War Movies The Top 25 Must-See Quintessential War Movies  

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List Rules Vote up the war movies that define the genre and should be required viewing for beginners in an Intro to War Films class.

When it comes to impactful stories embroiled with action and emotion, you need look no further than war movies. Whether they are detailing events of an entire conflict or just the actions of a few, war movies make up some of cinema's greatest achievements. War has been part of culture for the entirety of human history and how to grapple with the violence and bloodshed is on the forefront of the minds of many. From World War II to Vietnam to lesser known conflicts, these essential war films explore the topic in a nuanced, insightful manner. Even if you're not a fan of combat movies, there are war movies everyone should watch to get a deeper understanding of world history and the psyche of veterans. 

Many must-see war movies explore the complexities of war by focusing in on a small group of soldiers. Some of the most famous and popular films of all time are set during major wars that shocked the world. Saving Private Ryan focuses on the effort to save a single soldier to spare a mother more grief. Apocalypse Now is a Francis Ford Coppola-directed film portraying the brutalities of Vietnam. If you're unfamiliar with war films, these are movies for beginners that will help you familiarize yourself with the genre. 

Check out some of these films for an extensive intro to war movies. Then, vote your favorites to the top of the list. 

1 76 VOTES

Saving Private Ryan


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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 its graphic and realistic portrayal of war, and for the intensity of its opening 27 minutes, which depict the Omaha Beach assault of June 6, 1944. It follows United States Army Rangers Captain John H. Miller and a squad as they search for a paratrooper, Private First Class James Francis Ryan, who is the last-surviving brother of four servicemen. Saving Private Ryan received universal critical acclaim, winning several awards for film, cast, and crew as well as earning significant returns at the box ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Vin Diesel, Paul Giamatti, Bryan Cranston, + more

Initial Release: 1998

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Also Ranked

#1 on The Best War Movies Ever

#93 on The Most Rewatchable Movies

#33 on The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again

#1 on The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time

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2 63 VOTES

Full Metal Jacket


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Full Metal Jacket is a 1987 war 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 stars Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, Dorian Harewood, Arliss Howard, Kevyn Major Howard, and Ed O'Ross, and its storyline follows a platoon of U.S. Marines through their training and the experiences of two of the platoon's Marines in the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. The film's title refers to the full metal jacket bullet used by infantry riflemen. The film was released in the United States on June 26, 1987. The film received critical acclaim and an Academy ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Stanley Kubrick, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, Adam Baldwin, Matthew Modine, + more

Initial Release: 1987

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Also Ranked

#2 on The Best War Movies Ever

#66 on The Most Rewatchable Movies

#18 on The Greatest Movies of the 1980s, Ranked

#30 on The Most Quotable Movies of All Time

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3 49 VOTES

Platoon


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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 Stone. Stone wrote the story based upon his experiences as a U.S. infantryman in Vietnam to counter the vision of the war portrayed in John Wayne's The Green Berets. It was the first Hollywood film to be written and directed by a veteran of the Vietnam War. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1986. It also won Best Director for Oliver Stone, as well as Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing. In 1998, the American Film Institute placed Platoon at #83 in their "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies" ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Forest Whitaker, + more

Initial Release: 1986

Directed by: Oliver Stone

Also Ranked

#25 on The Very Best Oscar-Winning Movies

#4 on The Best War Movies Ever

#96 on The Greatest Soundtracks of All Time

#29 on The Greatest Movies of the 1980s, Ranked

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4 47 VOTES

The Great Escape


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The Great Escape is a 1963 American World War II epic film based on an escape by British and Commonwealth prisoners of war from a German POW camp during World War II, starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Richard Attenborough. The film is based on Paul Brickhill's 1944 book of the same name, a non-fiction first-hand account of the mass escape from Stalag Luft III in Sagan, in the province of Lower Silesia, Nazi Germany. The characters are based on real men, and in some cases are composites of several men. The film was made by the Mirisch Company, released by United Artists, and produced and directed by John Sturges. The film had its Royal World Premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square in ...more on Wikipedia

Actors: Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Garner, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, + more

Initial Release: 1963

Directed by: John Sturges

Also Ranked

#18 on The Best War Movies Ever

#2 on The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time

#38 on The Best Movies Based on True Stories

#48 on The Greatest Movies for Guys

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