The 16 best military movies of all time - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

The 16 best military movies of all time

From realistic portrayals of combat to comedic satire of thermonuclear warfare, some military-themed movies are a cut above the rest.


Since WATM is headquartered in Hollywood, California and run by military veterans, it makes sense that we would put together a ranking of the best military movies of all time. Whether they include great stories, very quotable lines, intense combat (or all of the above), these 16 movies are what we’d pick as the best military movies.

16. Jarhead (2005)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford’s best-selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and about his experiences fighting in Kuwait.

Reason to watch: While the main character is a less-than-stellar Marine who often gets in trouble, this film shines in realistically depicting infantry life. The camaraderie, the dumb games, and the sheer boredom grunts experience when they are in a combat zone but not seeing combat is what makes this worth watching.

15. Catch-22 (1970)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: B-25 navigator stationed in North Africa during World War II wrestles with the tragedy, irony, and hypocrisy that surrounds him as the minimum mission requirement continues to rise.

Reason to watch: Early SNL alum Buck Henry adapted Joseph Heller’s classic WW2 novel for an American public that was at odds over the Vietnam War, evidence that it took nearly a decade and a half for the themes to resonate. In spite of the fact that parts of the story are over-the-top, the movie (and even more so the book) are prescriptive. Anyone who’s ever spent any time around the Air Force will recognize the personalities: Careerist buffoons, obtuse general officers, opportunistic (albeit very entrepreneurial) junior officers as well as the folks who are just trying to get the job done without going crazy are all here.

14. Tigerland (2000)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: A group of recruits go through Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Polk, Louisiana’s infamous Tigerland, last stop before Vietnam for tens of thousands of young men in 1971.

Reason to watch: Colin Farrell gives a wonderful performance as Pvt. Roland Bozz, a misfit draftee soldier who spends most of his Army career getting into trouble. Set during the Vietnam war in 1971, the film is unique in that it never takes the viewer to Vietnam. Instead, the plot follows along with the training of young soldiers before they go overseas, and offers realistic portrayals of soldiers from Bozz, to the idealistic Pvt. Paxton (played by Matthew Davis), to the brutal instructor of Staff Sgt. Thomas (played by James McDonald).

13. Taking Chance (2009)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: Based on real-life events, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming.

Reason to watch: While most military movies focus on battle scenes, “Taking Chance” focuses on the part often overlooked: What happens when troops lose their lives in combat. As people in the military know, the belongings are packed and shipped, the body is taken to Dover, and an escort brings them to their final resting place. Actor Kevin Bacon does a superb job of depicting the real-life story of one such escort duty, for Pfc. Chance Phelps.

12. A Few Good Men (1992)

Plot: Neo military lawyer Kaffee defends Marines accused of murder; they contend they were acting under orders.

Reason to watch: It’s a great courtroom drama which explores the question of what is a legal order. When two junior Marines are told to carry out a hazing ritual by their commander, should they have followed it? That’s what a court-martial is to decide, which ultimately ends in an epic shouting match between Navy Lt. Kaffee and Col. Jessup (played brilliantly by Jack Nicholson).

11. Patton (1970)

Plot: The World War II phase of the career of the controversial American general, George S. Patton.

Reason to watch: George C. Scott gives a masterful portrayal of the controversial Army general during World War II. The opening speech alone is worth watching, with Patton giving a rousing speech to troops that opens with the line, “Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

10. To Hell and Back (1955)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: The true WWII story of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in U.S. history. Based on the autobiography of Audie Murphy who stars as himself in the film.

Reason to watch: Instead of settling for actors trying to recreate battlefield heroics, why not watch the real-life soldier do it? That’s what you’ll see in “To Hell and Back,” the film that follows the life of Audie Murphy, the most-decorated soldier of World War II. Murphy stars as himself in this film, which kicked off a 21-year acting career after his Army service.

9. Das Boot (1981)

 

Plot: The claustrophobic world of a WWII German U-boat; boredom, filth, and sheer terror.

Reason to watch: Nominated for six Oscars, Wolfgang Petersen’s masterpiece film gives a rare look at the fight from the other side during World War II. Tasked with fighting the “Battle of the Atlantic,” the life of a German U-Boat crew is shown in depth here, with an especially brilliant portrayal of the ship’s captain by Jurgen Prochnow.

8. Platoon (1986)

Plot: A young recruit in Vietnam faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man.

Reason to watch: Told from the perspective of Chris Taylor (played by Charlie Sheen), “Platoon” gives an inside look at what it was like for a grunt on the ground in Vietnam. Besides showing infantry life and all its hardships, the film also boasts incredible performances from Willem Dafoe as Sgt. Elias, and Tom Berenger as Staff Sgt. Barnes. It’s also worth noting that this film had an extra level of realism to it, with its director (Oliver Stone) and military technical advisor (Dale Dye) both having served in Vietnam.

7. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Plot: A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I.

Reason to watch: Based on the classic book by Erich Maria Remarque, this masterpiece explores the extreme stress, discomfort, and horrors of war that soldiers faced fighting in the trenches of World War I. The film is on many “best film” lists, especially considering its realistic portrayal of warfare. In perhaps the most chilling scene of the movie, the main character of Paul stabs a French soldier, only to find himself trapped in the same hole with him as he dies.

“Why do they never tell us that you are just poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying, and the same agony,” he says. “Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?”

6. Flags of our Fathers (2006)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: The life stories of the six men who raised the flag at The Battle of Iwo Jima, a turning point in WWII.

Reason to watch: While most people have seen the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima, many don’t know the flag raising happened just days into the battle, when it was not yet clear when the Japanese would be defeated. Three of the six flag raisers would be killed later in the battle, while the remaining three would be brought back to the U.S. to help raise war bonds. This film, directed by Clint Eastwood, tells that story. (You should also check out Eastwood’s telling of the Japanese side, in “Letters from Iwo Jima”).

