The Army Times’ Top 10 American War Movies

Don’t ask me how I found this list. Browsing the internet, of course, but what was I looking for? Whatever. I found it on Army Times and would like to share it with you. I am sure that more than one of my readers will be equally puzzled by some of their choices.

Lets go:

10.  A Bridge Too Far (1977) (see my post)

9. The Dirty Dozen (1967)

8. The Great Escape (1963) (see my post)

7. Top Gun (1986)

6. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

5. The Caine Mutiny (1954)

4. Glory (1989)

3. Black Hawk Down (2001)

2. Patton (1970)

1. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

If you want to know their reasons you will have to read their article. While I certainly agree with a few of them I have absolutely no clue how Top Gun got on this list. What the heck? And where is Saving Private Ryan (see my post) and Platoon? While they were at it they could have put  Pearl Harbor on No. 1.

What are your thoughts on the list? All worthy candidates?

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10 German War Movies You Must See Before You Die

In the last years Germany has made quite a few very good war movies but there are also some older ones that have stood the test of time. I am sure I have forgotten some and left out many that are co-productions with the exception of Joyeux Noël aka Merry Christmas because it is one of my Top 10. I will very probably mention it again when I will make a post on 10 French war movies you must see before you die.

Let´s stick to Germany for the time being.

Die Brücke aka The Bridge (1959): WWII, Germany. One of the best anti-war films ever. Shows how senseless some orders are. Young people fight for a bridge although the war can´t be won anymore. It is one of the movies on my list Children in War Movies.

Hunde, wollt ihr ewig leben aka Dogs, do you want to live forever – Stalingrad (1959): WWII, Russia. A German classic. A grim look at the battle in Stalingrad.

Das Boot (1981): THE U-Boot movie. Conveys brilliantly what it is like to be helpless under water. Claustrophobic feel. Superb acting. Marvellous cast. Especially noteworthy the singer Herbert Grönemeyer.

Stalingrad (1993): WWII, grim infantry combat. German POV. One of the best war movies  ever, one of my Top 10 as well. The setting, the character portraits, the acting, the combat, the snow, the cold, the despair. A fabulous movie that gives an insight in one of the worst chapters of WWII. Another marvellous cast. Thomas Kretschmann (King Kong, Resident Evil, The Downfall, The Young Victoria) is in it. He is one of those German actors that are known far beyond Germany and Europe. (see my post on Stalingrad)

NaPolA aka Before the Fall (2004): WWII, Germany. Interesting look at the Hitler Youth. How they recruited their elite, how they brainwashed them. Poisonous Pedagogy. See my review for more details. This movie is also on the Children in War Movies list.

Der Untergang aka The Downfall (2004): WWII, Berlin. The final days of Hitler. Astonishing acting from the very great Bruno Ganz. A fascinating portrait. Eerie. Creepy.  An outstanding movie and a must see even for those who don’t watch war movies. (see my post on The Downfall)

Joyeux Noël aka Merry Christmas (2005): WWI, France. Especially noteworthy as it is about WWI. The movie depicts the so-called “Little peace”. It is Christmas and something strange is happening. The war stands still. The enemy soldiers prefer football over fighting and get to know and like each other. Based on a true story. You get a good feel for the differences of the trenches and the characteristics of the parties involved.

Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage aka Sophie Scholl (2005): WWII, Germany. German Resistance. One of the leaders of The White Rose, Sophie Scholl´s final days. I have hardly ever seen a movie like this. After watching it I did solemnly swear to become a better person (I am not too successful yet. It is an ongoing process. A work in progress). No, honestly, this woman or girl´s guts… So much selfless idealism and courage. I was awed.

Anonyma – Eine Frau n Berlin aka Anonyma – The Downfall of Berlin (2008) : WWII, Berlin. One of the movies I reviewed recently. I included it as it tackles a lesser known and very painful subject. The mass rape of German women by the Red Army. See my post of Anonyma.

Der rote Baron aka The Red Baron (2008): WWI, Germany. The romanticized story of Baron von Richthofen the famous German fighter pilot. Beautifully filmed, good-looking cast, very intense air combat. See my post of the Red Baron.

Any movies you would add?

As I think Sophie Scholl is not known enough I added the trailer for you.

History versus Story or Platoon versus Hamburger Hill

I named both these infantry combat movies among my Top 10 favourite war movies (of course, since this list ist out there for everybody to see I doubt its content. Typical.). Apart from thinking that these are great representatives of the genre I think they illustrate wonderfully the topic “history versus story” and why critics often rate the second as the better movie, whereas the general public will be more likely to prefer the first one.

Hamburger Hill is foremost based on a historical event, namely one squad´s  battle for Hill 937 in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam from May 11- 20, 1969. The squad consisted of 14  U.S. Army soldiers of B Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. The battle was later called Hamburger Hill since the losses were so high and the American soldiers literally shredded to minced meat.

You can not be more precise than this when chosing to tell a story in a movie. That is the theme, and that is what is shown. No niceties, no made up story, no sugar coating to make the bitter pill go down any better. War movies don´t get any more visceral than that.

And then there is Platoon. We know the year and that some events resemble other events that happened but apart from that this is purely fictional. Especially the whole good and bad officers theme and a young soldier´s loss of innocence. All these roles are played by famous actors which is not the case for Hamburger Hill.

As I said before many critics rate Hamburger Hill higher than Platoon and from an intellectual point of view I can´t blame them. But I don´t agree. They think it is more realistic. Somehow morally superior. There is not a tiny spark of beauty in that movie. OK, I agree. But… If we really wanted pure unadulated realism, authenticity, moral education, unambiguity, shouldn´t we stick to documentaries? (And even those can show us whatever  they want to make us believe has happened. But this is not the subject here).

I´m afraid but I like a  bit of symbolism and an interesting story. And I also judge movies by the criterion whether their pictures stay in my memory or not.

For many of these reasons  if been considering lately to kick out Hamburger Hill of my Top 10 list and integrate one of the most artistic Vietnam war movies ever: Full Metal Jacket.

Yes, right, why wouldn´t I?

My Top Ten Favourite War Movies

Yes, I had to name them sooner or later since many a person reading my blog was certainly wondering. Furthermore, if many people are like me, then many people like reading lists. Or making them. I must admit I do like making Top Ten Favourite Lists. Somehow ten seems never to be enough though that´s why we list makers stick to the cunningly shrewd device of splitting topics in subgenres. I could for example start naming my Top Ten Favourite WWII Movies or my Top Ten Favourite Civil War Movies. Yes, I could but I won’t do it.

This is a no-cheating-and-splitting-the-genre-down-to-the-tiniest-subgenre list. This is the real deal.

And here it comes , in random order, since I´m not grading these brilliant films, although I have a top favourite one.

Band of Brothers

Black Hawk Down

Stalingrad

Platoon

When Trumpets Fade

Glory

The Thin Red Line

Gallipoli

Joyeux Noel

Hamburger Hill

War movies simply don´t get any better than these. Don´t you think?

Interestingly this list hasn´t changed much in the last few years. This means that since 2005, the year Joyeux Noel came out, there hasn´t been any movie that I would deem worthy to be added to this list. However ther are a few older ones I haven´t seen yet, amongst them The Battle of Algiers which might kick one or the other one out. That´s going to be hard, should that happen. The only thing I know for sure: it won´t be Black Hawk Down. Guess why? Yeah, it´s simply THE one.