Often hard to watch, but still a must-see list
Pearl Harbor (2001)
If you’re expecting a full-blown, intricate war film, think again. Pearl Harbor focuses more on the love story than the Japanese attack and the Tokyo Raid. That said, it’s a good film to see how soldiers and civilian relationships are affected by war, and what it could mean for a couple. Director Michael Bay is a known auteur who is known for the effects rather than plot, so be ready for some simple and cheesy dialogue. This film has an extremely slow pace, but one can appreciate the dramatic sequences when Ben Affleck shows up to his old home uninvited. The film is worth sitting through to see the type of pure love that hopeless romantics still yearn for.
Black Hawk Down (1999)
Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning film kept us all on the edge of our seats more than a decade ago. The film, based on the novel of the same name, focuses on a United Nations peacekeeping operation. It eventually led to the operation targeting faction leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid after he declared war on UN personnel. The film focuses on new and old recruits, through their uphill battles and frustrating circumstances. You do not have to be an expert on military raids to understand and follow the film, and you’ll be able to appreciate the dedication it took for Scott to capture a story so vividly.
Three Kings (1999)
George Clooney, Ice Cube, and Mark Walhberg come together for an entertaining war-comedy. It’s the ultimate gold heist, taking place at the end of the Persian Gulf War, during the attack against Suddam Hussein in 1991. Their crew splits up in their quest to find the gold but manages to reunite by the end of the film. This film knows how to create laughs in a respectful manner, but still show war in a realistic way. Fans of director Spike Jonze will appreciate his first on-screen acting gig as one of the main characters in the film.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Quentin Tarantino’s critically acclaimed Inglourious Basterds may not be to everyone’s taste, but this black comedy is one of his most popular works for a reason. The film starts off with a convincing Christoph Waltz as a Nazi colonel who interrogates a dairy farmer, believing him to be stowing Jewish people in his basement. While Brad Pitt plays the protagonist with a distracting Tennessee accent which you feel he’s about to break any second, he steals the show anyway. Meanwhile, in German-occupied France, a theatre owner named Soshanna (Melanie Laurent) tries to take revenge on the Nazis. The all-star cast has an undeniable amazing chemistry that keeps you engaged for the entire film. This would be a great film to introduce to someone who is not familiar with the director’s work. In classic Tarantino style, the film is profusely violent and hard to watch at times, but in the end you’ll be glad you did.
With its hauntingly realistic depiction of war, Fury is one of the goriest war films to date. One of the hardest scenes to sit through is when a man’s body snaps and is buried under a muddy tank tread, while the rest of the men carry on. Many will compare Brad Pitt’s role in Inglourious Basterds to this one as an army sergeant, but they shouldn’t. With a less eccentric demeanour, Pitt’s role in Fury shows much more depth. Shia Labeouf gives the audience some comic relief, while newcomer Logan Lerman symbolizes freedom and hope for a better world.
The Monuments Men (2014)
Written, produced, and directed by George Clooney, this film is an adaptation of the real army unit, Monuments Men. They were a select group of museum curators, directors, and art historians who enlisted in the war to search for and preserve stolen artistic masterpieces. Clooney’s direction with aesthetics is outstanding to watch. However, it can seem like you’re watching a 120-minute cologne commercial. This film is incredibly gorgeous to look at, yet lacks narrative, and has little to no character development. But if you can see past its flaws, and you happen to be a history and art buff, then you’re in for a treat.