5. Dr. Strangelove (1964)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically try to stop.

Reason to watch: While Director Stanley Kubrick offers a hilarious and brutal satire of Cold War tensions, he also provides plenty of insight into political and military leaders and their thinking at the time. This one was years ahead of its time, and it also has some great B-52 crew coordination scenes.

“Mandrake, have you ever seen a Commie drink water?”

4. Black Hawk Down (2001)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: 123 elite U.S. soldiers drop into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.

Reason to watch: Based on the book by journalist Mark Bowden (which is an absolute must-read), “Black Hawk Down” details the failed attempt to capture a Somali warlord — an operation that should have lasted 15 minutes — that unfortunately does not go according to plan. After two helicopters are shot down, soldiers are shown reacting and adapting to the changing events, often in heroic fashion. From depicting soldiers preparing for a mission, how they respond to irregular warfare, and the actions of Medal of Honor recipients Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart, this film is a must-see.

3. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

 

Plot: A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the U.S.-Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.

Reason to watch: “Full Metal Jacket” is really two films in one, with act one depicting a realistic look at Vietnam-era boot camp, and act two showing life for Marines in the battle of Hue City. The performance Marines love — and can perfectly quote — comes from R. Lee Ermey, who plays Drill Instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, a seemingly never ending source of great zingers.

2. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Plot: Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.

Reason to watch: Just the first ten minutes with the film’s incredible depiction of the Normandy landings on D-Day in 1944 make this a must-watch. After this sequence, however, there is plenty to stick around for: Tom Hanks wonderful portrayal of Capt. Miller, the banter of soldiers as they search the French countryside, and the heroic “last stand” at a bridge the troops need to keep the Germans away from.

1. We Were Soldiers (2002)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: The story of the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War and the soldiers on both sides that fought it.

Reason to watch: Mel Gibson brilliantly portrays then-Lt. Col. Hal Moore as he leads his unit in the first major battle of the Vietnam war. But there are so many great performances in this film (based on the book “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young”) which opens by saying that “every damn Hollywood movie got it wrong.” From the portrayal of the gruff combat veteran Sgt. Maj. Plumley and pilot and Medal of Honor recipient Bruce Crandall, to the hardship endured at home by the Army wives, this film gets it right.

NOW CHECK OUT: 9 military movie scenes where Hollywood got it totally wrong

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘The Marine’ packs a record number of technical errors into the first five minutes

‘The Marine’ is a classic American film and accurate portrayal of a marine transitioning to civilian life,” said no actual Marine, ever.


The film, produced in 2006 by WWE Films, stars WWE superstar John Cena as John Triton, a highly regarded Marine who is unwillingly discharged from the Corps after he disobeys an order while on a hostage rescue mission in Iraq. All of this takes place in the first 5 minutes of the film. The rest of the movie is John, now a civilian, tracking down his wife after she is . . . you know what, it doesn’t really matter.

No one expects accuracy or Academy award-winning performances in a film made for wrestling fans, but if this entire film had been a military movie, it could have possibly set the record for the most technical mistakes in a film.

(We should also note that the WWE has a fantastic relationship with the armed forces, producing an annual Tribute to the Troops show every year and John Cena is known for being especially supportive of military service members.)

So here they are, 21 major mistakes (with timestamps) in the first 5 minutes of ‘The Marine’:

1. (1:14)  John’s ribbon stack on his Dress Blues is completely out of order.

2. (1:15)  Not only is the Combat Action Ribbon out of order, it is worn backwards.

3. (1:18)  John’s salute is a good example of how not to salute. His saluting arm is not parallel to the ground, his hand angled inward far too much, and it’s far above the brim of his cover.

4. (1:19)  John’s dress blues uniform is unkempt. His white glove is noticeably wrinkled (while saluting), his coat sleeves are too long, and his pants are not tailored causing them to bunch up at his feet because they’re much too long.

5. (1:20)  JOHN IS FREAKING STANDING ON THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!

6. (1:50)  John is single handedly performing reconnaissance on an Al Qaeda compound with no back up.

7. (1:57)  On combat mission, John is not wearing any head or eye protection.

8. (2:22)  Who could miss the unrealistic and gigantic muzzle flash from John’s M16?

9. (2:27)  The 40 MM grenade John shoots from his M203 creates a huge unrealistic fireball that engulfs three insurgents.

10. (2:31)  Bullet holes in the wall from the 7.62 mm caliber rounds fired by the insurgents are enormous.

11. (2:35)  John is not wearing any type of flak jacket.

12. (3:04)  After eliminating the insurgents in the room John turns to the bloodied hostages on the floor. Instead of checking to see if they need any immediate medical care he asks in a nonchalant manner “Are you guys ready to go home?”

13. (3:32)  There is no special operations command in Stuttgart, Germany.

14. (3:41)  No Marine Colonel dressed in his Alphas would walk in to a gym to fetch a Non Commissioned Officer. He would send one of his many aides to get him.

15. (3:46)  The Colonel’s ribbon stack is completely out of order.

16. (3:49)  John has his back turned to the Colonel the entire time when he is speaking with him. As an enlisted Marine he should face the Colonel.

17. (4:06)  The Colonel’s rifle badge is noticeably slanted out of place on his service alphas uniform.

18. (4:09)  John is not wearing an authorized Marine Corps cover in uniform.

19. (4:17)  The Colonel gives John the terrible news about the decision to discharge him out of the Marines. This would normally be done privately in an official capacity, not casually outside the base gym and in public.

20. (4:22)  The Colonel gives John his discharge paperwork in a small letter envelope. There is so much paperwork when a service member discharges they often need folders or very large envelopes to carry them.

