60 Greatest Warfare Films Ever Made: Ranked for Movie Buffs


The pain and agony of war are difficult to capture on film, but many movies have come close.

For a look at the worst and most heroic of humanity, I’ve created a list of the best war movies of all time.

So strap on your army boots and helmet, hang the dog tag around your neck, duck deep into the trenches, and look at some of the best war movies ever made.

1. Apocalypse Now (1979)

“I like the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like…victory.”

Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore

Genre: psychological war

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Screenwriters: Francis Ford Coppola, John Milius

Starring: Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen

Description: During the Vietnam War, rogue Lieutenant Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) led a militia in a brutal guerrilla war against local resistance forces and civilians. The Army sends Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen) to assassinate the rogue colonel. Willard must make it to the base, enlisting Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore’s (Robert Duvall’s) aid while the horrors of war rage around them.

I love this movie; the awesome performances by all the actors and the cinematography and sound design are still amazing. Watch the director’s cut (Apocalypse Now Redux), and catch a glimpse of a very young Harrison Ford.

Also, check out the Best Quotes from Apocalypse Now here.

2. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

“We are jolly green giants, walking the Earth—with guns.”

Crazy Earl

Genre: war drama

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Screenwriters: Stanley Kubrick, Michael Herr, Gustav Hasford

Starring: Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Ermey

Description: Slow, unintelligent Private Leonard “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence (Vincent D’Onofrio) and his clownish friend J.T. “Joker” Davis (Matthew Modine) are among the latest recruits in the Marines. They have to survive hazing from other soldiers, their brutal drill instructor Hartman (Lee Ermey), and the fragility of their minds before getting shipped out to an even worse hell—Vietnam during the worst of the Vietnam War.

Full Metal Jacket is a great movie, and what I love the most about it is the psychological transformation of Private Gomer Pyle. Terrifying and excellent at the same time!

3. Black Hawk Down (2001)

“Once that first bullet goes past your head, politics and all that shit just goes right out the window.”


Genre: war

Director: Ridley Scott

Screenwriter: Ken Nolan

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, Sam Shepard, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and more.

Description: The U.S. army deploys a task force of Rangers to Mogadishu, Somalia, as a warlord named Mohamed Farrah Aidid seizes control and starts capturing Red Cross food shipments to capture some of Aidid’s closest allies. The Rangers, including desk clerk Grimes (Ewan McGregor), fresh commander Matthew Eversmann (Josh Hartnett), and Delta Force Sergeant Hoot (Eric Bana), are in danger when the mission goes badly and a helicopter gets shot down.

Black Hawk Down is based on true events during the U.S. military’s 1993 raid in Mogadishu. It features a large and great ensemble cast, and many young actors moved on to become big movie stars. See if you can spot a young Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom, and a young Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

4. 1917 (2019)

“Hope is a dangerous thing.”

Colonel MacKenzie

Genre: War Drama, Action, Historical Drama

Director: Sam Mendes

Screenwriters: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns

Starring: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch

Description: In April 1917, on a battlefield in Northern France during World War I, two British soldiers — Lance Corporal Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Will Schofield (George MacKay) – are given seemingly impossible orders: they must cross over into enemy territory to deliver a vital message that could help save 1,600 of their fellow comrades — including Private Blake’s own brother.

The movie is beautifully filmed to look like an intense one-take, which landed cinematographer Roger Deakins a well-deserved Oscar.

5. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

“I will find you! And when I do—to the moon, Alice, to the moon!”


Genre: historical drama

Director: Michael Mann

Screenwriters: Michael Mann, Christopher Crowe

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Russell Means

Description: The daughters of a British officer, Cora (Madeleine Stowe) and Alice (Jodhi May), are rescued from a Huron ambush by the Mohican Chingachgook (Rusell Means) and his adopted white son Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis). The group gets caught up in the fierce fighting of the French and Indian war, which pits rival colonial powers and native tribes against each other.

The Last of the Mohicans is based on James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 and George B. Seitz’s 1936 film adaptation, but resembles the film the most.

Actor Wes Studi does a fantastic job as the scary villain Magua. Make sure to watch the Director’s Cut!

6. Three Kings (1999)

“It’s a soldier’s honor.”

Major Archie Gates

Genre: black comedy

Director: David O. Russell

Screenwriter: David O. Russell

Starring: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze

Description: During the end of the Gulf War, bored, disillusioned soldiers Major Archie Gates (George Clooney), Sergeant Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Staff Sergeant Elgin (Ice Cube), and Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze) find a map on an Iraqi prisoner that they believe leads to a cache of gold stolen from Kuwait. However, their mission gets complicated when they stumble upon a group of captive Iraqi rebels.

7. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

“We’ll show them what the British soldier is capable of doing.”

Colonel Nicholson

Genre: epic war

Director: David Lean

Screenwriters: Carl Foreman, Michael Wilson

Starring: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins

Description: A group of British POWs arrives at a notorious Japanese prison camp in Burma during World War Two, where they are ordered to build a bridge for the Japanese army. Their leader, Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness), clashes with American Major Shears (William Holden), who wants to organize an escape attempt, and slowly, the mission to build the bridge consumes the Brit as much as it does his Japanese captor.

That torture scene in the tiny tin shed gets me every time!

8. Che (2008)

“A real revolutionary goes where he is needed.”

Cuban Diplomat

Genre: biographical

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Screenwriters: Peter Buchman, Benjamin A. van der Veen, Terrence Malick

Starring: Benicio del Toro, Demian Bechir, Rodrigo Santoro

Description: A young Argentine, Che Guevara (Benicio del Toro), meets the charismatic Fidel Castro (Demian Bichir) in Mexico and joins the Cuban Revolution. As the revolution grows in strength, Che becomes an inspiration to leftists across the world, attracting powerful enemies. His rise and fall are detailed in this two-part biopic.

Che is a two-part biographical film about Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Part 1 follows the younger Che Guevara and his meetings with Fidel Castro and the beginning of the revolution. Part 2 shows the guerrilla warfare in Bolivia. Che is a great account of important moments in Guevara’s life.

9. Army of Shadows (1969)

“I can still have comrades.”

Philippe Gerbier

Genre: suspense drama

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

Screenwriter: Jean-Pierre Melville

Starring: Lino Ventura, Simone Signoret, Paul Meurisse

Description: Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura) is captured by Vichy police and transported to the Gestapo but manages to escape this time. He rejoins fellow Resistance members in Marseille, including Mathilde (Simone Signoret) and secretive philosopher Luc Jardie (Paul Meurisse). Still, their missions are more and more dangerous as the Gestapo closes in and there are spies in their ranks.

10. The Killing Fields (1984)

“The winds whisper of fear and hate. The war has killed love.”

Dith Pran

Genre: biographical drama

Director: Roland Joffe

Screenwriter: Bruce Robinson

Starring: Sam Waterston, Haing S. Ngor, John Malkovich

Description: Two Americans, journalist Sydney Schanberg (Sam Waterston) and photographer Al Rockoff (John Malkovich), are in Cambodia to investigate the war that has been caused in part by U.S. policy in Vietnam. They develop a bond with a local journalist and interpreter, Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor), but their work and their very lives are tested when the Khmer Rouge sweeps through the country.

The Killing Fields gave me one of the worst nightmares of my entire life! Though that wasn’t exactly fun, in retrospect, I think it’s because it’s such a good movie that it’s been burned into my memory.

11. The Deer Hunter (1978)

“A deer’s gotta be taken with one shot.”


Genre: epic war drama

Director: Michael Cimino

Screenwriter: Deric Washburn

Starring: Robert De Niro, John Cazale, Christopher Walken, John Savage, Meryl Streep

Description: Three best friends and Pennsylvania steelworkers, Mike (Robert De Niro), Steven (John Savage), and Nick (Christopher Walken), are drafted into the Vietnam War. When they get to Vietnam, they are captured and tortured by the opposing Viet Cong forces. Their experiences in Vietnam will irrevocably change the young men and their families back home, including their girlfriends and wives.

The Deer Hunter is a three-part movie that follows the three friends and their psychological and physical transformation before, during, and after the Vietnam War. It’s a must-watch for any war movie fans.

12. Dunkirk (2017)

“Survival’s not fair.”


Genre: War, Drama, Historical Fiction

Director: Christopher Nolan

Screenwriter: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, Cillian Murphy

Description: During the retreat from France, a group of Allied soldiers, including lone survivor Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Alex (Harry Styles), await rescue on the beach of Dunkirk. The soldiers must hold out against the Germans and their fraying nerves as every man fights for his survival. As the Germans close in, the British frantically organize a rescue operation that includes civilian vessels and fishermen such as Dawson (Mark Rylance) to rescue thousands left behind.

13. The Hurt Locker (2008)

“You realize every time you suit up, it’s life or death.”

