XIPHOS’ *NEW* TOP 10 WAR MOVIES

I did this as a follow up to the first list I did for Jonah’s place. Since he’s getting besieged by New Moon cultists at the moment I figured I would rescue the article before the Bela clones take the place over.

1. A Bridge Too Far (1977): Is a movie about the Battle of Arnhem and the larger operation called Market Garden which was British Army General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery’s massive screw up that ended up prolonging WW 2 by months. Thanks Eisenhower, you stooge.

A Bridge Too Far, besides having brilliantly staged combat sequences, also shows how jealousy and the drive for personal recognition affect General Officers of any armed forces. If Montgomery wasn’t so jealous of United States Army General George S. Patton’s success with the 3rd Army, then the gigantic mistake that is Operation Market Garden would not have happened.

This movie shows how personal issues of the officer corps will always lead to the fighting men of any nation being sacrificed on the altar of personal glory. I cannot praise enough the bravery, ingenuity and pure guts shown by the combined Canadian, English and American fighting men during this operation even if their senior leadership let them down on every single level.


2. Zulu (1964): Usually movies that play fast and loose with real events, like the Defense of Rorke’s Drift, the way ZULU did, bothers the hell out of me. The reason this movie gets a pass is because they got the big picture ideas so right. Those issues are how could 87 men hold an indefensible position for sixteen hours against 4000 native warriors fighting on their own land?

The answer in simple terms is known as “The Western Way of War” and this movie demonstrated again the superiority of that idea. How did the members of B Company, 2nd Battalion of the 24th Regiment make this amazing stand? Simple, they acted as soldiers and this movie showed, yet again, that soldiers can be warriors but warriors are not necessarily soldiers. The men of B Company won out due to the following: Tough and hard basic training, a coherent rank structure, excellent leadership (especially from Commissary Sergeant Major DaltonVC, NCOs are the ones that win wars), the discipline of the British Colonial Army and, at the time, the superiority of English marksmanship training. British soldiers could fire 12 rounds a minute of .45 caliber bullets from their single shot Martini-Henry lever action rifles. Those rifles could routinely down a target at 500+ yards.

All these ideas plus about a hundred more were displayed in this movie and that’s why it’s at number two. The acting is excellent especially from Michael Caine as B Company Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead VC and Stanley Baker as Engineer Lieutenant John Chard VC. Chard and Bromhead shared command of the defense of Rorke’s Drift. The interesting thing about Bromhead and Chard is that they were both, before Rorke’s Drift, considered to be less than stellar officers.


3. Gallipoli (1981) From Wikipedia: “Gallipoli is a 1981 Australian film, directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson and Mark Lee, about several young men from rural Western Australia who enlist in the Australian Army during the First World War. They are sent to Turkey, where they take part in the Gallipoli Campaign. During the course of the movie, the young men slowly lose their innocence about the purpose of war. The climax of the movie occurs on the Anzac battlefield at Gallipoli and depicts the futile attack at the Battle of the Nek on 7 August 1915.”

There were a lot of inaccuracies in this movie but man does it show the futility of direct frontal assaults in soul sickening detail. If you have not seen this movie go rent it today.


4. Bridge on the River Kwai (1957): While not about combat the Bridge on the River Kwai does explore the effects combat can have on an individual as seen from the point of view of Alec Guinness’s character Colonel Nicholson. The devastating loss that the Japanese inflicted on English forces in Asia was tremendous and this movie deals with the after effects of that through Nicholson’s character.

Alec Guinness was absolutely breath-taking in his portrayal of Colonel Nicholson. From the iconic opening scene of him and his men strutting into the POW camp whistling the “Bogey March” to the scene near the end when Nicholson realizes what his choices meant for the Japanese, Guinness was superb. His equal was found in Japanese actor Sussue Hayakawa as Colonel Saito the POW camp commander. These two heavyweight actors slugged it out during the course of this movie. The Bridge on the River Kwai deserves every single accolade it receives and then some.


