Now that would be something I would enjoy! Someone approaching me and asking for a recommendation, an introduction to the genre. Preferably someone who has a very bad opinion of war movies, possibly thinking all there is is Rambo trying to get to win this time and the like.
What a challenge that would be. I would tell him/her to watch… And now what? Just fantasizing about it leads me into nowhere land. Typical, when you want to get it right, you put yourself under pressure…
You would want to be a bit sneaky. Knowing the person´s taste in movies you would probably try to match your choice to that. But what if you don´t.
I would disadvise anybody in my shoes to suggest to watch one of the infantry combat movies like Hamburger Hill. I wouldn’t even suggest When Trumpets Fade even though I think it has a poetic quality. But that would be lost on the novice who most probably would only see the blood and pain.
On the other hand I would not advise to choose what I have named Wartime movies elsewhere. No Casablanca or The Man who cried (2000) (did I already mention how much I love this movie?).
A good start would be one of the air battle movies or a U-Boot movie since those are by far less bloody. Or one, like Merry Christmas /Joyeux Noel, that tells a true and very beautiful story.
OK, I think I got it.
This is what I would suggest you´d watch if you had never seen a war movie.
Dark Blue World (2001), Air Combat WWII
Merry Christmas (2005), Infantry, Trenches WWI
Das Boot (1981) U-Boot WWII
Glory (1989) Infantry Combat Civil War
Or what do you think?