Sgt. J. T. Sanborn

Genre: war thriller

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Screenwriter: Mark Boal

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty

Description: Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner) joins a team of Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialists in Iraq during the beginning of the U.S. occupation. His maverick, adrenaline-fueled methods drive him to clashes with exhausted Sergeant J. T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty). The team must navigate a landscape where they can’t tell friends from foe while internal army dynamics also plague them.

14. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

“No. I meant it. Find him. Get him home.”

Captain Hamill

Genre: war

Director: Steven Spielberg

Screenwriter: Robert Rodat

Starring: Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore

Description: During the invasion of Normandy, Private James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), the last surviving brother in his family, is missing. Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) and his unit receive orders to go behind enemy lines to find Private Ryan, who bravely defends a bridge. Can Private Ryan return to his family, and will his rescuers survive?

I remember this one in the theatre and was blown away by the opening scene, which is the best I’ve seen in any war movie.

15. Ran (1985)

“In a mad world, only the mad are sane.”

Lord Hidetora Ichimonji

Genre: action drama

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Screenwriter: Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Masato Ide

Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu

Description: Aging warlord Hidetora Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai) divides his kingdom among three sons. When his youngest son, Saburo (Daisuke Ryu), honestly tells his father that expecting the three sons to act in unity is foolish given the warlike example he set, his father exiles him. The brothers predictably descend into fighting, and their father loses his sanity as he is slowly confronted with the realities of what he has done.

16. No Man’s Land (2001)

“A pessimist thinks things can’t be worse. An optimist knows they can.”


Genre: war

Director: Danis Tanovic

Screenwriter: Danis Tanovic

Starring: Branko Duric, Rene Bitorajac, Filip Sovagovic

Description: During the Bosnian War of the 1990s, two soldiers from rival sides got caught in no man’s land. Bosniak Chiki (Branko Duric) and Serbian Nino (Rene Bitorajac) build a tenuous rapport. At the same time, they are stranded. Still, their situation is further complicated when Cera (Filip Sovagovic), another stuck soldier, wakes up and realizes he is stuck on top of a landmine.

17. Da 5 Bloods (2020)

“War is about money. Money is about war.”

Stormin’ Norman

Genre: war drama

Director: Spike Lee

Screenwriters: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, Kevin Wilmott, Spike Lee

Starring: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Chadwick Boseman

Description: During the Vietnam War, Paul (Delroy Lindo) and four of his army buddies are tasked by the army to guard a crashed CIA plane with a stash of gold. They plan to take the gold for themselves but cannot find it again after squad leader Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman) is killed. Decades after the war, they return to Vietnam as old men to try to find gold, along with Paul’s estranged son David (Jonathan Majors).

18. Platoon (1986)

“Hell is the impossibility of reason.”

Chris Taylor

Genre: war

Director: Oliver Stone

Screenwriter: Oliver Stone

Starring: Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Charlie Sheen

Description: Volunteer Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) arrives in Vietnam only to find that all his ideals about war are wrong. For one, his platoon is not led by the inexperienced lieutenant but by the strict Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger) and dreamer Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe). As he gets caught up in the power struggles between the two and witnesses the inhumanity of his fellow soldiers, Chris questions his involvement in the war.

Watch this one in the evening because it is dark; it can be difficult to see what’s going on in the scenes in the jungle if you’ve got window light reflecting on the screen.

19. Schindler’s List (1993)

“Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”

Oskar Schindler

Genre: historical drama

Director: Steven Spielberg

Screenwriter: Steven Zaillian

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes

Description: Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) arrives in Nazi-occupied Warsaw hoping to make his fortune. He hires a Jewish accountant, Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), who attempts to protect as many Jewish workers as possible. However, when sadistic SS officer Amon Goth (Ralph Fiennes) arrives in Warsaw and begins liquidating people, the horror of the war is brought home for Schindler, and he must choose his actions.

It’s a must-watch and one of Spielberg’s best movies.

20. The Guns of Navarone (1961)

“Well, son…your bystanding days are over!”

Capt. Keith Mallory

Genre: war

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Screenwriter: Carl Foreman

Starring: Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn

Description: As the German army closes in on Greece, 2,000 British soldiers are stuck on the island of Keros, with Nazi guns on nearby Navarone Island, making any rescue impossible. Major Roy Franklin (Anthony Quayle) builds a team of experts to dismantle the guns, including Captain Keith Mallory (Gregory Peck). The team must evade capture by the Nazis while handling internal divisions, including feuds between Mallory and local Colonel Andrea Stavrou (Anthony Quinn).

