War never changes, and it has been around since the beginning of humanity. War movies, on the other hand, have been around ever since technology developed and cameras came to be. There is something genuinely captivating in scenarios where people fight against all the odds, where humanity, bravery, and heroism is put on a pedestal.
If you are interested in this genre of movies, then you will certainly enjoy our list of best war movies of all time. Some of these movies were made for pure entertainment, others to commemorate and capture critical historical events and some, to indefinitely point out to war crimes and the darkness of the human mind. Let’s get started.
30. The Deer Hunter (1978)
The story follows three young friends and factory workers from Pennsylvania. They decide to enlist in the Army and go to Vietnam to fight against communism. Just before their departure, one of them marries, and they throw a farewell party. Little do they know of the dread they will face in Vietnam, especially when captured by the Vietcong. In Vietcong prison camp, they will try to survive, and their friendship will be put to the test.
29. Platoon (1986)
A young and naïve American, Chris Taylor, drops out of college to fight in the Vietnam War. Soon as he arrives, he realizes the terrors of war and how insignificant his presence is compared to soldiers who have been there for years. As the battle rages on, Chris suffers a psychological meltdown and is now forced to fight a war on two fronts: one for survival and the other to keep his sanity.
28. Barry Lyndon (1975)
The movie follows the story of a young farm boy, Redmond Barry, in 18th century Ireland. Having no alternatives left after being robbed on his way to Dublin, Barry joins the British Army to fight in Seven Years’ War. After some time, he deserts and joins the Prussian Army where he saved the life of his captain, becoming his protégé and meeting the wealthy Lady Lyndon. Winning her heart also earned him her fortune and nobility status he craved for. However, he also made dangerous and revengeful enemies in the process.
27. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Directed by Mel Gibson, the movie follows the true story of Desmond T. Doss who enlisted in the Army to become a medic. His upbringing helped him shape his views, especially the religious and anti-killing stance. He won the Congressional Medal of Honor at the Battle of Okinawa for his incredible bravery. In between all of this, there is hell on Earth that is the World War II and infamous Hacksaw Ridge.
26. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
The movie is set in Spain during 1944 and follows a young girl fascinated by books, fantasy, and fairy-tales. She and her pregnant mother were sent to live with her ruthless and sadistic stepfather, a captain in the Spanish Army. To escape the horrors of reality, the young girl enters an eerie but captivating fantasy world.
25. Gone With The Wind (1939)
A spoiled girl, Scarlett O’Hara, falls in love with a man who is about to marry another woman. With the Civil War arriving down South, a new man comes into Scarlett’s life and is ready to fight for her love. During these turbulent times, Scarlett must look deep into her heart in order to find a right path for her.
24. Downfall (2004)
Traudl Junge, the last secretary of infamous Adolf Hitler, tells the story of their final days in a bunker during the downfall of the Third Reich. With Soviet Army coming in from the East and Allied troops coming in from the West, Berlin is surrounded, but Hitler orders everyone to fight to the last man. Senior German leaders begin defecting from Fuhrer in order to save their own lives while the remaining soldiers must find a way to end the Battle of Berlin.
23. Incendies (2010)
Twins Jeanne and Simon decide to fulfill their mother’s last wish and travel from Canada to the Middle East to discover their family’s history and their roots. The compelling story of hatred, love and seemingly never-ending wars is much more intertwined with their lives than they initially thought.
22. The Great Escape (1963)
Imprisoned in an escape-proof camp during World War II, a group of allied soldiers plans to break out. Their leader is the ambitious Cpt. Hilts who plans on taking with him several hundred soldiers all at once. Outwitting the guards with their ingenious ways, once they are out, it will be a make or break moment as they try to flee Nazi-occupied Europe.
21. Come And See (1985)
The movie is set in Belarus during Nazi occupation in 1943. A young and cheerful teenage boy witnesses the horrors of the Nazi regime and decides to take up a rifle and join the Soviet resistance movement. But war is not a joke, and his ascension to adulthood will be quicker and more brutal than ever.
20. The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)
The imprisoned British soldiers are forced to build a bridge to accommodate the Burma-Siam railway. At first, the Brits refuse to collaborate with the enemy, but under the leadership of Colonel Nicholson, they build a bridge that is a testimony to British character and morale, despite the circumstances. Little do they know that the Americans are preparing a sabotage mission to blow up the bridge.
19. Judgment At Nuremberg (1961)
World War II is over, and Cold War is about to take a full swing in Europe. The top generals and leaders of Nazi Germany were already tried and accused of their war crimes. And while Allied governments, as well as Germany, want to leave their past, a retired American judge, Dan Haywood, alongside of three other colleagues, have a daunting task of cleansing what is left of Nazi policies.
18. The Message (1976)
In the 7th century Prophet Muhammad was visited by Angel Gabriel and given the difficult task of leading the people of Mecca and worshiping one true God. They encountered fierce resistance and were exiled to Medina. After some time, they have to liberate Mecca from their oppressors and show them the true ways of Islam and belief in one true God, Allah.
17. The General (1926)
Johnnie Gray is an engineer, and he loves two things in his life: his train and Annabelle Lee. When Civil War begins, Johnnie tried to enlist into the Army but was refused as he was more valuable as an engineer than a soldier. His love, Annabelle, thinks it is because he is a coward and to make things worse, his beloved train was captured with Annabelle on board. Johnnie must muster the strength and courage in order to save them both.
