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Joker94's avatar

What makes a good war film?

Asked by Joker94 (8143 points ) March 14th, 2011

I just finished up watching Apocalypse Now: Redux, and was wondering what makes a good war film to you. Does it have to be historicallu accurate and have the standard brutality of war films? Or is it better to make a more personal narrative set against the backdrop of war?

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27 Answers

WestRiverrat's avatar

The actors have to fit the characters they are playing.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I have only seen a very few war movies I would consider great. I may be a bit too demanding as a result of having “been there, done that.”

Saving Private Ryan
Band of Brothers
Hamburger Hill
The Longest Day
A Rumor of War

I would not put Apocalypse Now in that list because it was almost entirely a polemic against the Vietnam War. Even though Platoon was technically accurate, the depictions of interpersonal conflict were not, so it doesn’t make the list either.

Cruiser's avatar

I love the narrative set in a back drop of war like Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Deer Hunter movies did. All stellar movies.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Same thing that makes any movie good: good characters who develop throughout the film, immersive setting, good writing, humor, etc.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Cruiser

Out of that list, only one comes even close to being accurate .. Saving Private Ryan.

Cruiser's avatar

@CaptainHarley The OP asked what made a good film, accurate there are only a few if that…all a matter of opinion really. For accuracy, Hamburger Hill really gets my Oscar.

Joker94's avatar

@Cruiser Hamburger Hill and Deer Hunter are on my list of movies to watch ^.^
I thought Apocalypse Now was good, very surreal, but good.

WestRiverrat's avatar

I would like to see Sands of Iwo Jima remade with R. Lee Emery as the lead character.

Best war movie ever made in my opinion is The Longest Day.

Joker94's avatar

I’m adding so many of these to my list

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I personally liked Saving Private Ryan as did my dad who was a Korean Was veteran in the Marine Corp.
He absolutely hated Hamburger Hill and called it “Bullshit”.
I’ll take his word for it.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille

Are you certain it was Hamburger Hill he didn’t like? I was in Vietnam and it was very accurate. Perhaps he meant Porkchop Hill?

lifeflame's avatar

It has to really capture the terror of war, and to humanise the conflict.
It should recognize that war is a terrible thing, and something we never wish to engage lightly in.

seazen_'s avatar

Saving Private Ryan comes to mind – that’s how you make a film.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@CaptainHarley-If it was the Clint Eastwood film then he absolutely hated it…
I never bothered to see it.edit:
I just checked…Heartbreak Ridge was the one.Sorry about that!

Cruiser's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille I think you are referring to Heartbreak Ridge and if that is the same one… your dad was right that movie blew.

CaptainHarley's avatar

I have real trouble sitting through the opening sequence to Saving Private Ryan without crying. : ((

filmfann's avatar

My favorite war movies:

Apocalypse Now (based on the Joseph Conrad story “Heart of Darkness” and “The Odyssey” by Homer)
Patton
Saving Private Ryan
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (say it’s a western, but it is also the most anti-war of war movies)
All Quiet On The Western Front
Letters From Iwo Jima
M*A*S*H

All the movies show a surreal side to war, and show a level of insanity connected with it.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Oh yeah! I forgot We Were Soldiers! Damn!

Joker94's avatar

I agree with you, @filmfann. I think surrealism goes really with the war genre. I’m going to have to rewatch The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly now, I haven’t seen it since I was eight..

TexasDude's avatar

A war film is good, in my mind, if it effectively captures the human element of war without being preachy.

I like war films that don’t paint all soldiers as though they are poor lost souls, and don’t paint them as bloodthirsty mercenaries, but instead that describe them realistically, as human beings in extraordinary situations.

ucme's avatar

One that ends with the ringing endorsement that war is indeed utterly futile. Oh & lots of germans tumbling through the air with their pants on fire.

12Oaks's avatar

More shooting, less romance. Also, after the war is won, to be sure to show that war, not matter how brutal it can get, is at times the only option left once all other have been exhausted. It’s hard to make the right decisions sometimes, but it’s gotta be done. Can’t forget that moral in the end.

Austinlad's avatar

What makes a good war film for me is one that advocates against war. There’s no finer example of that than “Paths of Glory.”

mattbrowne's avatar

One that makes people reject war and understand how horrible it is and that makes them see it as a rare last resort in order to save innocent people.

Zaku's avatar

I want it to be realistic and historically accurate in as many ways as possible, including the attitudes of the time. And then, be a good film for the other types of film that it is.

I think that characterization can get in the way, especially if the film fails to show how war dehumanizes people, at least, if that’s historically appropriate.

Pacifist though I am, I’m also very interested in military history, and I enjoy war games and violent games and films, for fun as well as for interest. And I tend to think it is often a mistake which backfires when films intentionally try to give an anti-war message. It’s an unwise mistake because it doesn’t need to be done, and adds a layer of fakeness to the pacifist message. War and violence are terrible, horrible things which only need to be presented realistically in order to make a pacifistic impression.

e.g. Midway

BTW, I think the best war film (for my bullet) overall may be The Longest Day, though it may not be the absolute most realistic, nor does it show horror and humanity the best.

WMFlight's avatar

I hate any film that glorifies war although I did have a thing about the film Zulu for a while mainly because the Zulu’s warriors were so amazing and I loved the John Barry soundtrack. You have to admire a people who stand up to rifles dressed in a loincloth holding only a leather shield and wielding a spear. Terribly brave and of course ultimately a sickening waste of life on both sides. For what?

Pachy's avatar

Nobody dies and peace is declared five minutes after the movie starts.

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