I’ve watched this many times with my dad when I was kid. A classic!

21. Where Eagles Dare (1968)

“I prefer the Gestapo to be kept out of this matter.”

Col. Kramer

Genre: action

Director: Brian G. Hutton

Screenwriter: Alistair MacLean

Starring: Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Mary Ure

Description: During the height of World War Two, the Allies launched a joint spy operation to retrieve one of the planners of the Western Front battle, whom the Germans had captured. British Major John Smith (Richard Burton) and American Army Ranger Lieutenant Morris Schaffer (Clint Eastwood) oversee the operation. However, what seemed like a simple rescue operation becomes complicated as the group is embedded in a web of spycraft and double agents.

Another classic! I’ve always loved the infiltration of the castle.

22. 300 (2007)

“Tonight, we dine in hell!”

King Leonidas

Genre: epic historical

Director: Zack Snyder

Screenwriters: Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad, Michael B. Gordon

Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headley, David Wenham

Description: In 480 B.C., the Persians invaded Greece and marched toward the city-state of Sparta. King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) is determined to defend his home, even when the city’s elders (secretly on the payroll of the Persians) work against him. He takes 300 of his best soldiers and volunteers from the rest of Greece to make one desperate stand against the numerically superior Persians at the Hot Gates.

A modern war movie masterpiece set in ancient Greece.

23. The Imitation Game (2014)

“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”

Alan Turing

Genre: historical drama

Director: Morten Tyldum

Screenwriter: Graham Moore

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode

Description: Misunderstood mathematical genius Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) finds a new purpose when World War Two starts. He travels to Bletchley Park and joins Britain’s cryptography efforts. Turing’s genius allows him to rise through the ranks as he leads the government’s code-cracking efforts with the help of Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley). However, his difficult temperament and personal secrets threaten his work.

24. Downfall (Der Untergang) (2004)

“Who do you think you are to dare disobey an order I give?”

Adolf Hitler

Genre: war drama

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Screenwriter: Bernd Eichinger

Starring: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Corinna Harfouch

Description: In 1945, as the Allies closed in on Berlin, Adolf Hitler (Bruno Ganz) closed himself and his closest subordinates in a Berlin bunker. His secretary Traudi Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara), is among the people staying behind. Traudi watches the deterioration of Hitler’s mental state as the desperate state of his army finally sets in.

25. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

“Men must be governed. Often not wisely, I will grant you, but they must be governed nonetheless.”

Jack Aubrey

Genre: historical war drama

Director: Peter Weir

Screenwriters: Peter Weir, John Collee

Starring: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany

Description: Royal Navy Captain Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) is set on his mission to intercept the French ship Acheron, plaguing the British fleet during the Napoleonic Wars. His mission is complicated by the French ship’s superior technology, turmoil among his crew, and the would-be scientific explorations of ship surgeon Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany).

Before watching this one, I had never thought much about how nasty splintered wood flying through the air from a cannonball can be.

26. The Hunt for Red October (1990)

“The hard part about playing chicken is knowing when to flinch.”

Captain Bart Mancuso

Genre: spy thriller

Director: John McTiernan

Screenwriters: Larry Ferguson, Donald E. Stewart

Starring: Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn

Description: Soviet navy captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) is given command of the Red October, a new Soviet submarine that can evade sonar. When Ramius goes rogue, the CIA and the Soviets conclude that he must be trying to launch a rogue nuclear strike. It is up to CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) to intercept the submarine while investigating Ramius’s true motives.

One of the best submarine movies ever made!

27. Enemy at the Gates (2001)

“I’ve been such a fool, Vassily. Man will always be a man.”


Genre: war

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Screenwriters: Jean-Jacques Annaud, Alain Godard

Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz

Description: During the Battle of Stalingrad, soldiers Vassily Zaitsev (Jude Law) and Commissar Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) are unexpectedly forced to rely on each other as the carnage rages. Danilov is taken with the young Vassily and uses his story to inspire the defenders but unintentionally makes him a target for the Germans.

28. Flag of Our Fathers (2006)

“Looking at it you could believe the sacrifice was not a waste.”

Dave Severance

Genre: war

Director: Clint Eastwood

Screenwriters: William Broyles Jr., Paul Haggis

Starring: Ryan Philippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach

Description: During the end of World War Two, the U.S. Army launched a fierce attack on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. Three very different servicemen, Marine Ira Hayes (Adam Beach), Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class John Bradley (Ryan Philippe), and Corporal Ryan Gagnon (Jesse Bradford), struggle to survive and unintentionally make history.

