The world of war movies is vast and varied, offering thrilling stories of heroism, sacrifice, and the realities of armed conflict. From historical dramas to gripping documentaries, these films provide a window into the experiences of soldiers, spies, and military leaders. Whether it's revisiting iconic battles or shedding light on lesser-known events, war movies have the power to captivate and educate audiences. In this article, we'll explore a diverse selection of war films, each offering a unique perspective on the triumphs and tragedies of war.
The Striking Dozen"The Striking Dozen" is the 2018 film revolving around the covert Army divisions that infiltrated Afghanistan in October 2001 to establish the groundwork for the U.S. invasion of the nation following the 9/11 attacks. Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, and Marine veteran Rob Riggle star in one of the most remarkable motion pictures about our military conflicts in the 21st century.
The Divine MessengerWhile Egypt formed a coalition of Arab countries to unexpectedly commence a war to recapture the Sinai Peninsula from Israel, Ashraf Marwan, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's son-in-law and close aide to Nasser's successor Anwar Sadat, remained delightfully unaware that Marwan had become a valuable asset to Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad.
Unquestionably, this led to a catastrophe for the Arab coalition, as did the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The film adaptation of the nonfiction book "The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel" titled "The Divine Messenger" features Marwan Kenzari ("Ben-Hur") as Marwan.
Brutes of an Uncharted NationIdris Elba ("Thor," "The Suicide Squad") portrays The Commandant, a warlord in West Africa commanding a rebel battalion against government forces. As the rebels battle the crumbling government, The Commandant recruits Agu (Abraham Attah, "Spider-Man: Homecoming") as a child soldier.
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga ("No Time to Die"), "Brutes of an Uncharted Nation" encapsulates the brutal realities of warfare, combat in sub-Saharan Africa, the recruitment of child soldiers, and the true human toll of war.
Nightfall over the Accursed CityThis film from 2001, inspired by journalist Mark Bowden's 1999 book, encompasses everything one could desire in a war movie. It boasts an ensemble cast featuring Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, and even Tom Hardy in his debut role. These actors bring real individuals to life, reenacting the events of the Battle of Mogadishu that transpired in 1993.
The film is directed by Ridley Scott, known for his directorial contributions to renowned classics such as "Alien" and "Gladiator." "Nightfall over the Accursed City" delves beyond the simple depiction of American troops showcasing their strength while deployed and delves into the gamut of emotions experienced before, during, and after combat. Additionally, it offers us some of the most memorable lines in war movie history.
Ruby & Fortune"The Striking Dozen" is the 2018 movie about the covert Army divisions that infiltrated Afghanistan in October 2001 to establish the groundwork for the U.S. invasion of the nation following the 9/11 attacks. Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, and Marine veteran Rob Riggle star in one of the most remarkable motion pictures about our military conflicts in the 21st century.
Born on Independence DayAfter bringing the renowned character Pete "Maverick" Mitchell to life, Tom Cruise takes on the role of real-life Marine and Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic in his film portrayal. Directed by Oliver Stone, also a Vietnam veteran ("JFK"), "Born on Independence Day" draws from Kovic's memoir of the same name.
Kovic suffered grave injuries during his second tour in Vietnam, resulting in paralysis from the chest down. Following his departure from the military, he became one of America's most prominent anti-war activists, enduring at least 12 arrests before the conclusion of the war.
Wilson's WarBy now, it is widely known that the Afghan Mujahideen, while an adversary of the United States today, was provided with U.S. weaponry for their fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The final film by Director Mike Nichols ("Catch-22," "Biloxi Blues") stars Tom Hanks ("Saving Private Ryan") as Congressman "Good Time Charlie" Wilson, who makes it his personal mission to provide more assistance to the Afghans, particularly in the form of FIM-92 Stinger missiles capable of neutralizing Soviet Hind helicopters.
Wilson's endeavors are supported by real-life CIA officer Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Moneyball") and lead to Operation Cyclone, through which the Mujahideen were funded until 1992. Aaron Sorkin ("The West Wing") adapted "Wilson's War" from the 2003 book "Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History" by author George Crile III.
The Blood BrothersDirector Spike Lee gives a Vietnam War twist to the WWII heist narrative of "troops hiding Nazi gold and planning to return," featuring a group of Black soldiers who stumble upon a CIA plane loaded with gold designated for combating the Viet Cong.
The film is set in the present day, with the group reuniting in Ho Chi Minh City for a mission to locate their share of the spoils. As they embark on the quest for gold, the group is haunted by memories of their commanding officer (Chadwick Boseman), who perished during a firefight in the past. A character played by Jonathan Majors (prior to his rise to fame) also accompanies them on the journey.
What sets "The Blood Brothers" apart is its ability to function both as an action-packed film full of treachery and gunfights, while concurrently recounting the stories of Black Vietnam War veterans.
The Hour of DarknessGary Oldman clinched an Oscar for Best Actor for his depiction of U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill in this drama, which revolves around the early stages of World War II. Churchill found himself facing criticism from his cabinet and political opponents when he refused to engage in peace negotiations with Adolf Hitler. This movie effectively captures the turmoil faced by Churchill at that time.
His government overcame the devastating loss during the French campaign in 1939 and triumphed by evacuating troops from the beaches of Dunkirk, thus solidifying Churchill's legacy through his legendary "We shall fight on the beaches" speech in Parliament.
The DiplomatWhen a British warship is destroyed in the Persian Gulf, suspicions automatically fall on Iran as the possible perpetrator. In response to increasing casualties, the President of the United States appoints a new ambassador to the United Kingdom, someone with a clear understanding of volatile regions and lesser focus on the ceremonial aspects of diplomacy.
Keri Russell ("The Americans") assumes the role of Ambassador Kate Wyler in this politically charged Netflix thriller, which has already been confirmed for a second season.
Evacuation at Dunkirk (June 12)Christopher Nolan's epic from 2017 chronicles the remarkable evacuation of 338,000 soldiers from the British Navy's boats and civilian mariners' personal watercraft during the 1940 Miracle at Dunkirk. The film boasts an unforgettable ensemble cast featuring Fionn Whitehead, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branaugh, and Michael Caine. It is undoubtedly a must-watch.
Extraction 2 (June 16)The highly anticipated sequel to Netflix's "Extraction" debuts on June 16. When we last saw Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth, "Thor"), he was presumed dead. However, he returns to the screen, determined to save the family of a Georgian mobster. Joe Russo, known for his work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe alongside his brother Anthony, contributes to the script, while Anthony Russo directs movies such as "Avenger: Infinity War," and "Avengers: Endgame."
FaudaIf you've been avoiding shows with subtitles, you've been missing out on "Fauda," an Israeli series centered around the leader of the Israel Defense Forces' counterterrorism unit. Four seasons of this show have been streamed on Netflix, and it has sparked controversy for its refusal to provide sympathetic portrayals of individuals from both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
The show maintains a relentless pace, while tactical action enthusiasts can revel in the 48 episodes and counting of "Fauda."
Five Returned"Five Returned" is a WWII documentary series adapted from the book by movie historian Mark Harris. Hollywood directors John Ford ("The Searchers"), William Wyler ("The Best Years of Our Lives"), John Huston ("The African Queen"), Frank Capra ("It Happened One Night"), and George Stevens ("Shane") all volunteered for service and produced some of the most compelling films about combat during that era.
This series seamlessly combines a war documentary with a captivating history of the film industry. Many of these directors placed themselves in grave danger, capturing the harsh realities faced by American military personnel in the Pacific and European theaters of war.
The Forgotten StruggleFew European countries experienced World War II as profoundly as Holland. This Dutch film centers around the 1944 Battle of the Scheldt, where Canadian, Polish, and British forces endeavored to capture and open the Port of Antwerp as a crucial supply source in Europe.
After the failure of Operation Market Garden, the Dutch Resistance collectively intensified their efforts against the German occupation as Allied forces inched closer to the Netherlands. In turn, the Germans severed supplies to the Dutch populace, inflicting famine and widespread anguish.
Historical Stand-UpWhat better way to learn about historical figures than by watching Roastmaster General Jeff Ross mercilessly roast them, supported by a lineup of your favorite comedians portraying other significant figures from history?
If you enjoyed the roasts of Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen, or Justin Bieber, you're sure to appreciate the ruthless roasting of Abraham Lincoln, Cleopatra, or Anne Frank in this comedy series that is unquestionably not suitable for sensitive ears.
The Path to DespotismDictators follow a predictable playbook to ascend to power and maintain their grip on it for years on end. This captivating docuseries outlines each of these steps by exploring the real-life examples of dictators like Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-Il, among others. It also features commentary from professors, officials, and journalists who have covered the associated stories. Additionally, animated reconstructions of the most horrifying tales from the reigns of these tyrants are narrated by actor Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones").
The Identity of Vanessa GuillenTwenty-year-old soldier Spc. Vanessa Guillen vanished from Fort Hood, Texas, in April 2020, leaving behind her car keys, ID card, bank card, and barracks key at her workplace. Months later, her dismembered remains were found near the Leon River.
As the investigation unfolded, it was revealed that she had confided in her parents about being a victim of sexual harassment by a noncommissioned officer. Dissatisfied with the Army's investigation, Guillen's family persisted, eventually prompting the Texas Rangers and even Congress to intervene. "The Identity of Vanessa Guillen" chronicles the relentless pressure exerted by Guillen's family and the repercussions of the flawed investigation.
