For Memorial Day Weekend, I thought I’d post my favorite USA war films. They are not in any particular order. They are just films that helped me to appreciate the complexities of the wars that we, as Americans, have faced. Each film I have picked has been respectful and shown appreciation for our fighting men and women.
The Patriot- This film, starring Mel Gibson and the late Heath Ledger, was the first rated R movie I ever saw. My dad’s reasons were: 1. it didn’t glorify war and 2. it helped me understand the sacrifices our Founding Fathers made.
The Alamo (1960)- John Wayne directs and stars in this movie as Davy Crockett. Crockett joins the small band of militiamen who stood up to their enemy Santa Anna. While the movie uses a lot of folklore surrounding the battle, it paints a true picture of the realities of the war.
The Alamo (2004)- Director John Lee Hancock brings us a less fictionalized version of the Battle of the Alamo, but it still shows the bravery of the men and the women who were being attacked for that epic thirteen days.
Gods and Generals- This film focuses on the first few years of the Civil War, and is one of the few not to vilify the South. Instead, it shows the men of both sides as honorable soldiers, who thought they were doing the right thing for their nation.
Gettysburg- The film tells the story of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. As General Robert E. Lee tries to bring the war to a close, the Union soldiers are no less determined in their fight to defend the unity of the United States.
Rio Lobo- John Wayne stars in this film about a post-Civil War America. John Wayne plays a Union officer who is convinced that there was a traitor in his ranks. He befriends two Johnny Rebs to help him find the traitor during post-Civil War Reconstruction.
Rio Grande- The film stars John Wayne as a Calvary officer who is ordered to go to war with the Apache. As the battles continue to get more and more violent, he is faced with a possible court-martial in the wake of the war.
The African Queen- Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn play a couple using a supply boat to sink a German warship Queen Louisa at the beginning of World War I. It has gone down in history and has even been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
Kelly’s Heroes- This is a wartime comedy starring Clint Eastwood, who plays an officer leading an AWOL group of soldiers searching for gold that is being held behind enemy lines in Nazi-controlled France.
Saving Private Ryan- Steven Spielberg’s epic adventure with an all-star cast will forever go down in history in reminding us that World War 2 was won thanks to the courage of our brave soldiers.
Captain America: The First Avenger- The World War 2 film is based on the Marvel Comics story of the same name. This film captures the evil essence that we were up against, with HYDRA and its leader Red Skull faces off against Captain America, the symbol of the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.
In Harm’s Way- This is the last World War II film to be filmed in Black-and-White. It is director’s Otto Preminger’s retelling of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor starring John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, and Patricia Neal.
Where Eagles Dare- This film tells the story of a fictional espionage operation to capture a Nazi general from a secret Alpine fortress. It stars veteran actors Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton and is directed by Brian G. Hutton.
The Longest Day- This film featured an all-star cast. It showed the perspectives of the Nazis, the British, and the Americans as they invaded Normandy along with the politics and the complexity of the plan to invade the beachfront and the immediate aftermath.
Firefox- Clint Eastwood stars in this Cold War thriller about a pilot struggling with PTSD after the Vietnam War. He is sent on a mission to steal a Soviet stealth plane. While fictional, it showed the struggles of soldiers after the war.
The Green Berets- It was heavily criticized when it came out, and to this day is still criticized, but it should our troops and the troops of the South Vietnamese as honorable men fighting a war against the tyrannical Viet Cong. It was a great tribute to our fighting men and women.
Missing in Action 2: The Beginning- Chuck Norris stars as Braddock a US soldier captured during the Vietnam War. As he and his fellow captured soldiers struggle to survive, they also try to keep the hope alive that they will be found.
We Were Soldiers– Mel Gibson and Sam Elliott lead a great cast about the early days of the Vietnam War and the Battle of Ia Drang Valley. As the soldiers fight a war overseas, their wives fight another war at home, holding onto hope.
The Delta Force- Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin star in this fictional retelling about a Delta Force rescue operation involving Islamic terrorists hijacking a civilian plane and taking all the Jewish men as hostages.
The Kingdom- This story is set during the Afghan War, but uses a fictional bombing of a US-Saudi Oil Reserve as the actual story, following a team of FBI Agents going in to find and destroy the terrorists responsible.
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This article has been updated from a previous version.