6 Military movies and shows that surprised us with what they got right

Team Mighty
Aug 31, 2023 11:10 AM PDT
3 minute read
hurt locker movie

SUMMARY

Maybe there’s something even the not-so-great military movies got right; something every veteran (or most veterans, anyway) can appreciate.

Most Hollywood war movies aren’t exactly known for their attention to detail. The ones who do pay attention to the little things get a lot of love from veterans because we see them taking great care with our stories. The ones that don’t get everything right… well, they had better be really good in every other way. 

But maybe there’s something even the not-so-great war movies got right; something every veteran (or most veterans, anyway) can appreciate. Something that evokes a memory of basic training (like, say… “In the Army Now”) or something about our MOS (like watching Marines call for mortars in “The Thin Red Line”). Here are just a few examples of small things we can appreciate, even if we can’t sit through the whole flick. 

Check out these 6 military movies and shows that surprised us with what they got right

1. In The Army Now

There’s actually a lot this Pauly Shore classic got right. While many military movies seem to skip over learning a military specialty and send soldiers straight from basic training to whatever the plot has them doing, “In the Army Now” doesn’t. 

Surprisingly, you can get a pretty good sense of what it’s like to join the Army by watching Pauly Shore graduate from basic training, go through AIT, get smoked by a first sergeant, and lose a girlfriend to Jody on his first deployment. 

Poster/DVD for In the Army Now (film).

2. Enlisted 

“Enlisted” bungled its premiere with some of the worst depictions of Army uniform and hair regulations ever seen on television anywhere. To their credit, once the creators realized this tragedy, they went back and re-did all its promotional materials and the like. 

It was about a rear echelon unit led by a good soldier, who is put in charge of a group of underachievers. While the series was canceled after one season, it was a pretty good depiction of the underachievers you meet in the military – and just how they underachieved. 

Title card for Enlisted. (FOX)

3. The Pentagon Wars

Although the movie (and the book it was based on) is about the development of the Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicle, the movie itself is supposedly a great description of the Pentagon’s planning and procurement process. The Bradley goes from being a fast, light, armored troop carrier to something akin to a tank. 

“The Pentagon Wars” received mild reviews when it first aired, but in the days since it debuted on HBO, but the subsequent years, it gained a cult following for how it depicts the Pentagon’s processes. 

Poster for The Pentagon Wars.

4. Purple Hearts

A Marine and a musician get married so they can receive the extra benefits of married military families?  Not a great movie, but this happens so much that no one in the military batted an eye about its premise when “Purple Hearts” started its run on Netflix. 

Poster for the film Purple Hearts.

5. Gardens of Stone

This movie kinda gets overshadowed by director Francis Ford Coppola’s other Vietnam movie, “Apocalypse Now.” When “Gardens of Stone” premiered in 1987, the Vietnam War was long over but still fresh in the minds of the public. Telling a real story about military members wasn’t a big deal in Hollywood. Or anywhere else. It wasn’t well-received by critics. 

But the movie is about Sgt. 1st Class Clell Hazard, a battle-hardened veteran of Korea and Vietnam who only wants to instruct at the Army’s infantry school so he can keep young recruits from getting killed in Vietnam. The Army sends him to Washington instead, where he begins mentoring someone with great potential. 

Hazard is a great soldier, but has a terrible family life after coming home from the wars. After mentoring a soldier, that soldier then mentors another soldier. Hazard decides the only place he knows how to function is the Vietnam War and volunteers to go back. Maybe you’ve met a veteran like that.  

Poster for Gardens of Stone. (TriStar)

6. The Hurt Locker

Yeah, yeah, we already know what you’re thinking. Everyone who fought in Iraq (and probably Afghanistan, too) hates this movie. Critics loved it, but very little about it is realistic. We all know that. But maybe it’s worth sitting through for the scene in the supermarket. Jeremy Renner, with very few words, evokes the banality some veterans feel as they go about living everyday life.

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