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15 Best War Movies Of 2021

A number of war movies that were originally scheduled to hit theaters and streaming services in 2021 got pushed back to the following year thanks to the coronavirus pandemic (the biggest of the bunch being "Top Gun: Maverick," which is now penciled in for May 2022), though many still managed to make it to theaters and streaming services. There were a few duds among them, but some unmissable war films also came out in 2021, with many of them flying under the radar. From true stories of heroism in the face of historic evil to glimpses of what armed conflict could look like in the future, these are the very best war movies of 2021.

Updated on November 28, 2021: We still have some big war movies to come in the closing weeks of 2021, and if any of them are worth knowing about, they will end up right here. 

The War Below

"The War Below" tells the amazing true story of a group of working class miners who were recruited for a special job during World War I. The Brits are desperate to break the stalemate, and Colonel "Hellfire Jack" Norton-Griffiths believes the best way to deal with the Germans is to tunnel under no man's land and blow them up from below. The trouble is, the enemy has had the same idea, and they're rapidly creating a tunnel of their own. Anchored by a committed performance from "Peaky Blinders" star Sam Hazeldine, "The War Below" shows how the Great War was fought on many fronts, and it keeps you gripped right to the claustrophobic finish.

  • Starring: Sam Hazeldine, Tom Goodman-Hill, Kris Hitchen
  • Director: J.P. Watts
  • Runtime: 120 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

The Mauritanian

Set during the War on Terror, Kevin Macdonald's "The Mauritanian" is based on the true story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was arrested in Mauritania two months after the September 11 attacks and was accused of being one of the organizers. Three years later, having heard nothing from him since his arrest, his family discovers via a newspaper report that he's being held in Guantánamo Bay without charge. A film that lifts the lid on an unseen side of warfare, "The Mauritanian" pits Benedict Cumberbatch's top military prosecutor against Jodie Foster's criminal defense lawyer vying for the detainee's release. Playing the role of Slahi is doppelganger Tahar Rahim, who's at his best bouncing off an on-form Foster.

  • Starring: Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim, Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Director: Kevin Macdonald
  • Runtime: 129 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%

The Forgotten Battle

"Harry Potter" star Tom Felton supports a stellar young cast in the gripping World War II drama "The Forgotten Battle," which landed on Netflix in October 2021. As the title suggests, the film highlights a major but often overlooked battle. It's set in the Dutch province of Zeeland, which remains in the hands of the Nazis following the Normandy landings. The area is a vitally important shipping lane for the Allies, and it must be won back for the war effort to proceed. We follow a local resistance fighter, a British pilot, and a Dutch soldier fighting for the Germans, all of whom are fated to collide at the Battle of the Scheldt. It's been compared to "Dunkirk" and "1917," and deservedly so — it's just as tense and character-driven.

  • Starring: Susan Radder, Gijs Blom, Jamie Flatters
  • Director: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
  • Runtime: 124 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

The Auschwitz Report

Slovakia's entry for Best International Film at the 93rd Academy Awards, "The Auschwitz Report" is the harrowing true story of two prisoners who escape from the notorious death camp with the sole purpose of exposing the horrors taking place there to the world. To do that, Alfred Wetzler and Rudolf Vrba need to get their astonishing report on the conditions and the number of deaths at the camp into the hands of the Allies. The film pulls no punches in its depiction of life and death in Auschwitz, and it remains just as absorbing after the two men escape, as they have trouble convincing the British Red Cross that murder is being committed on such a huge scale.

  • Starring: Noel Czuczor, Peter Ondrejicka, John Hannah
  • Director: Peter Bebjak
  • Runtime: 94 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Justice Society: World War II

The year 2021 was a great one for fans of DC Universe animated movies ("Batman: Soul of the Dragon" and the two-part "Batman: The Long Halloween" were released to critical acclaim), but it was a particularly happy time for lovers of the Justice Society of America, the world's first superhero team and the pre-runners to the Justice League. They first appeared in the 1940s, and that's the setting of "Justice Society: World War II." Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Black Canary, Hourman, and two versions of the Flash unite against the Nazis in this super-fun PG-13 adventure. It's a fast-paced, pulpy war flick with "Raiders of the Lost Ark" vibes, where Hitler is on the hunt for magical artifacts, and it's up to our heroes to stop him.

