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The War Nerd / April 24, 2011
By Gary Brecher

Last Sunday I was grumbling about how there are so many great books about war and not that many great war movies. That got a lot of readers lobbing in their suggestions for good war movies. One reminded me that I’d already mentioned a really great movie about 20th-c. war: Tae Guk Gi, The Brotherhood of War, a great, great Korean movie about two brothers who get dragged onto a troop train at the start of the Korean War. One of them makes it through, but you’ll have to watch the movie to see which one.

Tae Guk Gi has a dozen great scenes in it, from combat to massacre to just how dull it is to sit in a trench waiting to get attacked. There are bits of it you’ll never get out of your head, like when the Southern troops march north and see that the retreating Northern troops have hung villagers who they thought were class enemies. Not just hung them, but hung’em high, as Clint would say. There’s one woman hanging in that traditional Korean dress that looks like doll clothes, and I swear she’s about fifty feet in the air, revolving slowly.

One other thing Tae Guk Gi does better than most movies is show the instant electric switch from boring to terrifying you get in war. The platoon is sitting in the trenches bitching about the army and life in general, it’s hot, the food is lousy, and with no warning at all a volley of North Korean artillery lands right on them. You don’t hear the shells coming in, you don’t get those giveaway closeups of the guys who are about to die. Just one minute bla bla bla, the next kaboom. Totally random who dies that instant and who doesn’t.

A lot of the other movies you mentioned I haven’t seen. It’s hard to get Russian war films over here, though I did see one called Blockpost that someone from eXile sent back when they were based in Moscow. It was in Russian so I had to scrabble hard for every clue what was going on, but I think I got some of it. It’s about an outpost in Chechnya, manned by the classic squad of guys: the cool dude, the country bumpkin, the harmless little mascot comedy-relief that everybody babies and likes. They try to get along with the Chechens—in fact I suspect these actors are roughly a billion times nicer than actual scared conscripts would be when civilians fire on them—but eventually this cute Chechen girl who moonlights as a sniper gets one of them, although she sighs after doing it, like it’s a dirty job but somebody has to.

Just from what I wrote here describing the squad’s make-up, I bet any good war movie fan can tell me which guy gets it. That’s sort of the trouble with war movies, there’s a simple formula and people stick to it like Predestination.

Guess what Caine does with that helmet spike.

But there are some really surprising, unexpectedly cool war movies. Somebody mentioned The Last Valley, an old Michael Caine movie about a band of mercenaries in the Thirty Years War who stumble on an untouched, perfect valley in the Alps and decide to wait out the war there. I saw that as a kid and was seriously impressed. You can tell when somebody’s done their homework, even if you’re a kid, and whoever made that movie really had. I found out later James Clavell, the historical-novel guy who did all those books about Asia, wrote the story and directed the movie. That was where I learned a proper respect, more like total horror, for the Thirty Years War.

But I don’t want to give you the idea it was some dull textbook of a movie. This had action, serious action. In fact it had one of my favorite kill scenes in all the movies. Michael Caine, the captain of this band of mercenaries, has captured Omar Sharif, a wandering scholar. He’s going to kill Sharif, of course—that’s how you said hello to strangers in the Thirty Years War, slitting their throats—when Sharif blurts out some useful info in a last-ditch try to save his life. He tells Caine, “Wait, wait! Don’t just do the obvious, normal thing of killing me and everybody else in the valley, then moving on! Sure, that’s fun for a little while, but where’s it get you? Winter’s coming on, you don’t want to be down on the plains of Hell scavenging with all the other jackal packs! Stay here, live off the land, take it easy!”

Caine starts thinking it over, which pisses off his second-in-command, a serious Christian who gets sick at the idea of sparing heretics. He starts yelling at Caine—and he’s a huge hairy monster—when Caine, who’s holding his helmet in one hand, casually jams the spike of his helmet into his second-in-command’s gut. Shuts the guy up real quick. As this man-mountain slumps to the ground, Caine turns to Sharif and says, by way of explaining why he just terminated his associate’s career, “Goot ideazzz are rrrrrare.”

