Military Movies Worth Watching

I was an infantryman from 1981-1987 (11B1P), my 1st unit was the 1st/501st INF (The first parachute infantry regiment in the US Army) and my last unit was the 3rd/187th INF ABN (AASLT). I picked these movies for entertainment value. Realism is fine, but the story is what counts in a flick. At least it does for your humble narrator. One of the wannabes on the Hall of Shame list cried and it is now gone. Google still has it cached. I had left comments open so anyone on the list could say their piece and one guy did. Oddly, I don't think it was him that cried to the admins. Oh, well. I am not into negative things anymore, so it was a favour.
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1.
The Dirty Dozen (1967)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
During World War II, a rebellious U.S. Army Major is assigned a dozen convicted murderers to train and lead them into a mass assassination mission of German officers. (150 mins.)
Director: Robert Aldrich
“ The first time I saw this was when it made its debut on the 'Movie of the Week.' I was in grade school and watched it with dad. All we talked about the next day was this flick. All of us agreed Jim Brown was the baddest cat our middle school minds had ever seen. Some very adult themes for a 10 year old boy, it was much better having seen it with dad. At least the first time. ” - thommacintyre
 
2.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action. (169 mins.)
“ What can I add to a summary of this that has not already been said? Only two movies had me crying, as an adult, when I saw them. This and 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas". One scene that was SO realistic, to me, was on their march. Remember when Rieben asked Capt. Miller about how he felt about the mission? Around 20% of the Army's Infantry officers that I have ran across were truly exceptional leaders. Great leaders who did not have to play games to be taken seriously. When Hanks has the exchange with Jackson about the proper way to b*tch and then gives a demonstration, that was PERFECT. I don't have a clue how the scene was researched but that is EXACTLY the way a great line officer deals with his men. Lt. Hardell and Lt. Waite, I hope you two are a Generals now. (waves) ” - thommacintyre
 
3.
The Big Red One (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
The story of a sergeant and the inner core members of his unit as they try to serve in and survive World War II. (113 mins.)
Director: Samuel Fuller
“ I covered this particular movie in my 1970s list. If, for whatever reasons, I did not end up in the 82nd or 101st the Big Red One would of been my non-airborne choice. That or the 10th Mountain. Anyhow, its a great Army flick. ” - thommacintyre
 
4.
Battleground (1949)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A squad of the 101st Airborne Division copes with being trapped in the besieged city of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. (118 mins.)
“ THIS was the movie that made me want to be in the 101st. I watched it with my dad when I was 8 or so. He even reminded me of it when him & mom drove down to Ft. Campbell when I graduated Air Assault school. All these years later, it is still a pretty good flick. Great for a rainy or snowy afternoon, especially snowy. The "Band of Brothers" (BoB) treatment of the Bulge is great, but "Battleground" has great characters and acting, too. I think of Ricardo Montalban every time it snows. ” - thommacintyre
 
5.
Band of Brothers (2001 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.5/10 X  
The story of Easy Company of the US Army 101st Airborne division and their mission in WWII Europe from Operation Overlord through V-J Day. (594 mins.)
“ An absolutely stunning story and well told, too. As a rule, I rarely watch military stuff and only play video games that involve fantasy. This list may seem to negate that. However, out of the 1,000s of movies I have seen, fewer than 1% were military dramas. In the 101st, you learn a great deal of its history, whether it was for the E-5 board, guard duty, soldier of the month, or just being there. The theaters, bowling alleys, etc. are named after former Screaming Eagles who had won the Medal of Honor*. It was so cool seeing Lt Winters take that gun position. Recreating it was an exercise your humble narrator participated in at Ft. Campbell. Anyhow, boy am I glad I dinna go to jump school in WWII :-0
* usually a posthumous award ” - thommacintyre
 
6.
Aces High (1976)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
In WW1 the high casualty rate among the rookie pilots of the Royal Flying Corps puts an enormous strain on the survivors. (114 mins.)
Director: Jack Gold
“ Fascinating movie about WWI fliers. As good as "The Dawn Patrol" is, Malcolm McDowell is always great. It was great in the theatre, and stands up well on the home screen. The iconic ending battle sequence is still gripping. ” - thommacintyre
 
