There are several actors who have returned more than once to the war movie genre, Mel Gibson is one of them.
While I didn’t always like his characters or had a problem to forget the obnoxious man behind them, some of them are very good. Watching them all you can go chronologically through almost every major war. That’s why I didn’t order them according to the year they were filmed in but according to the year they were set in.
Two of my favourite war movies star Mel Gibson, one is the WWI movie Gallipoli, the other one the Vietnam movie We Were Soldiers. The latter, as good as it is, is also a problematic movie but I will look into that in a future post. I haven’t seen all of those mentioned below and am afraid that some, like Attack Force Z, aren’t exactly memorable. I tried to give them a star rating which is, of course, purely personal.
Braveheart (1995) 13th century Scotland. Inspired by the true story of William Wallace a Scottish rebel. 4*****
The Patriot (2000) American Revolution. An epic drama. A farmer leads the Colonial Militia after his son has been murdered by a British officer. 3.5***
Gallipoli (1981) WWI. Story of two Australian friends who volunteer and fight in the trenches of Gallipoli. 5*****
Attack Force Z (1982) WWII. Secret mission against the Japanese. Not seen probably 2**
I’m amazed about the length of this list and even more so as I know exactly I have certainly forgotten quite a lot. It seems as if the combination of love and war was extremely well liked. Some of the movies I have included are somewhat more on the war side, like Enemy at the Gates, others are much more romantic. I was also surprised to see that I have seen a lot of them. And also liked quite a a few. Some of my favourites are Admiral, The Man Who Cried, Gloomy Sunday, King Arthur, Aimée and Jaguar and The Cranes are Flying. Others like House of Fools sound interesting but I haven’t seen them. What struck me was how often the main theme is about two men falling for the same woman. Amazing. As if war wasn’t complicated enough.
A Farewell to Arms (US 1932) Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes. Affair between an English nurse and American soldier during World War I.
Dark Journey(UK 1937) Conradt Veidt and Vivien Leigh. Spies of from opposing sides fall in love. Gone with the Wind (US 1939) US Civil War. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in the movie based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel.
A Yank in the RAF (US 1941) Tyrone Power and Betty Grable. Americans serving in the British forces meet and rekindle an old flame.
Casablanca (US 1942) WWII, Morocco. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in one of the greatest classics of cinema history. (See my review)
For Whom the Bell Tolls (US 1943) Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman in a movie based on Hemingway’s novel of the Spanish Civil War.
Crash Dive (US 1943) Starring Tyrone Power, Anne Baxter and Dana Andrews. A submarine lieutenant and his commander fall in love with the same woman.
From Here to Eternity (US 1953) WWII, Pearl Harbor. Love and drama before the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor. Great actors (Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Donna Reed, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra), great story.
Battle Cry (US 1955) Love and drama among a group of young Marines.
The End of the Affair (UK 1955) Deborah Kerr, Van Johnson, John Mills in the movie based on Graham Greene’s novel about a novelist who falls in love with a married woman during WWII. There is a later version of the same movie, see below.
A Town Like Alice (UK 1956) Peter Finch and Virginia McKenna starring in a WWII romance set in Asia. A British woman, POW of the Japanese, falls in love with an Australian soldier.
D-Day, The Sixth of June (US 1956). On their way to the Normandy a US and a British officer remember their love for the same woman.
A Farewell to Arms (US 1957) Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones in a movie based on Hemingway’s novel. It tells the story of an affair between an English nurse an American soldier on the Italian front during World War I.
Sayonara (US 1957) Marlon Brando as US air force major who falls in love with a Japanese performer. Based on a novel by James Michener
Yanks (US 1979) WWII. British woman falls in love with an American soldier while her husband is at war. Richard Gere, Vanessa Redgrave and others.
Hanover Street (UK 1979) Margaret is a nurse in England during WWII and married to a secret agent. Things get complicated when she falls for David, an American pilot. Starring Harrison Ford, Christopher Plummer and Lesley-Ann Down.
We’ll Meet Again (UK 1982 TV mini-series) WWII, Britain. American bomber pilots in the UK.
Winds of War (US 1983, TV mini-series) Robert Mitchum and Ali McGraw. WWII, America, until the attack of Pearl Harbor.
A Year of the Quiet Sun (Poland/Germany/US 1984) A US soldier in Europe falls in love with a Polish refugee after the war.
The Last of the Mohicans (US 1992) Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe in an epic of the war between British and French colonialists and Indians.
