12 Top War Movies

by IMDb-Editors | created - 16 Sep 2014 | updated - 18 Sep 2014 | Public

Sponsored by 'Fury,' David Ayer's WWII drama that arrives on October 17, we look at 12 of the top war films of all time.

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1. Fury (2014)

R | 134 min | Action, Drama, War

64 Metascore

A grizzled tank commander makes tough decisions as he and his crew fight their way across Germany in April, 1945.

Director: David Ayer | Stars: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña

Votes: 388,469 | Gross: $85.82M

We haven't seen David Ayer's latest project yet, but we're excited for him to leave the streets of Los Angeles for this shift into WWII with one of the strongest ensemble casts of the year.

2. Apocalypse Now (1979)

R | 147 min | Drama, Mystery, War

94 Metascore

A U.S. Army officer serving in Vietnam is tasked with assassinating a renegade Special Forces Colonel who sees himself as a god.

Director: Francis Ford Coppola | Stars: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest

Votes: 557,996 | Gross: $83.47M

One of the best films made about any war also has an incredible documentary about its production; if you have 5 straight hours to spare some evening, watch Francis Ford Coppola's Redux version of Apocalypse Now if you have access to it followed by the doc Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse from co-directors George Hickenlooper, Fax Bahr, and Eleanor Coppola.

3. Das Boot (1981)

R | 149 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller

86 Metascore

The claustrophobic world of a WWII German U-boat; boredom, filth and sheer terror.

Director: Wolfgang Petersen | Stars: Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Klaus Wennemann, Hubertus Bengsch

Votes: 213,845 | Gross: $11.49M

Proof that 1970s-style filmmaking continued into the 80s, this case study in cinematography (and claustrophobia) was an endurance test for the cast and crew.

4. The Deer Hunter (1978)

R | 183 min | Drama, War

86 Metascore

An in-depth examination of the ways in which the U.S. Vietnam War impacts and disrupts the lives of people in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania.

Director: Michael Cimino | Stars: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale, John Savage

Votes: 288,135 | Gross: $48.98M

Another example of fine practical filmmaking, Michael Cimino's epic was released as the haunting memories of Vietnam were still fresh on our minds. The two Russian Roulette sequences would become classic scenes with an unfortunately heavy legacy.

5. Downfall (2004)

R | 156 min | Biography, Drama, History

82 Metascore

Traudl Junge, the final secretary for Adolf Hitler, tells of the Nazi dictator's final days in his Berlin bunker at the end of WWII.

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel | Stars: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Ulrich Matthes, Juliane Köhler

Votes: 309,730 | Gross: $5.51M

The scene in which Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara) cycles away from Berlin is one of the most poetic and optimistic scenes from the end of a war that we've seen. (It's up there with Paths of Glory.)

6. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

R | 116 min | Drama, War

76 Metascore

A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Matthew Modine, R. Lee Ermey, Vincent D'Onofrio, Adam Baldwin

Votes: 620,239 | Gross: $46.36M

Stanley Kubrick's shot-in-England Vietnam film may suffer a bit whenever the camera isn't trained on Lee Ermey and Vincent D'Onofrio, but the parallels Kubrick draws between drill instructors and their grunts are more provocative than some viewers might ever admit.

7. La Grande Illusion (1937)

Not Rated | 113 min | Drama, War

During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.

Director: Jean Renoir | Stars: Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay, Erich von Stroheim

Votes: 31,378 | Gross: $0.17M

A WWI story with its own troubled (critical) history has always been a masterclass in unsentimental filmmaking.

8. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

R | 153 min | Adventure, Drama, War

69 Metascore

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner's vengeful plans for the same.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth, Mélanie Laurent

Votes: 1,148,441 | Gross: $120.54M

Because sometimes we want to set you off: this is Quentin Tarantino's second best film, and his most surprising upon its release. Who felt it would be as big as it was at the global box office?

9. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Approved | 228 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

100 Metascore

The story of T.E. Lawrence, the English officer who successfully united and led the diverse, often warring, Arab tribes during World War I in order to fight the Turks.

Director: David Lean | Stars: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins

Votes: 246,793 | Gross: $44.82M

Having recently watched Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif in David Lean's true epic at San Francisco's Castro Theatre, we'd argue it is one of the riskiest Hollywood productions of all time.

10. Paths of Glory (1957)

Not Rated | 88 min | Drama, War

After refusing to attack an enemy position, a general accuses the soldiers of cowardice and their commanding officer must defend them.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready

Votes: 160,099

Banned in France until 1975, Stanley Kubrick proved Francois Truffaut wrong - one can make an anti-war movie.

11. Platoon (1986)

R | 120 min | Drama, War

92 Metascore

A young soldier in Vietnam faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man.

Director: Oliver Stone | Stars: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Keith David

Votes: 356,102 | Gross: $138.53M

Oliver Stone also proved Truffaut wrong, and Stone's disorienting filmmaking style has never been as effective.

12. Ran (1985)

R | 162 min | Action, Drama

96 Metascore

In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.

Director: Akira Kurosawa | Stars: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryû

Votes: 101,260 | Gross: $3.52M

Akira Kurosawa imports King Lear elements to feudal Japan for his magnum opus, which he made at the age of 75.

13. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

R | 169 min | Drama, War

91 Metascore

Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns

Votes: 1,131,174 | Gross: $216.54M

Steven Spielberg best-crafted war film, one that reveals the hallmarks of a true filmmaker.

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