Saving Private Ryan

Are These The Top Five War Films Ever Made?

Saving Private Ryan

Article by former Royal Marine Cassidy Little, Forces Network's resident film reviewer...

There are so many things that need to be taken into consideration when looking at war movies... the best, and the worst.

It's often difficult to rank them because very few are the same. 

So on that note, there are a few conditions to my top five war films:

  • I think it's important to mention that I am leaving out science fiction. 'Starship Troopers' is a very good war movie, but maybe not in the same category as 'The Thin Red Line'. 
  • Also, Holocaust films will be omitted. Yes, the Holocaust was a terrible result of war but these movies are not classed in the 'war' genre. So movies like 'Schindler's List', 'Son of Saul', and 'Life is Beautiful' will not be ranked. 
  • Finally, epic historical films will not be included, ie Civil War films like 'The Patriot', or anything from the Crusades. It would be tough to compare 'Kingdom of Heaven' to 'Born On The Fourth Of July'.

But, that all being said, here are my top five Military films...


5.) Full Metal Jacket



Plot: A pragmatic US Marine observes the dehumanising effects the Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits, from their brutal boot camp training to bloody street fighting in Hue.

Why: The reason I like this film, and the reason it make number five on my list, is exactly the same reason I hated this film - the duality of the story. The first half paints a grim picture of basic training, which, forgetting the final scene of the first act, is actually very realistic. The thorn-covered banter that everyone endures is realistic and funny. Then the complete opposite occurs in the second act, showing the real, ugly side of a war - the lack of control over a situation and the unpredictable nature of the horror of conflict.

4.) The Deer Hunter



Plot: An in-depth examination of the way the Vietnam War impacts and disrupts the lives of people in a small, industrial town in Pennsylvania.

Why: Simply, this is the saddest war movie I have ever seen. When I first watched it, it kicked me for a twist and I am not sure I really ever recovered. The performances are painful, the story is painful and I have only ever watched it once for that reason. Very powerful!

3.) Saving Private Ryan



Plot: Following the Normandy Landings, a group of US soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.

Why: Yes, there are some Hollywood moments in this movie and yes, everyone has seen it a thousand times. But for what I imagine life was like on D-Day and the days after, no other movie does it better.

2.) Black Hawk Down



Plot: 160 elite US 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.

Why: This film, although a little OTT, contributed to me joining the military. I used to watch this movie before going back to basic training. When I returned from Afghanistan the first time, I struggled to watch it because of the accuracy in sound. I love this film. Mainly because it shows the brotherhood that men have in the field and the love they have for one another.  

1.) A War



Plot: The story of a Danish commander, who is accused of civil murder in Afghanistan, while trying to save his squad.

Why: I have said it before, and I say it again, this film is the most accurate depiction of war fighting in the modern day. I was a mess after watching this film. The first half is very accurate war fighting and the second half is a homage to PTSD and civilian law attempting to interfere with the realities of war. A must watch.

There you have it... My top five war movies.


A couple honourable mentions include Apocalypse Now, Platoon, We Were Soldiers and Dunkirk

For now, these five are the top of my chart though. 

But it is worth mentioning that this top five changes daily, according to how much I hate or love modern warfare?

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