1942: A Love Story (India 1993) Bollywood drama starring Anil Kapoor. A young Indian couple, both from wealthy backgrounds, find themselves caught up in the 1940’s Indian revolutionary movement against their families who are under the thumb of a sadistic British general.
Braveheart (US 1995) 13th Century Scotland. The fight against the British rule. Some love this epic, some hate it, still it’s impressive for many reasons. Starring Mel Gibson and Sophie Marceau.
The English Patient (US/UK 1996) WWII, North Africa and Italy. Two interwoven love stories. The first is the tragic story of a married woman falling for a Hungarian count. The second tells the love between a nurse and a soldier from a bomb disposal unit. With Kirstin Scott Thomas, Juliette Binoche, Ralph Fiennes, Colin Firth and Willem Dafoe. (See my review)
In Love and War (US 1996) WWI, Italy. the story of the love between Ernest Hemingway and the nurse Agnes von Kurowsky starring Chris O’Donnell and Sandra Bullock.
Aimée and Jaguar (Germany 1999) WWII, Germany. Holocaust. Two women fall in love in Berlin during the war. One of them is Jewish and in the Resistance.
The End of the Affair (UK/US 1999) Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes in the movie based on Graham Greene’s novel. A novelist falls in love with a married woman during WWII in London. She leaves him without an explanation. Two years later he has her followed to try to find out why she left him.
Gloomy Sunday (Germany/Hungary 1999) Set in WWII Budapest. Starring Joachim Król and Ben Becker. This is such a beautiful movie. Another love triangle. A young woman loves a Jewish restaurant owner. One day he hires a young pianist. She falls in love with the young man but still loves the older one. They save the life of a German man who also falls in love with the woman. When WWII breaks out the German comes back. He has turned into a Nazi officer who loves to abuse his power. Gloomy Sunday tells also the story of the famous Hungarian song Gloomy Sunday that is said to have caused more suicides than any other song ever.
The Man Who Cried (UK/France 2000) Starring Johnny Depp, Cate Blanchett, John Turturro, Christina Ricci. A Russian Jew falls in love with a gypsy during WWII in Paris. She befriends another Russian who helps her find work in a theater. For lovers of sumptuous movies and opera.
Dark Blue World (Czech Republic/UK/Germany/Denmark/Italy 2001) Czeck fighter pilots in England in WWII. Two pilots, a very young one and an older one fall in love with the same woman.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin ( UK/US/France 2001) WWII, Italian troops in occupied Greece. Based on Luis de Bernières eponymous novel, starring Penélope Cruz and Nicolas Cage. An Italian commander falls in love with a Greek girl whose fiancée is fighting in the war as well.
Enigma (UK/US/Germany/Netherlands 2001) Dougray Scott, Kate Winslett and Jeremy Northam starring in this WWII drama about a young heartbroken man trying to break the Enigma code.
Pearl Harbor (US 2001) Real blockbuster cinema. WWII. Pearl Harbor. Two young bomber pilots are in love with the same young woman, a nurse. Slick, good-looking movie with equally good-looking actors (Kate Beckinsale, Josh Hartnett, Ben Affleck).
Enemy at the Gates (US/UK/Germany/Ireland 2001) Showdown of two snipers in Stalingrad. The Russian sniper is a local war hero and in love with a Jewish woman who is in the resistance. Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz and Ed Harris in a beautifully shot war drama. (See my review)
House of Fools (Russia/France 2002) A war movie that is no war movie. Set in a mental institution during the Chechen war.
Charlotte Gray (UK/Australia/Germany 2002) Cate Blanchett in a movie based on Sebastian Faulk’s novel. She plays a Scottish nurse who joins the French Resistance looking for her boyfriend, a RAF pilot who got lost in France.
Yossi and Jagger (Israel 2002) Love between two Israeli soldiers stationed on the Lebanese border.
Resistance (US/Netherlands 2003) Starring Bill Paxton and Julia Ormond. WWII, occupied Belgium. A reconnaissance plane crashes. The pilot, Ted, is brought to Claire and Henry Daussois who are in the Maquis Resistance. Ted and Claire fall in love.
Cold Mountain (US 2003), Renée Zellweger, Jude Law and Nicole Kidman in a story of the American Civil War.
Head in the Clouds (UK/Canada 2004) Starring Charlize Theron, Penélope Cruz, Stuart Townsend,Thomas Kretschmann. A romantic drama set in 1930’s England, Paris, and Spain. Three people share an apartment in Paris, one lives a hedonistic life, the others want to join the fight against fascism.
