Broadsword calling Danny Boy
May 17, 2005 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Channel 4's 100 Greatest War Films as voted for by their (generally more clued-up than average) viewership has plenty for you to disagree with, but much to recommend. has a history of war films (as does Berkeley) for the completists among you. There are more war films from and about Vietnam and Indochina than you can shake a bayonet at (see also the 1999 NYT article, Apocalypse Then: Vietnam Marketing War Films to learn a little about the Vietnamese government's 1960s and 70s archive of war film). The [British] national archives have archived film from pre-WWI to the Cold War.
posted by nthdegx (74 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"Come And See" only 71? There's 70 war films better than this? I think not.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:58 AM on May 17, 2005

Great post BTW.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:06 AM on May 17, 2005

The 100-51 are probably better films on average than 50-1. They're just less known. There are many I hadn't heard of that, having seen the programme, I would now like to see. SPR not being number 1 was clearly too much to hope for.
posted by nthdegx at 7:11 AM on May 17, 2005

Battle of San Pietro isn't even on the list? Harumph. ;-)
posted by sciurus at 7:14 AM on May 17, 2005

"Johnny Got His Gun".
posted by RavinDave at 7:16 AM on May 17, 2005

As previously pointed out on NTK, this list of 100 so called great war films is nothing without Starship Troopers.
posted by seanyboy at 7:20 AM on May 17, 2005

err... any list of 100-best anything that includes Rambo is pretty much immediately invalidated...
posted by dersins at 7:39 AM on May 17, 2005

I just saw Taegugki, a Korean epic about two brothers who find themselves on the opposite sides in the Korean war (and on the opposite ends of the moral scale), and its battle scenes make Saving Private Ryan look as if it had been shot with Playmobil(R) figures in a bathtub.
posted by elgilito at 7:41 AM on May 17, 2005

La Grande Illusion at #61? There aren't 60 movies better than that one in existance, much less 60 war movies.
posted by Jupiter Jones at 7:48 AM on May 17, 2005

err... any list of 100-best anything that includes Rambo is pretty much immediately invalidated...

Whilst not my cup of tea, I have to disagree. As mid-80's America-putting-its-pants-back-on feel-good revenge red and white blue no-brain action flicks go, Rambo is very very well made. The diversity in types of war films in the list is a strength rather than a weakness.
posted by nthdegx at 7:55 AM on May 17, 2005

Saving Private Ryan? Are you kidding me?
posted by Po0py at 7:57 AM on May 17, 2005

I don't think A Midnight Clear is in there anywhere. As far as Saving Private Ryan goes, the first 20 minutes of the movie makes up for the rest of it.
posted by alumshubby at 8:03 AM on May 17, 2005

Saving Private Ryan? Are you kidding me?

I'd say the same thing about Platoon and Blackhawk Down being in the top ten. They're both well filmed moves but don't belong anywhere near the top ten.
posted by octothorpe at 8:09 AM on May 17, 2005

There are more war films from and about Vietnam and Indochina than you can shake a bayonet at ...

..."This book [Vietnam and Other American Fantasies] is about the relation of Vietnam to American culture, before, during and after the war. And there is simply no way to understand America today without understanding its interrelations with Vietnam."

As an example of the way the war's images have metamorphosed in the American imagination, the book offers the shocking Associated Press photo of the execution of a manacled National Liberation Front prisoner by the chief of the Saigon national police.

The image of the gun firing at the victim's head was replicated in the Academy Award-winning movie "The Deer Hunter"(1978), but this time with American prisoners as the victims forced by their North Vietnamese captors to play Russian roulette. It also appears in "The Escape" (1986), in which the execution was transformed into a North Vietnamese prison commander's murder of an American prisoner, Franklin points out in the book.

Such "brazen reversal of this image was a spectacular success," the author discovered while lecturing on college campuses in 1992. Most students he talked to were convinced the original photo depicted a North Vietnamese or communist officer executing a South Vietnamese civilian prisoner.

Sometimes, the Vietnamese disappeared altogether, as in the Academy Award-winning movie "Forrest Gump" (1994), which, writes Franklin, "projects Vietnam as merely an uninhabited jungle that for inscrutable reasons shoots at American soldiers..."

