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.