The 10 Best TV / Movies About Life During Wartime

by Bill Gibron

24 September 2013


5 - 1

#5: Saving Private Ryan

For the opening sequence alone, this movie deserves every accolade it has ever received. The blood drenched gore of the D-Day landing, envision by one of the Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers, stands as a devastating indictment of the sacrifice made by many in the so-called “greatest generation.” Once we get off the battlefield and head into the countryside, the narrative takes a turn toward the slightly more sentimental. Said emotion shift, however, is what makes the ending so endearing.

#4: Grand Illusion

At its core, Jean Renoir’s first major masterpiece highlights the class struggles and distinctions among French POWs in World War I. Like his later work of genius, The Rules of the Game, it also exposes the senseless and often ideologically similar politics that drive men to destroy each other.  Clearly, Renoir was successful in making his various points. The film was eventually banned in France, and when the Nazis came to power and invaded, they seized all prints and negatives.

#3: Band of Brothers

When Saving Private Ryan became the definitive statement on D-Day and the horrors of that iconic WWII battle, filmmaker Steven Spielberg and star Tom Hanks decided to expand on the realities of conflict in the European theater and came up with this award winning masterwork. Though it presents a fictionalized history of “Easy” Company, the format allowed the creators to cover almost every major incident that occurred once the US entered the war, ending with the liberation of a concentration camp and the capture of “The Eagles Nest.”

#2: Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Not all war movies are about actual conflict. Some can be rather “Cold” in their depiction of world events, as is this brilliant Stanley Kubrick satire. Centered around an accidental standoff between American and Russian nuclear forces, we witness the kind of absurd grandstanding and inane political posturing that place the planet in such a precarious situations in the first place. From the fantastic performances to the meaningful messages, this is one of the greatest anti-war films ever.

#1: Apocalypse Now

The shorthand version of the facts are this—multi-Oscar winning filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola took his cast and crew into the Philippine jungle and slowly lost his moviemaking mind. The truth is that, once all the hindrances and heartaches (and attacks) fell away, the auteur was left with this—an amazing masterwork of hallucinogenic war horror. While based—loosely—on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the real portrait was one of man turning on man for reasons beyond the battlefield. Not so much about Vietnam as the irrational reasons for same, it paints its portrait in surreal, sickening swatches.

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