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15 Best War Movies On HBO Max

Among the major streaming services, HBO Max has the best selection of classic movies, bar none. It's not even close. And a good number of those classic films are war movies. There are great war films on the service dating back to the early years of cinema –- films that are still moving today, from cynical comedies to the Italian neorealist masterpieces of the postwar era.

Of course, not all of the great war films on HBO Max are old. Some of them are quite recent. And they run the gamut from comedy to tragedy, from rah-rah patriotic action to somber meditations on how war is hell. Whatever kind of war movie you're looking for on HBO Max, you'll find it on this list.

Updated on December 29, 2021: HBO Max's catalogue of war films is constantly changing. So be sure to check back here each month to find out what thrilling combat films are waiting for you on the streaming service.

12 Strong

Casting the guy who plays the mighty Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a character based on a real-life war hero was a savvy and thoughtful move by the filmmakers of "12 Strong." It invites the viewer into a realistic and often unsettling film about the long, difficult, and bloody War in Afghanistan. Based on Doug Stanton's "Horse Soldiers," "12 Strong" is set in the early days of the war, just after the September 11 attacks prompted military action. Chris Hemsworth plays Mitch Nelson, a U.S. Army captain and leader of an elite Green Beret unit that faces hostility and bloodshed when they attempt to take on the Taliban in the north of Afghanistan.

  • Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña
  • Director: Nicolai Fuglsig
  • Year: 2018
  • Runtime: 130 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%

The Battle of Algiers

This incredibly influential 1966 film dramatizes the Algerian War of the '50s and '60s, when insurgent guerillas in the North African nation of Algeria battled the occupying French government forces. It's shot in an impartial, you-are-there newsreel style and uses nonprofessional actors, many of whom actually fought in the conflict. As a result, it feels incredibly authentic. 

It's been said that armed anticolonial groups like the Black Panthers and the Irish Republican Army drew inspiration from the urban guerilla tactics depicted in the film, and the Pentagon screened it in 2003 to draw lessons on counterterrorism tactics in Iraq. But even without that historical context, as a film, it's an extraordinary piece that still stands on its own, 55 years of imitations later. 

  • Starring: Jean Martin, Yacef Saad, Brahim Haggiag
  • Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
  • Year: 1966
  • Runtime: 121 minutes
  • Rating: TV-14
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%

Black Hawk Down

"Black Hawk Down" is a kinetic war action film about the U.S. Army's disastrous engagement in Somalia in 1993. It follows a sprawling cast of Army Rangers and Delta Force operators who go out on a mission to capture a warlord. When one of the soldiers falls from his helicopter, all hell breaks loose, and another chopper gets shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade. So the operation becomes a rescue mission and a survival situation as the soldiers try to fight their way out of the hostile streets of Mogadishu. It's a highly stylized and relentlessly intense (if culturally insensitive) tribute to the troops that won two Oscars, for Best Film Editing and Best Sound.

  • Starring: Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Year: 2001
  • Runtime: 144 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%


Christopher Nolan's technically astounding World War II epic has to be the most temporally unique war film ever made, with its three stories from the Battle of Dunkirk told over the course of a week (on the beach), a day (on the water), and an hour (in the air). It's about the evacuation of British soldiers from a beach in the north of France as the country falls to Nazi invaders in 1940. It's a rare war movie about a loss, but it's an inspiring story nonetheless because the film is about how it's important to maintain perseverance and heroism even in defeat. After all, the tide may turn in the future. The film won three Oscars, for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Film Editing.

Empire of the Sun

Years before he was Batman, 13-year-old Christian Bale successfully anchored "Empire of the Sun," an epic and affecting World War II drama adapted from celebrated writer J.G. Ballard's semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. Bale plays Jamie, a wealthy British schoolboy ensconced within Shanghai. The arrival of Japanese forces upends Jamie's life, sending him on a journey through heartbreak, loss, and hardship. Telling the story of this seldom-covered theater of war through Jamie's eyes brings new insight to an old genre. From being separated from his parents to his forced inclusion in a prison camp, Jamie's story isn't that of your typical war hero, but it's one you'll never forget.

Full Metal Jacket

A strong contender for the title of "best movie about the Vietnam War ever made," this dark epic from legendary director Stanley Kubrick follows soldier J.T. "Joker" Davis from basic training — in which his unit is terrorized by an abusive drill sergeant, especially ill-fated private Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence — to his service tour as a military journalist in 1968 during the brutal Tet Offensive. The boot camp-set first half is more focused than the elliptical Vietnam-set second half, but both are horrifying and mesmerizing.

  • Starring: Matthew Modine, R. Lee Ermey, Vincent D'Onofrio
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 116 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Hacksaw Ridge

This World War II drama tells the incredible true story of Desmond Doss, an Army medic who received the Medal of Honor despite being a pacifist. 

Doss, played by Andrew Garfield, was a Seventh-Day Adventist who wanted to serve his country, but his religious convictions led him to refuse to commit violence or even carry a weapon. He was extremely unpopular with his fellow soldiers for what they perceived as cowardice, but Doss was incredibly strong in his convictions and showed extraordinary courage while saving dozens of his injured squad mates during the Battle of Okinawa. "Hacksaw Ridge" was nominated for Best Picture and won the Oscars for Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing. It's a moving meditation on faith and courage.

  • Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey
  • Director: Mel Gibson
  • Year: 2016
  • Runtime: 139 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

New Yorker critic Anthony Lane has called this arch 1943 war dramedy maybe "the greatest English film ever made, not least because it looks so closely at the incurable condition of being English." It follows the personal life and military career of tradition-bound British Army officer Clive Wynne-Candy, from the Boer War in the early 1900s to World War II. He has a long, complicated friendship with a German officer named Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff, and along the way, he keeps meeting women who remind him of Edith Hunter, the woman he loved who married Theo. It's filmed in rich Technicolor that still looks dashing almost 80 years later.

  • Starring: Roger Livesey, Deborah Kerr, Anton Walbrook
  • Director: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
  • Year: 1943
  • Runtime: 164 minutes
  • Rating: G
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%


Robert Altman's 1970 dark comedy about the absurdity of war is set during the Korean War but satirizes the then-current Vietnam War. The film stars Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould as "Hawkeye" Pierce and "Trapper John" McIntyre — insubordinate, womanizing drafted combat surgeons who are nonetheless excellent at their jobs. It's an episodic sort of film, where the characters have comic misadventures that are all rather melancholy because the specter of death hangs over everything. 

It was one of the biggest hits of the year when it came out and led to a TV series spinoff that was also one of the biggest shows of its time. It won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and features Altman's signature overlapping dialogue and the first use of the f-word in a studio picture.

  • Starring: Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt
  • Director: Robert Altman
  • Year: 1970
  • Runtime: 115 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%


This influential Italian neorealist film from director Roberto Rossellini is set in Italy toward the end of World War II's Italian campaign. It consists of six vignettes about communication breakdown as people from different cultures, who speak different languages, interact in life-and-death settings. Each episode was written by a different screenwriter –- one was Federico Fellini, who went on to become one of cinema's greatest directors, and another was Vasco Pratolini, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature three times. All of the episodes are a little bit funny (in an ironic way) and totally tragic, and the result is one of Martin Scorsese's favorite movies.

  • Starring: Carmela Sazio, Robert Van Loon, Dots Johnson
  • Director: Roberto Rossellini
  • Year: 1946
  • Runtime: 126 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Rome, Open City

Director Roberto Rossellini shot this politically fiery and emotionally affecting war drama in Rome shortly after the Nazis had left the city and the Allies occupied it. It was made under unimaginably difficult conditions, as Italy basically didn't have a film industry at the time. It's a neorealist film with mostly nonprofessional actors, shot on the streets of the war-torn city. It tells the story of resistance fighters courageously standing up to Nazis in 1943, when the city was still controlled by the Germans. The closest to a main character is Don Pietro Pellegrini, a priest who's active in the resistance and helps the younger fighters.

  • Starring: Aldo Fabrizi, Anna Magnani, Marcello Pagliero
  • Director: Roberto Rossellini
  • Year: 1945
  • Runtime: 103 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Sergeant York

"Sergeant York" was the highest-grossing film of 1941, helped by its patriotic themes that coincided with the attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entry into World War II. Directed by the legendary Howard Hawks, the film tells the true story of Alvin York, a man so devout he almost became a conscientious objector in World War I. But he didn't, and he went on to save what was left of his platoon almost single-handedly during intense fighting on the Western Front by killing many, many German soldiers. York is played by Tony Soprano's favorite actor, Gary Cooper, who won the Academy Award for Best Picture for his performance.

  • Starring: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Margaret Wycherly
  • Director: Howard Hawks
  • Year: 1941
  • Runtime: 134 minutes
  • Rating: G
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

The Tuskegee Airmen

This HBO original film tells the story of the titular fighter pilots, who made history in World War II as the first Black pilots in the Army Air Corps. It follows them from their arrival as green recruits at the airfield in Tuskegee, Alabama, to their feats of heroism in the skies over Italy as members of the 332nd Fighter Group, a Black unit in the then-segregated Army. It's a story of bravery and perseverance, as racists try to stop them from flying. The film feature an impressive cast, with names like Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., John Lithgow, and Malcolm-Jamal Warner. And it includes fantastic supporting performances from great actors like Courtney B. Vance, Andre Braugher, and Mekhi Phifer.

  • Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., John Lithgow
  • Director: Robert Markowitz
  • Year: 1995
  • Runtime: 106 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

War Horse

Steven Spielberg had made numerous films set during World War II, so for "War Horse," he went a little earlier and tackled World War I for the first time. 

"War Horse" tells the story of the great conflict as it follows a horse named Joey, who was raised by English teenager Albert. Joey is sold into service when war breaks out and passes through different owners all over Europe. And if you have a hard time seeing animals in peril, remember that this is a Spielberg movie, so it has a happy ending. The old-fashioned epic was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture. And it's so British that it features performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston.

  • Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Year: 2011
  • Runtime: 146 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%

Welcome to Sarajevo

A British film about the '90s war in Bosnia, "Welcome to Sarajevo" follows a journalist named Michael Henderson, who believes in journalistic objectivity and tries to not get involved with the action he's reporting on, whether that's physically or emotionally. But that changes after he reports on an orphanage on the frontline where children are living in squalid, dangerous conditions due to the war. When his report is met with indifference, he adopts an apparently orphaned Bosnian girl named Emira. "Welcome to Sarajevo" is a gritty, affecting film that looks at war from a correspondent's cynical but humanistic perspective.