I’ve always loved that scene, and that line, “Goot ideazzz are rrrrare.” Of course there’s the question why a German in the middle of the German lands would speak English with a German accent, never mind one as bad as Caine’s. But listen, if you’re going to watch war movies at all, you’re going to have to accept the fact that Germans speak with a German accent, even when they’re supposed to be speaking German. Logically, you’d either have them talk in actual German and subtitle it in English, or have them talk in normal English and hope the people watching get the fact that this is happening in Germany among Germans and they’re actually speaking German. Instead most of the movies I’ve seen have German officers talking like Sgt. Schultz: English in a heavy accent with a couple of phrases left in German, usually the ones that sound military and obedient: “Jawohl, Mein General” and such.

Don’t even get me started on Mel Gibson’s accent in Braveheart, or Julia Roberts’s Irish one in Michael Collins. All the same, though, the actual scenes of medieval battle in Braveheart were good, and showed how crucial morale can be when battle is a matter of fighting with sharpened tire irons. And as for Braveheart being “anti-English”—which some reviewers said with a straight face—Oh my sweet lord Jesus, if those people had any idea, their heads would explode. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing. Oh, and a quick comment on Michael Collins, the movie: first of all, Mister Producer, you DON’T cast a sad-faced mope like Liam Neeson as a guerrilla leader. Leaders like Collins do it by infecting people with their own confidence. Neeson has the kind of face that tells you the biopsy doesn’t look promising. He’s the last guy to get men to go up against better-armed regular troops. Casting, damn it, comes down to casting.


Leigh in Flesh and Blood: Soooo Medieval!

But back to the Thirty Years War. Much later, they made another movie about European mercenaries called Flesh and Blood, starring a very weird cast with Rutger Hauer, the Blade Runner guy, as the leader of a mercenary troop and Jennifer Jason Leigh as the lady of the castle they storm. This movie was directed by Paul Verhoeven, who’s good—did some great fight scenes in Starship Troopers, which I guess was a war movie although it’s hard to take sci-fi seriously—but Flesh and Blood just doesn’t work, except as a medieval skin/rape flick–they should’ve called it Skin and More Skin to be honest about it. As a movie about the year 1501, it bombs,for a simple reason that every film director and producer needs to know right now: Some faces are pure modern world and can’t be backdated. I’m talking about Jennifer Jason Leigh here. She’s the lady of the castle? Come on, guys. The only way a face like that could get a castle is if she started out as a cocktail waitress at the airport Hilton and charmed, let’s put it that way, charmed her way into the heart of a degenerate jetset prince. There is just no way on earth Jennifer Jason Leigh’s flatline American voice—why is it American women try to iron out any little hint of inflection in their voices? Kansas is the Dolomites compared to a graph of their vocal range, I swear to God—there’s no way that voice could rule a late-medieval castle. Rutger Hauer, OK, he has one of those old faces. But Jennifer…when the mercenary band storms the palace and starts raping everybody, you expect her to yell in a Valley whine, “Whuturyou doin’ here, the lawn was just mowed on Tuesday and you don’t even look Mexican!”

It’s like Verhoeven, a smart guy, figured out Jennifer’s L.A. face wasn’t going to work, no matter how many snoods and damsel-veils he put on her, so he upped the violence level. I mean yes, there’d have been plenty of mass rape in a situation like that, but you’ll notice a lot of times in movies the directors up the graphic violence to make you believe you’re in another time, when anything could happen etc.. What’s much harder to do is make people believe they’re in another time, another world. And the way you do that is make it all look normal, because that’s how the world looks, any world, when you’re in it, when you’ve grown up in it. The screams are background noise if they happen every day.

I noticed that when I lived in a building by a busy street, not quite a freeway but almost. A girl was jaywalking and got killed one night. There were a few sirens and lights, everybody went back to the tv, and I walked by the spot where she got hit every day. I was pretty young and I thought there’d be something creepy about that spot. There wasn’t. No ghosts, spookies or voices. And if I’d driven by like about a million cars did every day, I’d never have felt a thing. Got me wondering how many other times I walked or drove over a massacre site (since massacres are much more common than battles) and never knew. It’s like we want to believe there are demons or something that get born from all the bad stuff, because that would be a kind of arithmetic that balances for us: so much death equals so many demons and ghosts. But as far as I know there’s nothing. I remember thinking, what if a kid had been run over every day on that spot of asphalt for a million years, would you get demons then? And knowing, just quietly knowing in every cell of my fat body: nope. Nothing. Lawsuits maybe, but no demons.

