Happy Memorial Day Everyone!
Memorial Day is the day in which to remember the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Since Lasso the Movies is a site dedicated to honoring the cinematic world, and Memorial Day is a day to remember America’s fallen soldiers, what could be more appropriate than to count down the Lasso the Movies top ten American war movies of all time.
When I set out to put this list together I soon discovered a much greater challenge than I had expected. There are so many amazing war films, and to pick only ten became quite difficult. In order to help make my job easier I set out one major rule.
- The films must center around American soldiers. Some of my favorite war movies like “Paths of Glory“ (1957), “Das Boot” (1981), “The Bridge on the River Kwai“ (1957) and “Army of Shadows” (1969) are primarily about those fighting from other countries. Since Memorial Day is about honoring the Armed Forces from America, these films became ineligible.
With that being said, here is Lasso the Movies official Memorial Day watch list:
10.) “Mister Roberts” (1955) Not Rated- 122 minutes: Sure this film has flaws, but there is something very special about the way it all comes together. Lt. Douglas Roberts (Henry Fonda) is stationed on a Navy cargo ship in the Pacific Ocean during WWII. Roberts desperately wants to escape his mundane life here, and continuously is requesting for a transfer. However, his superior, Lieutenant Commander Morton (James Cagney), refuses to endorse Roberts’s request. Much of the film is spent with Roberts’s two closest friends, Ensign Frank Thrlowe Pulver (Jack Lemmon in an Academy Award winning role) and Lieutenant “Doc” (William Powell in his final film). The dialogue is inspiring, the performances are enthralling, and the spirit and determination of Roberts to be a bigger part of war is exactly why this is a perfect Memorial Day film.
“Mister Roberts” was based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Heggen, and the play written by Heggen and Joshua Logan. The film (directed by Mervyn LeRoy and John Ford) was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
9.) “Platoon“ (1986) Rated R-120 minutes: No list of any kind of war films would be complete with Oliver Stone’s Best Picture winning “Platoon”. Charlie Sheen stars as a college drop-out who volunteers for combat duty during the Vietnam War. While there, he is not only forced to deal with the horrific trials and tribulations of war, but also the divided and dysfunctional Bravo Company where he has been assigned. This gritty and unflinching film is powerful, enthralling and one of the most honest looks at the life of a soldier during war.
“Platoon” also stars Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Keith David and John C. McGinley, and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning four (including Best Picture).
8.) “Buck Privates” (1941) Not Rated-85 minutes: Just because we are talking about war movies doesn’t mean there can’t be a few laughs along the way. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello star in this film about two sidewalk peddlers who, while trying to avoid a policeman, accidentally enlist in the Army.
Short on plot but long on laughs, “Buck Privates” is a wonderful film, and remains among the most popular and successful films in the Abbott and Costello series. In addition to the humor of this film, The Andrew Sisters appear and perform four songs, including their hit, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. If you still find yourself looking for more fun after this one ends, you can always check out “Buck Privates Come Home” (1947) as well.
7.) “Glory” (1989) Rated R-122 minutes: No list of Memorial Day films would be complete without Edward Zwick’s unforgettable Civil War film, “Glory”. Starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes and Andre Braugher, this film is based on the true story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, made up completely of African American soldiers.
“Glory” is truly a “must see” film, and has been praised by critics and audiences since its initially release. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning three, including Best Supporting Actor for Denzel Washington.
6.) “Saving Private Ryan“ (1998) Rated R-169 minutes: Steven Spielberg’s WWII drama about a group of soldiers searching for one young man with a free ticket home has quickly become one of the most watched and talked about war films of all time. It is intense, realistic, and at times, almost too much to endure. Tom Hanks gives one of his finest performances, and he is surrounded by amazing actors with smaller, but equally impressive portrayals including Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Adam Goldberg, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Gibisi and Jeremy Davies.
There is no denying the realistic portrayal of the invasion of Normandy in this film, and because of that, “Saving Private Ryan” is sure to be a highly watched film this (and every) Memorial Day. “Saving Private Ryan” was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
5.) “From Here to Eternity” (1953) Not Rated-118 minutes: Directed by Fred Zinnemann, this amazing film based on the novel by James Jones tells the story of Private Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) and a series of events that take place at the Schofield Barracks in Oahu, leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. What is most amazing about this film is how much happens in under two hours. There is plenty of action, drama, romance and suspense as the film moves at a brisk pace, keeping viewers enthralled for each and every minute. Every member of the cast is absolutely perfect, including Deborah Kerr, Burt Landcaster, Donna Reed, Ernest Borgnine and Frank Sinatra in his Academy Award winning performance.
“From Here to Eternity” was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning eight (including Best Picture).
4.) “Sergeant York” (1941) Not Rated-134 minutes: Gary Cooper gives an Academy Award winning performance in this drama about the most decorated soldier of WWI, Alvin York. The story is actually more about York’s personal beliefs as a pacifist versus his desire to be a patriot. Directed by the great Howard Hawks and co-starring Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie and Ward Bond, “Sergeant York” was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
3.) “The Hurt Locker” (2009) Rated R-130 minutes: This Best Picture winner from acclaimed director Kathryn Bigelow left critics and audiences pleasantly surprised in 2009, and it might be even better today than it was then. Jeremy Renner plays the head of a three man bomb disposal team during the Iraq War. The film also stars Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty, and opened the doors for a new kind of war picture. “The Hurt Locker” was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning six including Best Picture.
2.) “They Were Expendable” (1945) Not Rated-135 minutes: Another film that takes place surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor, but this time John Wayne and Robert Montgomery are using their PT boats to defend the Philippines from a Japanese invasion. This joyous action film is filled with intensity, and is one of director John Ford’s lesser watched masterpieces. Jack Holt, Donna Reed and Ward Bond all give wonderful supporting performances, but this is clearly Montgomery and Wayne’s show.
“They Were Expendable” was nominated for two Academy Awards, one of which was for its magnificent visual effects.
1.) “The Thin Red Line” (1998) Rated R- 171 minutes: Over the years I have had to argue this one with many people, but I still find Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line” to be the most amazing and beautifully filmed war movie in history. During WWII, C Company lands on Guadalcanal, where they embark in an epic battle against the Japanese.
“The Thin Red Line” stars Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, Ben Chaplin, Elias Koteas, John Cusack, Adrien Brody, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson and Jared Leto. There are also several smaller roles in which big name actors appear, but I hate to throw those names out there because it will just disappoint you when you see how small of roles they have.
Based on another James Jones novel, Malick poetically combines the horrors of war with the inner feeling of his characters, with the greatest of ease. “The Thin Red Line” was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film is powerful, emotional, mesmerizing, and above all, perfect. John Toll’s breathtaking cinematography, Hans Zimmer’s emotionally gripping score and Malick’s always impeccable directing make this film a must see film, and the perfect movie to watch this Memorial Day.
Well, that’s my list. 21 hours and 46 minutes of great war films is enough to make anyone appreciate the sacrifice of so many. Have a great Memorial Day everyone, and thanks to those who have given so much and have inspired all of these (and so many other) films.