Stalking the Vietnam myth

See also Green Berets and "Born Killers": Myth-Making and the Vietnam War in American Film

Film: Viet Nam Regurgitated

The Fabric of Memory
posted by y2karl at 8:15 AM on May 17, 2005

Ace. Thanks, y2karl.
posted by nthdegx at 8:21 AM on May 17, 2005

Anyone have any candidates for Best Movies About The Cold War?
posted by Lord Kinbote at 8:22 AM on May 17, 2005

octothorpe, I'm with you on the Blackhawk Down thing - that film was, well beyond reproach. Same goes for Saving Private Ryan, though slightly less triumphalist. I would have them in the top 100, but not that high.
posted by shoez at 8:30 AM on May 17, 2005

Lord K., how about Failsafe or The Bedford Incident?
posted by alumshubby at 8:33 AM on May 17, 2005

Strange company, to be sure. Intensely anti-war films like "Paths of Glory" listed alongside arguably pro-violence movies like "Braveheart" and "Gladiator".

And as a Kubrick fan, it pained me to see "Gladiator" one notch above "Spartacus". That's enough to turn me pro-violence, myself.
posted by Gamblor at 8:34 AM on May 17, 2005

Cold War Movies:

Dr. Strangelove
Fail Safe
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Atomic Cafe
Red Dawn
posted by eatitlive at 8:34 AM on May 17, 2005

Huh. I strangely lost interest when the first movie listed (even at #100) was Rambo II. The first movie, yes, I admit it is good. But the second one? Give me a break. It's total shite. And Cold Mountain? "generally more clued-up than average" indeed.
posted by goatdog at 8:34 AM on May 17, 2005

Gallipoli at #48? That's criminal.
posted by googly at 8:35 AM on May 17, 2005

Oh Christ, and they call "The Battle of Algiers" a documentary. Who are these people?
posted by goatdog at 8:36 AM on May 17, 2005

Kinbote, "The Manchurian Candidate". Hands down.
posted by Gamblor at 8:37 AM on May 17, 2005

"An Enemy at the Gates" higher than "All Quiet on the Western Front" (or on the list at all)? I'm done commenting now. Honest.
posted by goatdog at 8:39 AM on May 17, 2005

Nice post. I like The Great Escape coming in as number 3. Saving Private Ryan number 1? No way. I was surprised not to see Paths of Glory in the top 20.
posted by marxchivist at 8:47 AM on May 17, 2005

"generally more clued-up than average" indeed.

Hmmm. Well had this list been by BBC1 or ITV viewers all the films everyone is moaning about would have been in the top ten and films like Welcome to Sarajevo, Europa Europa, La Grande Illusion and two dozen more wouldn't have made it at all.

Honestly, it's the nature of polls that no one is going to agree -- and dipping in long enough to find the first thing to disagree with utterly misses the point, and to write the list off as a result is plainly retarded. More general criticisms of the list would be most welcome.
posted by nthdegx at 8:54 AM on May 17, 2005

what Jupiter Jones said about Renoir
I mean:
62. Ran
61. La Grande Illusion
13. Braveheart

posted by matteo at 9:09 AM on May 17, 2005

Well, I may be "plainly retarded" but if the nature of polls is that "no one is going to agree" (and here I must agree), then why are you so ticked off that people are disagreeing with this list? Surely you realised that all the war film nerds were going to pop in with their $0.02?
posted by stinkycheese at 9:20 AM on May 17, 2005

Contiguously to save mouse clicks:

