Some say all war movies are actually anti-war movies, and they might be right. When you watch a really good war movie, chances are it’s changed the way you see war, the meaning of war and why we fight those wars. Considering how much power a really good military movie has to make us think, to move us emotionally and really lay bare the consequences of armed conflict, you’d think that it would make them the strongest contender for a Best Picture Oscar, especially when the field of nominees is relatively weak. You’d be wrong.
Here are 5 of the best war movies snubbed for best picture Oscars
1. The Steel Helmet (1951)
Imagine making a movie about a war while that war was still going on. Sure they did it a lot during World War II, but that was mostly to get people hyped up about the war. After all, almost everyone was affected by it. That was not necessarily so during the Korean War. Like the Forgotten War itself, so was the grim 1951 film “The Steel Helmet.”
It’s a low-budget movie that was nonetheless a great story, well-told. It portrayed the brutal realities of fighting on the frontlines of a stalemate with a ruthless enemy like North Korea. On top of that, it depicted an American public who was tired of constant wars. Despite its bravery and ongoing recognition as the best Korean War movie ever made, the Academy didn’t nominate it for anything, let alone Best Picture.
2. Paths of Glory (1957)
Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of a novel about the real-world execution of French soldiers for cowardice during World War I managed to piss just about everyone off: namely, the French Army. Germany banned it to avoid straining relations with France. Spanish dictator Francisco Franco banned it in Spain and even the U.S. military banned it, despite it being based on a true story.
Kubrick gets the last laugh, however, because this Kirk Douglas-led movie is one of the best war movies of all time. At the 30th Academy Awards, the Academy must have caved to some pressure because “Paths of Glory” didn’t get a single nomination.
3. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Stanley Kubrick, at it again. Exactly 30 years later, he’s commenting on the Vietnam War while making R. Lee Ermey an overnight sensation and a U.S. military favorite. Everyone from film critics to academics have poured over this movie countless times since its release, and the analyses can get pretty wild.
You know what movie no one talks about anymore? “The Last Emperor,” which is the story of Puyi, the last Qing emperor of China. Not only did that movie win Best Picture at the 60th Academy Awards, it also won Best Adapted Screenplay, the only category in which “Full Metal Jacket” was nominated. And Stanley Kubrick didn’t give the People’s Republic of China a ton of money to make his movie.
4. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Leave it to Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg to completely redefine World War II movies set in Europe, set a new bar for epic war movies, and get input from actual veterans to make a movie about their war. Everything about “Saving Private Ryan” is perfect, including its plot (fight me). It was rightly nominated for Best Picture at the 71st Academy Awards.
It lost to “Shakespeare In Love,” a stupid, throwaway romantic comedy about a fictional William Shakespeare. The only reason it won was because of a strongarm campaign for it led by Harvey Weinstein (allegedly, but c’mon… did you see this movie?). If you sided with Harvey Weinstein, Academy voters, that’s on you forever.
5. Dunkirk (2017)
Christopher Nolan’s touching, gripping story about the miraculous evacuation of hundreds of thousands of anti-Nazi British and French troops from the shores of Europe by a civilian armada of pleasure craft was one of the best movies of 2017. It had everything you might want in a war movie: a great cast, amazing cinematography and an incredible story.
That fact might not be apparent, however, because Dunkirk lost its Best Picture win to “The Shape of Water,” which answers the question “What if the damsel in distress really loved the creature from the Black Lagoon?” Which is a question no one ever asked.