Film

The 10 Best TV / Movies About Life During Wartime

War is Hell, and living with it both on the front lines and back at home has become the fodder for several successful film and TV takes on the subject. Here our are 10 favorites.

In some ways, it's a natural subject for cinema. It has scope. It packs inherent drama. It has all the swagger, the allure, and the blood-spattered spectacle that makes the visual medium so viable. Yet the war film or TV series -- an indirect derivation of the thriller, action effort, and (sometimes) critical commentary -- is often foiled by the very elements it has to cater to. Offer up too much realism and the audience looks away in dismay. Play up the arrogance or the attraction and your motives are questioned. Human conflict is a tricky concept to completely nail down. In fact, the war at home is often is as intriguing both during and within the aftermath, than the depraved acts that brought us to the point of battle. In fact, some of the best material in this regard occurs not on the front lines, but in the front rooms of those left behind.

So coming up with a list of the Greatest Movies and TV Offerings About War is tough, especially in light of the divergent approaches taken. Want nothing more than flag waving and enemy annihilation? Go for the '50s combat conceit, a time when John Wayne, Clark Gable, and Burt Lancaster would steer the stars and stripes course. Or maybe your prefer the '70s, with its stark cynicism and attempt to grapple with the bigger issues involved. From something as sobering as Schindler's List to the over the top casting that carries The Longest Day, one's decision has to balance the message with the media. In that regard -- and in recognition of today's release of the latest collection of episodes from the stellar British series Foyle's War (a detective series set during WWII) on Blu-ray - SE&L offers up its list of the 10 Best looks at how human conflict affects us, either before, during, or after it commences.

 
#10: The Pacific
After the rousing success of the superior Band of Brothers, HBO and Executive Producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks decided to visit the other half of World War II, moving from the European to the title theater. Dealing specifically with the 1st Marine Division and their involvement in Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima, we got the same insider's view of life during the drudgery and danger of battle. It's scope and spectacle are without equal.

 
#9: The Best Years of Our Lives
Few films have dealt with the reclamation back into society post-service than this Oscar winner from William Wyler. Dealing with three GIs who've returned to uncertain futures as civilians, the movie dealt openly and honestly with fear, what today we would call post-traumatic stress, the loss of limbs, and perhaps, more importantly, the loss of humanity. In each case, our leads saw and experienced things that changed them forever. How they cope (or fail to) becomes the movie's main theme.

 
#8: The Thin Red Line
After being away from cinema for almost 20 years, elusive director Terrence Malick announced he was going to tackle James Jones' novel about the Battle of Guadalcanal. Instantly, fans frothed over the idea, especially with almost every major Hollywood star (at the time) announcing they wanted to be/were part of it. While few have witnessed the original five hour cut, the released version immediately took its place among the revered war efforts of other great filmmakers (Kubrick, Renoir, etc.). With time, it's only gotten better.

 
#7: The Battle of Algiers
Not all wars are fought on vast international battlefields. Some occur within remote regions struggling to survive decades of oppression and persecution. Focusing on the freedom fighters looking to liberate themselves from French Colonization, director Gillo Pontecorvo took the battle to the streets of the Algerian capital, illustrating the often futile approach to eventual liberation. Looking like a documentary and feeling like a shot in the gut, it expertly illustrates the lengths people will go for/against power.

 
#6: Platoon
Though many might argue with the claim, Oliver Stone's ode to his time in Vietnam was the first film that actually combined the tenets of a traditional war film with the counterculture perspective that had quickly become the post-'60s norm. While it's good vs. evil narrative base is a bit too broad to keep things wholly classic, the individual performances and personal point of view from the ex-Vet writer/director maintain the movie's Hell on Earth ideals.

Next Page

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image