15 of the best movies to watch this Veterans Day

Veteran’s Day pays our respects to all men and women who have served in the Armed Forces and coincides with foreign holidays, such as Armistice Day and Memorial Day, which celebrate the end of World War I (which officially ended on 11 time of the 11th day of the 11th month 1918). Therefore, November 11.

While supporting veterans can take many forms—including charitable donations, hiring veterans at your business, and supporting sober foreign policy—one way we can all remember those who have served throughout history is through film. Here are thirteen great war movies, some more directly about veterans and some more directly about the wars themselves, to watch this Veterans Day or the weekend.

Not all of these are American films, as I believe that war—and its aftermath—is something that transcends national borders. Veterans of all wars and from all countries share a bond.

Obviously lists like this are limited (or they would grow too long) but please let me know what your favorite war and/or veteran movies are Twitter or Facebook.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Steven Spielberg’s World War II masterpiece is simply one of the best war movies ever made. While it only touches on veterans, it gives a clear and graphic depiction of the violence and heroism of the brave men who fought on the beaches of Normandy and in Nazi-occupied Europe. Spielberg also directed Schindler’s List, another holocaust-centered World War II horror film.

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of Pfc. Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield) who won the Congressional Medal of Honor despite refusing to carry a gun based on his religious beliefs. The pacifist Doss was initially mocked and later applauded for his bravery and courage. Mel Gibson—a controversial figure to say the least—is at his best in the director’s chair here.

Da 5 Bloods (2020)

The story of five veterans who return to Vietnam years after the war to find buried gold and recover the body of a fallen friend. If you like Spike Lee movies, you’ll enjoy this one too. A story of friendship, suffering and loss, with some amazing performances.

A Few Good Men (1992)

It’s not a war story, but it’s still one of the best military movies ever made. Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise both knock it out of the park in this legal drama surrounding the murder of a soldier at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

by Stanley Kubrick Full metal jacket remains one of the best and most iconic Vietnam War films of all time. It follows a group of soldiers from Basic Training – an experience almost as harrowing as the war itself – into the chaos of Vietnam. As much black comedy as historical fiction.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War masterpiece is as strange and dark as any on this list, a strange journey into Heart of Darkness (the Joseph Conrad book on which it was based) that is as much a trip to the mind as it is to the guts of the war. The cast alone makes this a must-watch war movie: Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Dennis Hopper, all at the top of their game.

Patton (1970)

Patton won 7 Academy Awards when it was released in 1970, including Best Picture, Director (Franklin J. Schaffner) and George C. Scott won Best Actor for his incredible portrayal of the famous general. Fun trivia: Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum and Rod Steiger all turned down the role before Scott was cast. Steiger later said it was his biggest mistake, but it’s hard to imagine anyone but Scott in the role now!

Born on July 4th (1989)

This is one of the more anti-war films on this list, but also one that focuses more on the lives of veterans. Tom Cruise stars as Ron Kovich, a veteran paralyzed in Vietnam. The story is autobiographical and based on Kovic’s autobiography. Oliver Stone directs. It won Best Director and Tom Cruise received his first Best Actor nomination.

The Deer Hunter (1978)

Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep-The Deer Hunter’s The amazing cast and excellent writing and direction have landed it on countless “best movies ever” lists. The story takes place in both Vietnam and Clairton, Pennsylvania, and deals with both the war and the effects of war on the lives of these characters.

American Sniper (2014)

Led by Bradley Cooper, Directed by Clint Eastwood American sniper was deeply controversial when it was released in 2014 thanks to the controversial nature of the man whose story it told. Chris Kyle was an Iraq war veteran and ace sniper, but when he returned home and became a more public figure, he caused controversy with his writings and statements. However, the film itself was very good and painted a grim picture of both the Iraq War and the problems faced by veterans with PTSD when they return home. (I wrote then that unlike some critics, I did not see the film as pro-war propaganda, quite the opposite).

Forrest Gump (1994)

I admit, Forrest Gump it doesn’t hold up all that well compared to many of them, even though Tom Hanks is brilliant in the title role. It’s a 90’s period movie in many ways, but it’s definitely charming and Gump runs through my hometown of Flagstaff, AZ on his road trip, so I have a little extra love for the tale. I include it here because of Lt. Dan, Gump’s wounded war veteran and friend, who has one of the strongest roles in the story outside of Forrest and Jenny. Lt. Dan is played by Gary Sinise, who started the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011. The charity is pretty great, helping veterans in many different ways, including providing custom-made smart homes for severely injured veterans for free. You can learn more about the foundation here. Sinise is a class act, no doubt.

1917 (2019)

One of the best modern war movies, 1917 creates the illusion of being shot in a single continuous shot. It’s a tense, visually stunning depiction of the first World War and tells a small, but important, story about two men on a desperate mission to save lives. Absolutely worth your time.

They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)

We’ve heard a lot about director Peter Jackson lately thanks to The Rings Of Power making many comparisons with The Lord of the Rings trilogy. His most recent picture is the war documentary They will not grow old, which uses original footage from the first world war – most of which has never been seen before – as well as audio interviews of British military personnel on the BBC. The material has been restored and colored. It’s a spectacular production that offers one of the most extraordinary glimpses into history you can imagine, taking us back in time a century ago.

Glory (1989)

The story of a regiment of black soldiers in the American Civil War, Glory tells a harrowing story of courage in the face of prejudice in one of the deadliest wars in American history. Denzel Washington won Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film.

Gallipoli (1981)

Peter Weir’s Australian war film Gallipoli is one of Mel Gibson’s first films. Gibson and Mark Lee star as young World War I recruits who end up fighting in the Battle of Gallipoli under British command. What follows is elemental and tragic. It is a brilliant film and coming of age story that shows how brutal trench warfare was and how unprepared the world was for industrialized warfare.

Gift: Band Of Brothers (2001 TV series)

Although not a movie, the World War II show based on Stephen E. Ambrose’s 1992 book of the same name is a historical look at the hardships faced by American paratroopers as they race toward Germany, freezing and starving along the way. A stellar cast you’ll recognize from countless other shows and movies makes it worth watching (and the book is great, too).

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