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60 Best War Movies Of All Time Ranked

Since the dawn of human existence, war has been a part of our story. While the machinery of war has changed over the countless ages, the grief and loss that invariably accompanies it has remained timeless, with generation after generation telling the same old story in new settings. Whether by swords and shields or tanks and IEDs, the loss of life and utter devastation leave survivors to tell the tale, hoping that future generations will learn from the lessons of history.

From patriotic stories of heroism in the face of human cruelty to warnings against the futility of war, how these stories are told matters, and there's a lesson to be learned in all of them. Films about war foster important discussions on a wide range of topics including motives for warfare, treatment of veterans, and human rights issues while bringing the reality of war into vivid, tangible light. Among the countless great films out there, here are the 60 best war movies of all time ranked.

Updated on June 15, 2022: Great new war films are released all the time. We'll be updating this list every so often to include the best among them, so be sure to check back often so you don't miss a thing.

60. Richard III

Adapted from the William Shakespeare play of the same name, "Richard III" reimagines the tragic fall of the ill-fated king as a modern fable recounting a fascist dictator's rise to power. Set in a version of 1930s England during an imaginary civil war that echoes the historical Wars of the Roses, the film finds Ian McKellen's Richard obsessed with getting his hands on brother Edward's recently attained throne. The visual motifs symbolizing totalitarianism in this adaptation add depth and intensity to a tale from an era that may seem far-removed from modern audiences. 

59. Empire of the Sun

One aspect of World War II that's rarely presented in Western films is the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, events depicted in "Empire of the Sun." Not long after Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces occupy the Shanghai International Settlement, which is populated with British and American citizens. During the chaotic evacuation that follows, an English tween named Jamie gets separated from his parents and left behind, eventually landing in an internment camp where he creates a trading network to get by. A tale of optimism during trying times, "Empire of the Sun" is based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, which draws on author J.G. Ballard's experiences during World War II.

  • Starring: Christian Bale, John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 152 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%

58. The English Patient

With its nine Academy Awards, four BATFAs, and a Golden Globe, "The English Patient" is one of the most emotional and romantic war films ever made. Set before and during World War II, the film tells two parallel love stories from the perspective of a dying burn patient and the nurse who commits to caring for him in his final days.

As French-Canadian nurse Hana tends to her patient, he recounts the journey that brought him here, regaining his memories as he recalls his life. As it turns out, he's a Hungarian cartographer named Count László de Almásy, a man who fell deeply in love ... before losing it all. His tale mirrors Hana's own story as she falls for a combat engineer named Kip. The result is a perfect film to settle into when you're the mood for a good weep.

57. Our Time Will Come

With its release coinciding with the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's transfer of sovereignty from the U.K. to China, "Our Time Will Come" is director Ann Hui's look at the Hong Kong resistance against Japanese occupation. The story follows resistance fighter Fang Gu on her journey from quiet intellectual to resistance leader. With its female-driven plot and nuanced characterizations, the film is a rare example of a World War II story that presents the necessity of resistance in unvarnished and humanistic terms.

  • Starring: Zhou Xun, Eddie Peng, Wallace Huo
  • Director: Ann Hui
  • Year: 2017
  • Runtime: 120 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

56. The Imitation Game

Earning an impressive eight Oscar nominations — and winning one for best adapted screenplay — "The Imitation Game" focuses on the life of mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing, whose decryption of German messages proved invaluable to the war effort against the Nazis. At the center of the tale is Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, with the British star giving one of his all-time performances. But "The Imitation Game" is more than just a story about the development of Turing's Enigma-cracking machine — it's both significant for raising awareness about the horrifying practice of chemically castrating gay men and for shining a spotlight on one of Britain's most important LGBTQ+ figures. 

  • Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode
  • Director: Morten Tyldum
  • Year: 2014
  • Runtime: 114 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

55. Courage Under Fire

Set during the Gulf War, "Courage Under Fire" explores the ethical implications of military cover-ups through combat flashbacks and a courtroom mystery. The story finds troubled Lieutenant Colonel Serling having to face his own demons as he investigates a case — determining whether or not the first woman nominated for the Medal of Honor in combat deserves the award — that echoes his own wartime experience. Critics praised Denzel Washington's performance as Serling, as well as the film's realistic cinematic portrayal of the Gulf War, and the movie also features one of Matt Damon's earliest and best performances.

54. Da 5 Bloods

With a strong cast featuring the likes of Delroy Lindo and the late Chadwick Boseman, "Da 5 Bloods" looks at the complex and lasting racial implications of the role of Black soldiers in the Vietnam War. Through the tale of a group of vets recovering lost gold in Vietnam, this Spike Lee film retrospectively explores the hypocrisy of sending Black soldiers to die at a time when the United States was awash in turmoil over racial injustice at home, a story that is sadly just as relevant today as it was in 1968.

  • Starring: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Chadwick Boseman
  • Director: Spike Lee
  • Year: 2020
  • Runtime: 155 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

53. Hamburger Hill

Widely regarded as one of the best Vietnam War films ever made, "Hamburger Hill" looks at the 1969 battle of the same name, where American troops tried to take a well-defended hill. Shot in the Philippines and featuring Dylan McDermott in his film debut, the film has been universally praised for its realism and accuracy — from the interactions between soldiers to the tensions of living in the jungle with the enemy nearby — owing in large part to director John Irvin's own wartime experience.

52. Come and See

A Russian anti-war film that deals with the Nazi occupation of Belarus, "Come and See" is as ambitious and experimental as it is nightmarish and brutal. Co-written by Soviet pro-democracy activist Ales Adamovich, the film tells the story of young boy named Flyora, who quickly discovers the true horrors of war as he's caught up in the hell of World War II. "Come and See" weaves its tale using a mix of hyperrealism and surrealism to paint a bleak naturalistic picture of the atrocities of war, with Vanity Fair praising the film's "unflinching" depiction of Nazi horrors. 

  • Starring: Aleksei Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Liubomiras Laucevičius
  • Director: Elem Klimov
  • Year: 1985
  • Runtime: 142 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

51. Land of Mine

Set in the aftermath of World War II, "Land of Mine" paints a bleak picture of Denmark's decision to force 2,000 German prisoners of war to clear millions of land mines buried along the country's west coast. Tense, humanizing, and grim, the film earned a standing ovation at the Toronto International Film Festival.

  • Starring: Roland Møller, Mikkel Følsgaard, Laura Bro
  • Director: Martin Zandvliet
  • Year: 2015
  • Runtime: 90 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

50. Black Hawk Down

Based on a real-life incident, "Black Hawk Down" offers a chaotic look at the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, a moment in the Somali Civil War that started off as part of a United Nations effort to restore stability and support the establishment of a democratic government. However, things quickly escalated when two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by a local militia, prompting a suicide rescue mission. Ridley Scott's film is notable for spurring extensive debate over media portrayals of war and U.S. interventionism, and it features an outstanding score from Hans Zimmer.

  • Starring: Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Year: 2001
  • Runtime: 144 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%

49. Catch-22

A dark comedy with a satirical take on war, "Catch-22" employs equal parts cynicism and surrealism to establish its anti-war subtext. With performances from Alan Arkin, Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins, Martin Sheen, Orson Welles, and Jon Voight, among others, this adaptation of the 1961 Joseph Heller novel set in a fictional Mediterranean World War II base finds bombadiers forced into a paradox where they can't get out of fighting by pretending to be crazy because that would make them too sane to actually be crazy. Despite being divisive among critics, the film has drawn numerous comparisons to "M*A*S*H" over the years and is viewed by many as one of the most important anti-war films ever made. 

  • Starring: Alan Arkin, Martin Balsam, Richard Benjamin
  • Director: Mike Nichols
  • Year: 1970
  • Runtime: 121 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

48. Doctor Zhivago

"Doctor Zhivago" is a sweeping war epic that seeks optimism during dark times. Against the backdrop of the Russian Civil War and World War I, the film tells the love story of Dr. Yuri Andreyevich Zhivago and Larissa "Lara" Antipova. The emotional tale won five Oscars at the 38th Academy Awards for its costumes, cinematography, screenplay adaptation, score, and art direction. And trust us, that cinematography of Russia's snowy landscapes will blow you away, and that haunting love theme will leave you weeping by the time the credits roll.

  • Starring: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin
  • Director: David Lean
  • Year: 1965
  • Runtime: 197 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

47. Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino's alternate history of World War II, "Inglourious Basterds" is a revenge fantasy that explores two fictional plots to take out the Nazi high command. In one storyline, you've got Nazi-hunting Jewish commandos taking scalps and cracking skulls. In the other, you have a young Jewish woman with revenge in her heart and a theater full of very flammable materials. Of course, the ultimate draw here is Christoph Waltz's Oscar-winning performance as Hans Landa, a truly smarmy Nazi and one of Quentin Tarantino's best villains. On that note, Tarantino's over-the-top stylistic approach to filmmaking is as bloody and hyperbolic as ever, but as Salon's Matthew Rozsa points out, it's a timely reminder that anyone committing genocide is undeserving of nuanced humanization.

  • Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent
  • Director: Quentin Tarantino
  • Year: 2009
  • Runtime: 153 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

46. Casualties of War

Based on a 1969 article in The New Yorker by Daniel Lang, "Casualties of War" details a horrifying moment in the Vietnam War that took place in 1966, when a group of American soldiers kidnapped, raped, and murdered a Vietnamese woman named Phan Thi Mao. Presented through a Vietnam veteran's flashbacks, the film presents a microcosmic look at war crimes perpetrated by U.S. soldiers that the American people have yet to fully come to terms with. Be warned — it is a brutal, disturbing film.

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45. Crimson Tide

A big-budget blockbuster dealing with the psychological aspects of brinksmanship from a military perspective and featuring a stunning Hans Zimmer score, "Crimson Tide" is an action thriller that finds the United States scrambling to deal with a possible nuclear threat from Russian ultranationalists. The film focuses more narrowly on the intense breakdown that occurs on the submarine the USS Alabama as the bullish commander and his more cautious XO struggle with whether or not to launch their nukes.

  • Starring: Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, James Gandolfini
  • Director: Tony Scott
  • Year: 1995
  • Runtime: 115 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

44. The Big Red One

"The Big Red One" follows the 1st Infantry Division's participation in World War II as they engage in North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, Germany, and finally, in the liberation of Falkenau concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. We watch all this unfold through the eyes of a grizzled sergeant and his younger, more inexperienced men — soldiers who will see their fair share of combat before Germany surrenders. The epic war film is best viewed in the 2 hour and 43 minute reconstruction, and it's been widely praised by critics for its focus on the soldiers' wartime experiences.

43. Stalag 17

"Stalag 17" is a witty snapshot of American POWs biding their time in a Nazi prison camp. They keep themselves occupied playing volleyball and hosting Christmas parties, but in between the pranks and the boredom, there's a dark undercurrent, as they're all convinced that one among them is snitching to the Germans. Growing afraid and angry, the soldiers in Barracks 4 begin to turn on the man they believe is at fault — a cynical soldier who thinks everything has a price. But is he really the traitor? Balancing humor and drama through snappy dialogue, the film emphasizes the importance of finding levity in the darkest of times.

  • Starring: William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger
  • Director: Billy Wilder
  • Year: 1953
  • Runtime: 120 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

42. Hacksaw Ridge

"Hacksaw Ridge" tells the true story of famed World War II combat medic and pacifist Desmond Doss, who won a Medal of Honor for his heroics at Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa. How can a pacifist win the Medal of Honor, you ask? By rescuing 75 soldiers via carrying the wounded to the edge of an escarpment and lowering them down one by one to safety. A fairly straightforward war film, "Hacksaw Ridge" is nonetheless a satisfactory tribute to one of the war's lesser-known heroes and features a powerful performance by Andrew Garfield.

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

41. From Here to Eternity

Set around the events of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, "From Here to Eternity" is an emotional and humanizing look at the lives of the U.S. soldiers whose lives were impacted by the events of that day. The film was warmly received by critics and general audiences and racked up eight Academy Awards including best screenplay and best supporting actor for Frank Sinatra.

  • Starring: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr
  • Director: Fred Zinnemann
  • Year: 1953
  • Runtime: 118 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

40. Rescue Dawn

"Rescue Dawn" is Werner Herzog's adaptation of his own 1997 documentary, recounting the imprisonment, torture, and subsequent escape of U.S. airman Dieter Dengler from a prison camp during the Vietnam War. Christian Bale's method performance, the film's pacing, and the dense jungle setting come together to add to the tension and realism of this survival tale.

  • Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies
  • Director: Werner Herzog
  • Year: 2006
  • Runtime: 125 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

39. The Great Dictator

From the hilarious mind of Charlie Chaplin, "The Great Dictator" is a satire that takes full, unapologetically mocking aim at fascism, Nazis, and anti-Semitism. Chaplin stars as both a Jewish barber and Adenoid Hynkel, the fictional fascist dictator of Tomainia (a play on "Romania" and "ptomaine," a period word for food poisoning) — a situation that results in a case of mistaken identity. Made before the U.S. was at war with Nazi Germany, many modern critics see the film as decades ahead of its time, and while it definitely has its hilarious moments — like Hynkel's world-domination dance sequence — there are plenty of passionate calls to action, like the film's final moving monologue.

  • Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie
  • Director: Charlie Chaplin
  • Year: 1940
  • Runtime: 128 minutes
  • Rating: G
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

38. The Dirty Dozen

A brilliantly absurd subversion of the traditional heroic war film trope, "The Dirty Dozen" finds a group of the U.S. Army's worst prisoners — all men facing lengthy sentences or the death penalty — transformed into a group of elite commandos to be sent on an extremely high-risk mission ahead of D-Day. Although set during World War II, the 1967 film is clearly a reaction to the senseless violence of Vietnam with its notable absence of flag-waving and its gratuitous use of gore. It also helped set the mold for similar actions films a la "The Suicide Squad" and "Inglourious Basterds."

  • Starring: Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes, Charles Bronson
  • Director: Robert Aldrich
  • Year: 1967
  • Runtime: 149 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%

37. Downfall

Told through the perspective of Hitler's personal secretary Traudl Junge, "Downfall" details the final days of Adolf Hitler as he hides in the Führerbunker while his regime rapidly collapses around him. By humanizing the dictator's final days, the film serves to warn viewers that behind all of the Nazi atrocities, there was nothing more than a disturbed racist clinging desperately to power. Plus, while the famous shouting scene has been memed into oblivion, the original scene is still a virtuoso performance by Bruno Gaz.

  • Starring: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Corinna Harfouch
  • Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
  • Year: 2004
  • Runtime: 154 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

36. Good Morning, Vietnam

After arriving in Saigon in 1965, DJ Adrian Cronauer butts heads with his superiors by bringing the soldiers humor and censored news on his radio show. Loosely based on the wartime experiences of the real-life Sgt. Cronauer, "Good Morning, Vietnam" is considered one of Robin Williams' best performances and generously features the late actor's improvisational sills. And of course, the film features one of the most famous, impersonated, and parodied movie lines of all time — it's the title, of course — yet it still manages to be a thoughtful look at a fascinating figure in U.S. history.

  • Starring: Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Chintara Sukapatana
  • Director: Barry Levinson
  • Year: 1987
  • Runtime: 121 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

35. No Man's Land

Set during the Bosnian War, "No Man's Land" finds a Bosnian soldier and a Serb, both wounded, caught together in a trench between the lines of their two sides. Now, they're stuck ... with no place to go without getting killed. Disturbing, funny, and smart, the film won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for best foreign film in 2002.

  • Starring: Branko Đurić, Rene Bitorajac, Filip Šovagović
  • Director: Danis Tanović
  • Year: 2001
  • Runtime: 98 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

34. Glory

Recounting the Civil War heroics of the Union Army's 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment — the first regiment to be made up of all Black enlisted soldiers after the Emancipation Proclamation — "Glory" shares an important and too often overlooked piece of the American Civil War. With a rousing score and an Oscar-winning performance from Denzel Washington, this epic Civil War drama is one of the best in the genre.

33. The Killing Fields

Set during the Cambodian Civil War, "The Killing Fields" is a biopic centered around Cambodian journalist Dith Pran and American journalist Sydney Schanberg as they document the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge before Schanberg escapes and Pran is left behind to suffer under the Pol Pot regime. This powerful film, which won eight BAFTAs and three Oscars, shines a light on the bravery of journalists who risk their lives to capture news in war-torn regions around the world.

  • Starring: Sam Waterston, Haing S. Ngor, John Malkovich
  • Director: Roland Joffé
  • Year: 1984
  • Runtime: 141 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

32. The Last of the Mohicans

Set during the French and Indian War, "The Last of the Mohicans" is a beautifully filmed action-adventure story that finds a family of Mohicans — including adopted white son Hawkeye — caught in the blood chaos of war when they agree to help deliver two English sisters safely to their father. A romantic tale with the war as a backdrop, "The Last of the Mohicans" is an entertaining historical film that provides a tentative introduction to a conflict many viewers will know little about.

  • Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Jodhi May
  • Director: Michael Mann
  • Year: 1992
  • Runtime: 112 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

31. Zulu

"Zulu" is an epic war film that paints a violent picture of the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War, a bitter and brutal period in the annals of British colonialism. While the topic of British colonialism represents a dark chapter in history, critics have always held polarizing opinions about whether this film upholds colonialism or is a repudiation of it. Inadvertently or otherwise, the film does an excellent job of demonstrating the strength and defiance the Zulus showed against the evil of imperialism.

  • Starring: Michael Caine, Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins
  • Director: Cy Endfield
  • Year: 1964
  • Runtime: 135 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

30. The Thin Red Line

An adaptation of James Jones' 1962 novel, "The Thin Red Line" follows the men of C Company through the Battle of Guadalcanal as part of the Allied effort to stop Japanese forces in World War II. Much more poetic, visual, and contemplative than traditional war films, "The Thin Red Line" tries to find meaning in a world torn apart by war and features solid performances from the likes of Woody Harrelson, John Cusack, John C. Reilly, and Jared Leto, among others. 

  • Starring: Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel
  • Director: Terrence Malick
  • Year: 1998
  • Runtime: 170 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%

29. The Deer Hunter

"The Deer Hunter" looks at the personal and psychological impact of the Vietnam War through the perspective of three friends from a small Pennsylvania steel mill town. Told in three acts, the story begins with the optimism of youth, takes the central characters through the absolute nightmare of war, and ends with what remains of their bodies and souls after they land back where they started. As much about the experience of living in small-town America as it is about the war, the film shines thanks to the performances of its central cast, including Christopher Walken giving a truly devastating and Oscar-winning turn.

  • Starring: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep
  • Director: Michael Cimino
  • Year: 1978
  • Runtime: 183 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

28. Three Kings

Set amid the chaotic aftermath of the Gulf War, "Three Kings" is a comedy and action film that finds a group of U.S. soldiers inadvertently committing acts of heroism while on a treasure hunt to find a hidden cache of Saddam Hussein's stolen gold bullion. Less a war film than an adventure set against a post-war backdrop, the film provides a sincere, subversive, funny, and occasionally violent look at the human impact of American foreign policy in the Middle East.

27. Lincoln

A biopic set during the final four months of Abraham Lincoln's life, "Lincoln" focuses primarily on the president's efforts to push the passage of the 13th amendment while the United States is being torn apart by the Civil War. Audiences and critics alike praised Daniel Day-Lewis' believable and nuanced performance as Lincoln, and the emphasis on the political aspects of the war and the amendment's passage lend insight to the era and the president that aren't found in most depictions of the period.

26. Army of Shadows

Set in Vichy France during World War II, "Army of Shadows" follows the story of Philippe Gerbier, a French Resistance leader who finds himself betrayed and thrown into a Nazi prison camp. Based on the real experiences of Joseph Kessel, which were fictionalized in his 1943 book, this French-Italian production is a harrowing tale of the bravery and paranoia faced by anyone who dared to go against the Nazis and their puppet state.

  • Starring: Lino Ventura, Simone Signoret, Paul Meurisse
  • Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
  • Year: 1969
  • Runtime: 140 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

25. Born on the Fourth of July

Oliver Stone's adaptation of Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic's 1976 autobiography, "Born on the Fourth of July" is a moving film, detailing Kovic's transition from a patriotic youth eager to serve his country to a paraplegic anti-war activist. Like Stone's other war films, "Born on the Fourth of July" does a good job of driving home the chaos and horror of war while leaving the audience to contemplate the wisdom of unconditional patriotism. It also features a bravura performance from Tom Cruise, proving he's far more than just an big blockbuster kind of guy.

24. The Hill

Set in the Libyan desert during World War II, "The Hill" takes a grim look at the conditions in a British military prison (also known as a "glasshouse"). Under the sadistic eye of Staff Sergeant Williams, British soldiers being held for generally minor offenses are tormented with miseries heaped on miseries. The BAFTA-winning film provides a grim look at the abuses of authority that too often take place during wartime.

23. Ran

A reimagining of Shakespeare's "King Lear," "Ran" is a Japanese epic action film set during the feudal 16th century, and it also happens to be one of Akira Kurosawa's greatest directorial efforts. When an aging warlord decides to divide his empire among his three sons, the the kingdom is plunged into turmoil with multiple armies facing off in an epic battle. This film is a colorful and stunning example of Japanese cinema at its finest.

  • Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu
  • Director: Akira Kurosawa
  • Year: 1985
  • Runtime: 162 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

22. The Tuskegee Airmen

"The Tuskegee Airmen" tells the important story of the all-Black 332nd Fighter Group, trained for combat in World War II in Tuskegee, Alabama. Co-executive produced by actual Tuskegee pilot Captain Robert W. Williams, the HBO film has been praised for its historically accurate treatment of the squadron's training and deployment. The film boasts plenty of great dogfights and doesn't shy away from addressing the extensive prejudice faced by the pilots.

  • Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Allen Payne, Malcolm Jamal-Warner
  • Director: Robert Markowitz
  • Year: 1995
  • Runtime: 106 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88% 

21. Operation Mincemeat

Of all the countless stories to come out of World War II, one of the most unbelievable is the tale of Operation Mincemeat, the real British effort to throw off the Nazis with false intel planted on a corpse dressed as a Royal Marine. Despite a few side stories that may not add much to the overall plot, "Operation Mincemeat" gives an interesting look at a stranger-than-fiction piece of World War II history, with a solid cast and an intense caper-like plot that'll keep you on the edge of your seat.

  • Starring: Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald
  • Director: John Madden
  • Year: 2021
  • Runtime: 128 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

20. Braveheart

The action-packed tale of Scotsman William Wallace's war against the oppressive Edward I, "Braveheart" is a gritty and inspiring tale of courage against tyranny. The film, which won five Academy Awards and has been parodied and referenced countless times since its release, is a must-see for anyone who appreciates a good medieval warfare story. The battle scenes are intense, the love story is sweeping, the speeches are epic, and as problematic as he is in real life, Mel Gibson gives one of the best big Hollywood performances you'll ever see.

19. Patton

General George S. Patton was a larger-than-life figure — controversial, brilliant, and one of a kind. So it only makes sense that he'd receive a larger-than-life movie. Beginning with his entry into World War II in North Africa, "Patton" details the wartime efforts of the notorious leader that helped lead the Allies to victory in Europe and Italy. With a memorable performance from George C. Scott as Patton — one that earned him an Oscar (which he turned down) — this character-driven retelling of the war is an excellent introduction to the controversial historical figure. Plus, when it comes to opening scenes that grab you by the collar and won't let you go, it's hard to beat this film's wild opening monologue.

  • Starring: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, David Bauer
  • Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
  • Year: 1970
  • Runtime: 171 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

18. The Bridge on the River Kwai

A searing look at the madness of war, "The Bridge on the River Kwai" tells the story of British POWs held in captivity by the Japanese in Thailand. With the sweltering sun beating down on them, they're forced to work on a bridge to help the Japanese war effort. But much to the shock of cynical American POW Shears, the stiff-upper-lip Col. Nicholson is dead-set on doing his best to build a proper bridge — one that will show off British ingenuity to the world. Things only get more complex when a group of Allied soldiers start trekking through the jungle, hoping to blow the bridge to bits. The film won the Oscar for best picture, and if you only know Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, prepare to have your mind blown as he delivers what's possibly his best performance as the stubborn, well-meaning, but deluded Nicholson.

  • Starring: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins
  • Director: David Lean
  • Year: 1957
  • Runtime: 161 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

17. Letters from Iwo Jima

Serving as a companion piece to "Flags of Our Fathers," Clint Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima" is a Japanese-language film that was produced to give a humanizing view of the Japanese soldiers who fought in World War II — particularly the men who fought during the Battle of Iwo Jima. With its focus on historical accuracy and empathetic portrayals of the soldiers involved, the film has been praised for its sensitivity by both American and Japanese viewers.

  • Starring: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara
  • Director: Clint Eastwood
  • Year: 2006
  • Runtime: 141 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

16. Spartacus

Set in the decline of the Roman Republic, "Spartacus" is director Stanley Kubrick's look at the historical figure who helped lead the Third Servile War. Sold into slavery and forced to become a gladiator, Spartacus eventually leads a revolution that threatens to shake Rome to his core, but can he defeat the legions of the elite general Crassus? An inspiring tale of rising against tyranny, "Spartacus" won four Academy Awards and has everything you'll want in an old Hollywood movie — big stars, romance, epic battles, and one of the most moving yet heartbreaking scenes of all time (you'll know exactly which one when you see it). For anyone who enjoys an epic historical film, this is one of the best there is. 

