Combat on the Screen and on the Page

The other day, a friend asked me what war movies I thought had the most realistic depictions of war and combat. Obviously, no movie is ever going to get war “right.” And anyways how do you define “accurate” for something as huge and complicated as war? Individuals experiences can be wildly different, and their memories of war change over time too so depending on when you ask someone about their experiences in war, you’ll probably get a very different answer. Memory and experience are really interesting topics, but I’ll have to save that for another day.

Anyways, since today is Memorial Day, I figured it couldn’t hurt to post my list online as a helpful resource for anyone looking to watch films and TV shows that I think do a better job than most depicting warfare and the experience of soldiers in major American wars. All photos are taken from Google Image searches of the films. Oh, and nothing here is in any particular order.


Revolutionary War

The Crossing (2000)

Turn (2014)

Civil War

ken burns civil war

Glory (1989)

Cold Mountain (2003)

-Ken Burn’s “The Civil War” (1990)

World War I

Gallipoli (1981)

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

World War II

Band of Brothers (2001)cross of iron

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

The Thin Red Line (1998)

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)

Battle of Britain (1969)

Cross of Iron  (1977)

Stalingrad (1993)

Vietnamplatoon poster

We Were Soldiers (2002)

Platoon (1986)

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

M*A*S*H* (1972-1983) (The 70 movie is good too but I like the TV show best!)


As a bonus, here are a few American wars books that I really like. Books are usually better than movies!

1776 by David MuCollough, 2005the good war

We Were Soldiers Once…and Young by Hal Moore and Joseph Galloway, 1992

Ordinary Courage: The Revolutionary War Adventures of Joseph Plumb Martin, edited by James Martin, 2012

The “Good” War by Studs Terkel, 1984.

Imperial Grunts by Robert Kaplan, 2005

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, 1895 Red Badge of Courage

American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People by T.H. Breen, 2011

Medal of Honor Heroes by Colonel Red Reeder, 1965





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