21. (4:49)  When the Colonel is finished giving John the bad news he renders John a salute. Officers are not supposed to salute an enlisted rank first. To make matters worse, when John renders a salute back the Colonel walks away before John finishes his salute (see image below). This entire saluting sequence is entirely screwed up.

See the trailer of the movie below, and watch the whole think if you’d like to catch another two or so hours of errors.

NOW: The 16 best military movies of all time

OR: 11 movies every soldier needs to see

MIGHTY MOVIES

Looking back on the USO tour legacy of Robin Williams

Robin Williams went on six separate USO tours from 2002 to 2013. Williams inspired countless other comedians and performers to pack their bags and head overseas to share their light with the world. There are hundreds of stories that surround the humanity of each and every visit Williams had.


The 16 best military movies of all time

(USO.org)

For example, take the time on the 2007 USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour, where Williams saw a group of soldiers waving at him from behind a fence across a grassy berm. A wave and a loud joke across the field would’ve surely made those soldiers day… But according to USO VP of Entertainment Rachel Tischler, “… he jumped across the berm and went running over to them. Obviously, our security team completely freaked out. Again – height of the war here. But he didn’t care. He just wanted to go over and shake their hands and thank them. And that is what he was like.”

That’s the thing with Williams. He didn’t just go overseas and perform a couple of comedy sets and dip out. That, in and of itself, would still be a beautiful act of service. But that wasn’t enough for Williams. He jumped the berm in everything he did.

“What was great about him on tour was that he always took the time to sit down and talk to people about what they were going through, what life on the base was like, about personal experiences,” Tischler said. “And then he’d get on stage and he’d be telling a joke about Mexican Night in the [dining facility].”

Robin Williams as troops “Retreat” at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait

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Williams wasn’t just a loose cannon of human decency on USO Tours, either. He was also a respectful observer of military tacit codes. Just watch this video of Williams’s set being cut short by Taps at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.

At the first sound of the beagle, you can almost feel his gut lurching to make a joke. Every single time that Williams had gone on stage, he was a comedic amoeba, calling out things happening in the present moment. He had conditioned himself to make a joke there. But he resisted. He pulled against his greater impulses, and respectfully lowered his head.

You can tell it meant something to him, as he said “I’m never going to forget that.” And what happened next is quintessential Robin Williams— he made a joke about the present moment that unified the entire camp.

The 16 best military movies of all time

Holiday Tour, International Airport in Baghdad (2003)

(Mike Theiler. EPA.)

Unity is the central theme of Robin Williams USO tours, and that’s the legacy left behind. Every man and woman stationed who got to see him took a piece of Williams back with them. Williams loved it too, “There’s nothing I enjoy more than traveling with the USO and giving back to our troops in whatever way I can,” he said, “They work hard, sacrifice a lot and deserve to be treated like the heroes they are. The very least I can do is bring a smile to their faces.”

Many comedians have followed in his footsteps of unity since: Lewis Black, Louis CK, Ralphie May, and Stephen Colbert, just to name a few. As our country feels increasingly disjointed, it’s important to focus on the “Robin Williams” moments; we can reach across the aisle and truly connect with each other.

Whenever we feel distant from each other, we don’t have to shout from behind a fence. We can jump the berm.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sylvester Stallone just posted the coolest recap of the ‘Rambo’ series

The ‘Rambo’ series didn’t start off with John Rambo as a one-man Army, hell-bent on killing anyone who stood between him and his mission. But that’s what it turned out to be. And now few action movie images are more iconic than Rambo tightening up his trademark red headband.


The 16 best military movies of all time

You know the one.

The series began as a very poignant, yet action-packed treatise on the treatment of Vietnam veterans in the years following the end of their war. In First Blood, there’s only one onscreen kill, a guy who falls out of a helicopter for trying to kill Rambo. Rambo isn’t purposely involved in his death. If you want to know the whole point of the first Rambo movie, you can just watch John Rambo’s speech at the end of the movie.

By First Blood: Part II, the idea that John Rambo was just a simple guy with extraordinary training in extraordinary situations, was long gone. In the second Rambo movie, John Rambo is the perfect man to lead a mission back to Vietnam to rescue POWs still held there. Rambo is twice as ripped and definitely kills people in this movie. By Rambo III, he just lays waste to an entire army.

If you don’t remember any of that, Sylvester Stallone posted a helpful reminder to his Instagram account.

From G.I. Joe-level animation for First Blood, the VCR-level graphics in between the “trailers,” the backyard, action figure quality of the trailer for First Blood: Part II, to the 8-bit Nintendo-style graphics for the Rambo III trailer, everything about this rundown of John Rambo’s life is perfect. And perfectly chock-full of late 1980s to early 1990s nostalgia. Whoever came up with this idea – and it very well could have been Stallone himself – needs an award of some kind. A webby, a grammy, a Pulitzer. Something.

The fun doesn’t stop at the original three Rambo movies. The “trailer” for the fourth installment is a nod to a hilarious “Reading Rambo” meme. This comes in the form of a Rambo IV children’s book, narrated by Sly, describing the most epic and violent Rambo scene in the series’ history.

The 16 best military movies of all time

You know the one.

If you’re interested in watching the entire Rambo series recap, check it out on Stallone’s official Instagram feed. If you’re interested in recapping the entire series in its non-cartoon entirety, you can join me on my couch on Thursday as I attempt to contain my overwhelming excitement for the best action movie series since … ever.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ wins the box office

Disney’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is still doing big business at the domestic box office as it stayed in the top spot for a third consecutive weekend after taking in $33.7 million. But compared to its previous chapters in the Skywalker saga, the movie is a little sluggish by “Star Wars” standards.

The movie’s domestic total is now at $450.8 million, a fantastic figure for any blockbuster after three weeks, but at this time two years ago “The Last Jedi” had brought in $531.5 million. And 2015’s “The Force Awakens” raked in the domestic cume after the third weekend of an incredible $742.2 million.


