10. The Longest Day (1962)
The Longest Day is one of the greatest war movies of all-time. The film boasts an all-star cast, but what I find that it does better than any other war film, is capture the incredible scope of the June 6th invasion. I think another interesting element of the film, is that it’s told from both the Allied and Nazi perspective. While history is often written by the victor, this gives more context to the invasion.
9. Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)
“Flags Of Our Fathers” was Eastwood’s previous foray into WWII films, but this follow-up was the better film. Getting a look, albeit Western-based, into the mindset of the Japanese military is something that movie-goers have rarely had the chance to experience. This film shows that there are often no good/bad divide in war, it is hell for all those involved.
8. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Nothing you’ve ever seen or read can prepare you for the Normandy beach landing scene. The action is frenetic, savage, and chaotic. Saving Private Ryan shows us the true horrors of war and the incredible courage it takes to face them head-on. You can’t help but come away with an exponentially greater appreciation for the sacrifice and bravery of the soldiers who invaded France 70 years ago today. The film is incredible and the acting is top-notch. If you’ve never seen this one, do yourself a favor, and see it today!
7. Patton (1970)
George C. Scott is absolutely breathtaking in the title role as “Old Blood & Guts” George Patton. The general was equal parts bombastic authoritarian and idyllic war hero. This balance is portrayed perfectly in the film, which doesn’t seem to pull many punches on account of patriotism. The battle scenes are sparse, as this is more of a character study than war epic.
6. Das Boot (1981)
The beauty…or terror of the submarine movie is that spaces are extremely confined and escape is next to impossible. This serves to create an undeniable tension amongst the characters, as well as the audience. At the end of a well-made submarine movie, the viewer is ready to explode (hopefully, not due to filling up on $20 sodas at the theatre). There’s no better example of this tension than in “Das Boot.” The film tells the story of a German U-Boat crew in WWII. The yarn is more than just a cat-and-mouse affair under the sea. Rather, it is an artful character study.
5. Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Despite having one of the most iconic soundtracks in modern film, “Bridge on the River Kwai” is an excellent watch in any era. The movie is probably a bit too slow for today’s viewer, but the characters are compelling for anyone who can get past the slow start. And that ending…
4. Schindler’s List (1993)
This is obviously one of Spielberg’s best, but I’m not sure the occasional heavy-handedness holds up nearly as well today. Schindler’s List is obviously well-sculpted, with a riveting story and excellent acting, but it lacks some of the subtleties that make similar films (i.e. The Pianist) shine a bit more. I also think that the artistic licensing taken with some of the true-life events, leaves educated viewers a bit jaded. Still a great film, nevertheless.
3. The Pianist (2002)
Regardless of what you think of Polanski as a person, the man is an excellent and revolutionary filmmaker. He often examines the darkside of morality and how it infects every aspect of our lives, even if we intend to avoid it, we cannot. His films are both inspiring and depressing. His masterwork is certainly “Chinatown,” but “The Pianist” might actually be his best.
2. The Thin Red Line (1998)
You’d be hard-pressed to find films more cinematically beautiful than those authored by Terrence Malick. While Malick has made only a handful of films, each are magical in different ways. The director often examines human nature as it conflicts or isn in-sync with spirituality. “Days of Heaven” might be the most beautiful film ever shot, but “The Thin Red Line” and “The Tree of Life” are his best.
1. Casablanca (1942)
Simply put, this movie is absolutely perfect. From the incredible performances to the spot-on writing, the film is one of the very few in history that is flawless. Humphrey Bogart’s screen magic is on full display in this one, as he plays a conflicted hero who must make a significant sacrifice. In an era of remakes, this one should not be touched.