15 WWI Movies You Should Watch

It’s an interesting thing that while there is a huge amount of American movies on WWII, the really outstanding WWI movies mostly come from other countries. It’s no coincidence but I’m not going to elaborate on the reasons, it may suffice to say, that the leading film making countries for WWI are Australia, France and the UK. There are many movies but those below are the ones I consider to be must-sees if you want to delve into the topic. I have reviewed all of the below mentioned movies with one exception. You can find the links at the end of each entry.

While I usually arrange these lists chronologically I did split them into countries of origin in this case.

Australia

Gallipoli (1981). One of the classic WWI movies. A Peter Weir film starring the young Mel Gibbson. The focus is on two friends who enlist more in a spirit of adventure than patriotism. They will take part in one of WWI’s most futile battles, at Gallipoli, in Turkey. The end of the movie is harrowing and gives a good impression of the absurdity of the war.

The Lighthorsemen (1987) This is one of the very rare cavalry combat movies. It has a nice “band of brothers” feel. Highly watchable. The Lighthorsemen were fighting in Africa and their achievement is legendary. Something the Australians are still proud of. Review

Beneath Hill 60 (2010).  Another movie which shows an outstanding and truly amazing Australian victory. The movie is set in the trenches and beneath them and shows how much the miners contributed to the war. Review

France

La Grande Illusion – Grand Illusion (1937) This is a classic. One of Jean Renoir’s great movies starring the unforgettable Jean Gabin. It has a very surreal touch which should emphasize the absurdity of war. It’s a prisoner of war movie. Review

La vie et rien d’autre – Life and Nothing But (1989). Beautiful movie focussing on the time after the war. So many men were lost on the battle fields, so many dead soldiers not identified. One woman is looking for her husband in this bleak but beautiful Tavernier movie. Review

La Chambre des officiers – The Officer’s Ward (2001). WWI is notorious for the facial wounds. No other war has scarred men like this one (due to the specific explosives). This is a movie which focuses on these wounds. Of all the war movies I have seen (many), this was one of the best but also one of the hardest to watch. I had nightmares. Review

UK

The Blue Max (1966). An air combat movie with a German POV. Themes are class and the arrogance and sporting mind of the combat pilots. Most pilots in WWI were aristocrats, not so Lt Stachel. Review

Aces High (1976). An air combat movie, not one of the best but not bad either. Less character driven than the last one. Review

Regeneration – Behind the Lines (1997). Based on Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy it looks into shell shock, the war experience of some famous poets and the birth of a medical discipline, namely psychiatry. Review

All the King’s Men (1999). The movie tells the story of a company who seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth. As if they had been swallowed. It illustrates how badly prepared some of the troops were, especially at the beginning of the war. The English had a hard time in some terrain, notably Africa. The story begins like a ghost story but you will find out what happened to the company. It’s all too real. Review

My Boy Jack (2007). The movie tells the true story of Rudyard Kipling’s son Jack. The story is exemplary. Misguided patriotism makes Kipling push his only son who is very illfitted and as visually impiared as a mole to join. At first I had a problem with Daniel Radcliffe as Jack but other than that this is an excellent and very emotional movie. And so heartbreaking. Tissues might be needed. Review

US

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). One of the first war movies ever. Quite ground breaking. Based on Erich Maria Remarque’s eponymous novel. It has one of the best scenes I’ve seen in a war movie. Review

Paths of Glory (1957). Kubricks’ classic look at the short comings of French high command and the horror of trench warfare. Review

Germany/France/UK

Joyeux Noël – Merry Christmas (2005). This is one of my personal favourites for more than one reason. It shows an incredible true story, the story of the little peace during the great war. During the first Christmas the troops stopped fighting and got together to play football in no mans’ land. The actors are all great and chosen from their respective countries. Review

The Red Baron (2008). This is one of those guilty pleasure movies. It was criticized in Germany because it didn’t emphasize the “hunting and sport” spirit that drove the aristocratic pilots like von Richthofen, called the Red Baron, to join up. He is shown like a hero. The negative side is not touched. Funny enough this is only true for the German version, the English got it better. Review

Birdsong (2012) BBC Adaptation of Sebastian Faulk’s Masterful WWI Novel

Finally the long-awaited BBC TV adaptation of Sebastian Faulk’s WWI novel Birdsong is shown on British TV. It’s a two-part adaptation that got a lot of rave preview reviews.

I’m sure all those who loved the novel, would want to watch this and all those who are interested in WWI as well.

I missed part I but they will air it again shortly. As soon as I’ve seen part I and II will post my review.

Game of Thrones – A Song of Ice and Fire (2011) Epic Fantasy Starring Sean Bean

“Winter is coming. There is a war coming.”

