War or armed conflict between two states always results in human casualties and disastrous impacts on human life. Though war or offensive war is prohibited under the United Nations charter, human history is full of wars’ frequent occurrence.
War is hell, but every generation on earth has witnessed the horror of war. Our civil society gave its best to promote peace and played an active role in the war.
In the same way, as part of civil, filmmakers brilliantly made war movies or anti-war movies and gave their best possible abilities to promote humanitarian thoughts.
Top war movies sent messages of peace and left lasting effects on viewers’ minds against the madness of war.
Here are the best war movies of all time.
Table of Contents
- 21. Greyhound (2020)
- 20. Fury (2014)
- 19. Platoon (1986)
- 18. Stalingrad (1993)
- 17. Zulu (1964)
- 16. Master and Commander: The far side of the World (2003)
- 15. Gods and Generals (2003)
- 14. The Hurt Locker (2008)
- 13. Rome, Open City (1945)
- 12. All Quiet on the Western Front (1979)
- 11. The Deer Hunter (1978)
- 10. BraveHeart (1995)
- 9. Paths of Glory (1957)
- 8. Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
- 7. Das Boot (1981)
- 6. The Thin Red Line (1998)
- 5. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
- 4. Apocalypse Now (1979)
- 3. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
- 2. Black Hawk Down (2001)
- 1. Schindler’s List (1993)
- Conclusion on Best War Movies
21. Greyhound (2020)
Greyhound was initially scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on June 12, 2020, but was eventually canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The distribution rights were then sold to Apple TV+, which was released digitally on July 10, 2020.
At the 93rd Academy Awards, the film earned a nomination for Best Sound.
The plot follows a commander of the US Navy on his first war-time assignment in command of a multi-national escort group defending a merchant ship convoy.
The convoy was constantly under attack by submarines in early-1942 during the Battle of the Atlantic, only months after the U.S. officially entered World War II.
20. Fury (2014)
A grizzled tank commander (Brad Pitt) makes tough decisions as he and his crew fight their way across Germany in April 1945.
19. Platoon (1986)
Vietnam, despite being a war of much unrest and controversy, has established itself as a very attractive conflict amongst filmmakers.
Oliver Stone’s Platoon is arguably one of the best ‘nam movies ever, encapsulating the essence of the war in an objective yet hands-on manner. It captures perfectly how many soldiers were to emerge in wars amongst and even with themselves to worry about their supposed enemy as well.
Doing well to capture the despair of the draftees and volunteers alike, correct emphasis is also placed on the hardship endured at this time by the civilians caught in the middle of it all.
An excellent cast featuring Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, and John C. McGinley is supplemented by awe-inspiring locations and a famous soundtrack to make this a very worthwhile 2 hours.
18. Stalingrad (1993)
The story follows a group of German soldiers, from their Italian R&R in the summer of 1942 to the frozen steppes of Soviet Russia and ending with Stalingrad’s battle.
17. Zulu (1964)
The old-timer of my list, Zulu is the tale of Rorke’s Drift- a battle that occurred between the British Army and the Zulu’s in 1879. Starring a very young Michael Caine, Stanley Baker, and Ulla Jacobsson the movie tracks the operations of a Welsh regiment occupying a missionary station close to Zulu territory.
Upon hearing that a much larger, more battle-ready Zulu force is heading their way- the men decide to stand instead of fleeing and begin to fortify their position.
A great battle of course then ensues, with wave after wave of Zulu warriors coming at the tiring defenders. As well as taking on this famous battle, Zulu tackles the issue of the post-Victorian class system within British society of the time and how it transpired into the ever-modernizing military. All in all a well-rounded war feature.
16. Master and Commander: The far side of the World (2003)
A gripping historical drama centered on the captain and crew of HMS Victory circa 1805. At the height of Napoleon’s power/madness, the French are in pursuit of domination over the world’s oceans- the only thing in their way being the grit and determination of British Naval crews.
In this case, personified by Captain Jack Aubrey (Russel Crowe), an experienced and well-respected commander, Jack and his lads are charged with pursuing a French privateer named ‘Acheron’- with orders to ‘Sink, Burn, or take her a prize.’ However, the Acheron soon proves to be a worthy opponent- a revelation that leads to an intense game of cat + mouse, but with cannons and swords. Great fun.
