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25 Underrated War Movies You Need To See

Some of the greatest films of all time have been war movies, and it's easy to see why. Wars — as terrible and devastating as they are — have every ingredient to craft an engaging movie that entertains. From their inherent high drama, their adrenaline-pumping action and excitement, to their many twists and turns, surprises and intrigue, and their monumentally high stakes. Being based on real historical events only makes them all the more compelling. 

From "Paths of Glory" to "Saving Private Ryan," war movies have thrilled, chilled, and awe-struck audiences since the dawn of cinema, but that doesn't mean you've heard about all of the great ones. With so many out there, it's inevitable that many more fall through the cracks and don't receive the attention they probably should. 

If you've only seen the most famous war films, this list is for you, because once you've watched the Oscar winners and the blockbusters, it's the time to sit back and discover the under-appreciated gems. From ancient Rome to Afghanistan, here's a secret cache of underrated war movies you need to see.

The Siege of Jadotville

An underrated movie about a group of underrated war heroes, "The Siege of Jadotville" puts the spotlight on an incident that was left forgotten for too long. Based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Declan Power, the film recounts the clash between a contingent of Irish Army UN Peacekeepers and Katangese forces during the Congo Crisis in 1961. 

A story that spent decades untold, the Netflix original movie reveals the true story for all to see and stars Jamie Dornan ("50 Shades of Gray") as Commandant Pat Quinlan, an Irish army officer who is sent to lead a small group of UN peacekeepers to the Congo. There he's ordered to protect the UN compound in Jadotville from an enemy attack. But on arrival, Quinlan finds the location poorly fortified and realizes 150 soldiers won't be enough to stop an attack from the Kanganese and their mercenary allies. 

Ultimately, Quinlan was forced to surrender to save his men, and when they returned home they were labeled cowards for their defeat (via Time). Pariahs for years, the term "Jadotville Jack" entered the vernacular as a derisive nickname for weak soldiers in their native Ireland. But the record was finally set straight more than 40 years later when the Irish government finally acknowledged the truth, and "The Siege at Jadotville" is a long overdue dramatization of their remarkable true story that should be first up on your watch list.

The Imitation Game

Among one of the best recent biopics that nobody talks about, "The Imitation Game" is a spy thriller, a war movie, and a dramatic story of an outcast facing adversity, all rolled into one. The 2017 drama stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, a famed war-time mathematician and cryptanalyst who would one day revolutionize computer technology, creating the so-called "Turing Test" that he predicted could accurately judge whether a computer could think like a person. 

But back during World War II, Turing was recruited to join an elite team of intellects and experts in counter-intelligence in an effort to break German codes.  When they begin studying the mysterious Enigma machine, the device used to encrypt German messages, Turing believes he can crack its secrets despite the long odds, though his team doubts him. But Turing, a known loner and outcast, doesn't care what the rest of his group thinks and recruits a brilliant young woman, Joan Clarke (Kiera Knightley) who he believes could be instrumental in helping him with his work. Soon the two form a close relationship, all while Turing hides a terrible secret that could threaten everything.

In addition to its thrilling spy story, "The Imitation Game" also touches on how Turing's homosexuality left him unfairly persecuted in 1940s England. Despite some criticism for historical inaccuracies, and not fully exploring the true depths of his personal struggle, the movie remains a stunning and suspenseful — and sorely underrated — representation of the Allied fight beyond the battlefield.


Before David Ayer took the reigns of the DC super-group in 2016's  "Suicide Squad," the director helmed an epic WWII action movie with another all-star cast that never seems to get its proper due. The film features a roster of big names, led by Brad Pitt and Shia Labeouf, with John Bernthal ("The Walking Dead"), Jason Isaacs ("Star Trek: Discovery"), and Logan Lerman ("3:10 to Yuma"). 

The film chronicles the exploits of an American tank crew in the closing days of World War II in Europe. Led by Sergeant Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Pitt), the veteran squad commanding a Sherman E8 tank codenamed Fury is supplemented with the fresh-faced Norman (Lerman), a young soldier with no experience in the field. On the last drive into the heart of Nazi Germany behind the lines, Wardaddy and his men find themselves facing what seem like insurmountable odds as the enemy fights with a new desperate will. With Norman's inexperience causing problems though, they must now face more than the death rattle of the Third Reich, but trouble within their own ranks as well.

A hit at the box office with big Hollywood names, many viewed "Fury" as mere fluff, but the film is as strong a war drama as any. Sure, it's a bit more heavy on the action, but why it doesn't get mentioned as often as "Dunkirk," "1917," or other recent war movies is anyone's guess.

Tora! Tora! Tora!

Released in 1970, the World War II epic "Tora! Tora! Tora!" gets its title from the Japanese word for when a mission's goal of surprise is a success. The film of course dramatizes the lead-up to the Japanese's shocking assault on Pearl Harbor in 1941 that thrust the United States into the global conflict and turned public sentiment in favor of the war. 

But more than just a simple war movie, what helps "Tora! Tora! Tora!" gain attention among its peers is its production. A joint venture between Hollywood and Japan, the film is split between two opposing stories showing both sides of the conflict: American and Japanese. Each narrative features a broad ensemble cast devoid of major Hollywood stars — unusual for a big war picture of the day — which helps keep the focus on the story and the drama. Likewise, its use of an all-Japanese cast for that half of the film certainly stands out for the era.

Its impressive use of visual effects too, including several jaw-dropping action sequences during the Japanese assault on the base, is also a highlight. While Roger Ebert called it dull, and some reviewers knocked it for being slow-moving, critical response undersells what an impressive achievement the film really is. An engrossing account of one of history's most shocking battles, "Tora! Tora! Tora!" has become an underrated classic.

Buffalo Soldiers (1997)

Though a mostly forgotten term today, Buffalo Soldiers was used as a nickname that referred to African American soldiers in the Civil War. More specifically it described the 10th Cavalry Regiment, originally assembled before the official ending of slavery. For many years the unit's story was largely unknown outside of Civil War experts, but in 1997, the television movie "Buffalo Soldiers" hit home screens and spread their tale to a wider audience. It boasted an impressive cast, led by Danny Glover, Carl Lumbly, Bob Gunton, and Timothy Busfield. 

As shown in the film, the 10th Cavalry, who served valiantly throughout the war, is sent out on a mission as the war draws to a close, to corral the southern Texas Rangers who have been killing Native Americans with reckless abandon. Their commander, Sergeant Washington Wyatt (Glover), leads his soldiers into an alliance with a group of war chiefs from opposing Native American groups in a battle for the soul of the frontier. There, Wyatt and his men, the Buffalo Soldiers, gain respect and admiration for their fight to protect the indigenous tribes.

While not the most historically accurate film on this list — having received blowback for its depiction of the Native American struggle — it boasts a fine cast and should be given praise for uncovering an overlooked part of American history. Its focus on the parallels between the racial issues facing both African and Native Americans is notable and important, as Civil War films often fail to look past the more famous battles.

Hamburger Hill

The late 1970s and '80s were rife with war movies centered on Vietnam, as an entire generation of filmmakers who grew up amid the conflict came to prominence, examining the ant-war movements of the era. The likes of "Apocalypse Now" and "Platoon" set the standard, but there were plenty of others that have since been overshadowed. The 1987 movie "Hamburger Hill" is one that makes our list of those that are terrific and underrated, a movie that may have suffered from hitting theaters within mere months of the now classic "Full Metal Jacket."

Like others in the genre, "Hamburger Hill" has a broad ensemble cast that included a young Don Cheadle alongside notable names like Dylan McDermott, Courtney B. Vance, and Steven Weber. Helmed by action director John Irvin ("Raw Deal"), the film is based on the real-life events surrounding the Battle of Hamburger Hill, a skirmish that saw the US Army and their South Vietnamese allies making an assault on a strategically worthless ridge line controlled by the communist North. During the struggle, the soldiers deal with the stress of combat, while racial tensions flare, threatening the unit's cohesion amid the mayhem.

Met with rave reviews, "Hamburger Hill" was simply lost in a sea of war movies released around the same time that explored similar themes. But with many of its young cast going on to bigger stardom in the years since, there is even more reason for today's audiences to rediscover this forgotten classic.

Pork Chop Hill

From hamburgers to pork chops, it may sound silly but wartime nicknames often saw mountains, passes, and hills named after the meat they resembled, explaining how "Pork Chop Hill" — an underrated 1959 war movie based on real events — got its name. Starring Gregory Peck ("Moby Dick") and a roster of names who'd go on to fame in the next decade, its cast included George Peppard ("The A-Team"), Gavin MacLeod ("The Love Boat"), and Harry Dean Stanton ("Cool Hand Luke"), and the screen debut of Martin Landau ("Mission Impossible"). 

Set during the Korean War, which then was just a few years in the rearview mirror, it centers on Lieutenant Joe Clemons (Peck), who must lead a squad of infantrymen on a mission to retake a hill from enemy forces. Called "Pork Chop Hill" it is not strategically important enough for his commanders to reinforce with additional troops, which riles Clemons when his platoon is decimated in the assault. But with orders to hold the hill, Clemons and his men are forced to keep fighting as the Chinese send wave after wave of soldiers against them.

Well-received at the time of its release, the New York Times gave it a positive review, calling it a "grim and rugged film, which tacitly points the obsoleteness of ground warfare." Nevertheless, in spite of the positive reception it received, it has become a war movie lost to time, buried beneath bigger movies of the decade.

Enemy at the Gates

"Enemy at the Gates" is the first and so far only major English language film to dramatize the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the most important battles in World War II, and certainly the biggest on the Eastern front. Arguably the bloodiest conflict in all of human history (per History), it has been the subject of a number of films outside of the U.S., but Hollywood's take, starring Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, and Ed Harris, was not a hit with critics. Despite the drubbing from reviewers, who felt the romantic subplot dragged it down, it deserves better.

Jude Law plays Vasily Zaitsev, a real-life Russian sniper whose success in the field draws the attention of Commissar Danilov (Fiennes), who begins writing stories about his exploits to boost Russian morale. The two become fast friends, but trouble brews when they both fall in love with the same woman, a militia woman Tania (Rachel Weisz). Now, when the city comes under siege, and Zaitsev begins proving a thorn in the side of German invaders, a high-ranking Nazi officer (Harris) is deployed with a singular mission to take out Zaitsev.

An enthralling story with plenty of twists and turns, "Enemy at the Gates" is much more than the central love story that critics sneered at. A nail-biting thriller that gives a glimpse into one of the most fascinating battles ever fought, it's perhaps one of the most underrated war movies of the 21st century.

The Book Thief

Based on a novel by Markus Zusak, "The Book Thief" provides a rare glimpse into the nightmare of war as seen through the eyes of a child. With such a unique perspective, and one not often seen in cinema, the film becomes a heart-rending emotional journey that may be an uncomfortable watch for some, as the most innocent are subjected to horrors no one should have to endure. Landing to strong audience reaction but lackluster critical reviews, it received little fanfare on its release in 2013. 

Directed by Brian Percival and starring Geoffrey Rush ("Pirates of the Caribbean") and Emily Watson ("Red Dragon") as Hans and Rosa, a kind and gentle couple who adopt a young girl named Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) in 1930s Germany. The father and his new daughter form a close bond as he teaches her to read, but when fascism grips their homeland, Hans agrees to hide a young Jewish boy named Max Vanderburg (Ben Schnetzer) from the emerging Nazi regime. Together, Max and Liesel share their love of books, but the danger of the Third Reich looms like a pall over their lives.

If you can overlook its somewhat safe handling of some of its more dark issues — to be expected for a film about children — and you'll find one of the most thoughtful films about a family's struggle during the Holocaust.

Official Secrets

Though not a war film in the strictest sense, "Official Secrets" delves into the dark secrets of international espionage and government politics that back global conflicts. A look behind the scenes, the film sheds new light on those who pull the strings and gives a fascinating insight into a secretive world that is rarely known to the public. Based on a true story, it is shocking and bold in its revelations and challenges our perception of the wars that we are told to fervently support or oppose.

The 2019 film is directed by Gavin Hood and stars Kiera Knightley as Katharine Gun, a British intelligence official who stumbles across a memo with instructions to gather dirt on members of the United Nations Security Council. With damaging information, they hope to blackmail them into supporting an invasion of Iraq, while manipulating events to gather support for the war. Stunned by the revelation, Gun leaks the intel to an intrepid journalist named Martin Bright ("Doctor Who" star Matt Smith), hoping to expose the scheme, while others in the government — and even within the media — want to discredit and destroy her. 

With a plot so incredible it might have seemed half-baked if it weren't based on a true story, "Official Secrets" might be the most important film on this list. Whether it was buried because of fears of exposing the truth, or if it was just overlooked because of poor marketing is up for debate, but for now, it remains an underrated war-adjacent film that should be on your watch list.

Hell is for Heroes

It's hard to call a Steve McQueen movie underrated, but when it comes to "Hell is For Heroes," the label fits. Though often cited among the actor's best, it's rarely mentioned among the era's finest war movies. A stellar cast includes James Coburn, Bobby Darin, and even a young Bob Newhart, playing army soldiers in the U.S. 95th Infantry division. But the story is focused mostly on Master Sergeant Reese (McQueen), a reckless and insubordinate soldier whose court-martial ends with him being demoted all the way down to private. A combat-obsessed loner, Reese lives to fight, making him an outcast in his own unit.

But when the squad is due to be sent back home, everyone is overjoyed except for Reese, who wants nothing more than to be on the front lines. He gets his wish though when just before their rotation ends they are sent out for one last mission, but when they arrive they find their forces unprepared and at the mercy of a deadly German pillbox. Outnumbered and outgunned, the group must survive for 48 hours against German fire while they wait for reinforcements.

A glorious battle story that is as good as any movie of the day, "Hell is For Heroes" stacks up well against more famous classics like "The Longest Day" or "Where Eagles Dare." Toss in the iconic rebel McQueen as Reese — the embittered, gutsy hero soldier — and the film becomes an underrated can't-miss war movie that deserves more recognition.

Force 10 From Navarone

While "Force 10 From Navarone" may be well-known, mostly notable for its cast that included Harrison Ford (just a year after "Star Wars") and Carl Weathers (two years after "Rocky"), it's never been viewed as one of the greats. Because while the big-name actors got attention, often lost is how good the movie is, likely due to the mediocre reviews it received upon release. But this is one war movie that reviewers in its day whiffed on, unappreciative of its pulpy tone, which may have seemed out of place at the time so close to darker war movies like "Apocalypse Now." 

Eschewing the darker, more sobering energy of more serious epics, the film is an homage to war movies of the '40s and '50s, where despite the death, adventure was the order of the day. Ford stars as U.S. Army Ranger Colonel Barnsby, leader of a highly trained group of elite soldiers known as Force 10, who are joined by a pair of British agents Mallory and Miller (Robert Shaw and Edward Fox). The two Englishmen are the only ones who can help them identify an escaped German spy believed to be using a new identity.

A fun, fast, and action-packed adventure, it's actually a quasi-sequel to the 1961 film "The Guns of Navarone," starring Gregory Peck and Anthony Quinn, and in which Richard Harris had held Ford's role. A more light-hearted war drama that has remained underrated, perhaps it would have been better remembered if it had arrived sooner after the original.

Miracle at St. Anna

Despite black military units gaining prominence in the Civil War nearly a hundred years before, the American military still wasn't fully desegregated by the time World War II rolled around in 1941. In fact, the term "buffalo soldier" was still in common use during WWII, and "The Miracle at St. Anna," based on a book of the same name by James McBride and directed by auteur filmmaker Spike Lee, portrayed the experiences of one such unit serving in German-occupied Italy. A flop at the box office, the film was unfairly labeled a dud simply because it was long but earns its underrated status with good performances and a powerful story.

Focusing on the U.S. Army's segregated 92nd Infantry, stationed in Tuscany late in the war, they've been advancing much further than anticipated, leading to a botched artillery strike that leaves the unit stranded behind enemy lines. While escaping through the mountainous region, the soldiers stop in a small village and begin to bond with the locals, which include a small boy they saved from a building collapse, and a young woman who becomes the center of a love triangle. But when they finally make contact with Allied command, they received new orders, just as the Germans begin a devastating offensive.

While it's true that the film could probably have used a trim, if you have patience and enjoy a thoughtful war movie, "Miracle at St. Anna" will leave you satisfied.

Flame and Citron

Arguably one of the most compelling aspects of the Second World War was the fierce resistance movements that sprang up in villages across German-occupied Europe. With all the elements needed for an enthralling action adventure, the story of real-life resistance fighters has long been used as the basis for incredible motion pictures. More recent hits like Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds" and the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie film "Allied" continue to prove how well-suited for movies they are. But one of the most under-appreciated is "Flame & Citron," the 2008 thriller starring Mads Mikkelsen and Thure Lindhardt.

The film tells the true story of a pair of Dutch resistance fighters Bent Faurschou Hviid and Jørgen Haagen Schmith, who go by the nicknames Flammen and Citronen. Operated in Nazi-occupied Denmark, they have taken it upon themselves to hunt and kill their fellow Danes who have collaborated with the Nazi regime, but get new orders from their handler to assassinate German targets. But as their assignments get more complicated, they wonder if there is a mole in the resistance. Not knowing who they can trust, the two allies must rely on each other alone.

A taut thriller, "Flame & Citron" explores the moral grey areas that are often glossed over in WWII films where good and evil are fairly simple concepts represented by Axis and Allies. Heavily fictionalized, it's not for true history nerds, but received strong reviews, praised for its high-stakes drama and edge-of-your-seat mystery. 


The first movie to dramatize the Warsaw Uprising, the 1956 film "Kanal" was produced in Poland, giving it a certain authenticity that other war movies set across the globe often lack. The film tells the harrowing true story of how Polish resistance fighters rose up in an attempt to wrest control of their homeland from Nazi forces in the closing days of World War II. Though the uprising was ultimately unsuccessful, the operation to liberate Poland by the nation's Home Army was one of the largest-scale operations undertaken by any resistance movement during the war.

"Kanal" however doesn't tell a grand, sweeping tale of the Warsaw Uprising. Instead, it focuses on a single, small group of fighters in the operation's final moments, as surviving Polish fighters retreat into the sewers to escape the Nazi counterstrike. Trapped beneath the city, the film becomes more of a survivalist drama than an epic battle story. Led by Lieutenant Zadra, a contingent of fewer than 30 soldiers attempts to make their way to freedom through the subterranean tunnels, but the dangers they face — from worsening injuries to their own despair — make finding escape increasingly unlikely.

Perhaps the most stunning and unique film on this list, it's also the one film you're most likely to have never heard of. Unusual for its frank and grim depiction of the war so soon after its conclusion makes it an even more powerful statement, and it proved controversial in Poland on release (via TCM). Today, however, it is merely an underrated masterpiece.

Casualties of War

One of many forgotten '80s war movies set in Vietnam, this one featured perhaps the best cast of any of them and is highly regarded as an overlooked gem by those who know war movies well. Headlined by Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox, its ensemble included John Leguizamo, John C. Reilly, and Ving Rhames before they were stars.  

Directed by Brian De Palma, fresh off his celebrated crime drama "The Untouchables," it confronted the horrific realities of the conflict in Southeast Asia, particularly the atrocities committed by many American officers there. In this case, it was a fictionalized dramatization of a notorious incident that occurred in 1969 that was exposed by an article in the New Yorker. 

Penn plays Sergeant Tony Meserve, who commands a platoon of American soldiers against the Viet Cong, including Private First Class Max Eriksson. When Meserve becomes overwhelmed by the pressures of his command and the stress of his extended tour, he orders his men to kidnap a young Vietnamese girl for them to use for their own twisted pleasures. But when Erikkson refuses to take part in their scheme, it endangers their mission as tensions between him and his CO engulf the squad just as the Vietcong attack.

Buffalo Soldiers (2001)

No, you're not imagining things, this 2001 film is the second underrated war movie with the title "Buffalo Soldiers," this one starring the Joker himself, Joaquin Phoenix. A black comedy, the film is not the gripping, dark drama you'd expect from Phoenix, but has a tinge of his customary wry, sly humor, in a story set against the backdrop of the cold war in Berlin. Its cast also includes Ed Harris, Anna Paquin, Dean Stockwell, and early roles for Michael Pena and Idris Elba too. Overlooked mainly because it received just a limited release, it's funny, touching, and disturbing in equal measure.

Based on the 1993 novel by Robert O'Connor, this movie focuses on SPC Ray Elwood (Phoenix), a dispirited soldier stationed in West Germany in 1989 just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Peacetime proves boring for Elwood, and with little to do he fills his days selling drugs while running a local black market of stolen goods, while carousing with the wife of his superior officer, Colonel Berman (Harris). But Elwood's hum-drum existence is thrown topsy-turvy with the arrival of Sgt. Robert E. Lee (Scott Glenn): a stone-cold Vietnam vet who wants to straighten out the sloppy soldiers. 

Though it received good reviews, with critic Roger Ebert comparing it to such classics as "Catch-22" and "M*A*S*H," the film never saw a wide release and is still an under-seen, under-appreciated war comedy that deserves its day.


Another film that saw only a limited release, "Tigerland" from 2000 featured then-newcomer Colin Farrell in one of his earliest roles, as well as Cole Hauser long before he became a star on "Yellowstone." The one and only war movie in the filmography of acclaimed director Joel Schumacher, the film, like "Full Metal Jacket" more than a decade before, focuses on the soldiers during their boot camp and training, this time at the fabled Tigerland facility in Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Set in 1971, the Vietnam War is already a quagmire when Roland Bozz is drafted and sent to boot camp. While he is deeply against the war, there is little he can do, and his disgruntled attitude makes him unpopular with commanders. But Bozz is skilled and a natural leader too, and soon finds himself given the rank of squad leader despite his rivalry with the angry and bitter Private Wilson (Shea Wigham). But once they are sent to Tigerland, a training camp designed to prepare soldiers for the difficult conditions of Vietnam, a series of realistic battle exercises reignites Bozz's feud with Wilson, which threatens to spill real blood.

Though the film covered well-trodden ground, "Tigerland" was a refreshing take on familiar material, with a fine cast and a sharp, emotional script. 

Memphis Belle

Among the many new pieces of wartime tech deployed during World War II was the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, a heavily fortified bomber that proved crucial in the Allies' strategic bombing campaigns. One of the most famous to ever fly was called the Memphis Belle, which was the subject of at least two movies: the documentary "Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress" theatrically released in 1944, and the eponymously titled underrated war drama, "Memphis Belle," released more than 40 years later.

With a roster of young '80s stars in the cast including Matthew Modine ("Full Metal Jacket"), Eric Stoltz ("Mask"), and Sean Astin ("The Goonies"), it follows the crew of the Memphis Belle during a series of critical missions across Europe and into Germany. As they near the end of their tours, however, the crew is given one final mission that could deal a devastating blow to the Nazis: they are to fly deep behind the lines and destroy a German aircraft factory. But as they fly to their target, with a wing of bombers and fighters to escort them, problems aboard the Memphis Belle endanger the mission. 

Designed to be more of a blockbuster war movie than most on this list, "Memphis Belle" pushes the magic of Hollywood over gritty realism. Released just as the decade turned over, the movie got lost in a wave of bigger, more spectacular action movies, but today should be appreciated on its own merits. 


War movies need not be modern, as proven by greats like "300," "Spartacus," and "The Vikings." There are near as many underrated war movies set in ancient times as there are those set in World War II or Vietnam. Chief among them is the 2010 action drama "Centurion," inspired by the historical account of a Roman legion that went missing under mysterious circumstances in the 2nd Century CE. 

Called the Legio IX Hispana, there has never been an explanation for their disappearance, so the film — directed by Neill Marshall ("Game of Thrones") — attempts to fill in the gaps in the history books with a tale of their own. "The Wire" star Dominic West plays the legion's commander, Titus Flavius Virilus, with Michael Fassbender as Quintus Dias, a Roman soldier under command, while Olga Kurlyenko ("Black Widow") is Etain, a Celtic warrior who serves as their guide. Together, they venture across the Scottish Highlands on a mission to slaughter the Picts, a tribe that has been causing trouble for the Romans. But a stunning betrayal leaves the legion dead, and Virilius a captive of the Pict King who holds a personal vendetta for the murder of his son.

A fascinating potential answer to one of history's greatest riddles, "Centurion" was passed over, seen as little more than standard action fare. But with an impressive cast of stars and a compelling story — and even a few surprises — it's one of the most underrated ones too.

Cross of Iron

The 1970s saw the rise of a new kind of war movie, more somber and often much more visceral. A generation of younger filmmakers ushered in a new wave of war movies, and during that transition, a few would-be classics slipped through the cracks. One of them was the 1977 film "Cross of Iron," directed by golden age filmmaker Sam Peckinpah, who was known for his many '60s Westerns. He infused the decade's darker sentiments into a more classic style of war movie, which resulted in an underrated film criticized for being so vastly different from his previous work.

Showing World War II from the other side, the film centers on Cpl. Rolf Steiner (James Coburn). Steiner is a German soldier who has already earned the nation's highest honor, the Iron Cross, but who has become disillusioned by glory-seeking leaders. His commanding officer Captain Stransky (Maximilian Schell) is exactly the kind of leader he despises: a man obsessed with earning his own Iron Cross, and resentful of Steiner's achievement and the respect it commands. While fighting together on the Eastern Front, Stransky hopes to earn the award himself, by any means necessary, but when Steiner won't help in his quest for glory, the two become bitter enemies.

An impeccable film with a different perspective and a rare focus on the enlisted man, "Cross of Iron" is something special. Unfortunately, it was gobbled up in the spring of 1977, released just weeks before a little sci-fi picture by an unknown director named George Lucas.

Son of Saul

Underrated movies can take many different forms, and the 2015 film "Son of Saul," though Oscar Award-winning, has never gotten the appreciation it deserves. Winner of Best Foreign Film, it's garnered acclaim for its thoughtful approach to the brutal inhumanity that occurred in concentration camps during the Holocaust. An impressive debut from Hungarian filmmaker Nemes László, it starred Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnár, and Urs Rechn, and tells a focused story about a single day in the life of Saul Auslander (Röhrig), a Jewish-Hungarian man held in Auschwitz during World War II. 

Brought into the service of the Sonderkommando — a slave labor unit within the concentration camp — he is forced to assist the Nazis in the transport of the dead from the camp and looting their bodies of valuables. But when Saul discovers a young boy murdered, he sets out to make sure the child is given a proper Jewish burial. Obsessed with finding a Rabbi to perform the ceremony, Saul joins a group of prisoners in a plot to overthrow their Nazi captors in the hopes that one of them can help.

At times uncomfortable to watch, "Son of Saul" forces viewers to confront the harsh realities of the war that many to this day still fail to truly grasp. Uncompromising in its starkness, the critical consensus on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes called it "Grimly intense yet thoroughly rewarding ... an unforgettable viewing experience."

Yellow Birds

Never given a proper wide release in theaters, the 2017 film "The Yellow Birds" might be the quintessential underrated war movie. Not just because it's not as talked-about as the greats, but because it's universally agreed to be among them; it was given a tremendous response when it screened at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, and yet almost nobody knows it even exists. Relegated to streaming for its ultimate release (per Deadline), it flew under most people's radar despite an all-star cast that included up-and-coming actor Alden Ehrenreich ("Solo: A Star Wars Story"), Tye Sheridan ("Ready Player One") and Jennifer Aniston ("Friends").

A closer look into the lives of soldiers that goes beyond their wartime service, "The Yellow Birds" follows two childhood best friends named John Bartle and Daniel Murphy (Ehrenreich and Sheridan) who both enlist together during the tumultuous years of the second Iraq War. Their close relationship extends beyond just themselves, with Bartle promising Murphy's mother (Aniston) that he'll look out for her son. But when they arrive for their tour of duty their commanding officer, the emotionally troubled Sergeant Sterling (Jack Huston) — who struggles with the pressures of combat — makes the job more challenging than either of them expected.

A winner at Sundance, critics were predicting big things for the film, but it was sadly lost thanks to its lack of a major cinematic release.

The Admiral: Roaring Currents

We could make an entire list of underrated war movies out of Korea, but we'd be remiss if we didn't include at least one in this broader collection of under-appreciated films. On that note, we'll introduce you to the 2014 movie "The Admiral: Warring Currents" which gives us not just one of the best Korean war movies in recent years, but one centered on one of the most incredible conflicts in the nation's history. 

Venturing into the sub-genre of naval war movies, the film dramatizes the Battle of Myeongnyang, fought between Korea and Japan in the 16th century. It saw the decimated Korean naval fleet — consisting of less than 15 vessels — hold off more than 130 Japanese warships in the Myeongnyang Strait in a conflict that compares to the more well-known Battle of Thermopylae, made famous in the blockbuster "300." Not as stylized as Zack Snyder's ancient war movie, "The Admiral" stars Choi Min-sik ("Oldboy") as Admiral Yi Sun-sin, the legendary naval general whose military genius helped his homeland defeat the vaunted Japanese armies in the Imjin War.

More than just naval tactics and big battle scenes "The Admiral" shows how Sun-sin kept his troops fighting despite growing despair, even surviving an assassination attempt by officers who wanted to flee. A massive hit in its native South Korea, it saw little attention stateside, earning itself underrated status in the West.

The Catcher Was a Spy

We're not sure how this one slipped under the radar in 2018, what with it starring Hollywood golden boy and recent addition to Marvel's cinematic universe Paul Rudd, but "The Catcher Was a Spy" is perhaps the most captivating underrated entry on this list. Set during World War II when many big league baseball players were off fighting in the war — a situation that spurred the rise of women's baseball in fact — there was at least one who contributed in the most unimaginable way possible: Red Sox slugger Moe Berg.

A journeyman catcher who'd played for several teams already, his amateur filming of Japanese naval yards while overseas in 1936 for an exhibition game got him noticed by U.S. intelligence. Years later, Berg is officially recruited for war time service, but not as a soldier on the front lines. Instead, Berg joins the big league secret agents, enlisted for a clandestine mission to track down a German scientist who is working on his country's own nuclear bomb. Smuggled into Italy the all-star ballplayer is thrust into the unfamiliar world of high stakes espionage, but proves himself a solid pinch hitter.

With a star cast and a fascinating story based on a true story, "The Catcher is a Spy" will put you in the stands with Rudd's charismatic presence and its engrossing spy action will keep you cheering till the final out.