The Ten Most Realistic Military Movies

Nov 13, 2006 (Updated Dec 3, 2006)

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The Bottom Line Here my list of the ten most realistic military movies.

Everybody’s scared, It’s what you do when you’re scared that makes cowards or heroes.

Top Ten Most Realistic Military Movies

I have reviewed a lot of military movies, documentaries and seen many more. Although no movie will ever capture the feelings a combat soldier feels, (impending doom, fear, fatigue, hopelessness, courage, shattered nerves, heroic acts) they can show you what it looks like. They can even give the viewer some feeling of the doom, deadliness, insanity and in some cases the futility of a war. During the last ten years or so I have seen a few movies that are able to capture actual combat in one sense or another. So here’s my list of the films that are able to realistically portray some part of the combat conditions, experiences or feelings. Most of these movies are extremely graphic.

Glory (Infantry - American Civil War)

The all black 54th Massachusetts was used for labor. The men were never going to see combat. If not for Colonel Shaw’s father, they never would have. After several months of his regiment working at union labor camps, Colonel Shaw pulled every string that he could to get his men to the front, his wish was granted. The 54th Massachusetts was sent to assist in the assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina. Upon his arrival, Colonel Shaw volunteered his regiment to lead the attack. The attack was ill planned and suicidal. Over half of the men that charged with the 54th Massachusetts were lost. Consequently, Fort Wagner was never taken by any assault. Glory is among the best American Civil War movies ever made. It is with out a doubt the most emotional Civil War film that I have seen. It is a very thought provoking film with several disturbing issues. The story was solid, factual and realistic.

The Lost Battalion (Infantry - World War I)

The Lost Battalion is one of the best war films that I had ever seen. The thousands of men that needlessly died in the Argonne Forest have finally had their story told. Over six hundred courageous soldiers charged the German lines in the Argonne forest in October of 1918. Six days later, less than 200 soldiers walked out. Almost all of the survivors suffered from some kind of a wound. Five soldiers earned the Medal Of Honor for their actions during this six day battle. The hand to hand combat and the fierce fighting took it’s toll on everyone involved. Consequently, Major Whittlesey who had been a successful attorney before the war, killed himself just three years after the war ended. He was also one of the soldiers that earned the Medal Of Honor. The movie was pretty close to actual events. Over all the battle was very accurate. The cinematography was very well done. The battle scenes are comparable to Saving Private Ryan.

Saving Private Ryan (Rangers - World War II)

Saving Private Ryan is with out a doubt the best war film ever put on a screen to date. Some say the plot could have been better but what sort of plot do you need to show the hell of a war? Besides I thought the plot was good. This is a movie with Oscar winning performances and which received five Academy Awards. War is in fact a living hell on earth and this film lets us have a glimpse through the door. Saving Private Ryan shows us what it looked like in vivid graphic detail on the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day invasion of 1944.

Band of Brothers (Paratroopers - World War II)

Band Of Brothers is one of the best films about war that I have ever seen. One of the areas where this film excels is that we really get to know these guys. We meet them in 1942 when they are formed and over the years and battles we get to know these men. When one is killed, you feel their sorrow. The character development is this ten hour film is extraordinary. I felt like I knew these guys. The dialog was intelligent, witty, morbid and very realistic. Stephen Ambrose wrote the story of the men of the 506th and conducted many interviews with these men. Ambrose is a very accomplished historian and author, the book the dialog and the movie all reflect his superior work and abilities. This film shows you many aspects of the reality of war.

Flags of Our Fathers (Marines - World War II)

The battle scenes in Flags of Our Fathers are very realistic. The close combat has the dark, nightmarish out of body feeling to them that the actual combat soldiers feel in combat. The battle scenes are fast, graphic, bloody and deadly. The film also goes to great lengths to show us the size of this operation. The scope of the invasion of Iwo Jima is huge and the film gives us a decent idea of that. It’s also very factual. Eastwood is able to create the initial naval and air bombardments, the invasion, parts of the battle and the raising of the flags with good detail and precision. The special effects are second to none. The battle scenes and the scenes depicting the invasion forces are spectacular. This film is worth seeing on the big screen for it's many realistic special effects and depiction of the scope of the actual invasion of Iwo Jima.

