Top 5 Wars In Film You’d Love To Be In

Written by Joey Simpson November 17, 2011

Stanely Kubrick evocatively summarizes war in a single quote in his 1987 film, Full Metal Jacket. Private Joker (played by Matthew Modine) shares a Huey with a psychotic machine gunner who willingly guns down innocent women and children shouting, “Ain’t war hell?!”.

Since the 1960’s, directors have opted to create distinctly anti-war pictures which illustrate the damning effects of war on the state and on the psychological stability of its soldiers. Conversely, these serious anti-war films have had to compete with the romantic, adventurous epics of war which were much more financially successful but did not fare as well critically. Any film critic worth his salt would most likely choose Apocalypse Now over Kelly’s Heroes or The Guns of Navarrone for its contemplation of the human condition in the wilderness setting of the Vietnam War. But this article does not examine the critical prowess or the authenticity of war in film. Far from it! This Top 5 ranks which war films it would be simply awesome to be a part of.

#5: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Yes, I am well aware that Master and Commander is by no means a film advocating military service. Far from it. This film chronicles the journey of a ship’s crew (captained by Russell Crowe) during its service to the British in the Napoleonic Wars. This film was shot with painstaking detail and preferred to go against the grain of the recent wave of historical epics by having very few scenes of action. The film’s focus is on the crew, its captain, and the triumphs and defeats associated with the maritime life. What makes Master and Commander list-worthy is just that. The marines and sailors spend most of their service performing monotonous tasks and basic ship maintenance, and are thus far too busy to engage in legitimate fighting! Sure the food is awful, living quarters cramped, and disease a plenty but for we who are slothful at heart, who don’t mind horrid work conditions and meager hospitality, this film definitely speaks to us.

#4: Three Kings (1999)

Borrowing elements from 1970’s satire war films and Generation X attitudes of war, Three Kings tells the story of three men sent on a wild adventure through the Persian Gulf in search of Iraqi treasure. This film practically retells my childhood fantasies of adventure and soldiery with a stylistic and genuinely captivating script. Any viewer can look at this film and simply revel in its bawdiness and its swagger, all the while imagining themselves in George Clooney’s place at the head of this treasure expedition.

#3: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

This may seem like a slight cop-out (I said nothing about wars being exclusively on Earth!). But even if you are an ardent supporter of the Rebel Alliance, or a conservative member of the Galactic Empire,no one can doubt the universal appeal of a ‘lightsaber’ or George Lucas’ hilariously bad dialogue. Laugh it up, fuzzball!

#2: Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)

In Monty Python’s grandiose final film, the troupe examines the absurd existence we live on this Earth, and the silly purpose of it all. The film, divided into chapters, devotes a fairly long chapter, aptly titled “Fighting One Another”, to discuss the meaning and purpose of humanity blowing itself to bits. Set in the Golden Age of the British Empire, the film follows two stories from the point of view of the officer class. The First World War story shows a captain’s division presenting him with a lemon cake they made for his birthday, right in the midst of the gruesome trench warfare. The Zulu story is much longer and absurd showing the officers, who are completely indifferent to the suffering of their soldiers. Despite the horrible atrocities around them, the officers are ardent in their hunt for a missing leg after a tiger secretly makes off with it in the night. What does the film show? Being an officer rules! No death, no malnourishment, minimal dismemberment; they clearly have the choice role in any military situation (except for the spontaneous ‘Hand of God’, in a later scene)!

Also, any army that lets out its training program for piano lessons seems splendid by any measure.

#1: M*A*S*H (1970)

Robert Altman’s 1970 film about the Korean War seems more like an extended Oriental vacation than a tour of duty. The film contradicts most war films that came before it, in that it depicted soldiers living casually and taking it easy, with almost no footage of the actual war. Perhaps Altman expresses the horrors of war with a sense of irony, showing us soldiers and surgeons (played by Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould , and Tom Skerrit) propelled by a self-imposed disillusionment. On the whole though, Altman shows serving men and women simply making due with their circumstances. And howdy, do they make due! Martini’s a plenty, hilarious practical jokes, and an organized football team; these soldiers know how to have a good time and not let silly old reality interfere, even if it almost gets them a court-martial.


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