Ten war movies any military history buff will enjoy
I love history, especially military history and I enjoy watching movies.
While driving home from San Antonio Saturday evening I was listening to a talk show and the subject of the best war movies of all time came up and I started thinking about what would make my list.
I’ve heard people love lists, so with another Memorial Day behind us, I thought I’d make a list of my favorite 10 movies with a few caveats.
First, they have to be movies. No made for TV series. (Sorry “Band of Brothers” and another of my favorites “The Rough Riders”) and only movies where the United States military are involved (That leaves either Alamo movies out, plus so many more).
I’m listing the movies by order of when the movie occurred in history.
“Fort Apache” – What could be better than John Ford directing the likes of John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and John Agar plus an all grown up Shirley Temple? It’s the first installment in Ford’s “cavalry trilogy.” The other movies in the trilogy were “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” and “Rio Grande”
“55 Days at Peking” – Charlton Heston plays Major Matt Lewis in Marines China. It’s based loosely on the siege of the Peking Legation compound during the Boxer Rebellion. David Niven plays Sir Claude McDonald, the British Ambassador, who actually led the defense of the compound. And Heston has a love interest in Ava Gardner, a Russian Baroness.
“Sgt. York” – Gary Copper portrays Alvin York, the story of most decorated U.S. soldier during World War One. York entered the army as a conscientious objector because his religion was against violence. But when he saw his comrades being killed and wounded he acted to stop the killing and a hero was born.
“The Sand Pebbles” – Serving on the gunboat the San Pablo in 1920’s China, Machinist Mate Jake Holman (Steve McQueen) has his struggles and triumphs. What a great cast including Candice Bergen, Richard Attenborough, and Richard Crenna. The battle at boom on the lake is one of my favorite scenes.
“The Story of Dr. Wassell” – This time Gary Cooper plays real-life hero Dr. Cordon M. Wassell a country doctor from Arkansas. Wassell finds himself on Java following Pearl Harbor trying to keep injured sailors from falling into the hands of the Japanese. If you have never seen this movie you should see it.
“They Were Expendable” – Easily my favorite World War II movie. Robert Montgomery and John Wayne portray naval officers in a PT-Boat squadron fighting a losing battle during the fall of the Philippines. The movie is based on a true story and is so poignant and heart-wrenching as the realization hits everyone that the Philippines are lost.
“So Proudly We Hail” – Based on the true story is army nurses on Bataan and then Corregidor during the fall of the Philippines. The nurses were known as the “Angels on Bataan.” This one stars Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard, and Veronica Lake. Considering the main cast, yes there are several love stories involved. This is another must see if you have never seen it.
“Midway” – A true epic cast including Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, Hal Holbrook and many more bring to life the amazing story of the Navy’s victory over a larger Japanese force near Midway Island. The battle was the turning point in the war. My favorite character Commander Joe Rochefort (Hal Holbrook). It was his men who broke the Japanese navy’s code and allowed the U.S. Forces, with some luck, to ambush the Japanese forces.
“Battleground” – The story of the siege of Bastogne as seen through the eyes of members of the third squad of the 327th Glider Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. The movie stars Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Ricardo Montalban and George Murphy. It premiered in 1949, it was a smash hit and is considered the first significant American film about World War II to be made and released after the end of the war.
“Pork Chop Hill” – My favorite non-World War II movie. Pork Chop Hill stars Gregory Peck as an Army Lieutenant who is ordered to retake Pork Chop Hill during the Korean War. The tale is based on the real battle of Pork Chop Hill just months before the conflict ended on July 27, 1953. The battle becomes a test of will between the Chinese and North Korean forces and the U.S. forces for an insignificant hill.
That’s my list. I hope you enjoyed a look into my insight into war movies.
Ricky Moore is a sports editor for the Burleson Star and actually took several courses various film genres while at TCU.