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The Best War Movies of the 1980s 

Ranker Film
Updated October 1, 2019 1.6k votes 302 voters 14.7k views 29 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite war films that were released in the 1980s.

War is hell. And it doesn’t matter if you love it or hate it. On this of the best 80s war movies you’ll find films that glorify war and films that show the horror it and films that do both. Did the 1980s produce the greatest war movies of all time? It's very well possible.

Born on the Fourth of July, Full Metal Jacket and Platoon all show the horrors of war, in this case each deals with the highly unpopular Vietnam War. On the other end of the spectrum, this list of top war movies from the 80s includes the rousing, gung-ho films Missing in Action, Red Dawn and Uncommon Valor. And don’t miss Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun which shows World War II from a unique angle.

Enjoy this list of great war movies from the '80s, vote up your favorites, and feel free to add any of your favorites that might be missing.

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1
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Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, Adam Baldwin

Released: 1987

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

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

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Behind-The-Scenes Stories From The Making Of 'Full Metal Jacket' #2 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #65 of 350 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

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Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe

Released: 1986

Directed by: Oliver Stone

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

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The Most Memorable Quotes From 'Platoon' #5 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, J. T. Walsh

Released: 1987

Directed by: Barry Levinson

Good Morning, Vietnam is a 1987 American comedy film written by Mitch Markowitz and directed by Barry Levinson. Set in Saigon in 1965, during Vietnam, the film stars Robin Williams as a radio DJ ...more

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#42 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #55 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #116 of 1,027 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

4
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Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick

Released: 1989

Directed by: Edward Zwick

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial 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

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#15 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #38 of 729 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Rankedlisted on Civil War Movies List

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Don Cheadle, Dylan McDermott, Courtney B. Vance

Released: 1987

Directed by: John Irvin

Hamburger Hill is a 1987 American film about the actual assault of the U.S. Army's 3rd Battalion, part of the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division 'Screaming Eagles', on a well-fortified ...more

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#26 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #266 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #9 of 24 Brutal War Movies That Absolutely Got It Right

6
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Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Uwe Ochsenknecht

Released: 1981

Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen

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

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#13 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #332 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #601 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

7
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Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy, David Caruso

Released: 1982

Directed by: Ted Kotcheff

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial First Blood is a 1982 American psychological thriller and action film directed by Ted Kotcheff, co-written by and starring Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, a troubled and misunderstood veteran. ...more

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#40 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #212 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #138 of 368 The Best Movies Based On Books

8
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Clint Eastwood, Mario Van Peebles, Marsha Mason

Released: 1986

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Heartbreak Ridge is a 1986 American film directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, who also starred in the film. The film also co-stars Mario Van Peebles, Marsha Mason, and Everett McGill. The ...more

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#49 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #103 of 548 The Greatest Movies for Guys #161 of 439 The Funniest '80s Movies

9
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Charlie Sheen, Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson

Released: 1984

Directed by: John Milius

Red Dawn is a 1984 American film directed by John Milius and co-written by Milius and Kevin Reynolds. It stars Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, and Jennifer Grey. ...more

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#52 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #90 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #323 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies

10
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Bill Murray, John Candy, Dennis Quaid

Released: 1981

Directed by: Ivan Reitman

Stripes is a 1981 American comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman, starring Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, P. J. Soles, and John Candy. It also featured several actors in their first ...more

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#131 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #72 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #39 of 1,027 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

11
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Christian Bale, Ben Stiller, John Malkovich

Released: 1987

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Empire of the Sun is a 1987 American coming of age film based on J. G. Ballard's semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. Steven Spielberg directed the film, which stars Christian Bale, ...more

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The Best Empire of the Sun Albums, Ranked #73 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #249 of 350 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime

12
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Mel Gibson, Bill Hunter, Robert Grubb

Released: 1981

Directed by: Peter Weir

Gallipoli is a 1981 Australian film directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson and Mark Lee, about several young men from rural Western Australia who enlist in the Australian Army during the ...more

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#56 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #453 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #205 of 333 The Greatest Movies in World Cinema History

13
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Mark Hamill, Lee Marvin, Robert Carradine

Released: 1980

Directed by: Samuel Fuller

The Big Red One is a WWII film starring Lee Marvin and Mark Hamill, released in 1980. It was written and directed by Samuel Fuller. It was heavily cut on its original release, but a restored ...more