At the end of the day it’s not how fast you get to id=”listicle-2644164132″ billion, but if you get there, and “The Rise of Skywalker” will certainly do that, as the movie’s worldwide total to date is 8.8 million. But the performance by “Skywalker” in the coming weeks will be interesting to track, as it might finish its theatrical run without getting to 0 million domestically. A figure that both “Force Awakens” (6.6 million) and “Last Jedi” (0.1 million) surpassed.

The 16 best military movies of all time

Sony supplied the rest of the box office power this weekend with three very different titles.

“Jumanji: The Next Level” continues to be a strong counterprogrammer to “Rise of Skywalker” as it came in second place with .5 million. Its domestic cume is over 6 million (over 0 million worldwide), proving the franchise will continue on for years to come.

Then it was a battle for third place between “Little Women” and “The Grudge.” Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of the classic edged out the horror with a .5 million take. But the latest reboot of the “The Grudge” has nothing to be upset about. Despite a 16% Rotten Tomatoes score and an F CinemaScore, the movie overperformed with a .3 million opening weekend (it was made for million).

The 16 best military movies of all time

“Knives Out.”

(Lionsgate)

Box-office highlights:

  • Lionsgate/MRC’s “Knives Out” continued to be one of the top-earning original titles released in 2019 (bringing in million over the weekend, only a 9% drop from last weekend), but its performance in China has shocked everyone. Rian Johnson’s whodunit, which he made after doing “The Last Jedi,” has brought in over million in the Middle Kingdom, which is more than what “The Rise of Skywalker” has earned there (over million).
  • A24’s “Uncut Gems” continued to ride its critical acclaim and award season buzz to bring in some impressive box office numbers, as the Safdie brothers movie starring Adam Sandler brought in .8 million over the weekend. That marks only an 18% decline from last weekend contributing to a million cume.
  • Disney’s “Frozen II” is the highest-grossing animated movie of all-time with over id=”listicle-2644164132″.3 billion worldwide. It passes the first “Frozen,” which had the previous record with id=”listicle-2644164132″.28 billion.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The 9 best Civil War movies

It’s been more than 150 years since Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Army Commander Ulysses S. Grant at Wilmer McLean’s Appomattox home, but the legacy of the Civil War still lingers.

From the recent controversies over Confederate memorials to the tens of thousands of hobbyists who dress in grey and blue every summer to reenact key battles, Americans continue to wrestle with the causes and ramifications of the War Between the States.

These nine films, which cover the conflict from the hallways of Congress to the scorched earth of Bleeding Kansas, are packed with insights and (usually) authentic historical details. Just as importantly, they’re guaranteed to entertain.


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1. Gone with the Wind

Widely considered one of the greatest films of all time, this four-hour epic won 10 Academy Awards, broke box office records, and introduced the myth of the Lost Cause to generations of moviegoers. For the role of Scarlett O’Hara, producer David O. Selznick considered nearly every leading lady in Hollywood–from Katharine Hepburn to Tallulah Bankhead to Lana Turner–before settling on Vivien Leigh, a relatively unknown English actress. Her iconic performance immortalized the character of the spoiled, strong-willed Southern belle.

To cast Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Selznick had to delay production and give away half his profits. In return, Gable got the most famous exit line in movie history: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Hewing closely to Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel, the screenplay features insightful period details (Confederate blockade runners, Carpetbaggers bribing freed slaves for their votes, etc.) and an epic recreation of the burning of Atlanta. While Gone with the Wind has been rightly criticized for misleading viewers about the horrors of slavery, its emotional impact and sweeping scale make it a must-see for anyone interested in the legacy of the Civil War.

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2. Glory

Denzel Washington won his first Academy Award for his portrayal of a runaway slave turned soldier in this captivating drama about the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry, the first all-black regiment in the history of the US Army. Matthew Broderick stars as Robert Gould Shaw, the white officer who commanded the 54th.

The Confederate Army had recently announced that any captured black Union soldier would be enslaved or killed alongside his white officers, and Shaw had doubts about the unit’s chances for success. But he was impressed by the soldiers’ grit and determination in the face of relentless discrimination and eventually joined their protest to be paid the same as white soldiers.

Tasked with the impossible mission to take Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor, Shaw and the men of the 54th fought with incredible courage. Their sacrifice is memorialized in a bronze statue in Boston Common, which inspired screenwriter Kevin Jarre to pay tribute to their story.

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3. Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis spent a full year researching Abraham Lincoln’s life in preparation for his Oscar-winning turn as the 16th president of the United States. The result is a tender, lived-in portrayal of the man behind the myth–from his slumped shoulders and high-pitched Illinois twang to his unwavering sense of conviction.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner draws on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivals to dramatize the political machinations involved in the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Lincoln knew that the permanent abolition of slavery was necessary to the nation’s survival but had to race against the clock to get the bill passed before the South could negotiate peace.

By revealing the drama and intrigue behind one of Congress’s most significant pieces of legislation, director Steven Spielberg offers a civics lesson as thrilling as it is necessary.

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4. Gettysburg

Originally planned as a TV miniseries, this four-hour epic based on Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Killer Angels stars Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, and Martin Sheen. Director James Maxwell convinced the National Park Service to allow him to film on the actual Gettysburg battlefield, and thousands of Civil War reenactors came from all over the country to recreate crucial moments in the three-day campaign, including the assault on Devil’s Den and Pickett’s Charge.

The film, like the novel, focuses on the decisions and actions of key players including General Robert E. Lee (Sheen), Lieutenant General James Longstreet (Berenger), and Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Daniels). Daniels, in particular, delivers a rousing performance as the commander of 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, whose stout defense of Little Round Top against repeated Confederate assaults helped to turn the tide of the battle and the war. With its massive scale, brilliant cinematography, and rigorous attention to historical detail, Gettysburg does justice to the deadliest battle in US history.

