10. M*A*S*H* (1970)
Yeah, war is tragic and violent and a bit of a downer, but what if the best way to cope is enjoy a bit of prankster-fun? For hedonistic Mobile Army Surgical Hospital surgeons Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John, the only way they can maintain their sanity when bombarded with the carnage of the Korean War on a daily basis is by raising hell. By exploiting a medical trip to Japan to play gold and finding blasphemous ways of curing erectile dysfunction, M*A*S*H*'s dark humour didn’t detract from the chaos surrounding them, but served as a wry affront to the US's war campaign in Vietnam at the time of the movie's release. The natural, improvisational acting of the ensemble cast also became a trademark on which maverick director Robert Altman built his reputation.
9. All Quiet in the Western Front (1930)
Long before peace signs and flower power became fashionable in the late '60s, the ravages of armed conflict on the young psyche was highlighted in this heart-breaking account of innocence lost. A group of young, impressionable German students are tempted by the prospect of becoming men on the frontlines of World War I. But soon such fanciful notions of heroism are engulfed by absolute horror in the trenches, as shown in the pivotal scene, where the green Paul Bäumer is faced with the terrible implications of his actions and his own humanity after he mortally wounds a French soldier. One of the first movies to strip war of its macho-heroic image and bring the unimaginable tragedy of the soldiers' experience to the fore.
8. Apocalypse Now (1979)
Inspired by the 1902 novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Apocalypse Now is an unsettling and opaque epic that continues to polarise audiences. We follow the world-weary Captain Willard on his mission to "terminate with extreme prejudice" the renegade Colonel Kurtz who has set up his own army in the Cambodian jungle. As Willard ventures further into the unknown, he begins to see more himself in the man he has been sent to kill. Grand, to the point of being almost operatic in tone, Apocalypse Now doesn't aim for realism. Instead it uses the context of the Vietnam War to strip bare the dark, primal heart of human nature. The movie is also infamous for being its exhaustive length (202 minutes in the re-released "Redux" version, versus the 153-minute original cut) which led some critics to label director Francis Ford Coppola's opus "pretentious".
7. Band of Brothers (2001)
While not a feature movie, this 10-part mini-series told the true story of 'E' Easy Company, from the start of their military training in 1942 to the end of World War II. The ambitious production employed elements of documentary filmmaking. For example, each episode included oral accounts from the men depicted, and in turn the series paid tribute to the fearless men who liberated concentration camps and fought from behind enemy lines on D-Day. The stunning photography and gut-wrenching scenes of massacres, marauding and mania showed the horrible reality of combat in full colour. Band of Brothers was co-produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, after the success of their previous collaboration on Saving Private Ryan.
6. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Famous for that opening 20-minute sequence of the Allied invasion on the Normandy beach in 1944, Saving Private Ryan portrayed war as one, long and intense video game, with bombs and machine guns going off all over the place, and tried to restore a semblance of honour and reverence for the armed forces, after a long tradition of anti-war movies in the aftermath of Vietnam. Since it's directed by Steven Spielberg, it features an all-star cast (yes, Vin Diesel's in there too) and doesn’t hold anything back in the gruelling and visceral action sequences. A standard-bearer in the modern era of war movie-making.
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