There are so many factors that make a military movie great, and I think one of them is your own perspective of the military and the subject covered. What my husband this is a great military flick is vastly different from my opinion. But, there are a few military movies that I will watch over and over again whenever they happen to be on. With that, I present my list of my favorite military movies:
1. We Were Soldiers – This movie makes my list for a few reasons. To me, it captures the heart wrenching emotions involved with sending your husband to a war in an unknown land and truly not knowing if he was going to make it back alive or not. The simultaneous dramatizations of Mel Gibson on the the battle field in Vietnam and the turmoil Madeline Stowe and the other families back home endure makes this flick well rounded in its focus on the story of one man, the unit he commands, and his family.
2. Full Metal Jacket– The classic film follows a group of recruits learning to become Marines in boot camp. Knowing they’ll be subsequently deployed to Vietnam makes Gunny Hartman’s job as their drill instructor all the more important. With great one-liners that have gone down as Marine Corps lore (just try yelling, “a jelly donut” in that tone in a room of Marines) this movie does an exceptional job (according to my husband) of highlighting the psychology of basic training and unit cohesion, set in the back drop of the Vietnam war, and made R. Lee Ermey a legend within the USMC.
3. The Lucky Ones – This little known movie released in 2008 is the best movie I’ve seen about the coming home and deployment aspects of the war in Iraq and the bond all service members have with each other, especially ones who’ve served in the same combat zone. Starring Tim Robbins, Rachel McAdams, and Michael Peña, the movie details the paths of 3 soldiers returning to the U.S. for various reasons and initially they don’t seem to have much in common other than being soldiers. Full of thoughtful insight into the coming home experience and, how after a while, soldiers may be more comfortable with each other because they’re understood and how it’s possible to feel like they belong “over there” where life is pretty straight forward, more simple, and things make sense.
4. The Great Santini – Ok, sports fans, this movie harkens back to the old school days of military families. The images portrayed in this film reflect past stereotypes about military men and their families. Robert Duvall’s character, aka The Great Santini, is a chauvinist (but what man wasn’t a chauvinist during this time) drunk Marine colonel, father, and husband. He is abusive at times, but that was tolerated too. I enjoy this film because it highlights the bond the military family forms within itself. When you’re moving from one duty station to another, brothers and sisters lean on each other and I think become closer because of it. It demonstrates the role the military wife plays in keeping the family together through tough times and in good times.
5. Saving Private Ryan – Do I really have to explain this one?
Top Gun – A young sexy Tom Cruise, one liners that have become a part of our common vernacular, and all those egos blasted on the screen – what’s not to love? I’m personally not partial to pilots and the aviation glam so this one gets an honorable mention from me since it’s more about the fragile egos and bravado displayed by this Top Gun class. I personally get more ramped up by rifles and patrols, and boots on the ground images. Still, for reasons listed above (young Tom, great lines, on-screen swagger), I do love this movie.
A Few Good Men – Interesting contrast of men and women who wear the uniform and serve their country, but in vastly different capacities. Plus, more awesome one liners.
Heartbreak Ridge – Not that well made, but again shows why and how unit cohesion happens. Besides, parts of it were filmed in Puerto Rico (so I’m partial just because of that) and what Marine or Marine wife doesn’t know a real-life salty dog like Ol’ Gunny Highway. Can you say “old Corps?”
So this is it – MY list of my favorite military movies. Do you agree, disagree? There are many out there that didn’t make my list, mostly because I haven’t seen them or I just didn’t think they were that great.
Tell me in the comments below where I got it wrong and what I got right, and tell me what movies would appear on your top 5 list.