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#38 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #33 of 223 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #32 of 306 The Best Military Movies Ever Made

14
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Sylvester Stallone, Charles Napier, Richard Crenna

Released: 1985

Directed by: George P. Cosmatos

Rambo: First Blood Part II is a 1985 American action film directed by George P. Cosmatos and starring Sylvester Stallone. Picking up where the first film left, the sequel is set in the context ...more

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#205 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #252 of 350 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #148 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked

15
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John Malkovich, Craig T. Nelson, Sam Waterston

Released: 1984

Directed by: Roland Joffé

This film is a 1984 British drama film set in Democratic Kampuchea, which is based on the experiences of two journalists: Cambodian Dith Pran and American Sydney Schanberg. The film, which won ...more

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#60 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #289 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

16
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Sean Penn, Michael J. Fox, John C. Reilly

Released: 1989

Directed by: Brian De Palma

This film is a 1989 drama film directed by Brian De Palma, with a screenplay by David Rabe, based on the actual events of the incident on Hill 192 in 1966 during Vietnam. It stars Michael J. Fox ...more

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#182 of 375 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #498 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #179 of 305 The Best Military Movies Ever Made

17
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Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, Katharine Ross

Released: 1980

Directed by: Don Taylor

The Final Countdown is a 1980 alternate history science fiction film about a modern ship that travels through time to a day before the 1941. Produced by Peter Vincent Douglas and directed by Don ...more

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#134 of 223 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #121 of 306 The Best Military Movies Ever Made #323 of 590 The Best Fantasy Movies

18
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Released: 1989

Directed by: Oliver Stone

Born on the Fourth of July, published in 1976, is the best selling autobiography by Ron Kovic, a Vietnam veteran who became an activist. Kovic was born on July 4, 1946, and his book's ironic ...more

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#141 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #236 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

19
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Gene Hackman, Patrick Swayze, Michael Dudikoff

Released: 1983

Directed by: Ted Kotcheff

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Uncommon Valor is a 1983 action film written by Joe Gayton and directed by Ted Kotcheff, about a U.S. Marine officer who puts together a team to try to rescue his son, who he believes is among ...more

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#161 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #398 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #71 of 306 The Best Military Movies Ever Made

20
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Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, M. Emmet Walsh

Released: 1984

Directed by: Joseph Zito

Missing in Action is a 1984 action film directed by Joseph Zito and starring Chuck Norris. It is set in the context of the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue. Colonel Braddock, who escaped a Vietnamese ...more

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#64 of 98 The Best Action Movies of the 1980s #265 of 413 The All-Time Greatest Martial Art Movies #197 of 306 The Best Military Movies Ever Made

21
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Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hunt

Released: 1982

Directed by: Peter Weir

The Year of Living Dangerously is a 1982 drama film directed by Peter Weir and adapted from the novel The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher Koch. The story is about a love affair set in ...more
22
Come and See is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
iknowwhatawesternis added Aleksei Kravchenko, Liubomiras Lauciavicius, Vladas Bagdonas

Released: 1985

Directed by: Elem Klimov

Come and See is a 1985 Soviet drama film directed by Elem Klimov about and occurring during the Nazi German occupation of the Byelorussian SSR. Aleksei Kravchenko and Olga Mironova star as the ...more

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#171 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #186 of 223 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #149 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again

23
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Jeffrey Jones, David Soul, Michael Moriarty

Released: 1987

Directed by: Lionel Chetwynd

The Hanoi Hilton is a 1987 Vietnam War film which focuses on the experiences of American prisoners of war who were held in the infamous Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi during the 1960s and 1970s and the ...more

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#232 of 305 The Best Military Movies Ever Made #18 of 77 The Best Vietnam War Movies #86 of 204 The Best R-Rated War Movies

24
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The Winds of War
The Winds of War is Herman Wouk's second book about World War II, the first being The Caine Mutiny. Published in 1971, it was followed up seven years later by War and Remembrance; originally ...more

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Yoshiko Shinohara, Akemi Yamaguchi, Ayano Shiraishi

Released: 1988

Directed by: Isao Takahata

Grave of the Fireflies is a 1988 Japanese animated drama film written and directed by Isao Takahata and animated by Studio Ghibli. It is based on the 1967 semi-autobiographical novel Grave of ...more

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#237 of 377 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #150 of 601 The Best Animated Films Ever #280 of 350 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime