Veterans Day is here, which means there’s no better time than now to revisit some war classics.
For decades, the world’s servicemen and women have been portrayed on-screen, oftentimes being honored for their bravery and sacrifice. Many of the iconic films depicting the military experience are available to be screened right now.
Indeed, from the entries from the Golden Age to the more recent, acclaimed dramas that have lit up cinema screens in recent years, one doesn't have to look very far to find films to watch in honor of Veterans Day.
Below, A.frame presents 10 films to watch in honor of this year’s Veterans Day.
Directed by French filmmaker Jean Renoir, this revered 1937 military drama follows two French soldiers who come from different social classes (played by Jean Gabin and Pierre Fresnay) after they are caught and imprisoned within a German P.O.W. camp during World War I. Following their capture, the pair quickly begin concocting and following through on various escape attempts, all while being observed and frequently chastised by their captor, the aristocratic Captain von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim). The Grand Illusion received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.
This Golden Age classic from director William Wyler follows a trio of traumatized World War II veterans (played by Fredric March, Dana Andrews, and Harold Russell) after they return home to their midwestern American lives. Despite having high hopes for their futures, the three veterans quickly find themselves struggling to reconcile who they are with who they used to be. The Best Years of Our Lives went on to win a total of seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (March). Russell, a World War II veteran who had lost his hands during his military service, received both the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and an Honorary Award for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans through his appearance in the film.
This iconic, World War II-set 1963 thriller follows a group of hard-knuckled Allied prisoners as they try, much to their captors’ frustration, to desperately escape from a German P.O.W. camp and resume their fight in Europe. Directed by filmmaker John Sturges, The Great Escape’s memorable ensemble cast features a number of well-known '60s stars, including Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, and James Coburn. The Great Escape received an Oscar nomination for Best Film Editing.
Director Oliver Stone’s Platoon follows Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen), a U.S. military recruit, after he is sent to Vietnam. Shortly after arriving in the war-torn country, Taylor finds himself caught in an ideological conflict between two of his superiors, Staff Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger) and Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe). In addition to Dafoe, Sheen, and Berenger, this Oscar-winning drama’s cast also includes Keith David, Forest Whitaker, Kevin Dillon, and Francesco Quinn. Platoon won four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Another Oliver Stone film, this acclaimed 1989 biographical drama follows a Vietnam war veteran Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) after he is paralyzed and sent back to the United States to resume his non-military life. Based on Kovic’s 1976 autobiography of the same name, Born on the Fourth of July received a total of eight Oscar nominations, including Best Actor for Cruise. The film went on to win Oscars for Best Director and Best Film Editing.
This Steven Spielberg war drama follows a group of American World War II troops who are ordered to go behind enemy lines in France to rescue a soldier (Matt Damon) whose brothers have all been killed in action. Led by Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks), the film’s central Allied troops put their lives on the line in order to make sure that their fellow soldier’s mother doesn’t lose her last son to the war. The film, widely considered a masterpiece, received eleven Oscar nominations, including Best Actor for Hanks and Best Original Screenplay, and won five Oscars, including Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Editing.
Released the same year as Saving Private Ryan, this war epic from iconic auteur Terrence Malick follows a group of U.S. soldiers as they take part in the Guadalcanal campaign of World War II. The film boasts an ensemble cast that includes Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel, George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Nick Nolte, and many others. Another masterpiece from 1998, Malick's film was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography.
This biographical drama follows a World War II U.S. army medic (Andrew Garfield) whose pacifist beliefs inspire him to charge into battle without using or carrying a firearm. Inspired by the real-life actions of Desmond T. Doss, Hacksaw Ridge received six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and won Oscars for Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing. Garfield received the first Best Actor nomination of his career for his performance as Doss.
This Christopher Nolan war thriller depicts the real-life Dunkirk evacuation of World War II, which resulted in the rescue of over 300,000 Allied soldiers who had been trapped and pinned down in the north of France. Across its 106-minute running time, Dukirk moves between the perspectives of the soldiers attempting to leave the beach, officers planning the evacuation, pilots in the air protecting those on land and sea from enemy bombers, and the civilians coming to the rescue by boat. As they all fight to save themselves and their fellow countrymen from complete and utter defeat, the audience experiences a film that is part war drama and part action thriller. Dunkirk was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won Oscars for Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing.
In thiscinematic achievement comprised of multiple long takes, this war drama from director Sam Mendes follows a pair of World War I soldiers (played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) after they are ordered to deliver a message that has the potential to save the lives of over 1,000 of their fellow troops. In addition to MacKay and Chapman, the film’s cast includes stars like Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden, and Colin Firth. 1917 was nominated for ten Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won Oscars for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Mixing.