I’m not going to bore you with any justification why I included Game of Thrones in my war movie blog. There are a few good explanations other than that I LOVE this series. I’m a sucker for epic fantasy, it’s my favourite guilty pleasure. Although compared to Lord of the Rings, this series has elements of Braveheart, King Arthur, 300, RomeCenturion and Gladiator. Game of Thrones is a large-scale genre blend that is like nothing I have ever seen on TV before.

I have just watched the first episodes and really love it. I haven’t read the books by George R. R. Martin yet (we are talking 3000+ pages) but I’m seriously tempted before watching more of the series.

The series starts with a scene in a snow-covered forest. A small group of men, the Night Watch,  encounters something unspeakable. Most of them will not survive the encounter. The only survivor is brought before Lord Stark (Sean Bean). The explanation he gives for what spurred his cowardly escape is strange, he says to have seen an ancient evil that hasn’t been lurking in the forest for 2000 years. Since he is not believed, he is sentenced.

Lord Stark is the master of Winterfell. The Starks are only one influential family in the divided world of Westeros. Intrigues and fights for the throne are constant, no family can trust an other one and even inside of one family there may be traitors. Winterfell lies in the North, King’s Landing, where King Baratheos reigns, lies in the South. Border between the North and the wild that outstretches far beyond the horizon is the Wall, a barrier made out of pure ice. The Night Watch is in charge of guarding the Wall. Being sent to the Wall is a questionable honor. The most able fighters are dispatched together with convicts, orphans and other outcasts.

In the first series we are introduced to four different families and the story moves between them. This is all quite fascinating and there are some interesting and complex characters to be discovered. What makes for an especially intense atmosphere is the threat of war and winter. This is a world in which seasons follow another rhythm than in ours. Winter can last longer than three years or not come at all for decades. It can be intense or light but it always brings unspeakable things, unrest and war. At the beginning of the series all the wise old men and women whisper to one another, they say that winter is coming and that it will be long and awful.

Do you like Lord of the Rings? Did you like Rome, King Arthur, 300 and Centurion? Are you a Sean Bean fan? Do you consider epic fantasy and action movies to be worthy of your attention? If so, I guess that you have to watch this stunning new HBO series.

Last but not least, this isn’t a series for prudish people. The episodes showing the Dothraki people and their wild ways and interactions with their women includes quite a bit of nudity.

Tom Cruise’s War Movies

This post could also have been a quiz. How many war movies or/and war related movies starring Tom Cruise do you know? I have counted 9. That seems quite a lot. Although I’m not exactly a Tom Cruise fan but he is very good in some of the movies below.

Valkyrie (2008) This is a must-see movie based on a true event. Cruise plays von Stauffenberg, the man who attempted to assassinate Hitler. Too bad it didn’t work. It’s suspenseful despite that we know the outcome, interesting and tragic.

Tropic Thunder (2008) Bad taste and hilarious, in this movie nothing is sacred. A parody of war movies (especially Vietnam/Platoon), the film industry and a few other things. Cruise is extremely funny in this. He’s the ruthless greedy producer who is willing to send a film crew to certain death if success is guaranteed. (Here is my review)

Lions for Lambs (2007) Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in a movie that has been called great by many. I have seen it but remember zero. I think because it didn’t have a good story line, just a fairly good idea. Here is the IMdB blurb: “Injuries sustained by two Army ranger behind enemy lines in Afghanistan set off a sequence of events involving a congressman, a journalist and a professor.”

War of the Worlds (US 2005) Yes, this is stretching the genre a little bit and I haven’t seen it. No clue whether it is any good. It’s not my type of movie. Here’s another IMdB blurb: “As Earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines, one family fights for survival.”

Last Samurai (2003) I just watched this, so the review is upcoming. Very beautiful movie starring Tom Cruise as hardened Civil War veteran who is hired to teach combat techniques to Japanese soldiers. (See my review)

A Few Good Men (1992) This is one of my favourite guilty pleasures. A gripping court-room drama with a great cast: Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland and Jack Nicholson.

Born on the 4th of July (1989) Based on Ron Kovic’s memoir. Cruise gives an outstanding performance of Kovic who volunteered to go to Vietnam, came home as a cripple and joins the Anti-Vietnam movement.

Top Gun (1986) Action and romance about aspiring fighter pilots in an elite US flying school.  A really corny movie but the favourite guilty pleasure of many.

Taps (1981) Story of some military cadets who want to save their academy at any price.

My favourite Tom Cruise movie regardless of the genre is Magnolia but my favourite Tom Cruise war movie is Valkyrie. I really liked the movie and his performance in it a great deal. And I liked him in A Few Good Men.

Which one is your favourite?