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5. The Civil War

When it was first broadcast on five consecutive nights in September 1990, this documentary miniseries drew an average of 14 million viewers per night–the largest audience in the history of PBS. Over the course of nine episodes, director Ken Burns and his team of researchers, video editors, historians, and actors unspooled the full story of the Civil War, from John Brown’s uprising at Harper’s Ferry to Lincoln’s assassination and the capture of John Wilkes Booth.

Inspired by Matthew Brady’s photographs of the conflict, Burns used a panning and zooming technique (thereafter known as the “Ken Burns effect”) to bring to life roughly 16,000 still images. Excerpts from the letters and diaries of Robert E. Lee, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, and less-known historical figures such as Mary Chestnut and George Templeton Strong provide an intimate perspective on large-scale events like the Battle of Gettysburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea.

The Civil War reignited popular interest in America’s bloodiest conflict and helped to pave the way for bingeable TV documentaries such as The Jinx and OJ: Made in America.

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6. Cold Mountain

Based on Charles Frazier’s blockbuster novel of the same name, this Anthony Minghella-directed epic is the story of W.P. Inman (Jude Law), a Confederate deserter trying to make his way home to North Carolina in the final months of the Civil War. Gravely wounded in the Battle of the Crater and recovering in a field hospital, Inman decides to leave the war when he reads a letter from his beloved, Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), imploring him to do just that.

While Inman and the other Cold Mountain men have been off fighting, Ada has been struggling to work her deceased father’s farm. Eventually she’s helped in her efforts by Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger in an Oscar-winning performance), an unlettered woman well-versed in the hardscrabble life of a subsistence farmer.

The film brilliantly interweaves Inman’s encounters with all manner of desperate characters–from ribald preachers to villainous Confederate Home Guards –and scenes of Ada and Ruby learning to fend for themselves. Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brendan Gleeson, Donald Sutherland, and Jack White round out the all-star cast of this story of war-torn country and lovers.

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7. Ride with the Devil

Starring Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Jewel, and Jeffrey Wright, this underrated film is based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel Woe to Live On. Maguire stars as young Missouri farmer Jake Roedel, who joins the Bushwhackers, a pro-Confederate guerrilla force, when his German immigrant father is killed by pro-Union Jayhawkers from Kansas.

Alongside his best friend Jack Bull Chiles (Ulrich), Roedel roams the border between Kansas and Missouri, skirmishing with Union regulars and irregulars. But when the Bushwhackers, led by militiaman William Quantrill (John Ales), raid Lawrence, Kansas and massacre 150 unarmed men and boys, Roedel must ask himself where his loyalties truly lie.

Jeffrey Wright delivers a stellar performance as a freed slave who fights for the South, and director Ang Lee brings deep sensitivity and impressive historical accuracy to this searing portrayal of a largely forgotten chapter of the Civil War.

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8. The Horse Soldiers

This John Ford-directed Civil War Western is loosely based on the real story of Grierson’s Raid, a daring Union cavalry incursion some six hundred miles into hostile territory that set the stage for the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

John Wayne stars as Colonel John Marlowe, a railroad construction engineer who leads his men on a mission to destroy a railroad and supply depot in Newton’s Station, Mississippi. When a Southern belle overhears the brigade’s plans, Marlowe is forced to take her and her slave, Lukey, captive. Legendary tennis ace Althea Gibson, the first black woman to win a Grand Slam title, was cast as Lukey but objected to the character’s scripted stereotypical “Negro” dialect. Ford had the dialogue changed at her request.

With Ford’s dynamic visual style and a well-matched rivalry between Wayne’s colonel and William Holden as a regimental surgeon haunted by the horrors of warfare, The Horse Soldiers captures the drama and audacity of one of the war’s most brilliant campaigns.

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9. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Inspired by real-life rumors of lost Confederate gold, this epic spaghetti Western follows three gunslingers across a southwestern landscape ravaged by the Civil War. Clint Eastwood is Blondie (The Good), a lone-wolf bounty hunter with a sense of justice; Lee van Cleef is Angel Eyes (The Bad), a cold-blooded mercenary who never lets a contract killing go unfulfilled; and Eli Wallach is Tuco (The Ugly), a voluble Mexican bandit wanted for a long list of crimes.

As these drifters cross and double-cross each other in pursuit of 0,000 in buried treasure, Union and Confederate forces clash for control of the New Mexico Territory. In director Sergio Leone’s vision of the Civil War, neither side fights with honor. Greed, violence, and stupidity rule the day. With brilliant cinematography and an iconic score by Ennio Morricone, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one of the 20th century’s most unique and influential films.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

Articles

A brief history of US troops playing cards – and a magician’s trick honoring veterans

War can be hell…and war can be absolute boredom. There are few better ways to pass the time than by playing cards. Anyone who served in the military and made it past basic training probably ended up in a game of cards with their fellow troops.


The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo taken by an 82d Airborne paratrooper during WWII. (Portraits of War)

They’re easy to carry: small and lightweight, they fit into a rucksack, duffel bag, or Alice pack without having to sacrifice any piece of essential gear. Plus, they’re cheap. It just makes sense that the troops and playing cards would pair so well together.

The Bicycle Playing Card Company recounts the history of American troops and playing cards, though many other nations’ militaries also have a tradition of playing cards in their downtime. It just beats sitting around thinking about everything that could go wrong in a battle. As one Civil War soldier said, “Card playing seemed to be as popular a way of killing time as any.”

Wartime decks have been used to help soldiers in the field learn about their enemies and allies, to identify aircraft, and even teach a little about American history. Even in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, American forces used playing cards to identify the most wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The 16 best military movies of all time
These cards are probably well-known by now.