100. Rambo: First Blood, Part II, 1985
99. The Eagle Has Landed, 1977
98. Big Red One, 1980
97. Lacombe Lucien, 1974
96. Cold Mountain, 2003
95. Welcome To Sarajevo, 1997
94. The Colditz Story, 1955
93. Europa, Europa, 1990
92. The Birth Of A Nation, 1915
91. Hell In The Pacific, 1968
90. Regeneration, 1997
89. Von Ryan's Express, 1965
88. Memphis Belle, 1990
87. Rome, Open City, 1945
86. El Cid, 1961
85. To Be Or Not To Be, 1942
84. The Caine Mutiny, 1954
83. Cromwell, 1970
82. No Man's Land, 2001
80. Land And Freedom, 1995
79. Mrs Miniver, 1942
78. Breaker Morant, 1980
77. The Charge Of The Light Brigade, 1936
76. Sands Of Iwo Jima, 1949
75. Gone With The Wind, 1939
74. Alexander Nevsky, 1938
73. Ride With The Devil, 1999
72. The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, 1943
71. Come And See, 1986
70. Oh! What A Lovely War, 1969
69. Went The Day Well?, 1942
68. Glory, 1989
67. Napoleon, 1927
66. Enigma, 2001
65. The General, 1927
64. The Battle Of Algiers, 1965
63. When The Wind Blows, 1986
62. Ran, 1985
61. La Grande Illusion, 1937
60. The English Patient, 1996
59. Reach For The Sky, 1956
58. Stalingrad, 1993
57. In Which We Serve, 1942
56. Life Is Beautiful, 1997
55. Casualties Of War, 1989
54. From Here To Eternity, 1953
53. Troy, 2004
52. Hope And Glory, 1987
51. A Town Like Alice, 1956
50. Three Kings, 1999
49. Carve Her Name With Pride, 1958
48. Gallipoli, 1981
47. A Matter Of Life And Death, 1962
46. Master And Commander, 2003
45. 633 Squadron, 1964
43. Empire Of The Sun, 1987
42. Catch 22, 1970
41. The Cruel Sea, 1953
40. Lawrence Of Arabia, 1962
39. Tora! Tora! Tora!, 1970
38. Salvador, 1986
37. Cross Of Iron, 1977
36. Henry V, 1944
35. The Last Of The Mohicans, 1992
34. Kelly's Heroes, 1970
33. All Quiet On The Western Front, 1930
32. The Pianist, 2002
31. Good Morning, Vietnam, 1987
30. Casablanca, 1942
29. Battle Of Britain, 1969
28. Enemy At The Gates, 2001
27. The Dirty Dozen, 1967
26. Ice Cold In Alex, 1958
25. Spartacus, 1960
24. Gladiator, 2000
23. Paths Of Glory, 1957
22. M*A*S*H, 1974
21. Where Eagles Dare, 1968
20. The Longest Day, 1962
19. Born On The Fourth Of July, 1989
18. Dr Strangelove, 1964
17. Das Boot, 1981
16. The Thin Red Line, 1998
15. The Killing Fields, 1984
14. The Guns Of Navarone, 1961
13. Braveheart, 1995
12. The Deer Hunter, 1978
11. The Dam Busters, 1954
10. The Bridge On The River Kwai, 1957
9. Black Hawk Down , 2001
8. Zulu, 1964
7. A Bridge Too Far, 1977
6. Platoon, 1986
5. Full Metal Jacket, 1987
4. Schindler's List, 1993
3. The Great Escape, 1963
2. Apocalypse Now, 1979
1. Saving Private Ryan, 1998
posted by alumshubby at 9:22 AM on May 17, 2005

Ah, many a sunday afternoon well spent. (Good title also)
posted by biffa at 9:26 AM on May 17, 2005

What?! No Star Wars? WTF?

posted by i_cola at 9:29 AM on May 17, 2005

Honestly, it's the nature of polls that no one is going to agree...

There's also the problem of defining the war movie genre. You might say that La Grande Illusion, Shindler's List, Paths of Glory, Great Escape, and Deer Hunter don't belong on this list at all. These movies may all be great in their own ways, but they hardly have enough shit getting blown up and people getting tore up by machine guns and shit to justify their being on the same list as Rambo -- a perfectly bloody film.
posted by eatitlive at 9:34 AM on May 17, 2005

Glad to see the much-overlooked "Salvador" in there. Absurd that Stone's monstrously overrated and sentimental "Platoon" is rated so much higher. And higher even than "Bridge On The River Kwai"? Preposterous.

OK, I could pick this list apart all day. Better not.
posted by Decani at 9:39 AM on May 17, 2005

Dump Troy and add Grave of the Fireflies to the list.
posted by Tenuki at 9:43 AM on May 17, 2005

Does The Americanization of Emily count as a war film? I just watched it for the first time.