7.
The Wild Geese (1978)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
A British banker hires a group of British mercenaries to rescue a deposed African president from the hands of a corrupt African dictator. (134 mins.)
“ I saw this with my dad at the Fiesta Theatre in good ol' Pittsburgh PA. It started my teen age fascination with mercenaries. A fascination cured by a stint in the US Army 3 years later. A very good flick that many have missed. As usual, the protesters didn't realize it showed black Africa in a realistic way with a sub-plot demonstrating that the only possible future that works was with equality and teamwork between the races. It also showed the very British "no big deal" attitude towards gays. Whatever, it's a great flick. ” - thommacintyre
 
8.
Gallipoli (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Two Australian sprinters face the brutal realities of war when they are sent to fight in the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey during World War I. (110 mins.)
Director: Peter Weir
“ My youth had two huge blessings. Well, thousands, really, but two big ones regarding movies. I have had the same best friend pretty much all my life since the 4th grade and our taste in movies has a huge overlap section. Maybe 6 months before I joined the US Army this movie was at the long burnt down Arcade theatre, formerly of the south side of Pittsburgh, PA. That was when the US actually MANUFACTURED stuff. Anyhow, as the second run houses were dying, the owner tried to make it an arty, foreign film type place. Slapping cheap panelling over the decaying movie palace's plaster murals of topless, chubby cuties should of been a crime. Regardless, it was far too little, way too late.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, me and Mikey J. went and saw this. Gallipoli is a fantastic flick on many levels. For us, we were into WW I history even as pre-teens and fascinated by ANZAC to boot. To folks who are not major history geeks, the acting and the sets, the story and its ending carry the drama with no problems. I doubt there was any rhyme or reason to how the films were booked, but 'Gallipoli" arrived just after our appetites were whetted by 'Breaker Morant'. ” - thommacintyre
 
9.
Breaker Morant (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Three Australian lieutenants are court martialed for executing prisoners as a way of deflecting attention from war crimes committed by their superior officers. (107 mins.)
Director: Bruce Beresford
“ Seeing this title on Netflix brought back many memories, most covered in the 'Gallipoli' entry. I have to think about this one some more, to separate the memories. ” - thommacintyre
 
10.
The Dawn Patrol (1938)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
British flying aces in World War I contend with the harsh realities of war. (103 mins.)
Director: Edmund Goulding
“ The first time I saw this was late night on the local CBS affiliate as a teenager. It gets better each time. Its not "Aces High" but it has a very unique feel and style. Definitely worth a watch. ” - thommacintyre
 
11.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue. (116 mins.)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
“ Someone wrote me and asked why so low on the list? I am known as a Kubrick fanatic amongst me friends. I really did like this but it stutters at the end of basic, and almost stops at times. Well, it did boost R. Lee Ermey's career into orbit. He really is a vet and doesn't add all kinds of BS to his record. If you served, great. The entire military is not composed of combat troops and there is NOTHING to be ashamed of if you were in a support job. Merely serving puts you ahead of 80% of the population in my book. ” - thommacintyre
 
12.
Cease Fire! (1953 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
A real military action during the last year of the Korean War is re-enacted on the spot with real soldiers. (75 mins.)
Director: Owen Crump
“ Fascinating flick following a combat patrol on a mission during the Korean conflict. If you were in the Army or Marines and were an infantryman, it is spell-binding at times. If you aren't but want to see a great, if slightly sanitized, picture of a grunt's lot in life, check it out. ” - thommacintyre
 
13.
The Keep (1983)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  
Nazis are forced to turn to a Jewish historian for help in battling the ancient demon they have inadvertently freed from its prison. (96 mins.)
Director: Michael Mann
“ I first saw this pretty drunk, along with me drug du jour. Years later, clean & sober, this flick stood the test of time. Well, mostly. The soundtrack is as dated as a morning paper, but still a GREAT idea. One thing that still stands out is some dialogue that reflects an item forgot by history. The Luftwaffe troops HATED the SS. The SS being everything a soldier is not. Paraphrasing an officer dressing down an SS cur "Fighting an enemy who shoots back is far different than shooting prisoners in the head". I will try to dig up the quote for accuracy. Nevertheless, it shows a part of the German army in WWII in a way now forgotten. ” - thommacintyre
 
