancaster , in a reflection of the very real discord between fading star Gable and Lancaster. Off-screen struggle proved grimly advantageous: Gable, then a chronic alcoholic, delivers a suitably exhausted performance as the obsessed Richardson, while the clash of egos between Gable and Lancaster seeps into the power balance enmity between their characters.


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Hell in the Pacific Director: John Boorman. Amidst the borderline schlocky battle scenes and Middle-Eastern politics, Scott and screenwriter William Monahan ask big questions about faith, class and destiny that somehow strongly resonate some plus years on from when their story takes place.

While it dawns on the two half-cocked nomads just what kind of horror has engulfed the country and to what extent the U. And still, Boyle wanders the increasingly war-scarred country, like Max von Sydow in The Seventh Seal , finding nothing but pain and violence bereft of meaning, but committed to a duty: to capture what was going on, or simply to satisfy the same degree of American-bred ego that Stone was condemning in trying to witness such atrocities at all.

Those conflagrations are the result of a conflict between government and revolutionary forces, the specifics of which the film, like its precise locale, leaves more or less vague. For the French-speaking portion of the film, there is an espionage mini-thriller and a thunderous Commando assault on a seaside town. And for the German-speaking segments, a surprisingly even-handed and occasionally even lighthearted portrayal of ill-prepared officers, out-of-their-depth Luftwaffe and the ordinary soldiers who from that point on would be forever in retreat.

Kanal Director: Andrzej Wajda. Aware of their slim chances of survival with the German army tightening its grip all the time, the remaining men and women of Lt. But the confusion and strange terror down there, in the foul winding tunnels of an underground maze of waste, make them a pitiful few last hours.

Based on the true story of one escalating firefight—that which emerged when the American plan to capture warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid in went awry— Black Hawk Down allows Scott to focus in beautifully rendered detail on what happens when the cold, regimented modern military machine of the West meets a multitudinous foreign enemy on home turf.

In this film, the schoolboys of a rural Bavarian town curse school, interact awkwardly with girls, learn from inspiring teachers, and fantasize about killing for the Fatherland.

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The Guns of Navarone Director: J. Lee Thompson. Guess what?

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The Train Director: John Frankenheimer. Men in War Director: Anthony Mann. Men in War is a peculiar amalgam: part action movie, part psychological thriller and part existential odyssey. Benson Robert Ryan and his platoon make to take a hill deep in North Korean territory. MASH is a still-effective example of a film that finds humor in some of the least expected places, making us laugh in order to not cry.

World War II: After the War

Battleground Director: William Wellman. Plenty of WWII films made during the war and in the immediate post-war period were, if not nakedly propagandistic, then at least psychologically simplistic, artificial and lopsidedly patriotic. The equipment and uniforms look worn. There are no major stars to confuse the audience into thinking that any of the characters are individually heroic or special.

In this movie, hot food is the real victory, and a man is as likely to be killed reaching for his boots in a firefight as he is making a glorious run against the enemy. The pointlessness of man murdering his fellow man is noted in a whimper of a finale, a melancholic stroke that caps off one of the more entertaining men-on-a-mission movies. The Dam Busters belongs to a class of British film that no longer exists—straitlaced yet charming, formal yet with bursts of cinematic invention, epic in scope yet intimately felt. The Ascent Director: Larisa Shepitko.