The title of the movie wouldn’t imply that this is one of the most iconic Vietnam War movies of all time, and yet it is. Telling the tale of working-class Americans before they start their service in the Asian country, things really start to pick up when the action starts in Vietnam. Robert De Niro gives us a classic performance in the main role.
Another fascinating thing about the movie is that the last hour of it just shows the soldier’s lives after the war. Other great performances come from the likes of Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken, and John Cazale, among others. Michael Cimino’s epic movie ended up winning a whopping five awards at the Oscars, including Best Picture.
The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1989)
This Australian war movie takes us to the battlefields of Vietnam. Sergeant Major Hafner (played by R. Lee Ermey) leads his squad on patrol through dangerous enemy territory. The soldiers’ objective is clear — to officially capture and defend Firebase Gloria. The result is an epic battle scene, among the finest cinematic moments on the silver screen.
Studio executives ended up butchering the film, with cuts that destroyed most of its insightful commentary on war. Despite the thoughtless editing, “The Siege of Firebase Gloria” is still an underrated film about the Vietnam War and ideas of reconciliation – one that deserves more attention and recognition.
Cross of Iron (1977)
“Cross of Iron” does an impeccable job of setting the mood for a war film. What is striking about the film is the instantaneous sense of pervading gloom and misery – truly one of the best atmospheric films out there. The story follows a German platoon on the Eastern Front of WWII. James Coburn portrays the leader of the platoon – a tough but honorable man who butts heads and ideologies with a new commander.
This superior cares far more for medals than soldiers’ lives. The film is an unapologetic portrayal of both the horrors of war and the hellish personal agendas within it. The only truth is that human lives are dispensable. “Cross of Iron” is among Sam Peckinpah’s finest works, worthy of more attention and discussion in the war film universe.
Black Hawk Down (2001)
“Black Hawk Down” is an account of a violent, ill-fated raid on Mogadishu in 1993. The encounter left 19 American soldiers dead. The movie found many takers especially after 9/11, with its politics a matter of contention still. Director Ridley Scott masterfully tells a chaotic story with a cast filled to the brim with every rising male actor during the late ‘90s – from Josh Hartnett and Ewan McGregor to Orlando Bloom.
Scott manages to capture the intensity of every scene, even though realism has never been his preferred style for the silver screen. The film received criticism back then for glorifying war. Today the narrative has changed and seems more about the misguided belief that America can or should save another country.
Director Andrzej Wajda poured every bit of his experience as a resistance fighter against the Nazis into three cinematic masterpieces in the 1950s. He made three films during this time: “A Generation” (1955), “Ashes and Diamonds” (1958), and “Kanal” (1957.) Of the three, “Kanal” is widely regarded as the best one with a singular focus on war.
“Kanal” is an account of the Polish resistance to Nazism while also dissecting the qualities of communism, both oppressive and freeing. Viewers follow the mind-boggling efforts of the Warsaw Uprising when freedom fighters undertake efforts to win Poland back from the Nazis. Wajda takes the story literally into the sewers of Poland, creating an unforgettable albeit claustrophobic cinematic gem.