20 Best War Movies Of All Time

The emotions that conflict brings, how human beings survive the perils of war, and the fight between good and evil are perennial war movie themes. Strangely, they can be uplifting, too, demonstrating how resilient and kind people can be, even in the heat of battle. The best war movies of all time pick up on these themes, and while there's always plenty of action on offer, they don’t glorify the actual conflict.

Instead, they offer an insight into why a war started and how the men and women involved - all of whom have flaws - cope with the situation without losing their humanity. We've compiled a list of the top 20 war movies and their IMDb scores. These are dramatic war movies that are focused on the experiences of the people involved, and many are based on actual events.

1. Saving Private Ryan (1998) - 8.6

After the Normandy Landings, a group of American soldiers battle their way through enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France to rescue a paratrooper. Starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon and Edward Burns, it's an emotional rollercoaster of a film and one of the best war movies ever.

2. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) – 8.1

Told from the perspective of a young German soldier in WW1, this epic and intense film shows how the brutal reality of war can destroy the vigour of youth. Starring Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim and Arnold Lucy.

3. Full Metal Jacket (1987) – 8.3

From the brutality and soul-destroying deconstruction of raw recruits at boot camp to the horrors of the jungle, this Vietnam War epic is one of the most dramatic war movies you'll ever see. Starring Matthew Modine, Lee Ermey, Adam Baldwin and Vincent D'Onofrio.

4. Apocalypse Now (1979) – 8.4

A US officer is tasked with travelling deep into enemy territory to assassinate a renegade Special Forces Colonel whose madness has led him to believe that he has attained god-like status among the local tribes. It is an extraordinary film that shows the utter horror of the Vietnam War and what PTSD can do to a once-decent and highly respected commander. Starring Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando and Robert Duvall.

5. The Thin Red Line (1998) – 7.9

Based on the autobiographical novel of James Jones, this must-watch war movie charts the events of the battle of Guadalcanal in the Pacific theatre during WWII and a relentless, exhausting fight for survival. Starring Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, and Kirk Acevedo.

6. Patton 9 (1970) – 7.9

We often watch dramatic war movies that tell us about the average soldier, but what about the commanders? Patton focuses on the WWII career of General George S. Patton, perhaps one of the USA’s greatest-ever war commanders and his controversial rise to fame. Starring George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Stephen Young, and Michael Strong.

7. Platoon (1986) – 8.1

Platoon examines the conflict within a conflict, portrayed by the turmoil caused when two opposing sergeants engage in their own private little war. A brutal and brilliant film starring Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and Keith David.

8. Paths of Glory (1957) – 8.4

After an attack on a German position fails, a general looks for a scapegoat from three random soldiers whose lives now depend on the defence of their commanding officer. Starring Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, and George Macready.

9. Das Boot (1981) – 8.4

Claustrophobic, intense, and terrifying, Das Boot tells the story of a German U-boat as it stalks the convoys of the North Atlantic during WWII. Starring Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Klaus Wennemann, and Hubertus Bengsch.

10. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – 8.3

Charting the life of the remarkable T.E. Lawrence, this sweeping epic is one of the greatest war films ever and a multi-award-winning masterpiece. Starring Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, and Jack Hawkins.

11. The Deer Hunter (1978) – 8.1

This intimate film charts how the Vietnam War affected the mental health and the lives of several friends from a small town in Pennsylvania. Starring Robert De Nero, Christopher Walken and John Savage.

12. Come and See (1985) – 8.4

This profoundly intense and brooding film tells how a young boy joins the resistance movement in Russia as they fight against the ruthless advance of the German army in WWII. Starring Aleksey Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Liubomiras Laucevicius, and Vladas Bagdonas.

13. Dunkirk (2017) – 7.8

One of the best war movies of recent years, Dunkirk tells the story of the evacuation from Dunkirk beaches and the desperate fight for survival as the Allied soldiers are forced into the sea by the German army. Starring Fionn Whitehead, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance, and Tom Hardy.

14. 1917 (2019) – 8.2

Can two men stop 1,600 soldiers from walking into a deadly trap? The only way for them to survive is if two couriers can deliver their message before the army marches. Starring Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays, and Colin Firth.

15. Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) – 8.1

One of the truly great films of all time, Bridge on the River Kwai tells the true story of how British POWs were forced by their Japanese captors to build a bridge in occupied Burma. This deserves a place on any list of must-watch war movies. Starring William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, and Sessue Hayakawa.

16. The Guns of Navarone (1961) – 7.5

A team of saboteurs have to infiltrate a supposedly impregnable Nazi gun position before the Allied fleet arrives to rescue 2,000 trapped soldiers on a Greek island. Based on a true story. Starring David Niven, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, and Anthony Quayle.

17. The Longest Day (1962) – 7.7

As D-Day unfolds, the course of the war turns as a vast force lands on France's beaches. This film also tells of the events of D-Day from the German point of view. Starring John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Richard Burton and Henry Fonda.

18. Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) 7.5

The story of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and how the USA could have mitigated the true impact of the attack. Starring Martin Balsam, Sô Yamamura, Jason Robards, and Joseph Cotton.

19. The Great Escape (1963) 8.2

One of the greatest war films of all time and starring almost every prominent Hollywood actor of the time, this tells of the largest escape from a German POW camp during WWII. Starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, and Charles Bronson.

20. Battle of Britain (1969) – 6.9

In 1941, a battle for survival between the German Luftwaffe and the British RAF will determine who controls the skies. An incredible film based on actual events. Starring Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Harry Andrews, and Curd Jürgens.

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