There are so many great films that pay homage to the men and women that serve in our armed services. And with days like Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, a great way to celebrate is to sit down and watch one of these great films.
I asked you guys what are some of your favorites and I complied a list. Some of my favorites are Rated R (my thoughts on Rated R movies) so for those I tried to put some content details so you can choose for yourself. Here are 10 of my favorites, but if you have more to add let us know!
The Patriot (2000)
In 1776 South Carolina, widower and legendary war hero Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) finds himself thrust into the midst of the American Revolutionary War as he helplessly watches his family torn apart by the savage forces of the British Redcoats. Unable to remain silent, he recruits a band of reluctant volunteers, including his idealistic patriot son, Gabriel (Heath Ledger), to take up arms against the British. Fighting to protect his family’s freedom and his country’s independence, Martin discovers the pain of betrayal, the redemption of revenge and the passion of love.
World War I
The Lost Battalion (2001)
There are not a lot of great World War I movies about Americans, but how could you say no to fellow Mormon Ricky Schroder? The Lost Battalion is the true World War I story of an American unit that was surrounded by German troops and pounded mercilessly for days (at times even by its own artillery) is vividly portrayed in this made-for-television film starring Rick Schroder. Playing a patrician New York City lawyer commissioned a major and sent into combat, Schroder commands a battalion composed of New York wiseacres as well as so-called “apple knockers” from the West. The plot is straightforward (and will be familiar to those who know World War I history), but the film rises above what could have been a clichéd telling of the story of Major Whittlesey and his heroic men. The action sequences, shot tightly with hand-held cameras, owe a debt to Saving Private Ryan, and the surreal horror of World War I, in which armies killed with machine guns yet communicated by carrier pigeon, is conveyed very well.
Available at Amazon.
World War II
Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed (2012)
On August 15, 1944 the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team (PRCT) jumped over the south of France. Their mission was to support and protect the Allied Troops marching to Berlin. Landing in enemy territory, they fell under immediate attack. In their effort to complete the mission and rendez-vous with their unit, three isolated paratroopers come across a group of French resistants in desperate need. They decide to help liberate some of the captive Partisans. Doing so they risk their lives in an effort to live the AIRBORNE CREED. You can red our full review here, but some of the great themes of forgiveness and sacrifice really are well displayed.
Available at Amazon.
To Hell and Back (1955)
True-life account of the military career of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in WWII. Native of Texas, he was placed in charge of his many younger siblings on the death of his mother and decided to join the military at the age of 18 to provide for them. His many acts of bravery and heroism during the US military advance through Italy, France and into Germany earn him increasing rank and responsibility as well as the respect of his comrades in arms. Eventually he receives two dozen of the highest medals the US and France can bestow, culminating in the awarding of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
“Patton” tells the tale of General George S. Patton, famous tank commander of World War II. The film begins with Patton’s career in North Africa and progresses through the invasion of Europe and the fall of the Third Reich. Side plots also speak of Patton’s numerous faults such his temper and tendency toward insubordination, faults that would prevent him from becoming the lead American general in the Normandy Invasion as well as to his being relieved as Occupation Commander of Germany.
One of my favorite soldier movies. Opening with the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, members of the 2nd Ranger Battalion under Cpt. Miller fight ashore to secure a beachhead. Amidst the fighting, two brothers are killed in action. Earlier in New Guinea, a third brother is KIA. Their mother, Mrs. Ryan, is to receive all three of the grave telegrams on the same day. The United States Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, is given an opportunity to alleviate some of her grief when he learns of a fourth brother, Private James Ryan, and decides to send out 8 men (Cpt. Miller and select members from 2nd Rangers) to find him and bring him back home to his mother.
Content Warning: Saving Private Ryan is Rated R and has obscenities throughout. The violence is very graphic, particularly during the storming of Normandy Beach.
Pork Chop Hill (1959)
I didn’t even know the Korean War existed until I was in High School. It was known as the Forgotten War, being sandwiched between World War II and Vietnam. This gritty, grim Korean war drama presents the grueling ordeal of a platoon charged with taking a hill of no military value during the final days of the war. While diplomats and generals argue over peace negotiations (in an appropriately wordless montage under the opening credits), tough but compassionate Lt. Joe Clemons (Gregory Peck) leads a unit of 135 men up a well-guarded hill while miscommunication–and at times no communication–cuts them off from reinforcements and regimental command. Shot against a bleak, battle-scarred mountain of white dust honeycombed with black trenches, director Lewis Milestone presents the devastating battle as a meaningless sacrifice of hundreds of lives spent in a political game of chicken. Peck leads a terrific cast of young talents and character actors, many of them just starting their respective careers: Rip Torn, Harry Guardino, Martin Landau, Norman Fell, George Peppard, Gavin MacLeod, Bert Remsen, Harry Dean Stanton, plus veteran stalwarts Woody Strode, James Edwards, Robert Blake, and Bob Steele.
Available at Amazon and iTunes.
We Were Soldiers (2002)
There are not many films that pay homage and honor to the brave men who fought in the Vietnam War. They didn’t come home to parades, kisses from nurses, or the love of a grateful nation. We Were Soldiers give these men the respect the deserve. In a place soon to be known as The Valley of Death, in a football field-sized clearing called landing zone X-Ray, Lt. Colonel Hal Moore and 400 young troopers from the elite newly formed American 7th “Air” Cavalry, were surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers dug into the tunnel warren mountainside. The ensuing battle was one of the most savage in U.S. history and is portrayed here as the signal encounter between the American and North Vietnamese armies. We Were Soldiers Once… And Young is a tribute to the nobility of those men under fire, their common acts of uncommon valor, and their loyalty to and love for one another.
Content Warning: We Were Soldiers is Rated R and has few major obscenities and has violent content.
Available at Amazon (Prime members can stream it for free) and iTunes.
Operation Enduring Freedom
Lone Survivor (2014)
Here is a late addition to the list. Based on the true autobiographical story
of Marcus Luttrell and Seal Team 10 who set out on a mission to capture
or kill notorious al Qaeda leader Ahmad Shahd, in late June 2005.
Marcus and his team are left to fight for their lives in one of the most
valiant efforts of modern warfare. As you might be able to tell by the
title of the movie, things don’t go well.
It is a hard thing to find a film based on any conflict after 1943 that
paints our armed forces in a positive light. Lone Survivor is one of
those films. It does not glorify war or tell the story or immortals who
kick butt and chew bubble gum. Instead it is the very real and gritty
telling of a group of brothers who were willing to do anything to make sure they made it home. (Full Review)
Content Warning: The F-word is used so often and freely. There is a lot of war
violence; not gratuitous violence, but certainly realistic. There is
mild sexual content as a soldier recites a mock creed with some