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The Best War Movies of the 1980s

Updated July 27, 2020 1.9k votes 309 voters 15.2k views29 items

List RulesVote 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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    Full Metal Jacket is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Full Metal Jacket

    Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey

    Released1987

    Directed byStanley Kubrick

    Full Metal Jacket is a 1987 film directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay by... more
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    Platoon is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Platoon

    Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen

    Released1986

    Directed byOliver Stone

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

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    Good Morning, Vietnam is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Good Morning, Vietnam

    Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker

    Released1987

    Directed byBarry Levinson

    Good Morning, Vietnam is a 1987 American comedy film written by Mitch Markowitz and directed... more
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    Hamburger Hill is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Hamburger Hill

    Don Cheadle, Dylan McDermott

    Released1987

    Directed byJohn Irvin

    Hamburger Hill is a 1987 American film about the actual assault of the U.S. Army's 3rd... more

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    Das Boot is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Das Boot

    Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer

    Released1981

    Directed byWolfgang Petersen

    Das Boot is a 1981 German epic film written and directed by Wolfgang Petersen, produced by... more
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  • 6
    Glory is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Glory

    Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington

    Released1989

    Directed byEdward Zwick

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  • 7
    Heartbreak Ridge is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Heartbreak Ridge

    Clint Eastwood, Mario Van Peebles

    Released1986

    Directed byClint Eastwood

    Heartbreak Ridge is a 1986 American film directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, who also... more

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    First Blood is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    First Blood

    Sylvester Stallone, Brian Dennehy

    Released1982

    Directed byTed Kotcheff

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    Red Dawn is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Red Dawn

    Charlie Sheen, Patrick Swayze

    Released1984

    Directed byJohn Milius

    Red Dawn is a 1984 American film directed by John Milius and co-written by Milius and Kevin... more

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    Stripes is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Stripes

    Bill Murray, John Candy

    Released1981

    Directed byIvan Reitman

    Stripes is a 1981 American comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman, starring Bill Murray, Harold... more

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    The Big Red One is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    The Big Red One

    Mark Hamill, Lee Marvin

    Released1980

    Directed bySamuel Fuller

    The Big Red One is a WWII film starring Lee Marvin and Mark Hamill, released in 1980. It was... more
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    Gallipoli is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Gallipoli

    Mel Gibson, Bill Hunter

    Released1981

    Directed byPeter Weir

    Gallipoli is a 1981 Australian film directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson and Mark... more

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    Empire of the Sun is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Empire of the Sun

    Christian Bale, Ben Stiller

    Released1987

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

    Empire of the Sun is a 1987 American coming of age film based on J. G. Ballard's... more
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    The Final Countdown is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    The Final Countdown

    Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen

    Released1980

    Directed byDon Taylor

    The Final Countdown is a 1980 alternate history science fiction film about a modern ship that... more

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    The Killing Fields is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    The Killing Fields

    John Malkovich, Craig T. Nelson

    Released1984

    Directed byRoland Joffé

    This film is a 1984 British drama film set in Democratic Kampuchea, which is based on the... more
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    Rambo: First Blood Part II is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Rambo: First Blood Part II

    Sylvester Stallone, Charles Napier

    Released1985

    Directed byGeorge P. Cosmatos

    Rambo: First Blood Part II is a 1985 American action film directed by George P. Cosmatos and... more
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    Born on the Fourth of July is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Born on the Fourth of July

    Tom Cruise, Willem Dafoe

    Released1989

    Directed byOliver Stone

    Born on the Fourth of July is a 1989 American drama film adaptation of the best-selling... more
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    Uncommon Valor is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Uncommon Valor

    Gene Hackman, Patrick Swayze

    Released1983

    Directed byTed Kotcheff

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    Casualties of War is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Casualties of War

    Sean Penn, Michael J. Fox

    Released1989

    Directed byBrian De Palma

    This film is a 1989 drama film directed by Brian De Palma, with a screenplay by David Rabe,... more
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    Grave of the Fireflies is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Grave of the Fireflies

    Yoshiko Shinohara, Akemi Yamaguchi

    Released1988

    Directed byIsao Takahata

    Grave of the Fireflies is a 1988 Japanese animated drama film written and directed by Isao... more

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    Missing in Action is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Missing in Action

    Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme

    Released1984

    Directed byJoseph Zito

    Missing in Action is a 1984 action film directed by Joseph Zito and starring Chuck Norris. It... more

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    Kagemusha is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Kagemusha

    Tatsuya Nakadai, Kenichi Hagiwara

    Released1980

    Directed byAkira Kurosawa, Ishirō Honda

    Kagemusha is a 1980 film by Akira Kurosawa. In Japanese, kagemusha is a term used to denote a... more
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    The Year of Living Dangerously is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    The Year of Living Dangerously

    Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver

    Released1982

    Directed byPeter Weir

    The Year of Living Dangerously is a 1982 drama film directed by Peter Weir and adapted from... more
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    Platoon Leader is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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    Platoon Leader

    Michael Dudikoff, William Smith

    Released1988

    Directed byAaron Norris

    Platoon Leader is a 1988 Cannon Films film set in the Vietnam War and directed by Aaron... more
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    The Winds of War is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1980s
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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... more

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