Enemy At The Gates (Russian vs German Sniper - World War II)

Most people have no idea of what happened in Stalingrad Russia during World War II. In my opinion Stalingrad was the toughest, bloodiest battle to take place during the war. It was brutal and nearly indescribable. The Human cost was very high on both sides. The Germans had an estimated 260,000 soldiers killed in action and 90,000 captured during the battle for Stalingrad. The Russians casualties were well over 500,000 soldiers killed in action and perhaps as many civilians killed as well. The Battle was colossal and very deadly. The film Enemy At The Gates gives the viewer some ides of the general conditions during the Battle of Stalingrad. The Soviets do have a military records of a soldier named Lieutenant Vassili Zaitsev who had 140 confirmed Kills.

Pork Chop Hill (Infantry - Korean War)

Pork Chop Hill is a movie about an unnecessary battle and a complete waste of life. This battle took place during the Korean war. Gregory Peck does a superb job playing the young courageous Lieutenant Joe Clemons. The movie was anti-war but factual very much like the movie and actual account of Hamburger Hill that took place in Vietnam. Both of these battles were referred to as meat grinders. Battles such as these have a large loss of life in a short amount of time and for no apparent reason. There was absolutely no strategic value to either of these battles. The only reason our soldiers had for attacking was “that is where the enemy is”. Robert E. Lee tried that theory too, it doesn’t work. To stir ones emotions, to have you consider the insanity and stupidity that will inevitably occur in every war. The character development and cinematography were top notch for that period in time.

Hamburger Hill (Paratroopers - Vietnam War)

Hamburger Hill is a brutally honest look at a typical infantry squad in Vietnam. It skips all the glory, and heroism and delves into the realism of the daily life in combat. It’s not a lot of fun to watch a squad get decimated over a few months, but this is what happens and it happened a lot in Vietnam. Hamburger Hill is a good film for it. The story is true and the casualties during the fight for Hamburger Hill were staggering.

We Were Soldiers (Air Cavalry Infantry - Vietnam War)

I liked everything about this film. It doesn’t show a disgruntled soldier who was drafted. It doesn’t get into the politics of the war. Furthermore it doesn’t get into the American public, who some feel abandoned the American soldiers. So all of the sore spots and politics are left out of the film. Instead, this film focuses on the men who fought the first major action in Vietnam and their families. In fact, I feel it is the finest film made about the Vietnam War to date. This film gets right down to the brass tacks of one battle, the men who fought it and their families. And it is an excellent film for that. The character development in this film was very well done. The film has a good flow to it and a good mixture of drama and action. The action by way of special effects and some fine acting is very powerful. The drama is powerful as well. There are some scenes that will put a lump in the throat of anyone, even men the likes of Sergeant Major Plumley! When a battle starts , soldiers will die. When these soldiers are killed in action, their wives are sent a Western Union telegram which stated, “…The Secretary Of Defense regrets to inform you that your husband has been killed in action…” This is crazy, but it really happened. In fact this entire film is based on the true story. This film shows us yet another side to wars, the families back in the states.

Black Hawk Down (Rangers - Somalia)

Based on the true story of the deployment of the U.S. Army Ranger's that were deployed to Somalia in 1993. Specifically where a combined operation of United States Special operations teams (Delta force) and U.S. Rangers goes deadly wrong. The United States had been involved in the Somalian Civil War for quite some time. The U.S. Marines had just been relieved by the Army Rangers. This movie conveys how the United States gets involved in another countries civil war and gets a bloody nose for their trouble, to say the least! Black Hawk Down is shows us detailed and graphic combat action. It also shows us the vein of being partially involved in humanitarian aid and third world country civil wars.

More of my Top-Ten Movie Lists

Top Ten Westerns
Top Ten Scary Movies
Top Ten Comedies
Top Ten World War II Movies
Top Ten American Civil War Films
Top Ten Submarine Movies
Top Ten Alien Movies
Ten Most Realistic War Movies

Thanks for the read,
© 2006 Joe McMaster

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