15. Gods and Generals (2003)
The second in a two-part Civil War epic, Gods and Generals movie is based mostly on Confederate General Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson (portrayed by Stephen Lang) and the role played by him and his famous ‘First Brigade’.
Capturing this most brutal of wars with a mixture of lengthy authentic dialogue and equally endowed realistic battle scenes, the movie follows the conflict from its conception in 1861 all the way through to the eve of Gettysburg in the summer of 1863.
The movie is based on a novel by Jeffrey Shaara. The film also features Jeff Daniels and Robert Duvall (General Lee) and runs for a lengthy 214 minutes.
14. The Hurt Locker (2008)
The most recent movie on my list, The Hurt Locker, is an adventure into the most modern of world conflicts. Concentrating on the exploits of a Baghdad-based US Explosive Ordnance Disposal team and their danger-hungry commander.
It is an insight into the daily plagues faced by servicemen and women serving in the Middle East- some of which are more obvious than others. Although featuring less combat action than others further down the list, this six Oscar-winning piece does remarkably well to keep viewers both enthralled and horrified.
13. Rome, Open City (1945)
Rome, the open city, is the masterpiece that reveals Rome’s Nazis’ occupation and the audacious resistance of Italians. Rossellini, director of the movie, started work on the script with writer Fellini Soon, German tanks marched towards Rome and obliterated the city in June 1944.
By January, he started shooting the film in the streets of Rome. The story of the movie is based on facts about the underground resistance of Italians against Germans. The main character of the secret agent is played excellently by Marcello Pagliero. He was the agent cornered by Germans.
Aldo Fabrizi came in the role of priest, who used his office for liberation. Anna Magnani, a young wife, gave her life while hiding her life partner. The whole team justified their roles. It is the movie that we can say that made history in top war movies of the past century.
12. All Quiet on the Western Front (1979)
This remake of the 1930 movie of the same name sees a group of German schoolboys being conditioned for, and ultimately thrown straight into, the horrors of the First World War.
The movie displays the willingness with which this barbaric conflict appropriated its millions of victims- usually young men willing to fight, suffer then die for causes mostly unbeknown to them.
From receiving inspiring yet clearly deluding speeches from their nationalist teacher, young classmates run off to join the Imperial Army. Through their training right up until their first encounters with a hardened French enemy, the men undergo the type of horrors usually associated with the Great War, all the while losing sight of the true intentions of it all.
11. The Deer Hunter (1978)
This movie was directed by Michael Cimino, which tells the impact of the Vietnam War on American working-class steelworkers’ lives.
The film opens in Clairton, PA, where three friends Mike (Robert De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken), and Stan (John Cazale), get together to celebrate the wedding of their friend Steve (John Savage).
They then go for final deer hunting in nearby mountains, where they were captured by the Vietcong soldiers, who compel them to play Russian roulette for the V.C.’s amusement. During their escape plan, Steve loses his legs. The Russian roulette aspect was extensively condemned in this top war movie of the late 70s.
10. BraveHeart (1995)
This movie is directed by Mel Gibson, who also played the main role in the movie. The movie is focused on medieval times of Scottish and English war history.
The story begins with young Wallace, who lost his brother and father fighting the English and becomes in the custody of his uncle. Twenty years later, he returns after completing his study and meeting with her childhood friend, Murron.
They fall in love and marry in secret. The very next day of their marriage, the girl was killed by an English soldier. In revenge, he single-handedly slays the whole English foot platoon. The full-fledged war started between England and Scotland after joining other villagers as Scotland struggled against English tyranny.
Gibson won the best director award, as every movie scene is perfectly directed and filmed.
9. Paths of Glory (1957)
This is one of the perfect movies ever made. The director of the movie, Kubrick, loved the novel of the same name by Humphrey Cobb and decided to make a film on its story. Kirk Douglas played the French officer role and gave an excellent performance.
It was banned in France, Germany, and Switzerland for several years because the film’s story was based on facts. It is a must-see war movie.
8. Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Born on the Fourth of July is an Oscar-winning movie directed by Oliver Stone to portray the Vietnam War’s impact. It is the true story of Ron Kovic, a small-town athlete. This character is played by Tom Cruise, who decides to fight in the Vietnam War, witnesses the horror of war, and unintentionally slays his own man.