29. We Were Soldiers (2002)

“We who have seen war, will never stop seeing it.”

Joseph L. Galloway

Genre: war

Director: Randall Wallace

Screenwriter: Randall Wallace

Starring: Mel Gibson, Madeleine Stowe, Greg Kinnear

Description: During the Vietnam War, U.S. Army Lieutenant Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) must take a battalion of 400 men to eliminate a North Vietnamese base of undetermined strength. Faulty intelligence leads him to a base of several thousand North Vietnamese men, and Moore must get his men to safety against all odds.

30. They Were Expendable (1945)

“I used to skipper a cake of soap in the bathtub, too.”

Lt. Rusty Ryan

Genre: war

Director: John Ford

Screenwriter: Frank Wead

Starring: Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed

Description: Friends in the Navy, Lt. Brick Brickley (Robert Montgomery) and Rusty Ryan (John Wayne), are frustrated when the Navy does not use their PT boats stationed in the Philippines. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, they get their wish to see more action, but as the Japanese close in on Pearl Harbor, their fates hang in the balance.

31. From Here to Eternity (1953)

“A man don’t go his own way, he’s nothing.”

“Prew” Prewitt

Genre: war drama

Director: Fred Zinnemann

Screenwriter: Daniel Taradash

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra

Description: On the eve of World War 2, Private Robert E. Lee “Prew” Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) is transferred to Hawaii, where he earns the ire of Captain Holmes (Philip Ober) and First Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster) for refusing to join the company boxing team. Prew’s only ally is Private Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra), and even as the threat of a Japanese invasion looms, the soldiers are their biggest enemies during the army’s complicated romantic entanglements and power struggles.

32. Gallipoli (1981)

“Not joining anything.”

Frank Dunne

Genre: war drama

Director: Peter Weir

Screenwriter: David Williamson

Starring: Mel Gibson, Mark Lee

Description: Teenage athlete Archy Hamilton (Mark Lee) is determined to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force and fight for the British Empire during World War One. His friend Frank Dunne (Mel Gibson) is far less convinced but joins the teenager traveling from Western Australia to enlist. However, as they learn the boredom and depravity of soldiers at war, their ideals are tested and ruined even more when they reach Gallipoli.

33. Patton (1970)

“Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”


Genre: biographical

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

Screenwriters: Francis Ford Coppola, Edmund H. North

Starring: George C. Scott, Karl Malden

Description: Tough-talking General Patton (George C. Scott) is put in charge of the American war effort against the Germans in the European theater of war. Although he must face petty rivalries with other allied commanders, the undisciplined troops, and the wiles of General Rommel on the German side, Patton’s formidable strength steers the Americans to victory.

34. The Battle of Algiers (1966)

“Give us your bombers, and you can have our baskets.”

Ben M’Hidi

Genre: historical war

Director: Gillo Pontecorvo

Screenwriters: Gillo Pontecorvo, Franco Solinas

Starring: Jean Martin, Saadi Yacef, Brahim Haggiag

Description: Ali La Pointe (Brahim Haggiag) is a petty criminal in French-occupied Algeria. When he goes to prison, he is radicalized by a commander in the FLN Algerian nationalist military, El-Hadi Jafar (Saadi Yacef, a real-life FLN commander). He joins the battle to liberate the capital Algiers), fighting a battle of wits against French Colonel Philippe Mathieu (Jean Martin).

35. The Dirty Dozen (1967)

“It’s judgment day, sinners!”

Archer Maggott

Genre: war

Director: Robert Aldrich

Screenwriters: Nunnally Johnson, Lukas Heller

Starring: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, John Cassavetes

Description: Toward the end of World War Two, Major John Reisman (Lee Marvin) is given the impossible mission of training a group of Army prisoners into top commandos to attack a castle in France where the German brass is headquartered. He assembles a motley group, including the gangster Victor R. Franko (John Cassavetes) and Robert T. Jefferson (Jim Brown), who must learn to work together before they can carry out the mission.

36. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

“Everything happens in Threes.”

General Kuribayashi

Genre: war

Director: Clint Eastwood

Screenwriter: Iris Yamashita

Starring: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara

Description: On the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iwo Jima, General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) attempts to prepare the island defenses while fighting his subordinate officers and their traditional ideas about honor. Meanwhile, disillusioned Private Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya) is just looking for a way to survive a war he no longer believes in.

37. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

“When it comes to dying for country, it’s better not to die at all.”

Paul Baumer

Genre: war epic, anti-war movie

Director: Lewis Milestone

Screenwriters: Maxwell Anderson, George Abbott, Del Andrews, C. Gardner Sullivan

Starring: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim

Description: After an impassioned speech by their school teacher, teenager Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres) and all his classmates join the German army in World War One. However, their lofty ideals about war are quickly shattered when they reach the trenches. Paul makes it through with the help of veteran soldier Kat (Louis Wolheim), but can the two survive the crushing machine of trench warfare?

This is almost more of an anti-war movie than a war movie.

38. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

“We ain’t in the prison-takin’ business; we’re in the killin’ Nazi business.”

Lt. Aldo Raine

Genre: war

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Screenwriter: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender

Description: A young movie theater owner hiding her Jewish identity, Shoshanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), is planning an assassination plot to kill top Nazi officers in Nazi-occupied France, including Hitler and Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), who killed her family. Separately, a group of Jewish-American soldiers that strike fear into Nazi hearts, led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), are also planning an assassination attempt.

39. Das Boot (1981)

“The only thing I feel is afraid.”

Lt. Werner

Genre: war

Director: Wolfgang Petersen

Screenwriter: Wolfgang Petersen

Starring: Jurgen Prochnow, Herbert Gronemeyer, Klaus Wennemann

Description: The war correspondent Lt. Werner (Herbert Gronemeyer) joins the crew of a German submarine U-boat to get pictures of their exploits. However, the crew, led by Kapitanleutnant (Jurgen Prochnow), quickly teaches Werner about the realities of life at war as they fight for survival at sea and see the difference between their living standards and that of higher-ranking Nazi brass.

One of the classic submarine movies you need to watch.

40. The Burmese Harp (1956)

“Why must the world suffer such misery?”

Captain Inouye

Genre: drama

Director: Kon Ichikawa

Screenwriter: Natto Wada

Starring: Rentaro Mikuni, Shoji Yasui, Jun Hamamura

Description: An exhausted group of soldiers led by Captain Inouye (Rentaro Mikuni) is almost relieved to find out they must surrender to the British army in Burma because the war is over. One of the soldiers, Private Mitzushima (Shoji Yasui), is tasked by the British to convince the remaining platoons to surrender. Still, his goals change when he is separated from his platoon and realizes the full extent of the war’s destruction for the first time.

41. Casablanca (1942)

“We’ll always have Paris.”


Genre: romantic drama

Director: Michael Curtiz

Screenwriters: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid

Description: During World War II, American Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) owned a club in Casablanca that attracted everyone from Vichy French officers to European refugees. At the same time, he stubbornly maintains his neutrality, even when he comes into possession of precious letters of transit. However, Rick’s life is complicated when his former lover, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), walks into his club with her husband, desperate for a way out of Casablanca.

It’s a classic and one every filmmaker in spe needs to study.

42. Grand Illusion (1938)

“Frontiers are an invention of men. Nature doesn’t give a hoot.”


Genre: war

Director: Jean Renoir

Screenwriters: Jean Renoir, Charles Spaak

Starring: Jean Gabin, Dita Parlo, Pierre Fresnay

Description: Two French pilots, wealthy de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay) and working-class Lieutenant Marechal (Jean Gabin), are captured by German forces during World War One. During their time at the POW camp, they undertake a series of absurd experiences as they try to escape, exposing the futility of war.

43. Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

“Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines.”

Gen. “Buck” Turgidson

Genre: black comedy

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Screenwriters: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, Peter George

Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden

Description: During the tense Cold War, General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) ordered an attack with H-bombs on the Soviet Union against the orders of his commander. As time is ticking, President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) and other army brass try to stop nuclear armageddon, especially once they learn that the Soviets have a doomsday machine that could kill all life on Earth.

Another classic must-watch. It’s also in the top 10 in my end-of-the-world movies curated list.

44. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

“You’re the most extraordinary man I’ve ever met.”

Gen. Allenby

Genre: epic drama

Director: David Lean

Screenwriters: Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson

Starring: Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness

Description: A rebellious British Army Lieutenant, T. E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole), plagues his commanders in World War One with insubordination. They send him to Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness), a British ally in the Middle East, to provide advice. Lawrence winds up joining the Arab rebellion against the Ottoman Empire and fighting alongside new friends, including Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif).

