TGIF – Which is Your Favorite War Movie?

(2PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Crossposted at Daily Kos

A scene from For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943)

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War Films often acknowledge the horror and heartbreak of war, letting the actual combat fighting or conflict provide the primary plot or background for the action of the film.  Typical elements in the action-oriented war plots include POW camp experiences and escapes, espionage, personal heroism, “war is hell” brutalities… tough trench/infantry experiences, or male-bonding buddy adventures during wartime. Themes explored in war films include combat, survivor and escape stories, tales of gallant sacrifice and struggle, studies of the futility and inhumanity of battle, the effects of war on society, and intelligent and profound explorations of the moral and human issues.



Whenever I post diaries like this — What is Your Fav TV Sitcom of All-Time? and Snowy TGIF: What is Your Favorite Classic Rock Song — some of you with dial-up, older pc’s, slower processors, not enough RAM, and the like complain that you could not easily scroll through the comments as way too many videos had been posted.  If you’d like to post a few favorite videos of movie scenes, feel free to do so but just don’t go overboard. Embed one YouTube video and post links to the others.

Example: This is a YouTube link to a scene from the German movie Stalingrad (1993).…



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It is often said that the victors of a war — any war — write its history.  This is largely true with perhaps one exception.  Prior to World War II becoming known as the “Good War” for much of the Western world, the 1930’s civil conflict in Spain was known as a war fought for a worthy and just cause, even though it was not won by the good guys.  

The Spanish Civil War was the prelude to and trial run leading up to World War II.  If you have read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, he described the leftist groups aligned with the Republican Spanish government — consisting of Communists, socialists, Trotskyists, trade unionists, and other sympathizers from around the world — as poorly organized, with conflicting goals, and often at odds with each other.  The United States was not only in the midst of the Great Depression but also in political isolationist mode at the time, though hundreds of Americans volunteered in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.  The other major European countries, particularly Stalin’s Soviet Union, made half-hearted efforts of behalf of Republican forces. General Francisco Franco’s Nationalist forces were actively aided and supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. That help proved critical in the Nationalists ultimately prevailing over the Republicans.  Franco would rule Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975.  

One of the best-known movies about this conflict was based on Ernest Hemingway’s novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls

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Spain in the 1930s is the place to be for a man of action like Robert Jordan.  There is a civil war going on and Jordan who has joined up on the side that appeals most to idealists of that era — like Ernest Hemingway and his friends — has been given a high-risk assignment up in the mountains. He awaits the right time to blow up a bridge in a cave.  Pilar, who is in charge there, has an ability to foretell the future. And so that night she encourages Maria, a young girl ravaged by enemy soldiers, to join Jordan who has decided to spend the night under the stars.


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Here are a few more war movies considered to be among some of the best ever made about the horrors and devastation of war

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Francis Ford Coppola’s harrowing epic vision of the madness of the war in Vietnam, Apocalypse Now (1979) was an exceptionally spectacular war movie loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s 1911 novel Heart of Darkness. An American military assassin, a socially-dysfunctional loner named Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen), was commissioned to journey upriver into Cambodia to ‘terminate without prejudice’ an insane, renegade colonel named Kurtz (Marlon Brando).  The film featured Robert Duvall as megalomaniac bad-ass Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, noted for loving the smell of napalm, tossing playing cards on each dead enemy body to serve as calling cards, and surfing and hosting steak BBQs amidst war.


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All Quiet On The Western Front (1930) is an English language film (made in America) adapted from a novel by German author Erich Maria Remarque.  The film follows a group of German schoolboys, talked into enlisting at the beginning of World War 1 by their jingoistic teacher.  The story is told entirely through the experiences of the young German recruits and highlights the tragedy of war through the eyes of individuals. As the boys witness death and mutilation all around them, any preconceptions about “the enemy” and the “rights and wrongs” of the conflict disappear, leaving them angry and bewildered.  This is highlighted in the scene where Paul mortally wounds a French soldier and then weeps bitterly as he fights to save his life while trapped in a shell crater with the body.  The film is not about heroism but about drudgery and futility and the gulf between the concept of war and the actuality.


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The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) is a story that was loosely based on a true World War II incident, and the real-life character of Lieutenant Colonel Philip Toosey.  One of a number of Allied POW’s, the senior British officer Toosey was in charge of his men from late 1942 through May 1943 when they were ordered to build two Kwai River bridges in Burma (first a temporary one made of wood completed in February 1943 and a permanent one of steel/concrete completed a few months later), to help move Japanese supplies and troops from Bangkok to Rangoon.


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The Battleship Potemkin, (1925) is a silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein and produced by Mosfilm.  It presents a dramatized version of the mutiny that occurred in 1905 when the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin rebelled against their officers of the Tsarist regime.


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Schindler’s List (1993) is an American epic drama film about Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories.