Our world feels normal, hit-and-runs and all, and we drive right over them. So did slavery, so did everything but the big sudden eruptions: The Mongols, the Plague. And I’d imagine after a while those felt normal too. You have to make a movie world feel normal too, to the people in it.

Black Robe also features the coolest dwarf shaman ever.

The movie I’ve seen that does that pretty well is this one about the French and Huron in Quebec in the 17th c. called Black Robe. It’s about a French priest who has to canoe a thousand miles upriver at the beginning of winter—the kind of assignment you got as a special favor if you were one of those gung-ho religion commissars they bred in Europe back then—with a band of Huron. They have to cross Iroquois territory to get there, and they’re captured—which they would be—and tortured—which they would be. The Iroquois go to work on the priest’s fingertips with dull-edged mussel shells. Then the chief tells the prisoners to get some rest with this little speech: “Today was only the first caress. We will peel the skin from you and you will still be alive.”

It’s all pretty hardcore, but when the French say, “The Iroquois are animals!” the Huron, not generally pro-Iroquois, shrug and say, “They’re just like us. If they show weakness they’ll be wiped out.” That’s the line a war movie has to try to walk, and it’s a thin one: showing all the gross weirdness but making it clear this is the normal world the people in the movie live in, have lived in all their lives.

That’s if you want to make a real movie about primitive/irregular warfare. You don’t always have to do that. Take Red Dawn…oh yeah, I can see you guys blushing, but admit it, you liked Red Dawn when it came out in the Reagan years! I know I did. The idea that Americans could be guerrillas was so cool, and John Milius had done a little homework—not a lot, but more than most Hollywood directors—on how guerrilla wars get their start under occupation. At least he showed a long line of civilian hostages getting shot in reprisal, although since it was a classic teen movie you didn’t really care about all those dull middle-aged hostages. In fact, it was kind of a relief to have the Dad-figure, Harry Dean Stanton as a classic redneck disciplinarian dad, get machine-gunned. That left the field wide open to the teen gang, and that’s what they were, a teen gang hanging around some desert National Park with prop RPGs. The Breakfast Club meets Stripes, but it was fun, admit it. You just wouldn’t want to use it as a blueprint for insurgency, that’s all, because guaranteed, Lea Thompson’s down coat would get puffed open by the belly gun of an Mi-24 a lot faster than it does in the movie. (Though that was another cool scene, the one where they’re lounging on scenic National Park red rocks when the chopper-whops start echoing around the canyon and the next thing you know Lea’s coat is exploding like popcorn. As I recall she dies for about ten minutes, because when you come down to it, Red Dawn is date-bait for teen war nerds. Not their dates—I imagine there were a whole bunch of furious Mormon Idaho girls who got taken to that movie by one of my brother war nerds in the expectation of post-combat romance, only to get orders to take her home NOW, and all that money on her Mickey D’s Big Mac meal just wasted. Such, like they say, are the fortunes of war.

Would you like to know more? Gary Brecher is the author of the War Nerd. Send your comments to gary dot brecher at gmail dot com. Read Gary Brecher’s first ever War Nerd column by clicking here.

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Add your own

  • 1. Alexius  |  April 24th, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Tae Guk Ki is one of the all-time great war movies. At the time, it was the most expensive Korean movie ever made, and it was hugely important. I guess, the “Saving Private Ryan” of S. Korea.

    I got to see it in Korea, right after it came out and i was blown away.

    A good book end film to go with Tae Guk Ki is “J.S.A.” It’s not exactly a war movie…more of a movie about a war that never really ended.

