A powerful narrative will always dominate the action sequences in a war film and make it truly influential. Check out the most famous and greatest war films ever made that have epic storylines.
In war films, action sequences are dominant over the narrative generally but it’s quite the reverse case for an influential experience. Their depiction of courage, friendship, and adventure speak to our hardwired sense of escapes and extreme thrills.
Don’t we all agree that a brilliant, moving war film is one to be lauded about uncontrollably? So here are some of the most famous war movies with an epic storyline.
Apocalypse Now is a 1979 epic war film in which Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) sets on a perilous mission to discover and assassinate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who was a promising officer once and has allegedly gone insane.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a score of 98% based on 79 reviews with the “Certified Fresh” tag. The average critic's rating of the movie is 8.9/10. Its consensus states,
"Francis Ford Coppola's haunting, hallucinatory Vietnam War epic is cinema at its most audacious and visionary".
Also, the film got 8 nominations in the Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay, and won the award for Best Sound & Best Cinematography.
Platoon is a 1986 anti-war film that is based on the director Oliver Stone’s experiences as a US infantryman in Vietnam War. In the movie, Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) drops out of his university studies and gets enlisted in combat duty in Vietnam in 1967.
His idealism dies out once he’s on the ground in the middle of battle. The infighting in his unit between Staff Sergeant Robert Barnes (Tom Berenger) and Staff Sergeant Gordon Elias (Willem Dafoe), who have a conflicting view of the locals, leads the soldiers to be pitted against each other and the enemy.
Platoon was nominated in 7 categories for Academy Award including Best Original Screenplay and won the award for the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has an approval rating of 88% based on 60 reviews and has an average rating of 8.1/10. It has received “universal acclaim” with a score of 86/100. (6.1)
The most recent war film ‘Dunkirk’ portrays the true story of the Dunkirk evacuations from a war-stricken beach and harbor in Belgium that happened during World War II. It was in May 1940 when Germany made its way into France and trapped the allied troops. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, the troops were gradually and systematically evacuated with the help of a functional naval and civilian vessel. This heroic mission safely evacuates 330,000 French, British and Dutch soldiers.
The movie’s screenplay, cinematography, and direction garnered much acclaim. Some of the critics regard it as one of the best war films ever made. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has an approval rating of 92% based on 354 reviews and an average rating of 8.6/10. The film has received “universal acclaim” with a weighted average score of 94/100 based on 52 critics on Metacritic.
Twelve O’Clock is a 1949 American war film in which a tough, no-nonsense Brigadier General Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) aircrews takes the command of a bomber unit and involves its aircrews into daylight bombing missions against Nazi Germany and occupied France.
On Rotten Tomatoes, it has an approval rating of 96%. The movie was nominated for 4 Academy Awards, of which it won two: Best Actor in Supporting Role and Best Sound Recording.
The Deer Hunter is a 1978 American epic war drama film about three Russian American steelworkers Steven (John Savage), Michael (Robert De Niro), and Nick (Christopher Walken) who get enlisted in the army to fight the US-Vietnam war and are later imprisoned by enemy forces. They escape but they’re again separated and captured. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 93% approval rating based on 48 reviews. (6.2)
Schindler's List is a 1993 historical epic film with WWII in the backdrop. In the movie, the businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) comes to Krakow in 1939 to make fortune out of World War II, which has just begun. Post joining the Nazi party mainly for political expediency, he hires Jewish workers in his factory for similarly practical reasons. When the Jews are exterminated in the Krakow ghetto, Schindler makes arrangements for workers’ protection to keep his factory in operation and also has a realization that he is also saving innocent lives by doing so.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film got an approval rating of 96% based on 85 reviews. Out of 12 nominations in Academy Awards, it won 7 awards including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Cinematography.
Based on a WWII memoir of Polish-Jewish pianist and composer Władysław Szpilman, The Pianist is a 2002 movie about this acclaimed musician who encounters several struggles as he loses contact with his family. When the situation aggravates, he hides in Warsaw’s ruins for survival.
The movie has a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has an average rating of 8.2/10. It was nominated in 7 categories in Academy Awards including Best Picture and won the award for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor. (6.3)
Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 epic war drama film in which Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) takes his men behind enemy lines to discover Private James Ryan whose has lost his three brothers in the war. Surrounded by the harsh realities of war, each of them sets on a personal journey and discovers their own strength to win over an uncertain future with honor, modesty, and courage.
The movie has a 92% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Bagging 11 Academy Award nominations, it won an award for 5 including Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing.
The Bridge On The River Kwai is a 1957 British-American epic war film in which Colonel Nicholson reluctantly agrees on building a railway bridge as suggested by the camp commander. However, this project turns into an obsession for him.
On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 94% approval rating. The movie won Academy Awards for 7 out of 8 nominations including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing.
The Great Escape is a 1963 American World War II epic film that is based on one of the famous prison escapes made by British Commonwealth prisoners of war from a German POW camp at the time of WWII.
The film even got nominated for Academy Award for Best Film Editing. It received a great critical and public response with a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In 1963, New York Times critic Bosley Crowther stated,
"But for much longer than is artful or essential, The Great Escape grinds out its tormenting story without a peek beneath the surface of any man, without a real sense of human involvement. It's a strictly mechanical adventure with make-believe men." (6.4)
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