The Decoy Game (June 26)The Allies did not accidentally crack the German Enigma code during World War II. This 2014 film stars Benedict Cumberbatch ("Sherlock") as cryptanalyst Alan Turing, narrating the true account of how the brilliant mathematician designed one of the earliest computers to unlock Nazi secrets during the war.
The Brave MarineMany of us reading this can relate to joining the military as an alternative to college, an experience shared by real-life Marine Anthony Swofford. His memoir from 2003 was adapted into the film "The Brave Marine," an account of his life story and service during the Gulf War of 1990-91.
Although the film did not fare well at the box office, it resonated deeply with veterans for its authentic portrayal of life during deployment, even in a so-called "combat zone." It turns out real wars are characterized by drills, tedium, and a constant influx of "Dear John" letters from unfaithful partners, all before the actual war ensues. While it may lack the glamour of "Nightfall over the Accursed City," it presents the gritty reality of modern warfare.
The LiberatorIn 2012, English journalist Alex Kershaw authored "The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau," chronicling the true story of American Army officer Felix Sparks. Netflix's "The Liberator" is an adult animated adaptation of Kershaw's book.
The series depicts Sparks and the 157th Infantry Regiment, comprised of cowboys, Native Americans, and Latinos, as they navigate four amphibious landings during World War II, fighting their way from Sicily to Germany across a grueling 500 days.
The Commanding OfficerIn November 2008, terrorists affiliated with the Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba launched a series of coordinated attacks across the Indian city of Mumbai, resulting in the death of 175 individuals and injuring 300. As the attacks drew to a close, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel remained unsecured, and hostages were being held across the premises.
"The Commanding Officer" recounts the riveting story of Maj. Sandeep Unnikrishnan, the leader of the 51 Special Action Group, who spearheaded the operation to rescue the hostages. Over the course of 15 hours, he and his team evacuated the hostages and eliminated terrorists. Although many of his men sustained injuries, Unnikrishnan himself sacrificed his life to protect the civilian captives.
Valor"Valor," a docuseries chronicling Medal of Honor recipients, was anticipated to run for multiple seasons on Netflix. However, the streaming service only produced one season comprising eight episodes, released in 2018. Nevertheless, it is an exceptional concept that presents the individual stories of these distinguished awardees in a concise format.
The episodes provide insights into the heroic exploits of World War II heroes Sylvester Antolak, Edward A. Carter Jr., and Vito R. Bertoldo, as well as Clint Romesha and Ty Carter from the Afghanistan War. Additionally, Richard Etchberger and Hiroshi H. Miyamura from the Vietnam War and Joseph Vittori from the Korean War also have their remarkable stories depicted.
MosulThe city of Mosul, Iraq's most populous area, fell into the hands of the Islamic State in 2014, with an estimated 1,500 ISIL fighters taking control. It was there that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL, declared the establishment of their caliphate. In response, Iraqi government forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and an unusual coalition of American, European, and Iranian forces joined efforts to liberate the city.
Released in 2019, the film "Mosul" is set against the backdrop of the 2016 operation to free the city. A police SWAT team, defying all odds, assists in taking down thousands of ISIL militants who are specifically targeting their unit. Adam Bessa ("Extraction") assumes the role of a Kurdish SWAT officer in this Arabic-language film produced by the Russo brothers ("Avengers: Endgame") and based on Luke Mogelson's book, "The Desperate Battle to Destroy ISIS."
The Drug Lords"The Drug Lords" is a series set during the drug war era, chronicling how the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the Colombian military successfully dismantled the narco empire of Pablo Escobar, the notorious cocaine kingpin of Medellin.
Wagner Moura ("The Gray Man") delivers an astounding performance as Escobar, while Pedro Pascal ("The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent") excels in his portrayal of DEA agent Javier Peña. It is surprising that you haven't watched this series yet.
The Mission ImpossibleBen Kingsley ("Gandhi") depicts fugitive Nazi SS officer Adolf Eichmann, who is on the run and hiding in Argentina when Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, locates him. Mossad operative Peter Malkin, played by Oscar Isaac, devises an audacious plan to capture Eichmann and covertly transport him to Israel to face trial.
"The Mission Impossible" is a heist-meets-spy thriller based on the true story of Mossad's extraordinary operation to seize this notorious war criminal.
The Phantom OperationThe disinformation campaign aimed at confusing Nazi Germany about the Allies' planned landing in France was diverse, intricate, and risky. Among the most ingenious and dangerous endeavors was the planting of a deceased individual possessing documents that appeared to contain the secret invasion strategy, designed to be discovered by German intelligence in a manner that would be convincing.
Actor Colin Firth ("1917") leads the cast in depicting the intricacies of the ambitious plan known as "The Phantom Operation" and the immense doubts surrounding its potential to deceive German intelligence.