  • 2. Korman643  |  April 24th, 2011 at 10:40 am

    +100 for Black Robe (how did I forget it?), a movie I’ve been pretty much obsessed it for few years after my father insisted it was one of the greatest movies he had ever seen (he’s usually right on war movies). I’ve always loved the scene when the Hurons are steam bathing and casually talking about torturing and murdering the prisoners, and it seems like they’re discussing about home improvement)

    (totally anti-Dancing With the Wolves stuff, and I’ve hated DWTW soo much I’ve ever written a chapter showing how stupid it was in one of my books. I’ve always hated hated hated HATED the scene when Kevin Costner and the hippie posing as an indian – ok a native american – are discussing some stupid personal relationship issue like they’re in a prairie version of Desperate Housewives and we’re supposed to think “native american” were cool people because even they were discussing relationship issue. For God’s sake, the pain! )

  • 3. Korman643  |  April 24th, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Oh, and another thing – I’ve already mentioned it in the other thread, and someone else di as well, but please watch “Profession of Arms” (Il Mestiere delle Armi). Saw it again yesterday after being reminded about it and it’s a beautiful war movie. I believe you can download the English substitles on the Internet.

  • 4. GhostUnit  |  April 24th, 2011 at 11:00 am

    The Battle of Algiers.

    Superb movie that had me hooked from the start and that also gives a good picture (I think) of what guerrilla war in the mid-east is like.

  • 5. Abdulaziz bin Olaf Finkelstein  |  April 24th, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Another classic war nerd article, thank you!! Now of course everybody will chip in with his/her nerdy favourites, so let me start with mine:

    1. MASH (Korea)
    2. Das Boot (WW2)
    3. Full Metal Jacket (Viet)
    4. Three Kings (Gulf-1, or 2, depends how you count Iran:Iraq)

  • 6. DocAmazing  |  April 24th, 2011 at 11:49 am

    I can’t vouch for its accuracy, but there was a pretty gritty-yet-surreal movie about a Soviet tank crew in Afghanistan called The Beast that got under my skin.

  • 7. pimp of the Balkans  |  April 24th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    You’ve got a curious love/hate going for the aristos, WN. You curse them and cheer when they get shot up, yet modern actresses don’t deserve to be cast as one. JJL as a princess? Tchah, preposterous. Blanchett as Galadriel? Hah! An insult! Not sure what predatory pre-Raphaelite windhound women you’ve got pictured in your head, but it’s clear you love them, man, love them even as you dutifully curse them.

    Italian galleries are full of portraits of real, chop-your-peasant-head-off aristos. Not extraordinary. Nothing ethereal. Something scary about the eyes, now and then.

  • 8. Mur  |  April 24th, 2011 at 12:36 pm


  • 9. Mac  |  April 24th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Have you still not seen Stalingrad (German version), Brecher? See it.

  • 10. Destro  |  April 24th, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    I saw Flesh and Blood on late night non cable TV and was impressed (as far as I can recall) on what I assumed was the realistic depiction of like in the 30 Years War, that is bands of nearly insane mercenaries who are dirty and insane with their equally insane and dirty camp followers. There is a movie called “Cabeza de Vaca” which is not really a war movie but a failed military expedition movie like that of “Black Robe”.

    The TV miniseries “SHOGUN” should get a look at because it showed the Japanese Samurai culture in a realistic light – savage Japos that went around chopping heads off at the slightest offense and their love of torturing. Seriously, check out “SHOGUN” with Richard Chamberlain. It is more realistic than the romanticised totally faked version of the Japanese civilization Tom Cruise portrayed.

  • 11. William Augustus  |  April 24th, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Check out the BBC “Battle of Culloden” Docudrama – unbelievably good; the Highland clans have about five teeth between them, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s obviously french while William Augustus is obviously german, and it’s all capped off with a lengthy recreation of the subsequent British massacre of the Highlanders. Good, good times.

  • 12. CensusLouie  |  April 24th, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    The third act to Red Dawn always irritated me. How did their guerrilla band last that long if they ended falling for such obvious traps?

    I remember loving that movie back in the day, but now that I’m old enough to know what its reactionary Reagan fan base did to this country (and continue to do every time they get into power), it really kills the enjoyment.