Island at War (UK 2004, TV mini-series) WWII. The channel islands during German occupation. After the island is invaded by German forces, life changes drastically. The series focuses on three families.
A Very Long Engagement (France/US 2004) Audrey Tautou in a movie about a woman whose husband doesn’t return from the battlefields of WWI and sets out to look for him.
King Arthur (US/UK/Ireland 2004) An epic adventure of war and romance starring Clive Owen, Keira Knigthley, Mads Mikkelsen, Ray Winstone and Ioan Gruffud. The re-telling of the story of King Arthur and his Knights.
The Christmas Card (US 2006, TV) A US soldier visits a town from where a Christmas card has been sent to him during his tour in Afghanistan.
The Poet (Canada 2007) A Rabbi’s daughter and a German soldier fall in love in Poland in WWII. Starring Nina Dobrev and Daryl Hannah. (See my review)
Closing the Ring (UK/Canada/US 2007) Christopher Plummer, Shirley MacLaine and Mischa Barton in a love story that plays then – during WWII – and now. A woman between two men. One is a pilot and gets lost after crash landing in Ireland during WWII. In today’s Ireland a young man finds the wedding ring and brings it to the woman living in the US. Set in Ireland and the US.
Admiral (Russia 2008) Russian revolution. A real heartbreaker. The true story of Admiral Kolchak and his lover. (Here is my review)
Dear John (US 2010) Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried in a weepy romance about a young Marine who falls in love prior to 9/11. When he leaves for Iraq their love is tested.
What about you, have you seen many of these movies? Did you like them? Have I forgotten one you would like to recommend?
I discovered an article today in TIME magazine in which they made a list of 10 historically misleading movies. As was to be expected quite a few of the movies are war movies. The whole article was spurred by the movie The King’s Speech which is also among the 10.
I will only concentrate on the war movies they name and give a brief summary why they chose to include them.
They critizied that The Patriot portrays British soldiers as evil. Another point was the fact that Benjamin Martin whose character was a mix of different real charcters, was shown as a family man while Swamp Fox who was one of the real characters was no family man and actively persecuted Cherokee Indians. Further more the movie showed a total ignorance of slavery and whitewashing of history. They consider it to be pure American propaganda.
This movie has, according to the TIME Magazine, too many inaccuracies to be named. How about the kilts? Scotsmen in the 13th century didn’t wear belted plaid. Gibson’s Wallace is born poor, the real Wallace was a nobleman. And why is he wielding a Chinese weapon? Wallace never met Princess Isabella and certainly did not impregnate her. At the time the movie took place she was only 9 years old anyway.
Sparta was not a free city-state at all but on the contrary known for mistreatment and exploitation of its slaves. The Persians were not as debauched as they are shown and their monarch wasn’t a circus freak.
Maybe I am going to hurt a few feelings here, I am sorry, but I can’t help it. I discussed war movie characters I liked, some that I found obnoxious and now it’s the turn of those I think ridiculous. There are not that many (I certainly forgot quite a few). The question is probably also, what do I consider to be ridiculous. Let me explain my choices.
4. David Schwimmer as Herbert M. Sobel in Band of Brothers. This is really a ridiculous character. He is insufferable and makes himself look ridiculous by misjudging his own capabilities.
3. Blackburn in Black Hawk Down. I do have my problems with Orlando Bloom outside of Lord of the Rings. Occasionally I do believe he shouldn’t have done anything else than Lord of the Rings. When I spotted him in Black Hawk Down I couldn’t help sniggering. On top of looking silly the poor guy has one of the most ridiculous accidents in war movie history. He falls out of the chopper before the action even begins.
2. Nicolas Cage as Sgt. Joe Enders in Windtalkers. I have spoken at length about Windtalkers in an earlier post. A lot of my criticism is linked to Nicolas Cage being just so outrageously ridiculous in this movie. Bad, bad acting. If you suffer from post-traumatic stress, please, don’t look as if you were having indigestion. It is not becoming.
1. Mel Gibson in Braveheart. This simply beats it. Is anyone allowed to look this ridiculous? He was just the wrong man for this role. No amount of kilt-wearing, long hair or war paint can make this guy look like some pre 20th century warrior. This cast was a total no-go. I can not even remember the movie anymore, I was so entranced by his appearance. Mel Gibson on his worst hair day. My absolute no 1. ridiculous war movie character. (Don’t get me wrong, I think he did a lot of very good movies, but this one was not for him). Actually, they should have let him ride a bike in it.