16. The Breath (2009)
A group of 40 Turkish soldiers is stationed in a remote petrol station in eastern Turkey. These are turbulent times as the separatist militant organization PKK reached its peak and is ready to fight the government for power. It is a do or die moment for this small group of Turkish soldiers as they face what seems a certain death in order to defend the station.
15. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
When in German-occupied France a young Jewish girl named Shosanna Dreyfus witnesses the death of her family by Colonel Hans Landa, she vows to take revenge. Several years later, the time for revenge has come as all major Nazi officials will be attending a play in theatre she now owns. Basterds are a group of Jewish-American guerilla soldiers led by Lt. Aldo Raine. They are ruthless and entirely unsympathetic towards the Nazis. Their paths will cross and set in motion a chain of events that will forever shake history as we know it.
14. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
The story follows US Army recruits from their days in boot camp under the command of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, to their experiences in full-blown Vietnamese War during the Tet offensive. The dehumanizing effects and traumas left on his fellow soldiers are told by Pvt. Joker.
13. Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)
Due to the extensive knowledge of the native Bedouin tribes and their customs, religion, and traditions, British Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence is sent to Arabia to serve as a bridge between British and Arabs in their joint fight against the Turks. Rebelling against the orders of his superior officer, Lawrence united the various tribes of Arabia and marched across the desert to capture a well-guarded Turkish port, earning himself the nickname Lawrence of Arabia.
12. Tangerines (2013)
During the 1990s in the Caucasus region, the local Abkhazians are fighting to break free from Georgia proper. The Estonian village between mountains became empty but for two men, Ivo and Margus, who stayed to harvest their crops of tangerines. One day, as the bloody conflict intensifies, a couple of wounded men are left in their village, and Ivo is forced to take them in and take care of them. The two men are from opposing sides, and flares begin to spark, with Ivo finding himself in middle of someone else’s war.
11. Braveheart (1995)
This is the story of Scottish hero William Wallace who led the rebellion and uprising against cruel English tyrant king, Edward the Longshanks. When he was a boy, William lost his father and brother trying to free Scotland from oppression. Now, after losing his beloved bride, he begins an epic journey and quest to free Scotland once and for all.
10. Das Boot (1981)
During 1942, hundreds of German submarines were engaged in Battle of the Atlantic with the aim of destroying British and Allied shipping lines. When the British Royal Navy started to bring better escorts and destroyer class ships, the German U-Boats began taking heavy losses. Das Boot follows a crew as they battle their inner demons as well as claustrophobia, while still obeying direct orders and maintaining professionalism.
9. Paths Of Glory (1957)
The movie portrays the gruesomeness of World War I and shocking disputes within trenches of the French army. A French General accuses his troops of disobedience and treason after they refuse to attack an enemy position, deeming it impossible and a suicide mission. A young and ambitious commanding officer must defend his soldiers, risking his life in the process.
8. Apocalypse Now (1979)
During the height of the war in Vietnam, Captain Willard is sent on a mission that officially does not exist. His task is to hunt down Green Beret Colonel, Walter Kurtz, and kill him. Kurtz was sent to Cambodia in order to conduct guerrilla attacks on Vietcong but is now believed to have gone completely insane. He established himself as a God among a local tribe.
7. Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)
In World War II Japan, two siblings Seita and Setsuko got separated from their parents during an American firebombing mission. This will put their faith and trust to the test as the two children must rely on one another in order to survive.
6. The Pianist (2002)
Wladyslaw Szpilman is a Polish Jewish radio station pianist trying to survive atrocities of World War II in the Warsaw Ghetto. As he hides in various locations throughout his hometown, he witnesses the gradual change of Warsaw as war completely engulfs his country.
5. Casablanca (1942)
Rick Blaine is an American, owning a club in Casablanca, Morocco. Despite the constant pressure from authorities to close it, he still keeps it running, and it became a safe haven for the refugees. One day, his ex-lover Ilsa shows up with her new husband, seeking protection and refuge. Will Blaine help her, despite still being heartbroken?
4. The Great Dictator (1940)
Adenoid Hynkel is a ruthless dictator who tries to expand his empire on other people’s expense in order to achieve total world domination. In the meantime, a Jewish barber tries to avoid an ill faith of being prosecuted by Hynkel’s terrifying regime.
3. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Saving Private Ryan is a tale of bravery, heroism, and courage. During Allied landing in Normandy, thousands of paratroopers landed behind enemy lines. Hundreds were killed, and this story follows a group of U.S. soldiers going deep behind enemy lines to save one paratrooper whose entire division was killed in action.
2. Life Is Beautiful (1997)
During one of the darkest chapters in human history, the World War II, an Italian-Jewish bookkeeper named Guido lived a seemingly calm and quiet life. That is until they started prosecuting Jews all over Europe. To help his young son survive the atrocities of Concentration Camp, Guido creates a game out of the Holocaust where the grand prize is a tank.
1. The Mountain II (2016)
The movie follows the story of two unlikely friends, Bekir and Oguz, as they enroll in Turkish special forces training. This squad, known as Storm Bringer, began what seems to be a suicide rescue mission in the most savage, remote and desolate region of modern-day Iraq.
These entries on our list best war movies of all times are full of tales of courage and heroism while they also manage to show the ugly side of the war. If you want to appreciate the peaceful times, you need to watch as many of them as you can. Before that, don’t hesitate to tell us what you think about our list. Also, please let us know if we missed some great war movie in the process by leaving a comment in the comments section.