  • 13. Adam, Lancs, UK  |  April 24th, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Have you watched the Hungarian film ‘The Red and the White’? It’s certainly different to most war films. No real battle scenes, it just meanders through atrocities and massacres during the Russian Civil War. There is no sad music or dramatic close ups and the like when it happens, the perpetrators just go about their business dispationately. I found a clip on Youtube (the whole thing has been uploaded on there as well):

    Thanks for switching to a daily blog, it’s good to be able to read new stuff everyday and its especially nice to have an alternate (and more accurate) commentary to the stuff being shown on the news. The Ivory Coast articles were especially enlightening.

  • 14. Nestor  |  April 24th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    I think Neeson was cast as the tall guy based on height. Also he could probably do the accent.

  • 15. Nor Word  |  April 24th, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Go Tell the Spartans

  • 16. Sakevi  |  April 24th, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Taegugki? Really? I can’t even remember any of those parts you mentioned. Just seems like a CGI fest full of melodrama deserving of the worst Korean soap opera. (Complete with the political agenda of modern Koreans).

    Now, “Assembly”, by the same creators but marked for a Chinese audience about the Chinese civil war (and including a scene from the Chinese point of view during the Korean War) is much more watchable.

  • 17. kurt g  |  April 24th, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    In case it has not been mentioned yet (too lazy to check), how about “Kippur” by Amos Gitai?

  • 18. Pascual Gorostieta  |  April 24th, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    The Battle of Algiers is a must watch for any war nerd.

  • 19. SweetLeftFoot  |  April 24th, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    The best bit in that Blockpost Chechen war movie is after the hot girl caps the nice guy and you see the actual mujahideen running through the forest to storm the checkpoint. Only time you see them and like any good movie, the effect is massively heightened. You’re very aware they are mean dudes.

    As I recall, the hot girl who turns out to be a sniper also pimps her fat widowed friend for a clip of 7.62mm rounds, which is a nice touch. And the Russian conscripts assalt an old man in the forest and try and force him to give them weed, but instead he gives them some nasty plant that makes them sick.

  • 20. M. Bouffant  |  April 24th, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    They Were Expendable is a pretty damn good one.

  • 21. Ivan  |  April 24th, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    That ‘Black Robe’ is up there with the best of them. It is quite possibly the only postwar film to tell the truth about, er, “native peoples”, viz. that they are nothing more than degenerate savages.

  • 22. J.T. Patton  |  April 24th, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    @Nor Word- Go Tell the Spartans- my favorite Nam movie, bar none
    @Doc Amazing- Yes, The Beast is one I had to add to the library Wrong tank, but so many good tank scenes! And George Dzunza as the tank commander was some great acting. “You know our standing orders: out of fuel, become a pillbox, out of ammo, become a bunker…out of time, become heroes”!!!

    Also, another movie where the tank is almost the main character is Sahara (1942) with Humphrey Bogart. It’s even got a name, “LuLuBelle”

  • 23. Shotgun_Rhetoric  |  April 24th, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Talvisota, a 1989 flick about the Winter War between Russia and Finland is pretty goddamn good. Finnish movie, but it’s overall pretty much absent of mythologizing or moralizing. Just straight gritty, brutal warfare after the first hour or so and using authentic Soviet tanks and other equipment too.

    I also second Stalingrad. Das Boot too (same director, Wolfgang Peterson) but every real war buff’s seen that one by now.

  • 24. RanDomino  |  April 24th, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    I like “Libertarias,” for obvious reasons. And it meets the War Nerd criteria for a good war movie: The good guys lose.

  • 25. Shotgun_Rhetoric  |  April 24th, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Also When Trumpets Fade, a pretty grim account of the U.S. Army’s battle in the Huertgen Forest during WWII.

  • 26. internal exile  |  April 24th, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    “can see you guys blushing, but admit it, you liked Red Dawn when it came out in the Reagan years!”

    I saw RD in the theater and there was this one dramatic moment where one of the American commandos greets another solemnly and some kid a couple rows behind me said “let’s party!”, which was exactly what fit there and I couldn’t take even one more second of that ridiculous movie seriously after that.

