Great War Movies With Hardly Any Violence In Them

Over 600 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of Great War Movies With Hardly Any Violence In Them
Voting Rules
Vote up the movies that tell a great story with hardly any action.

Who said war movies had to have violence to be great? A nonviolent movie can be just as riveting as one caked with graphic mayhem. It's not like blood and guts are enough to make a film good in the first place. All you need for a great war movie is a riveting story set during wartime, buoyed by a fantastic production team and a stellar cast. That's all! Easy-peasy, right?

Just like great action movies where no one actually dies, you can have a great war movie with little to no violence at all. Movies like Casablanca, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and The Great Escape have become bona-fide classic war films with almost no violence in them whatsoever. In recent years, awards darlings like The Imitation Game, Lincoln, and Darkest Hour have proven to be just as exciting as movies set on the battlefield. Also, war comedies like M*A*S*H, Jojo Rabbit, and Biloxi Blues all prove you can make a solid wartime movie with humor instead of fighting.

  • It's not hard to see why The Great Escape continues to be regarded as one of the greatest war movies ever made, even more than 50 years after its initial release. It has a cast made up of cinematic icons like Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson. It has one of the best motorcycle scenes in Hollywood history. And it has a soundtrack so ubiquitous, you know it as soon as you hear it, even if you've never seen the movie.

    Referenced in everything from Chicken Run and The Parent Trap to The Simpsons and Seinfeld, this 1963 war film will seemingly never leave the public consciousness. Part of what makes the POW film so memorable is its utter lack of violence. Outside of a scene where a prisoner tries to escape and gets shot to death on a fence, there's hardly any violence to speak of besides some punching here and there. This lack of gratuitous mayhem makes it an excellent choice for parents looking for something to watch with younger viewers.

    477 votes
  • 1957's The Bridge on the River Kwai is not only one of the great war movies of all time, but is also usually regarded as one of the greatest movies of all time, full stop. Even the theatrical release poster boasts a quote stating the movie was “destined to become a classic!” Marketing departments often go over the top when promoting their product, but that kind of pull quote sets some serious expectations.

    Of course, The Bridge on the River Kwai did become a true classic of its genre, as it won seven Academy Awards in 1958, including best picture, best director, and best actor. The movie doesn't house too much violence until the climax, when everything comes to a head. The titular bridge does end up being blown to smithereens, but, all in all, the violence shown in this particular drama is incredibly tame by today's standards.

    475 votes

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  • 3
    443 VOTES

    How do you make a movie set in the middle of a warzone without including a whole bunch of violence? You set it in a medical hospital, of course. That way, you get to include all the horrors of war without actually getting too deep into the grisly details. It helps that 1970's M*A*S*H was more of a black comedy than a medical drama, but the point stands either way.

    Legendary director Robert Altman teamed with a dynamite cast that included Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall, and René Auberjonois to bring M*A*S*H to the big screen, and what resulted was a major hit for 20th Century Fox. Perhaps more importantly, the film was spun off into the incredibly popular television series of the same name that ran for over 250 episodes throughout 11 seasons.

    443 votes

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  • 4
    367 VOTES

    What is there to say about Casablanca that hasn't already been said time and again? It's only one of the most beloved films ever made. It's adored by generations of moviegoers and is one of the few movies that has truly earned “universally acclaimed” status over the years. It's got a nearly flawless screenplay, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are sublime in the leading roles, and iconic lines like “Here's looking at you, kid” and “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship” will be uttered by film fans until the end of time.

    With all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Casablanca, it can be easy to forget that it technically is a war movie. Set in Morocco during WWII, Casablanca is the story of Rick Blaine and his choice between fleeing selfishly with his lost love or helping in the fight against Nazi Germany. Yes, Casablanca is much more of a romantic drama than a straightforward war flick, but if saying it's a “war movie” gets even more people to watch it, then that's fine, too. 

    367 votes

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  • 5
    244 VOTES

    As Shakespeare put it in Henry IV, Part 2, “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Well, Winston Churchill may not have worn a crown during his time as prime minister of the United Kingdom during WWII, but the weight of an entire nation seemingly rested upon his shoulders. Gary Oldman undertook a daunting task when he agreed to portray a man surrounded by mythology the way Churchill is. In many ways, the only WWII figure with more historical baggage is Hitler himself. 

    2017's Darkest Hour is all about Churchill's early WWII years, covering infamous events, such as when he continually refused to negotiate for peace with Germany and the evacuation of soldiers from Dunkirk. Unlike other war films, Darkest Hour is about the person making decisions at the top of the chain instead of the soldiers fighting on the ground. Of course, having an actor of Oldman's quality play a historical figure that looms as large as Churchill makes for riveting cinema.

    244 votes

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  • There are few Hollywood filmmakers as synonymous with the dramatic war movie as Steven Spielberg. Schindler's List. Munich. War Horse. Saving Private Ryan. Lincoln. Bridge of Spies. He's not even content sticking to war films, as he's gotten in on the act of executive producing WWII-era prestige television in Band of Brothers and The Pacific. And, in 1987, Spielberg brought Empire of the Sun to screens across the globe.

    It's based on J.G. Ballard's novel of the same name, and it tells the story of a British boy who ends up as a Japanese POW during WWII. It is a coming-of-age tale told against the backdrop of a world war, so there obviously is violence, but it is far tamer than you'd expect it to be. It even earned a PG rating from the MPAA. Oh, and it stars a young Christian Bale!

    297 votes

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