Also, what Tenuki said.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:51 AM on May 17, 2005

Wow. Interesting list though the order is absolute shit. Ryan as number 1?! Ick. My faves are Thin Red Line, Paths of Glory, lawrence of Arabia, Full Metal Jacket, Grand Illusion, and Rome, Open City.
posted by dobbs at 9:52 AM on May 17, 2005

When Trumpets Fade didn't make the top 100? That's... well, that's just weird.
posted by dglynn at 10:12 AM on May 17, 2005

nthdegx, what do you think lists like this are for, if not to provoke discussion? That discussion can be "more general criticisms of the list," or it can be bitching about how "Enemy at the Gates" is higher than "The Grand Illusion," or it can be impugning the film-geek cred of the people who made the picks.
posted by goatdog at 10:12 AM on May 17, 2005

Well, I may be "plainly retarded" but if the nature of polls is that "no one is going to agree" (and here I must agree), then why are you so ticked off that people are disagreeing with this list? Surely you realised that all the war film nerds were going to pop in with their $0.02?

nthdegx, what do you think lists like this are for, if not to provoke discussion? That discussion can be "more general criticisms of the list," or it can be bitching about how "Enemy at the Gates" is higher than "The Grand Illusion," or it can be impugning the film-geek cred of the people who made the picks.

I don't mind people not agreeing, or adding their two cents. I mind idiotic comments like "this list is shit because x is at y" because they could be levelled at any top 100. It's a really lazy comment, it doesn't hold any water and it's entirely uninteresting. Chipping in with films that are missing, or expressing disappointment that... is an entirely different matter.
posted by nthdegx at 10:20 AM on May 17, 2005

Dude, perhaps you forgot: this is metafilter.
posted by goatdog at 10:23 AM on May 17, 2005

How's this? I'm a big fan of Sam Fuller, and I think he's underrepresented on the list. I think the recent restoration of "The Big Red One" might change people's minds about it, and "Fixed Bayonets!" is a good, pure war movie. It often comes down to definition: lots of these movies are (as eatitlive mentioned) about a lot more than just war itself.

Fuller said "That's what war is about, killing and death and staying alive. I don't like war movies that are about the girl back home or politics or stealing gold or whatever the hell bullshit." That standard would produce a different list entirely.
posted by goatdog at 10:28 AM on May 17, 2005

King of Hearts
posted by warbaby at 10:33 AM on May 17, 2005

Discussion over. Escape to Victory (or "Victory" for the North American crowd) is nowhere to be found. I hereby Invalidate this list. Yeah that's right. That's the kind of power I wield. (And for all you disbelievers, Rambo I, II and III should have been in that order right at the top of the list.)

Shaving Ryan's Privates was another wankfest from Spielberg, opening scenes aside. Here's my recreation of anyone going to see a Spielberg film:

You: *go to movies*
Spielberg: "Oh, look at me! My movies have a point! Did you know slavery was bad? Were you aware war is hellish?"
Spielberg's Point: *hits you in face with sledgehammer*
Subtlety: *dies*

posted by indiebass at 10:37 AM on May 17, 2005

I hate these lists as much as I hate the Oscars.

Troy shouldn't be on the list anymore than Star Wars should be. It's a war film. A lot of great films though. I really liked The Thin Red Line – looking forward to Terrence Malick's The New World. The Pianist is a very powerful film. The scene where a nazi soldier pushes a man in a wheelchair out a window is disturbing.
posted by disgruntled at 10:37 AM on May 17, 2005

dglynn...yeah, forgot about that one...if more people had seen it, it'd be fairly up there on the list, too.

Speaking of TV, Band of Brothers was on HBO as a miniseries, but if it got re-edited as a (pretty long) theatrical release, it'd deserve to be on the list as well.

Also absent: Bravo Two Zero.
posted by alumshubby at 10:43 AM on May 17, 2005

It would serve the purpose of paying tribute to great works of cinema to simply publish a list "One Hundred Great War Movies" in alphabetical order. Ranking them from 1 to 100 only serves to rankle people.
To make the list more interesting, you could sort the list by war, in order to offer contrasting perspectives on the same conflict. You could sort by year of release, in order to highlight how the subject of war was represented through the 100 years of cinema. Ranking the movies is like saying "Platoon is better than A Bridge Too Far but worse than Full Metal Jacket". Isn't that a little silly?
posted by Lord Kinbote at 10:51 AM on May 17, 2005

Harp of Burma / The Burmese Harp / Grass Harp

Seven Samurai

The Bridge

(unless "War Movie" means caspers killing people and blowing shit up)
posted by warbaby at 10:57 AM on May 17, 2005

Most war movies are a kind of pornography.
posted by ori at 11:14 AM on May 17, 2005

As far as Saving Private Ryan goes, the first 20 minutes of the movie makes up for the rest of it.