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Gone With the Wind (1939) traced the South’s tragic history during the war and the Reconstruction period. Set against this sweeping historical backdrop, the film followed a melodramatic romance between an indomitable, fiery Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and a slyly-dashing war profiteer Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), tangled by her emotional love affair with a married Southern gentleman (Ashley Wilkes).  She struggled to protect her family and her beloved plantation, Tara, from the ravages of the Civil War.


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Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) is Stanley Kubrick’s classic, nihilistic, cynical Cold War, satirical black comedy, had scathing humor and timeless performances, based on the novel Red Alert by Peter George and a script by Terry Southern.  A crazed, psychotic US general Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden), paranoid about his own potency and the Communists, sparked a nuclear crisis with a pre-emptive strike against “the Commies.”  The American President Muffley (Peter Sellers in one of three roles) must deal with gung ho military brass Gen. Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott), bureaucratic bumbling, a drunken Soviet Premier and a twisted, black-gloved German rocket scientist, Dr. Strangelove himself (Sellers again).  Ended with the memorable bucking broncho image of Major Kong (Slim Pickens) riding the fatal bomb.


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The rest of the movies included in the diary poll are: The Longest Day (1962), Casablanca (1942), The Deer Hunter (1978), Breaker Morant (1980), Paths of Glory (1957), and The Great Dictator (1940).

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How realistically is war portrayed in movies?  It depends on your perspective

Some war films do balance the soul-searching, tragic consequences and inner turmoil of combatants or characters with action-packed, dramatic spectacles, enthusiastically illustrating the excitement and turmoil of warfare.  And some ‘war’ films concentrate on the homefront rather than on the conflict at the military war-front.  But many of them provide decisive criticism of senseless warfare.

War films have often been used as ‘flag-waving’ propaganda to inspire national pride and morale, and to display the nobility of one’s own forces while harshly displaying and criticizing the villainy of the enemy, especially during war or in post-war periods. Jingoistic-type war films usually do not represent war realistically in their support of nationalistic interests, while avoiding the reality of the horrors of war.  The good guys are portrayed as clashing against the bad guys (often with stereotyped labels such as ‘krauts,’ ‘commies,’ ‘Huns,’ or ‘nips’). These revisionistic, politically-correct and historically inaccurate films, in such diverse examples as Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) and The Alamo (1960), would often redefine the facts.


As usual, the diary poll excludes many worthy candidates.  You may want to check this list of great war movies — 100 Greatest War Movies — to find more of your favorite ones.

Don’t forget to take the diary poll.

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  1. Reality Check

    Reality Check,

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    Tips and the like here.  Thanks.  

    • melvin on October 23, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Empire of the Sun. Film version of J G Ballard’s childhood casts a new light on his writing.

    Maybe the funniest war movie: Black and White in Color

    And of course I would chain every cheerleader for war into a comfy seat, superglue their eyes open, and make them watch Johnny Got His Gun.

    • RiaD on October 23, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    so many.

    i liked:

    kellys heroes


    the fighting sullivans


    sergeant york

    where eagles dare

    the sand pebbles

    the green berets

    and i dont know if these count but…

    lawrence of arabia


    the tiger & the snow

    and i’m waiting impatiently for


    • RUKind on October 23, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Just for the relevance of today’s reality.

    • RUKind on October 23, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Just for the sanity of war. Dr. Strangelove for the same reason.

    • Diane G on October 23, 2010 at 9:42 pm

  2. … for promoting this diary.

    Another great movie — though not entirely a “war movie” — that I liked a great deal was Sophie’s Choice.  It might have been Meryl Streep’s best role ever.  

    • Mu on October 24, 2010 at 12:25 am


     . . . but none of them were actually war movies, they were movies set against the backdrop of war (with Dr. Strangelove being the Cold War).  

     I’ve not seen “All’s Quiet on the Western Front,” but have read the book many times and understand the film’s one of The Greats.

     As for actual war movies, I suppose I’ve got to say “Kelly’s Heroes” just for it’s audacity, it’s message (perhaps unintended) about the stupidity of war, and the way Donald Southerland steals the show (“Always with the negative waves, Moriarty. Always with the negative waves.”) AND “A Midnight Clear”, an all-but-ignored 1992 film about a squad of American soldiers caught behind German lines in the Battle of the Bulge.  It’s not a “typical war movie,” either.  Just stunning.

     And, well, the short film that many of us saw in Jr. High, the 25 minute adaptation of Ambrose Bierce’s classic “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”.  You can watch it right here, right now.  I first saw it in 7th Grade, when I was 12.


    • mishima on October 24, 2010 at 1:56 am
    • Edger on October 24, 2010 at 2:11 am

  3. How can that be left off the list?

    • caul on October 24, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Joyeux Noel about the Christmas truce of 1914.  Along the same lines, The Grand Illusion by Jean Renoir.

    • Mu on October 24, 2010 at 5:47 pm


     Red Dawn!


    p.s. – please, for those who don’t know me I beg

    you not to take that seriously.  For those who

    do know me, heh heh.  Oh, and “Mars Attacks!”

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