Also Read: This is how POWs got playing cards with secret escape maps for Christmas

Playing cards themselves can be traced back to 12th century China. Some scholars think they made their way to Europe through Italian traders. The cards (and maybe even the games) predate the United States. But Americans have their own love affair with cards, and the military is no different.

Early special decks were released depicting Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and (John Quincy) Adams as the kings of the deck. By the time of the Civil War, playing cards were in every American camp, Union or Confederate.

Since troops in the Civil War spent a lot of time in camp and had easy access to decks, alcohol, and firearms, a cheater could make the game go very badly for himself. The war actually shaped the way playing cards are printed, so players could hold a tighter hand.

The 16 best military movies of all time

Another innovation of that era was the design on the backs of cards. Before then, most were made with plain backs, ones that were easy to mark and see through. The new back designs made short work of that problem.

In 1898, the Consolidated Playing Card Company created a cheap deck and poker chips for troops deploying to the Spanish-American War. For World War I, the U.S. Playing Card Company released special decks just for a few specialties of service in the Great War, namely Artillery, Navy, Air Corps, and Tank Corps. The German High Command in WWI considered the game so important to morale, they called the cards kartonnen wapens – cardboard weapons.

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German soldiers playing cards on the Western front in the summer of 1916. (Playing Card Museum)

Many playing card factories converted to war production during World War II, but that certainly didn’t mean no decks were printed. The aforementioned cards used to identify aircraft, known as “spotter cards,” were essential to the war effort.

During the Vietnam War, playing card companies sent deployed soldiers and Marines special decks comprised of just the ace of spades, believing the Viet Cong considered the symbol to be a deadly serious omen.

The 16 best military movies of all time

As late as 2007, American forces were given decks meant to inform them about important cultural and historical relics in the countries to which they deployed.

Watch below as magician Justin Flom recounts the oft-told story of a Revolutionary War soldier and his deck of cards, which acts as his bible, calendar, and almanac. Be sure to watch til the end for a magician’s tribute to American troops overseas.

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 reasons why ‘Black Hawk Down’ should have been about Hoot

In 1993, U.S. forces consisting of Army Rangers and Delta Force commandos stormed into Mogadishu, Somalia, to capture warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and key members of his militia.


During the raid, two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down, 18 Americans were killed, and 73 were wounded.

Director Ridley Scott brought the heroic story to the big screen in 2001’s Black Hawk Down, which portrays the power of human will and brotherly bonds between soldiers in the fight.

Although the film follows Sgt. Eversmann, did you ever wonder how different the film would have been if Hoot was the star?

We did, and here are four reasons why:

Related: 7 reasons ‘Top Gun’ should have been about Iceman

4. Hoot’s backstory

We first meet the brave Delta Force operator as he’s undercover, lurking around the city of Mogadishu with his eyes fixed on potential targets, gathering info. That’s a pretty badass thing to do and take a lot of balls in our opinion.

The only backstory we get from the film is that Hoot uses his trigger finger as his safety.

Maybe that’s all we need.

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3. There would have been more aerial target practice

Remember when that Black Hawk helicopter picked up Hoot in the middle of the desert and then he shot that wild pig looking thing off-screen? That was awesome!

Well, we bet that if Hoot were the star, that scene would have been a set up for a dope aerial-to-ground shootout with the Somali militia — just sayin’.

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2. He’s the most interesting character in the film

We understand that film is based on the real raids that took place, but take a step back from that, and we bet everyone can agree that we all felt like Hoot was always cool and calm even though the troops faced an uncertain future.

Shout out to the cast and crew for making this character so compelling.

Also Read: This is what the Marines from ‘Heartbreak Ridge’ are doing today

1. Why he does it

In the last scene where we see Hoot, he talks to Sgt. Eversmann about how he responds when people ask him “why we do it.”

Although his answer is epic and on point, if the film was about him, we’re freakin’ positive that would have seen that scene take place somewhere in the movie.

The 16 best military movies of all time

MIGHTY MOVIES

Discovery’s ‘Deadliest Catch’ features Coast Guard’s search for survivors

Capt. Wild Bill Wichrowski’s year started tragically.

A Navy veteran, Wichrowski is one of the captains on “Deadliest Catch,” a Discovery Channel series about Alaska’s crab industry. He was close friends with two of the five men who died when the Scandies Rose, a 130-foot crab boat, went down in icy, turbulent conditions in the Gulf of Alaska on New Year’s Eve. Two crew members survived.


The Coast Guard’s 20-hour search for survivors will be featured on “Deadliest Catch” at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Eastern time).

“It’s hard to drum all this up again, really,” Wichrowski said. “You lose friends. You lose family. And the part that sticks is that any time, it could be you.”

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Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski is in the wheelhouse at the helm of the Summer Bay.

The episode of the long-running reality series follows the Coast Guard’s role from the time it received a distress call until the search, which covered 1,400 square miles, was suspended.

Although Wichrowski was not in contact directly with the Coast Guard during that time, he followed the rescue mission’s progress closely.

“They’re our lifeline,” Wichrowski said. “Some of the stuff they do with the helicopters and the C-130s and the ships and the hard-bottom inflatables [boats] is truly amazing. The Coast Guard’s our last chance for survival when we’re having trouble.”

The investigation into the Scandies Rose disaster is ongoing and could last “many months,” said Scott McCann, the Coast Guard’s public affairs officer for the 17th District.

The 16 best military movies of all time

Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski stands proudly on deck of his boat.

Wichrowski’s own ties to the military began early.

His father, Charles Thomas Wichrowski, was a drill instructor at Parris Island in South Carolina during the Korean War. The youngest of three brothers, Wichrowski said he did not always appreciate his strict upbringing in Pennsylvania.