  • 27. Ricardo  |  April 24th, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Second vote for Kippur.
    Cross of Iron.
    Too Late the Hero.

  • 28. Pilot MKN  |  April 24th, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    “Battle of Britain” and “A Bridge Too Far” are two often forgotten war classics.

  • 29. Art School Faggot  |  April 24th, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    tae guk ki? you guys seem to be total bros so let me help you all out a bit, ok?

    as you might imagine, i got credentials, and these span everything from straight up wig splitting to some next level shit

    Come and See (WATCH THIS SHIT)

    This is basically the Irreversible of war films.

    “A boy is unwillingly thrust into the atrocities of war in WWII Byelorussia, fighting for a hopelessly unequipped resistance movement against the ruthless German forces. Witnessing scenes of abject terror and accidentally surviving horrifying situations he loses his innocence and then his mind.”

    The Winter War

    “Russia attacked Finland in late November 1939. This film tells the story of a Finnish platoon of reservists from the municipality of Kauhava in the province of Pohjanmaa/Ostrobothnia who leave their homes and go to war”

    The Battle of Algiers

    “An account of the bloodiest revolution in modern history.”

    Prisoner of the Mountains

    “Based upon a short story by Leo Tolstoy, two Russian soldiers, Sacha and Vania, are ambushed by Muslim rebels in the grandly forbidding Caucasus and taken prisoner.”

  • 30. Joe R  |  April 24th, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    What they said above about The Battle of Algiers. This is a movie which really is a guide to how to run an insurgency.

    First take control of the native ghetto; make sure no one collaborates with the authorities because they are more afraid of you.

    Next give the arab girls western hairdos and dresses and get them to plant bombs.

    When the French lash out in revenge for the bombs and kill a bunch of innocent civilians use this to convince folks to actively support you rather than merely fearing you.

    This was Michael Collins job in the Irish war for independence too. He wasn’t the big political leader, he was the IRA intelligence chief. Liam Neeson was exactly right for the part – he looks like an accountant, exactly the type of guy you want as your intelligence chief. Remember all the brave lunatics had been killed in the 1916 rising three years before. When Michael Collins ordered the assassination of those 6 English detectives it wasn’t because he hated them or wanted revenge on them; It was because he coldly calculated they were actually being effective where the thousands of Black and Tan thugs the English were using were just helping build support for Irish independence.

  • 31. tom  |  April 24th, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    You had doubts about Apocalypse Now but you sing the praises of that Korean Movie? That was a mediocre film at best. Good effects and battle scenes but the story was BS.

  • 32. Soj  |  April 24th, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Props to Red Dawn for doing what you said, War Nerd, the Nicaraguans actually speak Spanish and the Russians actually speak Russian. That speech the Russian gives about hunting the Wolverines is pure awesome.

  • 33. C. of V.  |  April 24th, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    Dear War Nerd,

    One of the best war movies I ever saw was:
    The Beast ( The Beast of War):
    In Afghanistan, the adventures of a Soviet tank and the mujahedeen. Just to whet your appetite: it starts with Soviet gas attack on an Afghan village…

  • 34. dfasd  |  April 24th, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    The Wire- the war on drugs 🙂

  • 35. RobertD  |  April 24th, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Yep, The Battle of Algiers really should have been mentioned in this post.

  • 36. wrotenbe  |  April 24th, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Forget Michael Collins, if you want a good early Irish guerilla movie then you gotta go with The Wind That Shakes the Barley. You’ll have to watch it subtitled, because the thick accents are near indecipherable, but it’s like a white more interesting version of the Battle of Algiers.

  • 37. Fissile  |  April 24th, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Cross of Iron sucked, but it had one of the coolest war movie posters ever.

  • 38. Strelnikov  |  April 24th, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    I remember that one…it was banned in the USSR because the Hungarian Reds were not presented as heroic enough. It’s a good anti-war film.

    In a similar vein the is the 1985 Soviet film “Come and See” which is about an SS Einsatzkommando* action against a Byelorussian village in 1943; they butcher and blast the place to pieces, and the whole thing is seen through the eyes of a young partisan.

