The film follows a team of Israeli soldiers that tries to survive behind enemy lines in their lone tank during the 1982 Lebanon conflict. What makes the film unique is how most events take place entirely within the tank. Within this confined space, the horrors of battle take on horrifying extremes. Viewers sense the uncertainty and pressure.
Every decision or disagreement could be the soldiers’ undoing, threatening to implode everyone. The film’s commitment to realism is commendable — from tank operating protocols to the crushing claustrophobia that soldiers experience when inside. What’s more, the film has some of the most brilliantly written and nuanced characters who come alive on screen.
Charlie Sheen surprised everyone when he played the protagonist in this brilliant war film. He takes on the role of a young soldier, determined and gung-ho to serve in Vietnam. When his friends and fellow soldiers start dying in combat one by one, he slowly but surely becomes disillusioned by war. “Platoon” doesn’t intend to be subtle.
The scenes are disturbing and sometimes hard to watch, but they're effective in driving the point home. War is destructive, forever altering the body and mind. And young people can often be the greatest casualties. Directed by Oliver Stone, this hard-hitting film won the Oscar for Best Picture that year and deservedly so!
Booby Traps (1944)
During WWII, the U.S. War Department commissioned several animated shorts to generate awareness of critical wartime topics. Think of it as the chaos of Looney Tunes meets practical how-to infomercials. One of these shorts was “Booby Traps.” Created and directed by Bob Clampett, “Booby Traps" used humor (often racy) and gags to educate people on avoiding booby traps when entering a territory surrendered by the enemy.
The central character created by Frank Capra was “Snafu” – a clumsy, not very bright soldier who makes every mistake so that others never have to. The shorts offer peeks into everyday life for soldiers during WWII – fraught with danger yet still making space for humor wherever possible. Plus, it makes you think of how life was starkly different for the country’s animators and filmmakers back then.
From Here to Eternity (1953)
Author James Jones created a stir when his 1951 novel “From Here to Eternity” was published. Readers were equal parts impressed and scandalized by his bold, largely unflattering portrayal of military life. Filmmaker Fred Zinnemann’s adaptation, although much more toned down, received a similar reception. Where other war movies veered towards platitudes for the heroics of the American military, this film addressed the many excesses, abuses, and infidelities rampant before WWII.
Montgomery Clift plays a man who is reluctant to join the camp’s boxing team and suffers the consequences. Burt Lancaster is a jaded desk sergeant who has an affair with his commanding officer’s wife (Deborah Kerr). Other members of the star-studded cast include Ernest Borgnine, Frank Sinatra, and Donna Reed. Despite mixed receptions, the film and cast won a string of Oscars, suggesting that audiences loved seeing soldiers depicted as flawed human beings.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
“Hacksaw Ridge” is credited with single-handedly addressing the topic of conscientious objection – pathbreaking and bold for a war movie. Based on real events, the film tells the story of Army Medic Desmond T. Doss during WWII. Doss was the first conscientious objector to win a Medal of Honor without firing a weapon – a landmark in U.S. military history.
“Hacksaw Ridge” and its unique perspective bring much-needed nuance to the narrative of war and the landscape of Hollywood war movies. Andrew Garfield shines as Doss, his performance earning him a nomination for Best Actor and several others. The film is perfect for anyone looking to uncover history beyond mainstream accounts.