45. War Horse (2011)

“Maybe there are different ways to be brave.”


Genre: war

Director: Steven Spielberg

Screenwriters: Lee Hall, Richard Curtis

Starring: Emily Watson, Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan

Description: When his father buys an Irish Hunter horse, young Albert (Jeremy Irvine) forms an unbreakable bond with the horse. However, when the farm fails on the eve of World War One, Father (Peter Mullan) must sell the boy to the British Army. Across a war-ravaged Europe where horses and men are just pawns in the eyes of superiors, horse and boy try to find their way back to each other.

46. Eye in the Sky (2015)

“Don’t ever tell a soldier that he doesn’t know the cost of war.”

Lt. Gen. Frank Benson

Genre: thriller

Director: Gavin Hood

Screenwriter: Guy Hibbert

Starring: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman

Description: British colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is in charge of a mission to capture high-profile leaders of the militia group Al-Shabaab using a combination of aerial surveillance, drones, and crews on the ground. However, the mission is complicated by the presence of civilians, including children, which creates an ethical dilemma for Powell and fellow soldier, Lt. General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman).

47. Zero Dark Thirty (2013)

“I’m gonna smoke everybody involved in this op and then I’m gonna kill bin Laden.”


Genre: thriller

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Screenwriter: Mark Boal

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton

Description: CIA analyst Maya (Jessica Chastain) is in charge of the mission to find Osama Bin Laden. Along with CIA officer Dan Fuller (Jason Clarke), she unravels a complicated intelligence network. She leads to try and catch the terrorist leader, all while navigating the complicated ethical implications of the CIA’s interrogation methods.

48. Spartacus (1960)

“But I do know that, as long as we live, we must remain true to ourselves.”


Genre: historical epic

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Screenwriter: Dalton Trumbo

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons

Description: The proud slave Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) is purchased by a gladiatorial school owner, where he is further humiliated. When would-be dictator Crassus (Laurence Olivier) orders Spartacus to fight to the death with other gladiators, they escape and begin a slave revolt that threatens to shake the decadent Roman republic, with the beautiful Varinia (Jean Simmons) by his side.

49. Son of Saul (2015)

“We are dead already.”

Saul Auslander

Genre: drama

Director: Laszlo Nemes

Screenwriters: Laszlo Nemes, Clara Royer

Starring: Geza Rohrig, Levente Molnar, Urs Rechn

Description: Saul Auslander (Geza Rohrig) is shaken out of his numbness as a Sonderkommando in Auschwitz when he sees a boy die and wants to create a proper Jewish burial for him. On his quest, Saul unintentionally falls into a plot organized by another Sonderkommando, Abraham (Levente Molnar), who wants to escape the camp and take evidence of the atrocities with them.

50. Waltz With Bashir (2008)

“Pray and shoot.”

Ari Folman

Genre: animated war

Director: Ari Folman

Screenwriter: Ari Folman

Starring: Ari Folman, Miki Leon, Ori Sivan

Description: Two older men, Ari (Ari Folman) and Boaz (Miki Leon) meet up and share the nightmares they’ve been having about their time as teenage soldiers during the IDF invasion of Lebanon. As Folman realizes that his memories are incomplete, he is advised by a therapist to continue meeting with others who were in Lebanon to try and reconstruct his role in the war, including the infamous Sabra and Shatila massacre.

51. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

“This time you’re fighting for your very existence against the most devilish idea ever created by a human brain: Nazism.”

Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff

Genre: war drama

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Screenwriters: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Starring: Roger Livesey, Anton Walbrook, Deborah Kerr

Description: Home Guard commander Clive Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey) helps the British war effort in World War Two. Through a series of flashbacks, the causes of the war are outlined as Candy witnesses the rise in nationalism, World War One, and the deteriorating conditions in Germany during the interwar years.

52. Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

“If a well is really deep, you can see a star down there even in the middle of a sunny day.”

Ivan’s Mother

Genre: war drama

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

Screenwriters: Vladimir Bogomolov, Andrei Konchalovsky, Mikhail Papava

Starring: Nikolai Burlyayev, Valentin Zubkov, Evgeny Zharikov

Description: Young Ivan Bondarev (Nikolai Burlyayev) grows up on the Soviet front during World War Two. After his family is killed by invading Germans, determined Ivan becomes part of the partisans, then the Russian army where the soldiers, including Lieutenant Galtsev (Evgeny Zharikov) grow fond of the boy.

53. M*A*S*H (1970)

“I’m kind of partial to blonde myself.”


