So many movies have been released and even more with streaming platforms in the digital age. Some timeless classics may have escaped your notice and are worth a look. Here are 6 of the best military movies you may not have seen that should be on your watch list.
Logline: Clever and sprawling saga of a squad of American soldiers, following them across Europe during World War II.
A somber look at the toll of soldiers during and after the war in Europe. Excellent performances across the board, especially from Eli Wallach, George Peppard and Romy Schneider. It has deep anti-war sentiments while being a film full of engaging performances and cinematography. It is led by Carl Foreman, of Bridge over the River Kwai screenplay notoriety.
2. A matter of life or death.
Logline: A wartime British airman who cheats death must defend his life in a heavenly tribunal, hoping to prolong his budding romance with an American girl.
David Niven and Kim Hunter star in this fantasy romance film set within the confines of World War II. Niven plays a pilot who jumps out of his plane without a parachute, but survives. Hunter finds Niven and they spend the entire movie putting together clues as to whether he is actually dead or alive. Think Creation minus the breakage with the addition of an afterlife made in Hollywood’s Golden Age. Then add a few touches of class and cinematic flair to get A matter of life or death.
Logline: In 1945, an American infantry company sets up an artillery observation post, but tensions between Captain Cooney and Lieutenant Costa are high.
A star cast, many of them true veterans, make Attack a rare gem that peers into the depths of a company in the later stages of World War II that is run by a cowardly captain played by real-life hero Eddie Albert. Jack Palance, Lee Marvin and Buddy Ebsen put in solid performances. Director Robert Aldrich lends his talents and shows us the seeds of extra greatness we would witness in the 1967 film The Dirty Dozen.
4. Farewell to the king
Logline: Borneo, 1942: An American soldier escapes World War II and becomes the king of headhunters in the jungle. Two British soldiers parachuted into the area to find local support for the battle against the Japanese.
Nick Nolte stars as a World War II deserter Learoyd who escapes from a Japanese firing squad. He is deified by the inhabitants and is a “god” for them. He is the king of the natives and resists joining the British to continue fighting the war. He then leads his tribe against the British in a jungle warfare and insurrection style rarely seen on the big screen.
5. Iron Cross
Logline: German commander Hauptmann Stransky (Maximilian Schell) puts a squad in extreme danger after Sergeant Rolf Steiner (James Coburn) refuses to lie for him.
In great director Sam Peckinpaugh’s only war movie, Coburn and Schell shine brightly in this morality tale set on the battlefield of European theater during World War II. His directing style is top-notch. Serious, real, wicked and just what should be ordered when considering war. There’s little to no romance here, as there should be.
6. Breaker Morant
Logline: Three Australian lieutenants are court-martialed for executing prisoners to distract from war crimes committed by their senior officers.
Woodward has never been so good as in Break Morant. The courtroom scenes are dramatic with well-interwoven battlefield flashback sequences. Woodward’s description of what the “303” rule is is chilling because memorable. He should have won an Oscar for his portrayal and the film has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This is the first time I’ve seen such a high rating for anything.