Top Classic War Films

Posted on 2 May 00:00



War films help in educate the masses, even fictional war films. Here are 7 popular classic war films of note.

  1. Cross Of Iron (1977)

Cross of Iron, also known as 'Steiner Das Eiserne Kreuz' in German, which translates literally to iron cross, is a 1977 classic war film which was directed by Sam Peckinpah. This movie features James Coburn (Feldwebel Rolf Steiner), Maximilian Schell (Hauptmann Stransky), and James Mason (Oberst Brandt). It is a world war II movie set on the eastern front. It follows The Battle of the Caucasus, Axis and Soviet operations in the Caucasus area on the Eastern Front of World War II which took place against the Kuban Bridgehead in Germany.

This epic movie centers around Corporal Steiner (James Coburn), who is a well-ranked and accomplished combat veteran who leads German soldiers up to the Russian front. However, his place as a leader comes under threat when Captain Stransky (Maximilian Schell) seizes command over the troops. The movie focuses on the intense battle for leadership between the two men.

  1. Sands Of Two Jima (1949)

This is a 1949 war film which stars John Wayne.  Marine Sgt. John Stryker (John Wayne) is despised by his own men for his rough attitude and exhausting training regimen. As the war in the Pacific progresses, though, they begin to respect Stryker's hard-edged outlook on war and his brutal training methods, as it has helped them prepare for the harsh realities of the battlefield. They'll need all of Stryker's battle tactics if they want to survive what will end up being one of the bloodiest engagements of the war: the Battle of Iwo Jima. This movie was written by Harry Brown and James Edward Grant. It was also directed by Allan Dwan and co stars John Agar (Peter T. "Pete" Conway), Forrest Tucker (PFC Al J. Thomas), and Adele Mara (Allison Bromley).

The sands of Iwo Jima was a huge success and John Wayne's performance in the movie earned him his first Academy Nomination for best actor. The movie also carries symbolic items such as the flag from Mount Suribachi, which was the flag used in the reenactment of the event. The three of the surviving men, who were the original soldiers to raise the flag, appeared in the film as well. This classic war film also features veteran soldiers in various scenes, plus the use of real footage of war to give it more authenticity.

  1. Downfall (2004)

The downfall is a German war film. It translates to Der Untergang in German. It was directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel and was originally a screenplay by Bernd Eichinger who produced the movie. This film stars Alexandra Maria Lara (Traudl Junge), Bruno Ganz (Adolf Hitler), Juliane Köhler (Eva Braun).

It is set in WWII during the battle in Berlin, when the Nazis were close to defeat and depicts the final days of Adolf Hitler (Bruno Ganz).

This classic war film premiered in the Toronto film festival on the 14th of September, 2004. Although it failed to get a distributor at first, it was later released in Germany on the 16th of September of the same year. In the United States, it premiered on February 18, 2005, in Manhattan.

  1. Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)

This film is a Japanese American bio war drama film about the Japanese attack on the Pearl harbor in the year 1941. Directors who worked on this film include Richard Fleischer, Kinji Fukasaku, and Toshio Masuda. The movies was cast with little known actors who weren't box office stars. This was to ensure that the movie focused on the story line and not the actors featured in it. Some of those actors include James Whitmore (Vice Admiral William F. Halsey). Sō Yamamura (Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto), and Martin Balsam (Admiral Husband E. Kimmel).

The title 'Tora', which exclaimed three times is a Japanese code word which is used to depict total surprise. It also means 'tiger' in the Japanese language as well. 

  1. Steel Helmet (1951)

This is a classic war film directed by Samuel Fuller. It was produced by Lippert Studios and took place during the Korean War. Fuller served as producer, director, and writer. Cast: Robert Hutton (Pvt. Bronte), Steve Brodie (Lt. Driscoll), and Gene Evans (Sgt. Zack).

Steel Helmet was met with critical acclaim, and praised Fuller's role as a director. It also had a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (a rare occurrence), giving it a perfect rating.

  1. Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)

Lawrence of Arabia is an epic historical drama film released in 1962. It is about the life of T. E Lawrence. It was produced by Sam Spiegel through Columbia Pictures' Anxiety Horizon Pictures. Directed by David Lean, the screenplay was written by Michael Wilson and Robert Bolt. This war film depicts the journeys and experiences of Lawrence as he traveled  around the Ottoman Empire provinces of Hejaz and also Syria during WWI. It details his attacks on Damascus and Aqaba.

This film also depicts Lawrence's w emotional struggles with violence, identity, and his divided allegiance during the war. It stars Peter O'Toole as Lawrence of Arabia, Alec Guinness (Prince Faisal), Jack Hawkins (General Allenby) and Anthony Quinn (Auda Abu Tayi).

  1. The Big Red One (1980)

this is another classic war film by Samuel Fuller, The Big Red One is about the first infantry division from Africa to Europe and takes place during the years 1942-1945. Lee Marvin (Sergeant) plays the role of an unnamed division sergeant. He's tough and experienced, and in the film, he takes on his job with cool professionalism rather than Hollywood bravado.

The Big Red One, is on Empire's magazine's 2008 list and placed 483rd of 500 greatest movies of all time. Terry Lawson of the Detroit Free Press calls it the greatest war film of all time.

The Big Red One was entered into the 1980 Cannes Film Festival and on the 21st of November 2004, Roger Ebert included it as one of his greatest movies. Cast Mark Hamill (Pvt. Griff), Robert Carradine (Pvt. Zab), and Lee Marvin (The Sergeant)

There are many many classic war films which move us. Some of them include:

  1. Sergeant York - 1941
  2. The Guns of Navarone - 1961
  3. The Longest Day - 1963

Movies are used to show the realities of war and how it affects lives and makes it generally unappealing for anyone to want to experience it in their lifetime. Thanks to the brilliance of the directors, screenplay writers, producers, actors and distributors, these are our top 10 list of classic war films.

Movie Buffs Forever stocks classic movies on DVD from the 1940's to the early 2000's. Browse our vast collection of old, rare and out of print classic movies on DVD.

Why We Still Love DVDs