  • Starring: Matt Bomer, Stana Katic, Matthew Mercer
  • Director: Jeff Wamester
  • Runtime: 84 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%

Escape from Mogadishu

South Korean box office smash "Escape from Mogadishu" is a movie about more than one war. It's the true story of the Korean diplomats who were stranded in war-torn Somalia when the capital erupted into violence in 1991, but it's also about the ongoing conflict between South Korea and their neighbors to the north. When the North Korean ambassador shows up at the South Korean embassy with his staff and their families looking for shelter, they all band together and try to escape. There's plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as the group readies itself, but "Escape from Mogadishu" is far from your traditional culture-clash comedy. When the violence escalates, it escalates quickly, and one nail-biting chase sequence is worth the price of admission alone.

  • Starring: Kim Yoon-seok, Jo In-sung, Heo Joon-ho
  • Director: Ryoo Seung-wan
  • Runtime: 121 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Shadow in the Cloud

Chloë Grace Moretz goes toe to toe with a creature from RAF folklore in "Shadow in the Cloud," an outrageous wartime monster movie that pits the crew of a B-17 bomber against an engine-tampering gremlin. Moretz plays Captain Maude Garrett, who's met with scorn and suspicion when she joins the all-male crew of The Fool's Errand during World War II. She refuses to reveal her secret mission to the guys, who soon discover that she's not to be trifled with. When the mysterious gremlin creature emerges, Maude goes full Ellen Ripley on it. Nobody expected "Shadow in the Cloud" to be any good (the word "surprise" came up repeatedly in the reviews), but its blend of bonkers action scenes and creature feature horror vibes worked perfectly.

  • Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Taylor John Smith, Nick Robinson
  • Director: Roseanne Liang
  • Runtime: 83 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%

Quo Vadis, Aida?

The Oscar-nominated Bosnian War film "Quo Vadis, Aida?" arrived on streaming platforms in 2021, followed by a string of glowing reviews. It tells the story of 1995's Srebrenica massacre, during which Bosnian Serb soldiers "systematically murdered more than 8,000 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims)," said the BBC. The film follows a local translator, Jasna Đuričić's Aida, whose family gets caught up in the conflict. As her bosses at the United Nations butt heads with the mayor of Srebrenica about what to do with the displaced people arriving in droves, Serb troops arrive and begin carrying out the killings. A stinging rebuke of the UN's handling of the situation, "Quo Vadis, Aida?" is a brilliantly executed, gut-wrenching drama that's guaranteed to reduce the most hardened war movie fan to tears.

  • Starring: Jasna Đuričić, Izudin Bajrovic, Boris Ler
  • Director: Jasmila Zbanic
  • Runtime: 102 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

The Courier

The film that originally premiered under the name "Ironbark" at Sundance 2020 finally made it to cinemas in 2021, albeit with a new title. Cold War spy thriller "The Courier" is based on the true story of Greville Wynne, a British everyman who made regular business trips to Eastern Europe during the 1960s. Seeing this as the perfect cover, MI6 recruited Wynne and asked him to act as a courier for documents provided by their Soviet source, Oleg Penkovsky, aka Ironbark. Benedict Cumberbatch turns in his most subtly brilliant performance to date (the Marvel star plays Wynne as "a dumb Bond," said London's Evening Standard), while his counterpart, Georgian actor Merab Ninidze, is both charming and intense as the film's Russian mole.

  • Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Vladimir Chuprikov
  • Director: Dominic Cooke
  • Runtime: 111 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

Zeros and Ones

Despite the talent involved, "Zeros and Ones" flew under the radar when it dropped in 2021. A slow-burning, pandemic-set military movie from auteur Abel Ferrara, it scored low with general audiences, but the majority of top critics gave it a big thumbs up. "It's a spiritually probing, deeply personal, stubbornly idiosyncratic work of art," said the Los Angeles Times, while the Chicago Reader called it a "late minor masterpiece." 