During the war, he receives a bullet wound that leaves him paralyzed. Much later, he turns back to everyday life again and becomes an active antiwar activist. This is a very sentimental work of Tom and Stone. Tom was nominated for Oscar for his superb performance in this top war movie of the era.
7. Das Boot (1981)
Das Boot is the greatest movie made on the horrors of the Second World War. It is an autobiographical novel-based movie. The story revolves around the lives of a fearless U boat captain and his inexperienced crew in the Atlantic and Mediterranean Seas.
The ship was sent in said seas to attack the allied shipping and cut the supply of necessary things to enter Britain. The film also has a short television series. After watching this movie, you will understand why putting it in fifth place in our top ten war movies of all time.
6. The Thin Red Line (1998)
This is also an autobiographical novel-based movie directed by Terrence Malick. The movie depicts the Second World War’s melancholic rumination, human and nature destruction.
It tells about the Guadalcanal campaign fought in 1942 in the Solomon Islands. There are so many different but interesting aspects of the movie. This is a fantastic war movie with a lyrical direction of Malick. It is a true combination of multiple numbers of emotions.
5. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Stanley Kubrick, the movie director, made this film after a seven-year gap between his last film, The Shining. It tells the experiences of the Vietnam War and depicts the problems of marine volunteers.
The first half deals with the problems and stress associated with military indoctrination in training camps in a light way. Still, the twist comes in the second half when one of the recruits kills his drill instructor and commits suicide in response to the pressure.
The movie is declared a big cinematographic success. If you really are searching for a top war movie, then watch Full Metal Jacket.
4. Apocalypse Now (1979)
This is the best film among the top ten war movies ever made. Coppola, the director of the movie, completed this film under challenging conditions. As the cyclone destroys the movie’s set and its main star Sheen, was replaced because of his heart attack in the middle of the movie.
The story of the movie is based on the book Heart of Darkness, written by Joseph Conrad. In the movie, Captain Willard is sent to Cambodia to assassinate a renegade Colonel who sets himself as a God among a local tribe.
Coppola did excellent work on every scene in the film. It lefts long-lasting effects on the minds of viewers about the madness of war. The film won two Oscars and many other awards for best cinematography, sound, and picture.
3. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
This film tops the list because it depicts war in the most literal of senses. Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers goes behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.
The movie opens with that famous half-hour-long scene of slaughter and chaos depicting Omaha beach on D-Day. Then it follows a group of soldiers led by a cryptic yet intelligent Army Captain (Tom Hanks) as they make their way through Nazi-occupied Normandy in search of an airborne Private.
The reason for their mission? Private Ryan (Matt Damon) is the last remaining brother of four, the other three having been claimed already by the conflict. Marrying the contrasts of grim warfare with a near-perfect insight into the bonds formed between soldiers, the film emits hope and misery in equal measure, as all good war films should.
2. Black Hawk Down (2001)
A furious fire-fighting drama based on the events leading up to and encompassing the Battle of Mogadishu, following a team of Delta Force Rangers. The team was tasked with a snatch-and-run mission in the heart of a civil war-torn Somalia capital.
Based on true events, the film depicts some of the most bloody and helpless scenarios in modern war as the mission goes wrong, leaving many Rangers not only cut off from base but from each other.
Ridley Scott directs an all-star cast including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, and Tom Sizemore to capture one of the most notable disasters in recent US military practice.
1. Schindler’s List (1993)
Schindler’s list is also based on facts. Schindler was a German businessman who planned to make money in occupied Poland. He opened a factory in Poland and got military contracts by using flattery tactics. He hired cheap Jewish laborers.
His sole purpose was making a profit. By the time he realized the Jewish population’s plight, he had begun using his position to save Jewish employees from forced labor camps. He lost all his fortune during this process but saved thousands of lives.
The movie won seven Academy Awards and got the title of the best American film about the Holocaust. Steven Spielberg, director of the movie, won the title of best director.
Conclusion on Best War Movies
So there you have it: a list of best war movies of all time. I’m sure there are many other war movies that you watched, but they didn’t make it to the list for some reason. Please add them in the comments.
Don’t know where to watch these war movies? I’ve compiled a list of the 18 best free websites to watch movies online legally.