Entertainment

The Best War Movies Ever  

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Originally by Ranker Community
475.6k votes 30.6k voters 691.5k views 377 items

List Rules Movies about war and soldiers, or that use a war as a primary setting.

This list ranks the best movies about war, battles, and military conflicts. These films recreate some of the most significant events in world history from a variety of perspectives and with a variety of purposes and intentions. Some top war films attempt to recreate as realistically as possible the events they depict, either from an omniscient perspective permitted by historical study or from the point of view of the soldiers and civilians involved in the conflict itself. Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down, for example, was both praised in its time and heavily criticized for bringing a "you are there" sense of realism - and little outside or cultural perspective - to a recreation of the Battle of Mogadishu. The best war movies of all time differ widely in their handling of the subject matter, but they all strike a chord with viewers now and in the time when they came out.

Some of the greatest war films use war as a backdrop to look at larger issues - such as man's inhumanity to man or the crippling impact of post-traumatic stress - or just as a meditation on war itself. Still other films like Glory and Band of Brothers examine the personal drama of a few individuals, and mine it for larger insights about the meaning of war and the impact that violence has on individual human lives.

Finally, some war films - particularly those made during the classic Hollywood era - are simply adventure films with war providing a compelling setting and situation. The Great Escape, for example, remains a classic not because of its grand ideas about the nature of war, but because it is a ceaselessly entertaining spectacle. No matter what type of film, there's no denying that these are certainly the best war movies ever.

Vote up your favorite war films to move them up the list, and if your favorites are not yet represented, make your own version of the list and add them! Then check out the best war movies on Netflix.

list ordered by
1
Saving Private Ryan is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Vin Diesel
Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 American epic drama war film set during the Invasion of Normandy in World War II. Directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat, the film is notable for ...more
2
The Bridge on the River Kwai is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins
The Bridge on the River Kwai is a 1957 WWII epic film directed by David Lean, based on the novel Le Pont de la Rivière Kwai by Pierre Boulle. The film is a work of fiction but borrows the ...more
3
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Marlon Brando, Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall

If you like this film, be sure to check out our list of the best Vietnam War movies.

Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American epic adventure war film set during the Vietnam War. Produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, and Robert Duvall. ...more
4
Full Metal Jacket is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, Adam Baldwin
Full Metal Jacket is a 1987 film directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay by Kubrick, Michael Herr, and Gustav Hasford was based on Hasford's novel The Short-Timers. The film ...more
5
Platoon is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe
Platoon is a 1986 American war film written and directed by Oliver Stone and starring Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe and Charlie Sheen. It is the first film of a trilogy of Vietnam War films by ...more
6
Schindler's List is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley
Schindler's List is a 1993 American epic historical period drama, directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and scripted by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the novel Schindler's Ark by Thomas ...more
7
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Trioxin245 added Omar Sharif, Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness
Lawrence of Arabia is a 1962 British epic adventure drama film based on the life of T. E. Lawrence. It was directed by David Lean and produced by Sam Spiegel. The film stars Peter O'Toole in the ...more
8
The Longest Day is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Sean Connery, John Wayne, Richard Burton
The Longest Day is a 1962 film based on the 1959 history book The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan, about D-Day, the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, during WWII. The film was produced by Darryl ...more
9
All Quiet on the Western Front is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Fred Zinnemann, Lew Ayres, ZaSu Pitts
All Quiet on the Western Front is a 1930 American epic film based on the Erich Maria Remarque novel of the same name. It was directed by Lewis Milestone, and stars Louis Wolheim, Lew Ayres, John ...more
10
Patton is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Paul Frees
Patton is a 1970 American epic biographical film about U.S. General George S. Patton during WWII. It stars George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates and Karl Michael Vogler. It was directed by ...more
11
The Great Escape is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Garner
The Great Escape is a 1963 American WWII epic film based on an escape by British and Commonwealth POW from a German POW camp during WWII, starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Richard ...more
12
Braveheart is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Brendan Gleeson
Braveheart is a 1995 epic historical medieval war drama film directed by and starring Mel Gibson. Gibson portrays William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish warrior who led the Scots in the First ...more
13
Black Hawk Down is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Ewan McGregor, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom
Black Hawk Down is a 2001 American-British war film directed by Ridley Scott. It is an adaptation of the 1999 book of the same name by Mark Bowden based on his series of articles published in ...more
14
Das Boot is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Uwe Ochsenknecht
Das Boot is a 1981 German epic film written and directed by Wolfgang Petersen, produced by Günter Rohrbach, and starring Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, and Klaus Wennemann. ...more
15
The Dirty Dozen is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Jim Brown, Donald Sutherland, Charles Bronson
The Dirty Dozen is a 1967 film directed by Robert Aldrich, released by MGM, and starring Lee Marvin. The picture was filmed in England and features an ensemble supporting cast including Ernest ...more
16
Casablanca is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Trioxin245 added Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre
Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz and based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison's unproduced stage play Everybody Comes to Rick's. The film stars ...more
17
Glory is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick
Glory is a 1989 American drama film directed by Edward Zwick and starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman. The screenplay was written by Kevin Jarre, based on ...more
18
Gladiator is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
SanGv added Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Sheen
Gladiator is a 2000 American-British epic historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Ralf Möller, Oliver Reed, Djimon Hounsou, ...more
19
We Were Soldiers is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Mel Gibson, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jon Hamm
We Were Soldiers is a 2002 film that dramatizes the Battle of Ia Drang on November 14, 1965. The film was directed by Randall Wallace and stars Mel Gibson. It is based on the book We Were ...more
20
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Martin Sheen, Tom Berenger, Sam Elliott
Gettysburg is a 1993 epic film written and directed by Ronald F. Maxwell, adapted from the novel The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, about the Battle of Gettysburg. The film starred Tom ...more
21
The Guns of Navarone is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn
The Guns of Navarone is a 1961 British-American action/adventure film directed by J. Lee Thompson. The screenplay by producer Carl Foreman was based on Alistair MacLean's 1957 novel The Guns of ...more
22
300 is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Gerard Butler, Michael Fassbender, Lena Headey
300 is a 2006 American fantasy war film based on the 1998 comic series of the same name by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. Both are fictionalized retellings of the Battle of Thermopylae which took ...more
23
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John Wayne, Forrest Tucker, Richard Jaeckel
Sands of Iwo Jima is a 1949 film starring John Wayne that follows a group of United States Marines from training to the Battle of Iwo Jima during WWII. The movie also features John Agar, Adele ...more
24
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Jason Robards Jr., Martin Balsam, Joseph Cotten
Tora! Tora! Tora! is a 1970 American–Japanese film directed by Richard Fleischer and stars an ensemble cast, including Martin Balsam, Joseph Cotten, Sō Yamamura, E. G. Marshall, James Whitmore ...more
25
Sergeant York is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best War Movies Ever
Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie
Sergeant York is a 1941 biographical film about the life of Alvin York, one of the most-decorated American soldiers of WWI. It was directed by Howard Hawks and was the highest-grossing film of ...more