5. The Sand Pebbles (1966): This movie is based on the book of the same name by Richard McKenna. (Good book BTW.) It’s the story of a United States Navy gunboat serving on the Yangtze River patrol in China during the Communist revolution. Normally my distaste for anything associated with the US Navy would preclude me from recommending this movie but I really like the Sand Pebbles. It showcases a life that doesn’t exist anymore, serving in China (I’ve read accounts of life in China between the wars. WOW is all I’m saying.) and it shows how an outsider becomes part of a unit. Steve McQueen was excellent in his role as Machinist’s Mate 1st class Jake Holman, a man who doesn’t care about anything except for the engine room of the USS San Pablo (The Sand Pebble).


6. The Wild Geese (1978): I’m probably going to take some heat for including a film about mercenaries but so what. Mercs do good things like prevent the Balkans from going up in flames and stopping the war in Angola among other things.

The Wild Geese is a pretty good look at Merc operations in Africa and the story is based loosely on the exploits of South African Merc Michael “Mad Mike” Hoare who acted as technical advisor to the movie.

The Wild Geese is a “men on a mission” action adventure flick along the lines of the of movies like Guns of Navarrone or The Dirty Dozen. The movie’s cast is top-notch and includes Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Roger Moore so I’d imagine that lots of booze was drunk during production which translates on the screen as the actors looking like they are having a good time making the movie.


7. The Lighthorsemen (1987): I have to hand it to the Australian movie industry in the 80’s. They produced 3 great movies and an excellent TV min-series highlighting Australian fighting men on different fields of battle.

The Lighthorsemen tells the story of an Australian Cavalry outfit fighting the Turks in Palestine in 1917. I commend the Aussies on their ability to film combat scenes. Between this movie, Breaker Morant and Gallipoli, the Aussies managed to make some of the best war movies in the 80’s that hardly anybody ever saw.


8. Lawrence of Arabia (1962): Good point to remember, don’t make fey Englishmen angry, you won’t like them when they’re angry. This lushly shot tale of Arab partisan operations in WW 1 is a beautiful movie. Don’t let the 4 hour run time dissuade you just let yourself become enveloped in the story. Peter O’Toole is absolutely amazing as the rather complicated T.E. Lawrence.


9. 633 Squadron (1964): Based on a book I’ve never read, it’s the fictionalized story of the British Royal Air Force’s relentless hammering of the German rocket fuel production facilities in Norway. Now true, there is a ton of wooden acting in this movie but what saves it are the aerial combat scenes and the score.


10. Glory (1989): The more or less true story of a platoon of black soldiers fighting for the Union Army in the Civil War. This movie is in the top end at depicting how confusing and downright scary combat is. It makes me glad that the 18th century concept of a line advance is only used in Boot camp for Drill and Ceremony. There is no way in hell I would want to face the withering musketry of repeating rifles like the characters in the movie had to endure.

There we go, that’s it, enjoy and Mahalo.

Xiphos

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42 responses to “XIPHOS’ *NEW* TOP 10 WAR MOVIES”

  1. Droid says :

    Aussies rule!!!

    Awesome stuff, Xi. Many of those I haven’t seen. But honestly, mate. Where’s Flyboys!?!?! That flicks da bomb, yo!!!

  2. Continentalop says :

    Great list. Glad to see ZULU there. And glad to see that there still is no TAINTLICK influence on this list.

    Curious if you have seen ZULU DAWN and BREAKER MORANT?

  3. Tom_Bando says :

    I’ve seen-most of those, own ‘Lawrence’ and ‘Sand Pebbles’. Those two I can speak of w/ the most ‘authority’ (ha ha I know)—they’re tops. What were your thoughts on Mako in it Xiphos? Pretty good eh? And Richard Attenborough?

    Gallipoli-boys what a sick fiasco that was. Thank you Sir Winston. No really.

    I will have to check out Zulu–that’s a new one to me. Sounds really good.