The Patients Under Dr. GarciaSet in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and later, during World War II, this suspenseful Netflix series follows Dr. Guillermo Garcia (Javier Rey, "The House of Snails") as he treats a spy, Manuel Arroyo (Tamar Novas, "The Sea Inside"), who has taken on the identity of a Republican diplomat. The two attempt to infiltrate a "ratline," a network of clandestine operatives aiding the escape of Nazis and Fascists to Argentina.
Based on Almudena Grandes' book "The Patients Under Dr. Garcia," this Netflix series is a thrilling spy drama that keeps viewers guessing who to trust, who will survive, and if anyone will make it out alive.
The Oasis of DeceptionDuring the mid-1980s, a massive exodus of Ethiopians took place as a result of a devastating famine in their homeland, leading thousands of persecuted Ethiopian Jews to seek refuge in Sudanese refugee camps. Known for their steadfast commitment to protect persecuted Jews worldwide, Israel clandestinely evacuated these refugees to safety within their own borders.
Starring Chris Evans ("Captain America: The First Avenger") and Michael K. Williams ("The Wire"), "The Oasis of Deception" tells the story of this evacuation. In order to facilitate the rescue mission, Mossad establishes a cover business in the form of a resort providing evacuees with access to the Red Sea.
The Jadotville SiegeA force of 155 Irish soldiers serving with the United Nations Operation in the Congo found themselves facing a civil uprising in 1961. However, instead of limiting their attacks to governmental forces, Congolese rebels from the State of Katanga targeted the Irish troops stationed in a mining town called Jadotville.
The Irish soldiers held their ground against a force several times their size as they awaited rescue from Irish, Indian, and Swedish troops of the U.N. mission. Declan Power, an Irish Army veteran, authored "The Siege at Jadotville: The Irish Army's Forgotten Battle," on which the film is based.
The Undercover AgentSacha Baron Cohen takes on the role of real-life Mossad agent Eli Cohen, who operated undercover in Syria under the alias Kamel Amin Thaabet and infiltrated the highest ranks of the Syrian government in the years leading up to the Six-Day War of 1967.
Cohen's dramatic performance in "The Undercover Agent" demonstrates his versatility beyond his comedic roles in movies like Borat and Bruno. The series is primarily in English, making it accessible to those who prefer not to deal with subtitles.
Betrayal"Betrayal" earned immediate global acclaim following its Netflix debut shortly after the Christmas season of 2022. Charlie Cox, best known for his portrayal of Daredevil in Marvel films and shows, plays the role of Adam Lawrence, a British agent who rises to the top position at MI6 after his superior is poisoned.
Lawrence discovers that his former lover is, in fact, a Russian operative who has manipulated events to further his own interests. As he faces investigations from both the British government and the CIA, both questioning his loyalty, Lawrence finds himself grappling with who to trust.
The Three Borders"The Three Borders" is a heist film featuring an ensemble cast comprising Oscar Isaac as Santiago Garcia, an ex-Delta Force soldier who recruits his fellow former comrades, portrayed by Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal, to steal millions from a Colombian drug lord.
However, their operation yields far more money than anticipated, and the excessive funds become a burden as they navigate their escape through the jungles of South America.
War MachineBrad Pitt stars as four-star Gen. Glen McMahon in this satirical comedy inspired by Michael Hastings' nonfiction book "The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan." McMahon, resembling real-life Gen. Stanley McChrystal, is tasked with bringing an end to the war in Afghanistan and given free rein to do so.
However, McMahon believes victory can still be achieved and makes the one move he was explicitly warned against: requesting additional troops.
The Warrior Queen"The Warrior Queen" draws inspiration from the true story of the Agojie, an all-female group of warriors who, in 1823, fought to liberate women sold into slavery in Dahomey, a country in Africa. Viola Davis's unforgettable performance captures the essence of Gen. Nanisca, the leader of these warriors who ultimately ascends to the position of king over her people.
This 2022 film will captivate audiences who appreciate epic historical war movies akin to "Gladiator" or "Braveheart." The battle scenes are meticulously crafted, and Gen. Nanisca is an indelible character who rightfully stands among the ranks of great military leaders depicted in film.
-- Blake Stilwell can be contacted at [email protected]. For updates, you can also follow him on Twitter @blakestilwell or connect on LinkedIn.
In an ever-evolving landscape of war movies, these upcoming releases are sure to grab the attention of military enthusiasts and film lovers alike. From intense historical dramas to gripping documentaries, this lineup offers something for everyone. With talented actors, powerful storytelling, and captivating narratives, these films shed light on the untold stories and sacrifices made by soldiers and civilians alike. Get ready to be immersed in the world of war cinema like never before, as these movies bring history to life and honor the heroes who shaped our world. So mark your calendars and prepare for an unforgettable cinematic experience that will leave you inspired and in awe of the human spirit.