1- Saving Private Ryan
2- Longest Day
4- Schindler’s List
5- The Bridge on the River Kwai
- Saving Private Ryan earns top spot on this for several reasons. Once you put the plot aside the film comes across brilliantly. Casting was essentially perfect. The gruff Tom Sizemore balances out the American “Nice Guy” Tom Hanks while the street smart Edward Burns offsets Barry Pepper’s brooding mentality. More to the point Private Ryan is on this list, and takes the number 1 spot, because of its portrayal of the D-Day landing. Its ambitious reenactment surpasses any other films attempt at similar displays. Often the scope of a project causes it to lose a sense of reality. With Private Ryan it is just the opposite as the Department of Defense actually honored Steven Spielberg for his “accurate” portrayal of the landing and the films rising of awareness for veterans.
- The Longest Day nearly got thrown off the list. Then why is it set at number two? Well, the problems are as follows: 1) the cast though grand was far too old to play the “actual” leaders of the D-Day invasion. 2) There were noticeable inaccuracies. 3) There are reports of General and former President Dwight D. Eisenhower who planned and commanded the invasion got up and walked out of the film. That being said this film does bring together a fantastic cast and tells a heroic story. Released in 1962 it was a monumental undertaking. Each actor speaks in the appropriate language and with the corresponding accents. This was a worldly tale about a world war. Yes, it has an American slant but each culture is represented. Finally, The Longest Day makes Saving Private Ryan and subsequent war epics possible.
- Patton is perhaps a personal favorite of mine but definitely deserves its position. George C. Scott is one of the greatest actors of this century and carries this film start to finish on his shoulders. Granted he need not carry the film due to incredible direction, cinematography, and casting. Scott looks, sounds, and probably is General Patton. This flick has the guns, the guts, and the gore that we want in a war film. It also has a compelling protagonist with suitable dialogue to balance the mindlessness of war with the cost of planning it. This is a well-rounded film.
- These last two on the list are about the cost of war more than the fighting of it. Schindler’s List is the second appearance of Spielberg on this list and again deservedly so. The protagonist of this film is no ordinary hero. He uses the Nazi slave labor machine in order to save as many Jewish civilians as he can from the death camps. It opens on the horror of such a camp with the brilliantly maniacal Ralph Fiennes picking off innocents with great enjoyment. Any list of WWII movies should come complete with a film that captures the reason why it was fought. Protecting the innocent from injustice, securing freedom and democracy, and punishing the wicked. This entry shot completely in Black and White running over 185 minutes leaves you wanting more from this moving tale.
- Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957 starring Alec Guinness, William Holden, and James Donald is a masterpiece. In the same realm as Schindler’s List this film is less about fighting the war and more about surviving it. It centers on a group of British soldiers are captured by the Japanese and force to construct a bridge across a small body of water. Guinness begins as his usual urbane English self but transforms into a tough as nails leader trying to keep his men alive. Japanese prison camps have never been the stuff of cinema gold, and few have tried to actualize the experience on screen. Kwai is the other side of the battle. Once the troops storm the beach you can win, or lose. The remaining option is the bleakest of all as it leads to captivity. This film is notable for providing Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa to strike a major victory in American Cinema. He was the first Japanese actor to be given such an important role for his time. Bridge on the River Kwai tells a human story that most of the population never knew occurred.
Naturally they’re a plethora of Great War films and meaningful stories. These are my personal top 5 choices if you have any great War movies you think deserve to be on the list reply below.
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