    Fave actor in ‘Lawrence’ besides Guinness and O’Toole? Arthur Kennedy. Yes he’s that good in it.

  4. xiphos0311 says :

    Yeah Droid the Aussies did rule in making war movies in the 80’s. never saw Flyboys, yet…

  5. M. Blitz says :

    Yes! Lawrence! I love, love, love that movie. And, oh my, Gallipoli. Goddamn, that’s depressing…

    Glory’s the one with Broderick, right? I’ve never seen the whole thing.

    But gee, Xi, no SPR? I thought that was one of your faves!
    (Heh, heh, meh….tiresome, I know, I just couldn’t resist)

  6. xiphos0311 says :

    Continentalops yes I’ve seen Zulu Land and Breaker Morant. I really don’t remember much about Zulu Land except that its about the battle of Isandlwana which set up the defense of Roark’s Drift.

    Breaker Morant while largely a courtroom story is just gut wreching to watch.

  7. Droid says :

    Glory is a great movie. Broderick’s good in it. Denzel’s great and so is Freeman. And Elwes is good too! Been ages since I’ve seen it. Might be time for a revisit.

  8. tombando says :

    Doesn’t Glory have Andre Braugher from Homicide in it too?

  9. xiphos0311 says :

    Tom,

    Mako was excellent in Sand Pebbles then again he’s excellent in everything he’s been in.

    Zulu is excellent even though they did really screwed the pooch in some parts especially with the story about Pvt.Hook VC. His of all the incredible acts of bravery during Roark’s Drift was probably the most incredible.

    Hook took it upon himself to evacuate the men in the hospital before B.Co retreated behind the mealy bag final wall to make thier last stand. He cut a hole in the back of the hospital wall got his friends out and defended the hole during the evacuation against the Zulu with a bayonet armed Martin-henery rifle. Also the real Hook was not an insubordinate alkie like portrayed in the movie.

  10. tombando says :

    I gotta go see this one then. Zulu from ’64. Sounds good. It has the Xiphos Recommendation–four robotic lions paws up. Sounds good.

    I also rec. the Four Feathers from ’39–it’s pretty good, too.

  11. Continentalop says :

    I read that about Pvt. Hook. The filmmakers said they wanted to have a redemptive character, one that the audience could identify with. The funny thing is they already had a guy who could fit that bill: a corporal who was busted down from sgt. for being insubordinate and drunk. I can’t remember the chaps name, but I know in the film they played him as a boring nice guy.

  12. Continentalop says :

    BTW – still no love for ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT?

    • tombando says :

      Only version I ever saw of that starred John Boy Walton, but you know what-was pretty good all things considered.

      • Continentalop says :

        Watch the 1930s version by Lewis Milestone. If you can past the obviously dated aspects (it was originally planned as a silent film, so sound and acting is not up to modern standards) you see what I consider the greatest war movie ever.

    • M. Blitz says :

      Damn, that’s a good one…

  13. xiphos0311 says :

    I still need to see All Quite again. When I do and if it makes it mark I’ll put it into the list somewhere.

  14. xiphos0311 says :

    nah Blitz it’s not a shit list. The new list is about “fun” war movies but there was an opportunity to throw SPR under the bus so I took it.

  15. ThereWolf says :

    Cannot argue with a single one of those. Not seen all of The Lighthorsemen though.

    Glory. That scene when Denzel is getting flogged. He’s all tough about it… then the tears start to run down his face. Gets me every time. Every. Single. Time.

  16. Bartleby says :

    Yea, the new list will be going up hopefully tonight or tomorrow.

    That Twilight fiasco–well, Im grateful that WordPress noticed my writing and that several people are twittering on it and referencing it, but at the same time I feel like Im moderating a different inane post every five seconds. Xi has been doing his own best zulu impression over there, if you substitute brit unit for one disgruntled marine vs. hundreds of crazy females.