A good twenty minutes does not make up for a lousy, typical hour and a half. Critics are so damned gaga over Spielberg. It's shame, too, because there are so many better directors than that guy. Apocalypse Now is a great movie and deserves to be in the top five. However, Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan are not all they are cracked up to be. They never lived up to their hype.
posted by [hifidigitalboy] at 11:14 AM on May 17, 2005

A good twenty minutes does not make up for a lousy, typical hour and a half.

Maybe not, but when the movie's on TV and you can change the channel to something else after the first 20 minutes, it's helpful. And cheaper.
posted by alumshubby at 11:32 AM on May 17, 2005

Nerd alert:

goatdog and indiebass: There is no "Rambo 2". "Rambo" is the title of the second movie - there was "First Blood", then "Rambo: First Blood Part 2" (to give it its full title). Then when the third one came out, Rambo was such a strong brand or whatever, they wanted to keep it for the title - which presented a problem. They couldn't call the new one "Rambo 2", as it was the third movie. They couldn't call it "First Blood 3" either, as everyone had probably forgotten that the first one was called "First Blood". And they couldn't call it "Rambo 2: First Blood 3", because it would have totally confused the issue. So they called it "Rambo 3". which makes no sense at all, because there was never really a Rambo 1 or 2. Hope that's cleared everything up...

As for the list - any episode of Band of Brothers beats Saving Private Ryan, hands down. And I heartily agree that Escape to Victory being left out is a travesty. A travesty!
posted by ralphyk at 11:42 AM on May 17, 2005

hay guyz, i hate spielberg, i am so sophisticated!!11!one
posted by keswick at 11:51 AM on May 17, 2005

Sigh. Next time I want to use common shorthand to refer to my Rambo movies, I'll include a disclaimer.
posted by goatdog at 11:54 AM on May 17, 2005

I'd go with THE BEAST over any Rambo movie.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:09 PM on May 17, 2005

Notable exceptions to my mind:
Stalag 17
12 O'Clock High
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Just a few off the top of my head. I can maybe see 12 O'Clock High not making the top 100 but the other two I was a little shocked not to see.
posted by pivo at 12:40 PM on May 17, 2005

Oh and lest I forget: Midway
posted by pivo at 12:45 PM on May 17, 2005

I thought Saving Private Ryan was better than The Thin Red Line, overall. And Band of Brothers, which didn't really grab me. (ducks)

I would definitely replace any of the 2000-and-later films with Hotel Rwanda, or for half of 'em Princess Mononoke. And The English Patient is about as much of a war movie as Raiders of the Lost Ark.
posted by furiousthought at 1:04 PM on May 17, 2005

How about Fire On The Plains?

And maybe Threads too (if we can evoke nuclear war).
posted by stinkycheese at 1:07 PM on May 17, 2005

I'll mention Hearts and Minds again as my favorite war documentary.
posted by crapulent at 1:11 PM on May 17, 2005

Birth of a Nation is on there? Having the unfortunate experience of seeing it (As well as a symposium and DJ Spooky's remix), I can't see it being anywhere near a top 100 list. And no, it's not because of the racism. This guy said it best (although the article isn't really slamming the film per se): "The uncomfortable truth about The Birth of a Nation is that it's at its best when it's at its worst—that the "acceptable" parts [The parts most critics praise] are usually sentimental and dull, while the vilest segments retain a weird power, as though the filmmaker's deepest anxieties were pouring directly onto the screen."