14.
Paratrooper (1953)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
In 1940, an American claiming to be Canadian volunteers for the British Army's paratroop school. (88 mins.)
Director: Terence Young
“ Well done, sometimes gripping story of an American who joins the British Paras via Canada. Ladd is very believable and the story borrows a bit from airborne "legends". It is well worth multiple viewings. ” - thommacintyre
 
15.
Paths of Glory (1957)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
After refusing to attack an enemy position, a general accuses the soldiers of cowardice and their commanding officer must defend them. (88 mins.)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
“ Another Kubrick entry, this is another one of his films that will haunt you. It's hard to say anything in depth without it being a spoiler. Look for the soon to be life-long wife of Stanley :-) ” - thommacintyre
 
16.
Hell's Angels (1930)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Brothers Monte and Ray leave Oxford to join the Royal Flying Corps. Ray loves Helen; Helen enjoys an affair with Monte; before they leave on their mission over Germany they find her in still another man's arms. (127 mins.)
Director: Howard Hughes
“ Really, truly worth watching. Great sets, cinematography, and a decent story. This is one of the classics really worth a viewing. ” - thommacintyre
 
17.
The Guard Post (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
(Korean with English subtitles) A squad of Korean soldiers is sent to investigate a guard post that overlooks the DMZ... (121 mins.)
Director: Su-chang Kong
“ Way way back in the early 1980s, rumor was that if you flunked jump school (as an infantryman, anyhow) you got sent to Korea. I don't know because I passed. 4 years later my younger brother Joe, a medic, passed jump school and was sent to Korea as his 1st duty station. So much for the accuracy of Army rumors. Seoul was hosting the Oplympics, so maybe the Army wanted lots of medics around if the DPRK wanted to get crazy. Anyhow, anyone who pulled guard duty out in the middle of nowhere or was stationed on the DMZ will dig this lick. It is gross, scary, and well... fun. I try never to watch the dubbed version if subtitles are available. There are twists and turns that require the viewer to pay attention. ” - thommacintyre
 
18.
Cross of Iron (1977)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A German commander places a squad in extreme danger after its Sergeant refuses to lie for him. (132 mins.)
Director: Sam Peckinpah
“ If you read the book, you can see how and why it was changed for the big screen. Powerful without being overblown and deep without being cheesy, this is a flick NOT to be missed. ” - thommacintyre
 
19.
The Beast of War (1988)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A Soviet tank and its warring crew become separated from their patrol and lost in an Afghan valley with a group of vengeance-seeking rebels on their tracks. (111 mins.)
Director: Kevin Reynolds
“ This list is is inherently difficult to rank. I enjoyed them all but this is a stand out, which could be applied to the above flicks as well. A Soviet tank strays from the convoy. There is plenty of above average acting, a solid sense of timing, good direction, excellent cinematography, and awesome props. It may not be "Private Ryan" but it has a very authentic feel. If you are too young to remember, the US backed the Mujahedin who ended up being the backbone of the Taliban. If you feel like it, look up Ho Chi Min fighting the Japanese. Guess who trained the Cong? ” - thommacintyre
 
20.
Platoon (1986)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A young recruit in Vietnam faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man. (120 mins.)
Director: Oliver Stone
“ Way over-rated, but at least it brought some respectability to 'Nam flicks and it's veterans. Maybe too much, since stolen valor has been rampant since then. As a Central American vet, ain't much I can say about its accuracy regarding the conflict. One thing that I can comment on is how combat platoons are divided into ropers and dopers. Around 10%* are ropers (aka cowboys) these ultra-macho drunk racist homophobes who suck up to the man and HATE the dopers. 25% were us dopers. It was the early 80s, weed wasn't part of the witch hunt. Anyhow, most of us were bonus babies and joined to pay for college. THAT part of the flick was right on, as was how the cherry (newbie for leg or non-jump units) is mistreated upon arrival.

*NOT the result of a scientific poll, merely a number I pulled out of the air based on somewhat fallible memories. ” - thommacintyre