  • Starring: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Year: 1960
  • Runtime: 184 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

15. Platoon

Directed by Oliver Stone, "Platoon" draws on the filmmaker's own experiences as an infantryman and is meant to present the war through a critical lens. Set in 1967, the story follows Army volunteer Chris Taylor, who's stationed near the border of Cambodia in South Vietnam as he finds himself torn between two different sergeants with conflicting approaches to the war. Widely considered the best of Oliver Stone's Vietnam films and one of the best war films of all time, "Platoon" is unapologetically anti-war.

  • Starring: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe
  • Director: Oliver Stone
  • Year: 1986
  • Runtime: 120 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

14. Das Boot

A dreary look at the experiences of German sailors aboard a U-boat during the Battle of the Atlantic, "Das Boot" is told through the perspective of war correspondent and ensign Werner. As the war wages on, crew morale and conditions deteriorate under the leadership of the patrol ship's anti-Nazi commander. Intense, claustrophobic, and often terrifying, this film is arguably the most compelling World War II naval film in existence.

  • Starring: Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Klaus Wennemann
  • Director: Wolfgang Peterson
  • Year: 1981
  • Runtime: 150 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

13. All Quiet on the Western Front

A World War I film based on German writer Erich Maria Remarque's novel recounting his experiences in the Imperial German Army, "All Quiet on the Western Front" is one of the greatest anti-war films ever made. Like many movies that take such a stance, "All Quiet" begins with a group of young patriotic men eager to find glory on the battlefield ... only to find that war is quite literally hell. Released pre-Code, this film gives a grim look at the wartime horrors that marked World War I, including trench warfare, shrapnel injuries, and starvation.

  • Starring: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray
  • Director: Lewis Milestone
  • Year: 1930
  • Runtime: 134 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

12. Lawrence of Arabia

Filmed in a time when cinematic artfulness was at its peak, "Lawrence of Arabia" is the beautifully rendered epic tale of British officer T.E. Lawrence, who journeyed through the Arabian desert during World War I and ended up getting drawn into the Great Arab Revolt. The film follows Lawrence's journey through the desert as he becomes involved with advising Prince Faisal and launches a full-scale guerilla conflict. But as he grows in success, so does his ego, threatening the success of everything he's accomplished. Peter O'Toole gives the performance of a lifetime as Lawrence — cocky, dangerous, ambitious, naive — and Omar Sharif is equally as good as Lawrence's frenemy, Sharif Ali.

  • Starring: Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness
  • Director: David Lean
  • Year: 1962
  • Runtime: 216 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

11. The Pianist

Set during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw, "The Pianist" is the heartbreaking tale based on Polish-Jewish pianist Władysław Szpilman's experience hiding from the Nazi occupiers around Warsaw after becoming separated from his family. A poignant tale told in a muted palette with a transcendent, Oscar-winning performance from Adrian Brody as Szpilman, the film aptly imparts the isolation, fear, and uncertainty felt by many during the Holocaust.

  • Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay
  • Director: Roman Polanski
  • Year: 2002
  • Runtime: 150 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

10. Dunkirk

"Dunkirk" is Christopher Nolan's cinematically breathless recounting of the post-Battle of France evacuation at Dunkirk, where hundreds of thousands of Allied waited to either be rescued or picked off by the tireless Luftwaffe. By using a highly visual and nonlinear narrative strategy that separately examines the events on land, sea, and air, Nolan creates a powerful tale that adequately captures the frenetic chaos of the evacuation without getting bogged down in exposition. The emphasis on real special effects over CGI adds to the sense of raw, gritty realism in this masterful film. 

  • Starring: Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles
  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Year: 2017
  • Runtime: 106 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score:92%

9. Paths of Glory

Like his later films "Full Metal Jacket" and "Dr. Strangelove," "Paths of Glory" is a Stanley Kubrick film with a clear anti-war sentiment. Set during World War I, the movie depicts the futility and horror of trench warfare through the tale of an overzealous Allied general pressing his subordinates to engage in what is effectively a suicide mission. When his men refuse to walk into a hail of bullets, he randomly selects three of them to face the death penalty, setting up a harsh, dramatic trial. With its experimental use of space, light, and camera movement, the film bears hallmarks of Kubrick's style that would become more prominent in his later projects.