All About War Movies is One Year Old or A Best of War Movie List

What started as a simple experiment to fight procrastination and get me back into a daily writing routine has become sort of an institution. Another aim of this blog was to explore the topic of war movies systematically. It ended up being less systematic than intended. For the time being that is. I still have a project in the back of my mind and should I find more time I will pursue it. I have lost a few friends and won a few on the way. What does that mean you wonder, well, I had some funny reactions from people I know in real life. Seems as if my interest in war movies didn’t match the picture they had of me… Do I care? A little bit but not too much.

Ok, now, so this little blogging project is one year old. I have written 220 posts, at first three per week and then, during last summer, almost daily. If I wasn’t writing two other blogs, maybe I would have gone on at that pace.

I could tell you a lot of different things looking back on this year, a lot of things about myself but let’s not go there. In lieu of all that let me give you a best of list. A very personal best of list that takes into consideration what I like, nothing else.

Best movie on the Napoleonic wars

Waterloo

Best Civil War Movie

Glory

Best WWI movie

Gallipoli

Best WWII movie

When Trumpets Fade

Best Vietnam

Platoon

Best Vietnam Vet

Jacknife

Best Korea

Gotta pass, haven’t seen enough

Best Gulf War

Three Kings

Best Iraq

Battle for Haditha

Best other American war movies

Black Hawk Down

Best Resistance

L’armée du crime aka The Army of Crime

Best German war movie

Stalingrad

Best Submarine movie

Das Boot

Best Sniper movie

Enemy at the Gates

Best War Romance

Casablanca

Best least known war movie

When Trumpets Fade

Best female actress in a war movie

Madeleine Stowe in Last of the Mohicans

Best war movie score

Black Hawk Down

Most watched war movie

Black Hawk Down

Best Irish Civil War

The Wind that Shakes the Barley

Best Hitler Movie

Der Untergang aka The Downfall

Best Holocaust movie

The Pianist

Best Remake

Are you joking?

Best epic war movie

King Arthur

Most surprising war movie

My Boy Jack

Best Infantry combat

Saving Private Ryan

Best Cavalry Combat

The Lighthorsemen

Best Air Combat

The Dam Busters

Best Naval Combat

Master and Commander

Funniest war movie

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Best Children and War

Voces Inocentes aka Innocent Voices

Best War and Journalism

Welcome to Sarajevo

Best POW

Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence

Best Legal Drama

Judgement at Nuremberg

Best war movie poster

Platoon

Most dreaded war movie (obviously not watched yet)

Tha Battle of Algiers

Yeah well, I could go on but that’s it and since it’s my blog’s birthday, I’m lazy and will not link the movies. Or just not today…

Bang Rajan (2000) or Have You Ever Heard of a Thai War Movie?

Set right before the fall of Thailand’s old capital, Ayuttaya, Bang Rajan draws on the legend of a village of fighters who bravely fended off the Burmese armies. With no support from the Royal army, the villagers drives the invading Burmese away many times until their names have become legendary during the time. As each subsequent battles becomes fiercer, the villagers tries to forge a canon to battle the enemy in a final battle where everyone, women and children included, die in combat. Written by Ploy P. (IMDb)

Set in 1765 Bang Rajan tells the story of a Siamese village who has to fight invading Burmese forces. Someone called this a movie about fighting adversity. It seems to be the only movie that contains a buffalo-mounted cavalry charge. The battle scenes seem realistic as there are loads of extras and no computer enhancements.

As you may have deduced I haven’t seen it yet but thought it worthwhile to share it as I have so many movies on my to-be-watched list that it doesn’t seem likely I will watch this soon. And, who knows, maybe one of my readers is in desperate need of watching a Thai war movie about this particular conflict.

If you’d like a brush-up on the conflict itself here’s a wikipedia article to start with.

Whoever gets to watch this before me, come back and tell me how it was.

The 19 War Movies, War Adventures and War Romances that Won the Academy Award for Best Film

A while back one of my readers, Cliff, suggested to do a post on war movies that won the Academy Award for Best Film. I finally collected them and am going to share the list with you. I must say I was amazed to see how many there are. There are of course a few I have never seen, but many are very familiar. Out of my Top 10 there is only one, Platoon. The posters I added for you are from the first and the last so far to win the award, Wings and The Hurt Locker. The list shows the year when the movie won which is not always identical with the year it was produced. You will see easily that there are not many infantry combat movies on that list, that’s probably why there is only one of my Top 10 List (that you can see here) as I chose mainly combat movies. Still it is an interesting list and it puts me in the mood to re-watch some of them. It seems to be as if the 90ies were THE war movie decade. I wonder why. Any ideas?

Wings (1928)

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Cavalcade (1933)

Casablanca (1943)

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

From Here to Eternity (1953)

Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Ben Hur (1959)

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Patton (1970)

The Deer Hunter (1978)

Platoon (1986)

Dances with Wolves (1990)

Schindler’s List (1993)

Forrest Gump (1994)

Braveheart (1995)

The English Patient (1996)

Gladiator (2000)

The Hurt Locker (2009)