Four-time Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke shines in dual roles, playing a soldier sent to a locked-down Rome to stop a terrorist plot, as well as the soldier's twin brother, a rebel under detention back in the States. It's a must-see for fans of Ferrara, who paints a grim, borderline-dystopian picture of Rome in the age of coronavirus.


A hard but ultimately rewarding watch, "Wildcat" is the story of American journalist Khadija Young, who gets captured by terrorists in Iraq. The convoy she's traveling with gets ambushed, and only one of the Marines accompanying her survives. Their captors proceed to torture them for information — Khadija has her thumbnail torn out in the opening moments, and it doesn't get easier for her. 

Some viewers found these scenes excessive, but those who stuck with "Wildcat" to the end were rewarded with a fascinating psychological thriller. As veteran movie critic Nell Minow said for RogerEbert.com, "I stayed on the side of the film, its exceptional actors, and its writer/director Jonathan W. Stokes, who held my interest by revealing more about the characters over the course of the film."

  • Starring: Georgina Campbell, Luke Benward, Ibrahim Renno
  • Director: Jonathan W. Stokes
  • Runtime: 93 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 62%

Hell Hath No Fury

She kicked demon butt as space marine Carley Corbin in 2019's "Doom: Annihilation," and Nina Bergman was back to her gun-toting best in "Hell Hath No Fury," a World War II action flick about a hidden stash of Nazi gold. When some American soldiers in occupied France come across a local woman (Bergman) with knowledge of the treasure's whereabouts, she agrees to lead them to it. They soon discover that they're not the only ones after the gold, however. With Hitler's elite guard and the French resistance closing in, the soldiers decide to arm Marie, and she promptly proves what she's been telling them all along: She can shoot. "Hell Hath No Fury" is an unapologetic action movie about guts and greed, elevated by Bergman's steely performance.

  • Starring: Nina Bergman, Daniel Bernhardt, Timothy V. Murphy
  • Director: Jesse V. Johnson
  • Runtime: 94 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

The Suicide Squad

"The Suicide Squad" isn't your traditional war movie, but James Gunn made the film in the spirit of the genre's heyday. Producer Peter Safran referred to it as "a 1970s war movie" during the promotional run, and it lived up to expectations in that department. 

As for the plot, the new Task Force X is assembled after the government of a South American island gets overthrown. With the promise of time off their sentences, they engage in guerrilla warfare with militants while searching for Jötunheim, an old Nazi fortress located on the island. Margot Robbie brings her A-game as Harley Quinn, who's joined by Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Ratcatcher 2, Polka-Dot Man, and a host of other new recruits who might not make it out alive. Bodies hit the floor in this unmissable DC epic.

The Tomorrow War

Chris Pratt's military sci-fi flick, "The Tomorrow War," divided opinion when it dropped on Amazon in 2021, though director Chris McKay bore the brunt of the criticism. The leading man's performance as Dan Forester Jr. (who, as a Green Beret first sergeant turned biology teacher, is perhaps the most Chris Pratt-y character yet) was largely praised by critics, as were the ideas explored in the movie. 

When time travelers from 2051 show up to recruit soldiers for a future war against an alien species, family man Dan volunteers for the mission, intent on securing his daughter's future. What "The Tomorrow War" lacks in execution it makes up for in fun. It's a good, old-fashioned popcorn movie that would've been a summer blockbuster in a different age.

  • Starring: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J.K. Simmons
  • Director: Chris McKay
  • Runtime: 138 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 52%

3212 Un-Redacted

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and the shocking military documentary "3212 Un-Redacted" is a prime example. It aims to expose corruption in the upper echelons of the U.S. military relating to the deaths of four elite soldiers. Two years after a Special Forces unit was ambushed by ISIS fighters in the Sahara Desert, the Pentagon released a highly redacted report into the incident, which accused the dead soldiers of going rogue. The report cleared higher-ups of any wrongdoing during the botched operation, but the families of the fallen didn't buy it. And in this doc, loved ones, whistleblowers, and survivors of the attack recount a tale of lies and deceit that's as gripping as it is tragic.