I wish I had a copy of the guy's work, but one of the members of the symposium that I went to tore apart the film, as well as Griffith apologists, by showing that the film did nothing out of the ordinary for that time period in film (features were already successful, and European directors used similar techniques) and that the importance of the film on other directors is vastly overstated. The reason the film remains on, from what I could gather from him, is because of it's controversy and it's lack of memorable contemporaries.
posted by shawnj at 1:12 PM on May 17, 2005

To me, there's a difference between war movies, which have something to say about war, and movies that take place when a war's going on but are really about other things. So I'd say Platoon is both a great war movie and a great movie about Vietnam in particular, while Apocalypse Now, which is a much better film, is more about the human psyche and isn't really a war movie. So, although they're good or great movies, I'd leave off Cold Mountain, The English Patient, and Schindler's List because they aren't really war movies. And Breaker Morant should be listed much, much higher.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:09 PM on May 17, 2005

I almost cared when they listed When the Wind Blows, but Troy and Saving Private Ryan have removed the need to take it seriously. Though I'm not so sure that When the Wind Blows trumps Threads and The Day After in creepy post-nuke drama.
posted by Sparx at 2:28 PM on May 17, 2005

I'm saddened to see Waterloo didn't make the list near the bottom. Not the greatest acting (although Orson Welles as Louis XVIII seems appropriate) from Rod Steiger, but it has a couple of awesome battle shots. And Blucher riding in at the end was memorable.

Also surprised Winter War is not on the list. I guess a small film from Finland doesn't always make it in the mainstream.

Was the reedit of Big Red One much better than the theatrical release?
posted by infowar at 2:28 PM on May 17, 2005

No comment on the list, other than to say thank you. Here's my off hand two cents
Henry V (Kenneth Branagh)
A Very Long Engagement
The Trojan Women
The Alamo (the later one- was I the only who sort of liked this?)
Colonel Chabert
Hell's Angels
posted by IndigoJones at 2:58 PM on May 17, 2005

Oh and lest I forget: Midway

It would've been OK if you had, I guess. (lame grin)

It's tremendously difficult to tell the story of a battle in a movie. Gettysburg and A Bridge Too Far are the most successful I've seen so far. Trying to explain a naval battle can be even more elusive and confusing. Midway did a fair job of conveying some aspects of a brief but complex battle, but the totally fictitious love-interest subplot detracted and distracted from it, as did inserting choppily edited, monochromatic wartime footage into a postwar color film.

I hope that somebody gets the capture of the U-505 on screen someday. It's one of the most amazing stories of WW II, and Adm. Daniel Gallery was enough of a character that he'd make for an interesting acting challenge.
posted by alumshubby at 3:06 PM on May 17, 2005

Thanks to alumshubby for mentioning A Midnight Clear. It deserves a wider audience. Catch-22 was an insult to the novel. I'm suprised that Heller didn't sue.
posted by Huplescat at 3:29 PM on May 17, 2005

Full disclosure requires I mention I was a crypto in the Navy and Midway's outcome was greatly influenced by the fledgling crypto community. Midway showed that aspect of the battle so I have to give them props for that (and the Hal Holbrook in a bathrobe characterization is not too far off how much of the fleet views us). Completely agree on the love interest part, though I tend to cut them some slack for getting the internment issue in there at all.
posted by pivo at 3:49 PM on May 17, 2005

I was gratified that "A Bridge Too Far" made the top ten. It will never be surpassed as an epic of WWII.

For "Le Grande Illusion" *NOT* to make the top ten demonstrates that the reviewers haven't watched it lately.

The omission of "Kagemusha" is inexplicable: it is a far more devastating "war" picture than "Ran."

And why no WWII-era greats like "Bataan" or "Gung Ho" or "Guadalcanal Diary?"
posted by rdone at 4:53 PM on May 17, 2005

alumshubby, thanks for posting the list. I thought The Boys in Company C would've been there.
posted by isotope at 6:59 PM on May 17, 2005

Fucking Troy? Even low on the list, that would invalidate it for me.
posted by graventy at 8:12 PM on May 17, 2005

King of Hearts and Slaughterhouse 5 need to be on this list.
posted by r3rrr at 8:41 PM on May 17, 2005

I'll see your Slaughterhouse-Five and raise you a Dead Presidents. (The middle of the film has a long sequence involving a Marine Force Recon outfit in Vietnam.)
posted by alumshubby at 3:54 AM on May 18, 2005

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