5. Schindlers List
Where exactly does one draw the line between WWII and holocaust movies? The answer is simple- right here. Steven Spielberg is indeed the king of on screen pain and this epic tracking the deeds of kind hearted Nazi party member Oskar Schindler (that reads strangely), is a journey of emotion, devotion and human nature both angelic and vile. Based on a true story, the plot follows Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a business man seeking success in wartime Poland. His desire to profit from grief soon flips on its head however as the horrors of the holocaust are fully realised. Soon Schindler finds himself losing profit at the cost of saving Jews, many of whom he has come to admire and respect. Schindler’s need to keep favour with fellow Nazi’s also adds dimension, with the scrutiny of SS Lieutenant/super villain Amon Goeth (depicted inspirationally by Ralf Fiennes) never too far away.
The old-timer of my list, Zulu is the tale of Rorke’s Drift- a battle which occurred between the British Army and the Zulu’s in 1879. Starring a very young Michael Caine, Stanley Baker and Ulla Jacobsson the movie tracks the operations of a Welsh regiment occupying a missionary station close to Zulu territory. Upon hearing that a much larger, more battle-ready Zulu force are heading their way- the men decide to stand instead of flee and begin to fortify their position. A great battle of course then ensues, with wave after wave of Zulu warrior coming at the tiring defenders. As well as taking on this famous battle, Zulu tackles the issue of the post-Victorian class system within British society of the time and how it transpired into the ever modernising military. All in all a well-rounded war feature.
Vietnam, despite being a war of much unrest and controversy, has established itself as a very attractive conflict amongst film makers. Oliver Stone’s Platoon is arguably one of the best ‘nam movies ever, encapsulating the essence of the war in an objective yet hands-on manner. It captures perfectly how many soldiers were too emerged in wars amongst and even with themselves to worry about their supposed enemy as well. Doing well to capture the despair of the draftees and volunteers alike, correct emphasis is also placed on the hardship endured at this time by the civilians caught in the middle of it all. An excellent cast featuring Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger and John C. McGinley is supplemented by awe-inspiring locations and a famous soundtrack to make this a very worthwhile 2 hours.
2. All Quiet on the Western Front
This remake of the 1930 movie of the same name sees a group of German schoolboys being conditioned for, and ultimately thrown straight into, the horrors of the First World War. The movie displays the willingness with which this barbaric conflict appropriated its millions of victims- usually young men willing to fight, suffer then die for causes mostly unbeknown to them. From receiving inspiring yet clearly deluding speeches from their nationalist teacher, young classmates run off to join the Imperial Army. Through their training right up until their first encounters with a hardened French enemy, the men undergo the type of horrors usually associated with the Great War, all the while losing sight of the true intentions of it all.
1. Saving Private Ryan
This film tops the list on the grounds that it depicts war in the most literal of senses. Opening with that famous half hour long scene of slaughter and chaos depicting Omaha beach on D-Day, the movie goes on to follow a group of soldiers led by a cryptic yet intelligent Army Captain (Tom Hanks) as they make their way through Nazi occupied Normandy in search of an airborne Private. The reason for their mission? Private Ryan (Matt Damon) is the last remaining brother of four, the other three having been claimed already by the conflict. Marrying the contrasts of grim warfare with a near perfect insight to the bonds formed between soldiers, the film emits hope and misery in equal measure, as all good war films should.