  • Starring: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Year: 1957
  • Runtime: 86 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

8. Saving Private Ryan

Inspired by a true story, "Saving Private Ryan" is a D-Day film built around the tale of a U.S. Army detachment's courageous efforts to find and exfiltrate the titular Private Ryan — the sole surviving member of his family after his brothers die in combat. Performances from Matt Damon, Tom Hanks, and Tom Sizemore make this film worth watching, and many World War II vets have said that the cinematic depiction of the landing at Normandy is the most realistic they have seen on film.

7. Europa Europa

"Europa Europa" is the harrowing tale of an orphaned Jewish teen named Salek who ends up passing as a German Aryan, joining the Hitler youth, and falling in love with an anti-Semitic girl named Leni. The Golden Globe-winning film, based on the real experiences of Solomon Perel as told in his 1989 biography, deals with themes of identity and has been praised for its youth-accessible coverage of the Holocaust.

  • Starring: Marco Hofschneider, Julie Delpy, Hanns Zischler
  • Director: Agnieszka Holland
  • Year: 1990
  • Runtime: 115 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

6. Casablanca

Often cited as one of the greatest love stories of all time, "Casablanca" takes place in Vichy-controlled Morocco, where nightclub owner Rick finds himself in a sticky situation. When his former lover, Ilsa, shows up, asking Rick to help smuggle her husband — a leader of the Czech Resistance — out of Casablanca, will his anger and bitterness win out, or will he put aside the past? One of the best things about this film is its cold and cynical depiction of romance in a world drained of color by war and time, as well as the hope that comes only through sacrifice.

  • Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid
  • Director: Michael Curtiz
  • Year: 1942
  • Runtime: 102 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%

5. Schindler's List

Shot only in black and white with a single pop of symbolic red, "Schindler's List" is the haunting account of a real German business owner who managed to save about 1,200 Jews with jobs at his enamelware factory in Kraków. After Oskar Schindler, who considers himself a Nazi, witnesses the massacre of Jews by SS commander Amon Göth, he begins a campaign to save them that includes bribing Göth. While this film is emotionally shattering, visually disturbing, and difficult to watch, it is often cited as the most realistic depiction of the Holocaust.

4. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Stanley Kubrick's pitch-black anti-war comedy, "Dr. Strangelove" finds madman and U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper going completely off the rails with a paranoid conspiracy theory. Convinced the Soviets have been poisoning U.S. water with fluoride, Ripper surreptitiously deploys nukes to the U.S.S.R., leaving the rest of the military and government bigwigs to work out a solution. Underneath the absurdity of the plot, Kubrick's message is a biting critique of paranoia and brinkmanship, and Peter Sellers absolutely kills it here, playing three very different yet equally crazy roles.

  • Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Year: 1964
  • Runtime: 94 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

3. The Hurt Locker

Set during the Iraq War, "The Hurt Locker" follows an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit tasked with defusing bombs in a military effort plagued with IEDs. In addition to the white-knuckle horror accompanied with diffusing bombs, things are made even more intense with the arrival of a reckless adrenaline junkie who gets his kicks deactivating IEDs, putting him very much at odds with his understandably worried comrades. Written by Mark Boal, a journalist who spent time embedded with an explosive unit in Iraq, the film presents a realistic and thoughtful examination of the psychological impact of dealing with guerilla warfare.

2. Full Metal Jacket

A Stanley Kubrick film with two acts, "Full Metal Jacket" is a Vietnam War drama that explores the process of transformation soldiers experience through boot camp and later in the devastation of war. The story follows a platoon of Marines as they are systematically dehumanized under the command of a sadistic drill sergeant to prepare them for the horrors to follow in Vietnam amid the Tet Offensive. The two halves of the film are meant to reflect on each other and serve as cynical commentary on the depravity of war.

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

1. Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola's shattering psychological war epic, "Apocalypse Now" is an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's 1899 novella "Heart of Darkness," only set during the Vietnam War. The story finds insane U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Kurtz in a remote corner of Cambodia where he's waging an unauthorized guerilla war. When special operative Captain Willard is dispatched to terminate Kurtz's command, his own sanity begins to rapidly deteriorate the closer he gets to his target. A darkly hallucinogenic trip through the blackest regions of the human psyche, "Apocalypse Now" is arguably the most scathing critique of war ever made, as well as a study in the frailty of the human mind in the face of unthinkable atrocities.