War has been a theme of movies right from the earliest days when D.W. Griffith made his controversial movie, “Birth of a Nation”. War has given movie makers several narratives and conflicts that make for great cinema. Some of the most memorable movies of the past few decades were about war, so here’s my list of my personal favorites amongst them:
1. Saving Private Ryan (1998)Words cannot do justice to this movie, whose opening 15 minutes are arguably the most visceral in movie history. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan features some of the most realistic and violent battle scenes ever filmed. It remains one of the most loved and influential war movies of all time.
2. Apocalypse Now (1979)This 1979 movie starring Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando and directed by Francis Ford Coppola remains one of the most haunting narratives on war ever filmed. Coppola claimed that his movie was not about Vietnam, “it is Vietnam”. A story of a soldier who has to wade through deep jungles to find a renegade Colonel, the movie has strong echoes of the novel, “Heart of Darkness” and features a memorable, haunting soundtrack (anchored by The Doors’ “The End”).
3. The Deer Hunter (1978)This 1978 film starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and John Cazale is a deep meditation on the Vietnam war. The first hour of the movie may be dull, but after that, it thrusts you completely into the war. But more than the war, this movie is remarkable for its depiction of the impact war can have on people back home.
4. Schindler’s List (1993)Steven Spielberg scores another entry on this list with a haunting, personal look at the horros of the holocaust. Liam Neeson plays a reluctant hero who saves the lives to hundreds of Jews in Nazi Germany.
5. Black Hawk Down (2001)This 2001 Ridley Scott film had it all: visceral action, compelling story telling, and a great cast. One of the best narratives on modern day war.
So there you have it: five great war movies, just in time for the Oscar sweep of “The Hurt Locker”.