    Hoping to get my Fire and Ice and Fire From Below reviews up, as one airs tonight and one tomorrow night. Hey, if anyone gets a chance, check out The Blind Side review over at Cinematrpolis. Xi and Barfy, you made a great point about Bullock’s performance sort of resembling the Connie Britton character on Friday Night Lights. Anyway, it’s a good movie and I’d rather be discussing it and some of the others instead of mediating comments like ‘F U, YOU ALL JUST WANT TO BE BELLA’. Seriously, thats paraphrasing but its close.

  17. Bartleby says :

    should also mention koutch has been fighting the good–and often funny–fight over there vs. the Twilighters.

  18. ThereWolf says :

    I’d offer to pitch in, Bartleby but I haven’t got a clue about Twilight.

  19. xiphos0311 says :

    Wolf I know nothing about Tweenlight except what I’ve read here and over in Gingertown. Instead I’ve went the blantantly offensive route with a side of mocking disdain. Thye’re cultists for the most part over there so that’s the only way you can reach them.

  20. ThereWolf says :

    I haven’t even read anything. I’ve seen a few posts, when the first Twilight came out, about it being Mormon propaganda. I’ve just steered well away from it since then.

  21. Bartleby says :

    Well, I’ve added a pretty darn funny pic over on the actual article. Should tick ’em off nicely. Check it out.

  22. tombando says :

    Twilight is ANOTHER series/franchise that SEVERELY needs a few dozen Giant Robots added into the mix just because.

  23. ThereWolf says :

    Very good pic, Bart!

  24. M. Blitz says :

    Is that really a line? Ha!! Amazing.

  25. just pillow talk says :

    Shit, I’ve never seen any of those Aussie flicks. Actually, I’ve only seen four of those on your list Xi.

  26. xiphos0311 says :

    Time to get yourself over to the Library Pillow. I’d start with Galipoli then the Lighthorseman and end with the excellent excellent Breaker Morant.

  27. Continentalop says :

    You really make another list: War Movies that SHOULD be made. My suggestions:

    PAVLOV’S HOUSE

    WHITE DEATH (about that Finnish sniper and the Winter War)

    THE HOT GATES (fuck 300!)

    LITTLE BIG HORN (often filmed, but never told accurately – or shown as violently as it was).

    THE LONG RETREAT (1st Cav in Korea!)

    …and finally…

    MONDAY NIGHT WARS (about when the WWE took on the WCW in the Monday Night Wrestling Wars).

    • xiphos0311 says :

      I know absolutely nothing about making a movie and I would take a shot at adapting Pressfields Gates of Fire. I would do it just to see 300 full spartinate Warriors in teh correct Panoply and cloaks, in rank and file with spear points presented with highly polished hoplons with a gleaming Lamda on the boss faced. I think I would pass out from the visual pleasure.

      I would also like to take a shot at The Battle of Greasy Grass. I would love to throw the Son of the Morning star under the bus for spliting his command, turning down reinforcement and leaving behind the gattling gun and artillery. Man was Custer a fool.

      Nobody ever made movie about the winter war? Really? Huh I would have thought that the Finns would have taken a stab at that one.

  28. koutchboom says :

    Reading that list makes me realize I haven’t seen many war movies, at least old wars. I’ve probably seen too many recent war movies. Also I saw Gallipoli only a couple years ago and for the life of me I can’t recall anything about it, should probably check it out again. I think I rented it when I didn’t have a TV for awhile and had to go back to watching shit on my labtop.

  29. Continentalop says :

    I guess the Finns did make a movie about the Winter War, called TALVISOTA. I wonder if it is any good?

  30. tombando says :

    Are you sure it’s not ‘Travoltista’ and izzat something you wanna admit to having seen”

  31. xiphos0311 says :

    Tom don’t even kid like that

  32. tombando says :

    It’s the battle between ‘Perfect’ Travolta and ‘Battlefield Earth’ Travolta. Git the kids and hide the Finns.

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