“I probably didn’t really like [my father] that much at the time, but he was training me to be a leader from Day One,” Wichrowski said. “In his eyes, there was only one place to be, and that was in charge.”

Wichrowski’s tour in the Navy happened almost by accident.

Before he wrecked his father’s new car on homecoming night, he had planned to go to school and study business administration. The cost of the repairs, along with other financial constraints in his family, prompted Wichrowski to enlist in 1975.

Armed with a love of the ocean, he headed West. He served as an electrician’s mate at naval stations in California, Idaho and Washington State.

Wichrowski enjoyed the camaraderie and travel in the military and proved to be invaluable in stressful situations. He recalled one time a typhoon in Taiwan knocked out a generator. Wichrowski ran to the other end of the tossed ship on a wall, hurdling people along the way, to work on it.

On another occasion in San Diego, Wichrowski was about to go on liberty when a transformer caught fire. He was not on duty, but he restored the power anyway, then left suddenly to meet his girlfriend before other potential issues arose.

“When I got back, the XO [executive officer] on the bridge, he had seen the whole thing,” Wichrowski said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to get my butt reamed.’ But he said he was pretty amazed about how quickly I reacted.”

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Wichrowski said the bonds of boat crews are similar to those in the military. Photo courtesy of Discovery.

Wichrowski, who served for four years, said what he learned in the Navy resonates today.

“It’s the whole reason why I’m successful,” he said.

The bonds formed among boat crews are not unlike those developed in the military. That’s why the sinking of the Scandies Rose hit Wichrowski hard. He knew the boat’s captain, Gary Cobban Jr., and engineer, Art Gacanias, well, but thankfully the loss of life was not worse.

Landon Cheney, Wichrowski’s No. 2 man on the Summer Bay, used to work on the Scandies Rose and considered returning before it sank.

“I’m pretty certain that if he was on board, he wouldn’t have made it,” Wichrowski said.

As painful as the loss of the Scandies Rose remains, Wichrowski intends to watch Tuesday night.

“I hope to,” he said. “… It should never be forgotten, but it’s still tough to review over and over.”

Visit Deadliest Catch on Discovery for information on upcoming episodes.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


Articles

GoRuck: Inside the seriously grueling challenge run by Special Forces soldiers

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton/Released)


After he parked and got out of his car, he didn’t introduce himself or offer any welcome. The unnamed instructor just said, “okay everybody get over here and sign your death waivers.”

This was my first introduction to a GoRuck Challenge, a team endurance event run by former U.S. military special operators. It was the 83rd challenge to take place in Dec. 2011 — running around Tampa, Fla. with 24 people. Since then, it’s grown to more than 2,500 events that now comprise various skill levels.

GoRuck Challenges usually attract a certain demographic of people: Former military personnel, law enforcement, and fitness enthusiasts. Especially with the ominous intro from our instructor, a former Green Beret, anyone taking part in a GoRuck event knows it will be rough, to say the least.

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Members of the 97th Air Mobility Wing carry a telephone pole across the base in a GORUCK Light challenge, Oct. 18, 2014. The team carried the pole from the south end of the flight line to the track. The Airmen completed the challenges as a team while carrying weighted rucksacks or backpacks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class J. Zuriel Lee/Released)

“We want to promote the sport of rucking,” Kit Klein, partnership manager for GoRuck based in Jacksonville, Fla., told The Tampa Bay Times. “We’re trying to put it on the map.”

The “sport of rucking” that GoRuck promotes now consists of “GoRuck Light,” a four to five hour challenge that covers seven to 10 miles, “GoRuck Tough,” a 10 to 12-hour challenge covering 15 to 20 miles, and “GoRuck Heavy,” a much more demanding 24-hour-plus challenge that can cover more than 40 miles.

But those times and distances can vary, as one of the company’s mottos is to “under-promise, over-deliver.” (For the GoRuck Tough challenge I was on in Tampa, we did roughly 23 miles over 15 hours).

“Your class is led from start to finish by a Special Operations Cadre whose job is to build a team by pushing you to overcome, together,” reads the description of the challenges on the GoRuck website. “You stay with your class the entire time aka a true team event, never in any way confused with a road race or a mud run. And no, your Cadre is not a drill sergeant and no, this is not bootcamp. That stuff belongs to the military, this is simply an event about your team.”

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Benjamin Evers, Air Force Personnel Center Outdoor Recreation operations specialist, hold the United States flag July 12, 2014, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Evers held the flag for participants while they performed challenges and obstacles during the GORUCK Light/Team Cohesion Challenge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton/Released)

Founding GoRuck

All of the challenges require participants to carry around weights or bricks in a backpack, which is why these events exist in the first place.

In 2008, GoRuck was a new company making rugged backpacks designed to withstand the rigors of military combat. Founded by former Special Forces soldier Jason McCarthy, he sent his bags to friends in the field to test out and he quickly realized selling backpacks may not be his only business.

From Men’s Journal:

McCarthy spent two years developing the bags that make up most of GoRuck’s product line (four styles, starting at $195). Early on, he battle-tested his prototypes, literally – sending them to Green Beret buddies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then he grew concerned about sending unproven gear to men in danger, so he established another proving ground: the GoRuck Challenge. In these team-oriented endurance runs, which are led by combat veterans and incorporate Special Forces training, participants carry a GoRuck sack loaded with rocks or bricks.

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Part of the class from GoRuck Tough Challenge 083 in the water in Tampa, Fla on Dec. 10, 2011. (Photo: Paul Szoldra/WATM)

“The original intent was very nearsighted,” McCarthy told The Cincinnatti Enquirer of starting his first challenges. “I had a bunch of inventory and wanted people to know about our bags.”

People did learn of GoRuck, and more: “People kept describing this as a life-changing event,” McCarthy told the Enquirer. “I got more and more and more requests to host events.”

