Despite their popularity on the silver screen, many of the best military action scenes don’t depict the heroic storming the beaches of Normandy or cutting through the enemy frontlines in the jungles of Vietnam. In fact, some of the most intense sequences are of the deadly dogfights in the sky.
Several awesome films get overlooked just because there isn’t any land warfare involved. So, to even things out a bit, here are a few of our favorite films that feature dogfights and keep us on the edges of our seats.
1. Top Gun
When Tony Scott’s Top Gun landed in movie theaters across the country, it was a freakin’ blockbuster, raking in over $350 million worldwide. Filled with plenty of aerial acrobatics, Top Gun made audiences of all ages want to be the next hotshot pilot.
The fight scenes that capped off the film were well-edited, featured a kick-ass soundtrack, and delivered plenty notable one-liners that had moviegoers nodding in approval.
2. Memphis Belle
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones, Memphis Belle follows the brave men crewing a B-17 bomber based in the United Kingdom as they prepare for their final mission over Germany.
The dogfight scenes capture what it must have been like battling wave after wave of well-trained German fighters.
3. Fly Boys
In 2006, James Franco took to the pilot seat playing a young man who volunteered for the French military before the U.S. got involved World War I. The film showcased the intense training and extreme dangers that canopy-less fly boys encountered during the war.
4. Red Tails
This film chronicles a group of African American pilots flying in the Tuskegee program and shows how their bravery maneuvered them right into the history books and America’s hearts.
5. Tora! Tora! Tora!
Considered a classic war film, the story of Tora! Tora! Tora! focuses on the days leading up to the Pearl Harbor attack and makes clear the political context of the surprise Japanese offensive.
The stunning imagery tells the story without much dialogue, which is doubly impressive for a film released in 1970.
6. Red Baron
This German biopic is closely based on the World War I fighter pilot ace, Manfred Von Richthofen, nicknamed the Red Baron. The film’s excellent shot selection and pacing show how skilled warfighters were back then, scoring kills without using the advanced technology we enjoy today.
7. The Eternal Zero
We don’t typically praise the enemy in American cinema, but holy sh*t — director Takashi Yamazaki did an amazing job of putting you in the pilot’s seat in epic aerial battles.
Bonus: Les Chevaliers du Ceil (Sky Fighters)
You might be thinking, why did WATM put a French film on the list? Well, this film displays one of the most intense dogfights ever recorded. Between high-voltage camera work and excellent cinematography, you’ll be left guessing what’s real and what’s CG.
Just check out the trailer: