Dunkirk, The Hurt Locker, Saving Private Ryan, and More: Action-Packed War Movies To Watch
Setting: World War II; Dunkirk, Northern France
Directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Night, Interstellar, Inception), Dunkirk was immediately met with critical acclaim when it came out. With a touching script that follows young soldiers eager to evacuate the eponymous town, Nolan was lauded for the heartfelt storytelling the movie delivered. With high-powered acting from then-unknown actor Fionn Whitehead, supported by appearances from Cilian Murphy, Tom Hardy, and Harry Styles, this movie quickly became the talk of the town. The action scenes vary from ground to air battle. Watch out for the excellent score created by no other than Hans Zimmer; listen to it here: Dunkirk Score Suite.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Setting: World War II; Invasion of Normandy
A classic if there ever was one! Tom Hanks stars alongside Matt Damon in this gripping drama filled with lifelike action sequences. Taking home five Academy Awards, Saving Private Ryan quickly became one of the top war films produced by Hollywood. Recreating the battle at Normandy Beach cost an estimated 12M USD and included thousands of extras so that director Steven Spielberg could accurately depict the gory battle scene.
The Hurt Locker (2008)
Setting: Early 2000s; Baghdad, Iraq
Following the EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) unit assigned in Baghdad, Iraq, The Hurt Locker is thrilling as it is poignant. It explores the difficulty of modern warfare through the eyes of a three-man bomb squad as they encounter one life-threatening ordinance at a time. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this movie won six Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. Many critics include this movie in their "top films to watch in your lifetime" due to its earnest storytelling. However, several veterans fault The Hurt Locker for inconsistencies and inaccuracies with regards to military procedure and conduct. Find out for yourself if it is as good as they say!
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Setting: 1993; Mogadishu, Somalia
A dramatisation of real life accounts, Black Hawk Down follows the high-tension extraction of US military soldiers from Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. Run by combatant forces, exiting the capital becomes near impossible for the soldiers. A harrowing tale of perseverance, bravery, and conflict, this movie will not disappoint when it comes to action sequences. The star-studded cast doesn't hurt too. Add this to your playlist of larger-than-life movies ASAP!
See Also: 13 Old Hollywood Movies To Rewatch ASAP
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Setting: World War II; Nazi Germany
Offering an alternate history to Nazi-run Germany, this sly war movie doubles as an off-colour comedy through Quentin Tarantino's eyes. Starring Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, and the inimitable Christoph Waltz, this movie will keep you on the edge of your seat not only with exciting action sequences, but stellar acting chops as well. Reception for this movie leans toward positive criticism but many find it too risqué due to its defamatory plot. Come for the cast, stay for the acting, and rewatch for the action-packed comedy!
American Sniper (2014)
Setting: Early 2000s; Iraq
A touching tale about Chris Kyle, acknowledged as the most lethal sniper in US Military history. Portrayed by Bradley Cooper, Kyle comes to life on the big screen through his experiences both in the battlefield and back home in America. Directed by no other than Clint Eastwood, American Sniper became one of the highest grossing films of 2014. Exploring the difficulties of deployment and the decision to pull the trigger, this film not only delivers on the action, but also encapsulates the emotional depth that comes with military service and sacrifice.
Trivia: Ironically, although credited with 255 kills during his tours, Chris Kyle was killed back home by a psychologically-unstable veteran during a recreational visit to a gun-range—an activity which was part of Kyle's advocacy for helping out veterans re-assimilate into life post-war.
Setting: World War I; France
Directed by Sam Mendes, many considered this movie to be a shoo-in for the 2019 Academy Best Picture (it was awarded to Parasite by Bong Joon-ho). As an ambitious "one-take" film, 1917 is a technical marvel in and of itself. Rehearsals alone took months so that the actors could work seamlessly with the set, cameras, and extras. A tale about two men set off to deliver a message, this film is strikingly detailed and raw in its emotional depiction of friendship, duty, and hopelessness. With elaborate production designs and grueling camera-work, it's hard not to feel in awe when watching 1917—see for yourself and decide whether this should've bagged the Best Picture trophy!
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