There are all types of movie genres out there, but one of the hardest to get right is war. Set pieces are often intricate and expensive, which is why Hollywood tends not to make too many of them compared to earlier years when boots-on-the-ground warfare was much more common. That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been some fantastic war films recently, though. Let’s take a look through Hollywood history to find the five best movies about war, some of which came out more recently than you may have expected.
Saving Private Ryan
By the time the late 1990s came around, many thought that the “war epic” genre was dead in the water. At that point, it had been over a decade since a very successful one had been released, but Steven Spielberg made sure that when he entered into a film about combat that he was going to do it right. The end result was a $70 million epic starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, and many other A-list stars called “Saving Private Ryan”.
The movie was intense right from the very beginning, which showed the invasion of Normandy on D-Day. Critics and audiences could feel the horrors of war while watching “Saving Private Ryan” and it ended up being one of the most successful films of the 1990s, pulling in close to a half-billion in ticket sales. “Saving Private Ryan” won five Oscars, including Best Directing and Best Cinematography.
Many consider Steven Spielberg to be the greatest director of his generation, and many feel the same way about Christopher Nolan in the newer era of cinema. Nolan has directed incredible films which include “Interstellar”, “The Dark Knight”, and “Inception”, while his first entry into the war genre was phenomenal with “Dunkirk” in 2017. The film was shot beautifully and put people into the action of World War I.
As a result, “Dunkirk” won Academy Awards for Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. “Dunkirk” has a massive cast that includes familiar names such as Harry Styles, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Hardy. Making well over a half-billion at the box office, “Dunkirk” proved to be yet another success for Nolan’s prestigious career, and it has been hailed as the “Saving Private Ryan” of the new millennium.
In 1899, a novella named “Heart of Darkness” was created by Joseph Conrad, which is what “Apocalypse Now” was based on. This time around, though, the film revolved around the Vietnam War. 1979’s “Apocalypse Now” was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who at that point had been known for his work on the first two “Godfather” films.
“Apocalypse Now” was chock-full of memorable lines and scenes to go along with a long list of A-list stars. This included Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Dennis Hopper, and even Harrison Ford. It cost just over $30 million to make “Apocalypse Now”, and it would gross well into the six-figures, making it a hit. Surprisingly, the only Academy Awards won by “Apocalypse Now” were for Best Sound and Best Cinematography.
The Hurt Locker
While it wasn’t as big of a hit at the box office as some of the films before it on the list, “The Hurt Locker” was a critic’s favorite when released in 2008, showing the more modern intensity of combat as we know it. Kathryn Bigelow would win Best Director at the Academy Awards thanks to “The Hurt Locker”, and the film went on later that night to win Best Picture.
“The Hurt Locker” is jam-packed with familiar names, especially if you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Anthony Mackie (Falcon), Evangeline Lilly (Wasp), and Guy Pearce (Killian) all make appearances in the MCU and “The Hurt Locker”. Other notable stars from the film include David Morse, Brian Geraghty, and Ralph Fiennes.
Out of the films on the list, some might think that “Das Boot” would be the oldest, but it actually came out two years after “Apocalypse Now”. “Das Boot” was directed by Wolfgang Petersen, who went on to direct films including “The NeverEnding Story”, “Air Force One”, and “The Perfect Storm”. Some feel this was still Petersen’s best work, though, as it really tapped into the psyche of those in a submarine during the war.
“Das Boot” follows the story of the German submarine U-96 and its crew, with an ending that we don’t want to ruin, so simply watch for yourself and admire the great storytelling. “Das Boot” was a big success at the box office and received several Academy Award nominations including Best Director and Best Cinematography.