That the world of cinema loves war situations is not a mystery: there are many masterpieces of cinema that are based on more or less recent war scenarios. Often, these are true war movies, focused on battles and fights, in others war is a dramatic background to the story of the protagonists. But which are the best war movies of all time?
The Great War (1959)
Director: Mario Monicelli
Cast: Alberto Sordi, Vittorio Gassman, Bernard Blier
In this masterpiece from 1959, director Mario Monicelli tells the story of two young men who meet when called to arms during the First World War. One of the two, Oreste, played by Alberto Sordi, deceives the other, Giovanni, promising to reform him in exchange for money. The two meet again during the journey towards the front: Giovanni, played by Vittorio Gassman, is understandably angry, but afterwards the two, very different in character, manage to become friends. It is a profound and exciting film that won many prizes: Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Oscar nomination as Best Foreign Language Film, three David di Donatello and two Nastro d’Argento.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall
For those who don’t know the plot of this cult movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola and played by Marlon Brando and Robert Duvall, the film takes place during the Vietnam War. Captain Willard is entrusted with the mission of finding and killing Colonel Kurtz, who is going crazy and is fighting a private war on the border with Cambodia. This is not just one of the best war movies of all times, but a real masterpiece.
Director: Oliver Stone
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe
The Vietnam war is also the theme of this film about the stay in this country of a volunteer, Chris Taylon. His idealism clashes with the reality and horror of the conflict. The director, Oliver Stone, drew inspiration from his own experiences during the war.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Matthew Modine, R. Lee Ermey, Vincent D’Onofrio
Among the best war movies is also Full Metal Jacket, a cult film by director Stanley Kubrick. The terrible Gunnery Sergeant Hartman has the job of preparing some young recruits for the war in Vietnam. His unorthodox methods can make you smile, but properly show the harshness of military life and the harassment the recruits have to undergo during training.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore
Steven Spielberg takes us to Normandy during the days preceding D-Day. American soldiers are preparing to land in Normandy, but Captain John Miller, played by Tom Hanks, is entrusted with a rescue mission: finding and saving the Private Soldier Ryan, who is behind enemy lines, to send him home to his parents who already lost three of their four children in the war.
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore
It’s 1993: a group of Rangers and specialists from the Delta Force must capture some lieutenants who are in Mogadishu, in the area that is hostile to Americans. The mission, instead of the foreseen few minutes, lasts 18 hours and the soldiers transported on two crashed Black Hawks must be saved. This is in short the plot of the war film directed by Ridley Scott, awarded with two Oscars in 2002.
Inglorious Basterds (2008)
Directors: Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth
Cast: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth
One of the best war movies of all time is Inglorious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino, played by an exceptional cast, including Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger and Eli Roth. It is set during Second World War: in France, occupied by the Nazis, a group of Jewish soldiers – the Bastards of the title – have the task of killing any Nazi they find on their way.
American Sniper (2014)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner
This is a war movie inspired by a true story, that of American Sniper Chris Kyle, sent to Iraq to protect his companions. His skills make him famous within the American Army and he is given the nickname Legend, but his fame also grows among his enemies, who consider him a primary target.
Director: David Ayer
Cast: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman
The ultimate protagonist of this war movie is Brad Pitt in one of the most successful interpretations of his career – that of the American Army Sergeant Don Collier, who has the task of leading a dangerous mission behind enemy lines aboard a tank called Fury. The film is set during the end of World War II when the allies launch the decisive attack in Europe. Not to be missed!
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance
Dunkirk, a movie released in 2017 and directed by Christopher Nolan, is definitely a success that deserves its place among the best war movies ever.
The film draws its plot from what happened in May 1940 on the beach of Dunkirk, where 400,000 British soldiers had to cope with the encirclement of the German army. Attacked essentially on every side, the British soldiers organize an exciting and courageous retreat operation.