Genre: black comedy

Director: Robert Altman

Screenwriter: Ring Lardner Jr.

Starring: Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt

Description: Two new surgeons, Hawkeye (Donald Sutherland) and Duke (Tom Skerritt), join a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. Their womanizing, rule-breaking ways bring them into conflict with the Army brass.

54. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

“With the world set on tearing itself apart, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to me to want to put a little bit of it back together.”

Desmond Doss

Genre: biographical war

Director: Mel Gibson

Screenwriters: Andrew Knight, Robert Schenkkan

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey

Description: Young Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a religious Seventh-Day Adventist, joins the U.S. Army as a combat medic during World War Two despite his strict beliefs against killing. His refusal to kill or even handle a rifle attracts the ire of other soldiers, including Captain Glover (Sam Worthington).

55. Doctor Zhivago (1965)

“Do people improve with age?”

Pasha Strelnikov

Genre: drama

Director: David Lean

Screenwriter: Robert Bolt

Starring: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin

Description: Young Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif), taken in by the Gromeko family after he was orphaned, serves as an army doctor for the Russian army during World War One. After the Soviets overthrow the monarchy, Zhivago goes into hiding because his poetry is deemed subversive. However, his escape is complicated by his passions for his wife Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin) and Lara (Julie Christie), who is married to a Bolshevik.

56. The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2007)

“Strange creatures we are, even to ourselves.”


Genre: war drama

Director: Ken Loach

Screenwriter: Paul Laverty

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Liam Cunningham, Padraic Delaney

Description: During the Irish War of Independence, young Damien O’Donovan (Cillian Murphy) decides not to go to London to study as a doctor and joins the IRA with his brother Teddy (Padraic Delaney). Along with committed socialist Dan (Liam Cunningham), Damien’s commitment to an independent Ireland is shaken as he witnesses the brutality of war that threatens to turn brother against brother.

57. Alexandra (2007)

“Strength doesn’t lie in guns and one’s hands.”

Alexandra Nikolaevna

Genre: war

Director: Aleksandr Sokurov

Screenwriter: Aleksandr Sokurov

Starring: Galina Vishnevskaya, Vasily Shevtsov

Description: Alexandra Nikolaevna (Galina Vishnevskaya), an old Russian woman, travels through no man’s land to visit her grandson, Denis (Vasily Shevtsov), on the frontlines of the Chechen War. The gentle, upbeat Alexandra livens the spirits of the soldiers. The unstoppable Alexandra also befriends local Chechen civilians and gets to know the cost of war from all sides.

58. Braveheart (1995)

“Your heart is free. Learn to follow it.”

William Wallace

Genre: historical war

Director: Mel Gibson

Screenwriter: Randall Wallace

Starring: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan

Description: Young William Wallace (Mel Gibson), upon his return to occupied Scotland, leads a rebellion against the English occupiers following the murder of his wife. Wily King Edward Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan) is not about to let go of his new territory without a start, and Wallace must rally the squabbling Scottish forces to save his home.

I think it’s one of Mel Gibson’s best movies, although I didn’t have the stomach (pun intended) to watch it more than two times.

59. Jojo Rabbit (2019)

“We’re like you, but human.”


Genre: Comedy-drama

Director: Taika Waititi

Screenwriter: Taika Waititi

Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson

Description: Toward the end of World War Two, young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) becomes completely indoctrinated by the Hitler Youth to the point that he views Hitler (Taika Waititi) as his imaginary friend. However, his black-and-white worldview is challenged when he finds out that his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.

It’s a fresh take on the WWII war genre, and I must admit I was surprised at how well it worked.

60. Come and See (1985)

“To love…to have children…”


Genre: war

Director: Elem Klimov

Screenwriters: Elem Klimov, Ales Adamovich

Starring: Aleksei Kravchenko, Olga Mironova

Description: Young Belarusian teenager Flyora (Aleksei Kravchenko) is desperate to join the partisans after the Nazis occupy his home. However, his idealism and belief in the fight are shattered as he does not achieve the results he wanted with his partisans and when he witnesses the brutality of Nazi retaliation.


It was hard to come up with this list because there are so many good war movies! And ranking them was even harder!

Some war movies feature great action scenes, some are more psychologically interesting, and some are interesting because they realistically portray the horrors of war.

But these are some of the best war movies ever made.

Do you agree with this list? Am I missing any important ones? What are your top 10 best war movies of all time?

Let me know in the comments below.


  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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