Continuing with the previous post on Vietnam movies, let me try and extend the scope to war movies in general. The wars of the world have certainly provided Hollywood with unending inspiration to make films on the topic, and none more so than World War II. Not surprising, considering how dramatically the world changed through the course of that war. Maps were redrawn - even new countries created, and the balance of power was significantly altered. Most important of all were the number of lives lost, and its only fair that Hollywood do its bit to recreate the war on film.
I am trying to list the war movies that I liked (not exhaustive by any means, and in no particular order). Feel free to comment and add movies that you liked or disliked or those that perhaps I should have listed, but missed out on:
All quiet on the Western front - set in WWI, it showcases the tragedy of war through the eyes of young German recruits.
Lawrence of Arabia - an Academy award winning masterpiece set during WWI from David Lean, boasting of superb performances from a very formidable cast: Peter O'Toole, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, and Claude Rains (probably most well known as the French Prefect in Casablanca).
M*A*S*H - set in the Korean war (very few movies based on this war, but MASH was a delight), trying to give a lighter touch in an otherwise exasperating conflict. I love the TV series later produced ... one of my all time favorites. But more on the TV series later, this one's for movies :)
The Bridge on the River Kwai - another David Lean masterpiece, this time with Alec Guiness in the lead. A band of British POWs under the Japanese build a bridge over the Kwai, only to see a that the Allies have slightly different plans for the opening of the bridge.
Schindler's List - voted the best war movie of all time by IMDB voters. Spielberg finally made it to the Academy awards list with this one.
Where Eagle's Dare/Guns of Navarone/Force 10 from Navarone - all 3 are based on novels by Alistair Maclean. I would rank WED ahead of both Navarone novels, and FOrce 10 from Navarone as the worst (by far). While WED not only has a cool plot and a super star cast (Richard Burton and CLint Eastwood as Maj. Smith and Lt. Schaeffer resp) - the filming is also pretty cool, esp the cable car sequences to and from the Schloss Adler in the German Alps. Guns of Navarone also boasts of a superb cast - Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn as Mallory, Dusty Miller and Andreas Stavrous respectively. On the contrary, Force 10 is very mediocre - starring among others Harrison Ford (then quite unknown), Edward Fox (as Dusty Miller, remember him as General Dyer in Gandhi?), Carl Weathers (another newbie -just coming off his major role in Rocky)
The Sea Wolves - an unknown movie about a bunch of retired soldiers leading an attack on German ships in neutral Goa harbor. Stars Gregory Peck, David Niven and Roger Moore, shot almost completely in India.
The Longest Day - The elaborate D-Day drama - on an incredibly grand scale. Till Schindler's List came along, it was the highest grossing black and white movie. It resurrected the financial fortunes of Twentieth Century Fox after the disastrous Cleopatra
Saving Private Ryan - the critically acclaimed landing sequence is brutal, the reality of war in all its gory detail.
Casablanca - movies set in the war aren't only about fighting or tragedy. The war provides a splendid backdrop for some of the best movies of all time - Rick's Cafe in Casablanca was certainly the place to be 'as time went by'.
The Great Escape - Steve McQueen leads the escape from a POW camp.
U-571 - an American submarine made to look like a German U-boat in an attempt to recover an Enigma decoding machine. They say it pales in comparison to Das Boot (unfortunately i have not seen the latter to make a comment on that).
The thin red line - a contemporary of Saving Private Ryan - didnt get quite the same attention as the Tom Hanks starrer.
The Pianist - Adrian Brody in his Oscar winning role as Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman. Based on a true story of one of the most accomplished pianists in Poland at that time, this Roman Polanski movie showcases his efforts to survive after the ghetto is destroyed by the Nazis, and the story of his amazing survival through the war. Brody was probably so perfect for that role, that he will always be typecast - may not ever fit smoothly into any other role.
Pearl Harbor movies:
Tora Tora Tora - what's unique about this movie is that it looks at the attack on Pearl Harbor from both Japanese and American points of view, and speaks of events not just during, but also leading up to the battle.
Pearl Harbor - I didnt fancy this movie too much, but the Japanese invasion sequences were great. Certainly worth a watch for that.
From Here to Eternity - Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr as two star crossed lovers in Hawaii against the backdrop of the Japanese attack. Montgomery Clift plays the boxer who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A grossly incomplete list in the end - but if I dont cut it short, i will never finish this post. I will continue to add more as I recall ... feel free to add more of what you prefer/like.