An Iraq war veteran, McCarthy began the events in 2010 while attending business school at Georgetown University, according to The Washington Post. Beyond marketing his bags, he told The Post, his goal is “to build better Americans” with his challenges. He does this by promoting leadership, teamwork, and honoring the sacrifices of military service members.

“It’s spiritual, emotional experience they take away,” Derek Zahler, a GoRuck cadre and former Special Forces soldier, told News4Jax. “They get to learn a lot more about themselves. Especially their goals and what they perceive their ability to achieve those goals are.”

The company has moved beyond backpacks and challenging events, however. It now sells apparel, fitness items, and even firearms gear, which it developed in 2014. In that year, the company had $10.8 million in revenue — nearly 30 percent more than the previous year’s figures.

Check out more on GoRuck at its website here.

OR READ: The definitive guide to US Special Ops

MIGHTY MOVIES

The new Snakes Eyes movie looks as awesome as he is

After being delayed over a year by COVID, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is scheduled for release in theaters on July 23, 2021. The film stars Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians fame as the titular character. As the film’s name states, it also serves as an origin story for the classic character and reboots the G.I. Joe film series.

Golding replaces Darth Maul actor Ray Park who portrayed Snake Eyes in previous G.I. Joe films. The reboot also stars Andrew Koji as Storm Shadow, Úrsula Corberó as The Baroness, Samara Weaving as Scarlett, Haruka Abe as Akiko, Tahehiro Hira as Kenta, and Iko Uwais as Hard Master.

After saving the life of the heir apparent to the ancient Japanese Arashikage clan, tenacious loner Snake Eyes is welcomed by the family. In Japan, the Arashikage teach him the ways of the ninja warrior and give him the home he has been searching for. However, when secrets of his past come to light, Snake Eyes’ honor and allegiance will be tested.

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins was directed by Robert Schwentke who also directed the action films Red and R.I.P.D. Filming began in October 2019 in Vancouver and wrapped in February 2020 in Japan. Originally scheduled to release on March 27, 2020, the film was delayed due to COVID. In March 2021, Golding announced that they were doing reshoots for the film. As COVID restrictions lift across the country, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is now slated for a theatrical release on July 23, 2021 in RealD 3D, Dolby Cinema and IMAX.

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(Paramount Pictures)
MIGHTY MOVIES

What we know about the upcoming ‘John Wick 3: Parabellum’

No action-thriller films in recent memory have received as much acclaim from both critics and audiences as the John Wick series. Ever since the credits rolled on the second film, fans have been speculating and eagerly waiting to see what will happen to the action genre’s newest beloved badass.

On the surface, it’s a very simple plot to follow. Bad guys kill a man’s dog, so (spoiler alert) man brutally kills the bad guys — but it’s so much deeper than that. The first and second films brilliantly weave in minor references to the grander world of the former-assassin-turned-world’s-most-wanted-dog-avenger. It’s fair to assume that the third film will follow in the same vein.


Throughout the series, there is only one established rule that few characters dare to break: No criminal business, especially killing, is allowed in the Continental Hotel, which serves as a neutral hub for the underworld. Nearly every hardened killer in the series is willing to obey this rule, with the exception of Ms. Perkins (portrayed by Adrianne Palicki) in the first film. For breaking this rule, she’s killed, executioner-style, by a collection of underworld bosses.

John Wick: Chapter 2 ends with John killing the man who was blackmailing him back into assassin work at that very hotel. Instead of sharing the fate of Ms. Perkins, John has a million bounty placed on his head and is given a marker, a coin that can be turned in for a favor, and an hour-long head start. Every killer in the world checks their phones and is informed of the bounty — roll credits.

It can be assumed that the next film will take place moments after the order is given.

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It just feels right knowing that the same creative team gets to tell their complete, unedited story.

(Lionsgate Entertainment)

Details surrounding the next installment in the series remain very closely kept secrets, which doesn’t point to things faring well for our legendary assassin, but we’ve dug up a few clues.

First, we look toward the film’s IMDb page. According to the credits, several of the still-living characters are set to reappear. John Wick is still played by Keanu Reeves. Ruby Rose, Common, Laurence Fishburne, and Ian McShane are all set to reprise their respective roles. Newcomers to the series include Halle Berry and Jason Mantzoukas, both playing assassins.

Director of the first two films, Chad Stahelski, and Derek Kolstad, writer, are also taking up their former roles. Fans of the series can rejoice because this means that the tone and feeling of the third chapter will be consistent with the first two.

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According to a leaked set photo, he’s somehow going to steal a Central Park horse… and for some strange reason I’m excited about that.

(Lionsgate Entertainment)

Principal photography is currently underway and set photos are surfacing that showcase scenes in New York City. Since the previous film ends there, it’s safe to assume that these sets will be the backdrop of Wick’s escape from New York. In an interview with Fandom for the second film, Reeves admitted that he’d love for the series to go to Jerusalem to continue with the historic feeling of the missions.

The title of the upcoming film, John Wick 3: Parabellum, is a clever nod to the Latin phrase, “si vis pacem, para bellum,” which means, “if you want peace, prepare for war” (Not to go on at length, but this is also further proof of his Marine-ness). It’s also a reference to the 9mm Luger handgun cartridge — the 9mm Parabellum round. In terms of John Wick, this means he’ll have to do a lot of shooting if he wants to find that peace.

Another interesting tidbit of information, courtesy of IMDb, is the tagline for the film: “No shout, no scream, no shoot, no fear, no fire, no sign. Just one pencil.” Fans of the series learned early on that the legends of John Wick killing two men with just a pencil weren’t exaggerated. Maybe he’ll up his tally with even more men with the very same pencil. We’ll see.

The film is scheduled for release on May 19th, 2019 — two weeks after the climactic fourth Avengers film. Here’s to hoping both films crush it at the box office.

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