    * A death squad; they were formed to kill Jews in Eastern Europe, but they also did “antipartisan” jobs like this. Both the number of the Einsatzgruppe and the name of the town in the film are real.

  • 39. Hannibal  |  April 24th, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Hot Shots Part Deux is a pretty badasss war movie.

  • 40. Michael  |  April 24th, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    If you want to see how deep the tribal hatred goes, watch No Man’s Land, about a Croat and a Serb (I think) who are stuck in a trench together with no communication. A French UN-soldier is trying to make sense of it all.

    No battle scenes, but if you want a perfect picture of the dullness and bureaucracy of modern war, infused with pure hatred, watch this movie

  • 41. Shamil Basayev  |  April 25th, 2011 at 12:04 am

    The one ‘Must See’ war film of all time is the indy Chechen flick called Shamil Does Olga. The hero, Shamil (natch), wakes up one morning, leaves his yurt to get an Orange Julius. En route, he is beaten by some Russian hooligan bikers. Thinking Shamil dead, the bikers leave.

    But Shamil isn’t dead. He gets the Orange Julius, beats it back to the yurt, and regains his health by watching 90210 for the next 18 months. Then he hits up Makhachkala, Kaspiysk, Grozny, Beslan, and Fukma-Yurt for recruits. Soon he’s at the lead of half a million rabid followers. They head northwest into Russia, burning, pillaging, and burning some more, until every building in Russia has been razed. No prisoners either. Shamil wastes every man, woman, child, and goat. While slashing and butchering, Shamil learns to fly and boosts a dozen Tu-22M’s. Loads those babies up with a bunch of nukes and blows the shit out of Russia, from Kalinigrad in the West to Komsomolsk na_Amure in the East. He even finds a skeleton key that lets him through a side door into the underground fortress at Mt. Yamantau. Once inside, he proclaims “My work is almost done.” Then he shreds all the propellerheads in their white smocks.

    His crusade now done, Shamil declares, “THAT’S A WRAP!” and heads back home on a Vladimir DT-24 tractor (with A/C, MP3, GPS, naugahyde, and all that shit).

    On DVD and Blu-Ray.

  • 42. Acecombine  |  April 25th, 2011 at 12:06 am

    I just watched Tae Guk Gi and at the end i almost cried..because i was laughing so hard! This movie has more bayonet charges in it then all the Napoleonic wars! It starts pretty good but with every passing second the movie gets more fucked up only to degenerate to an epic melodramatic-bayonet-fu-fest at the end… Anyways i still recommend it for watching because the first half is not bad and the end is just really funny..

  • 43. Q30  |  April 25th, 2011 at 12:10 am

    And if you want a fine example of a red Chinese propaganda film about the Korean War, you can’t go wrong with Battle on Shangganling Mountain.

  • 44. Marcus McSpartacus  |  April 25th, 2011 at 12:19 am

    Since you mentioned the movie version of “Michael Collins”, then I need to give a shout out for “The Wind That Shakes The Barley”, which comes at the same Irish Civil War (following the same Independence one), from the other side. It doesn’t have Julia Roberts, but does have the lead guy from “28 Days Later”.

  • 45. Pascual Gorostieta  |  April 25th, 2011 at 12:24 am

    Also two other suggestions when it comes to war movies are Flame and Citron; a Danish war movie based off of the country’s two most notable resistance fighters.

    Also Army of Shadows, a film about the French resistance, this one is a classic and a fine movie.

    Both of these movies are way much more representative of guerrilla warfare than Red Dawn could ever be.

  • 46. Ian  |  April 25th, 2011 at 12:30 am

    > it’s hard to get Russian war films over here

    You can find pretty much any movie anyone has mentioned on any of these threads as an online torrent at

  • 47. Eren  |  April 25th, 2011 at 12:38 am

    There are a number of films on the Mongols, Gary. Good ones.

  • 48. Korman643  |  April 25th, 2011 at 12:46 am

    Another vote for “Battle of Algiers”. it’s brilliant of course, but there are few considerations aside that make it even more watchable. First is that it may be one of the very few movies about guerrilla whose director knew was he was talking about for direct experience (Gillo Pontecorvo had been a member of a resistance unit specialized in hits and kidnapping – BTW all the Pontecorvo brothers were remarkable, Gillo the movie director / assassin, Bruno the top atomic scientist who defected to the Russians, Guido one of the greatest geneticists ever (he was one of the fathers of the chromosome maps)

    Second, it’s weird to think that at several point in history someone saw this movie as a “lesson” to be learned to win a guerrilla war – and failed, because he didn’t take this movie seriously enough. The Black Panthers apparently used it as a training tool, but failed to realized one of the points of the film is that guerrila never win militarily, but only if it breaks the oppossing party back politically. The Bush administration reportedly watched this movie before embarking in the Iraq war, but failed to realize the one of the movie’s message was that you cannot dispose of a local guerrilla movemente until a) you exterminate every one in the country or b) you get the population on your side.

  • 49. tigerhan  |  April 25th, 2011 at 1:03 am

    Looks like nobody dares say it here…but Black Hawk Dawn should be mentioned as a top war movie.

  • 50. Korman643  |  April 25th, 2011 at 1:07 am

    @17 Kurt: loved “Kippur”, even if I shouldn’t (don’t like anything else Gitai did). It has at very least three unique scenes – the initial drive to the Golan heights, the first rescue mission and the final helicopter ride.

  • 51. Dan  |  April 25th, 2011 at 1:38 am

    “Idi i smotri” / Come and See is a war movie from a young boys perspecitve about the nazi terror in Byelorussia 1943. Brutal in capuring the chaotic and illogical cruelty of war from a civilian perspective. The movie is not for everyone though.


  • 52. TrangleC  |  April 25th, 2011 at 2:05 am

    Yes, I fully agree with the “it has to look and feel normal”-thing.

    I recently watched “The Hunted”. Of course that is not a war movie, but a “First Blood” ripoff and wanking material for “special forces nerds” and survivalists, but I immediately had to think of the scenes that are supposed to portray the Bosnian war when reading this article.

    I really had to laugh out loud when I saw that. You see an massaker Serbian militias commit in a town and they made it look absolutely ridiculous. Stunt show looking fire balls everywhere and a lot of crazed guys in uniform, waving their AK47s over their heads like the orcs with their swords and axes in those “orcs destroying village”-scenes the “Lord Of The Rings” movies.

    Everybody who ever has seen some actual footage from the Balkan wars knows how far this is from how it actually went down and looked.

  • 53. mhrxxx  |  April 25th, 2011 at 2:49 am

    Some good european cimena and documentaries

    – Die Brucke:

    – The Fog of War:

    – La bataille du rail:

    – Lacombe Lucien:

    – Le chagrin et la pitie:

    – Talvisota:

    – The Charge of the Light Brigade:

  • 54. fnord  |  April 25th, 2011 at 3:19 am

    9 Lives by Norwegian Arne Skouen (1957) is pretty good. True story of Jan Baalsruds escape from the germans in Norway, including self-amputation of toes and so on.

  • 55. C367  |  April 25th, 2011 at 3:41 am

    Some time ago I’ve seen a Russian movie – 9th Company, i think was called – on the Afghanistan war. Nothing special, honestly, there are many ripoffs from Full Metal Jacket, Platoon and so on, but the last bit – said company holed on top of Hill #Whatever under heavy attack by mujaheddin and Pakistani spec-ops – it’s pretty brutal.

  • 56. Anders Nonymous  |  April 25th, 2011 at 4:54 am

    I’ll second the folks who talked about The Beast and Stalingrad.

    I’d recommend 84 Charlie Mopic, Soldier of Orange (another Veerhoven movie, with Rutger Hauer), and Nobody Wanted to Die (Niekas nenorejo mirti), a Soviet movie about Lithuanian partisans after the Soviets came back in (despite being made during the USSR, they do an okay job of showing both sides of the issue.

  • 57. spark  |  April 25th, 2011 at 5:31 am

    “Valhalla Rising” has some pretty excellent Dark Ages violence in it, and a lot, I mean a lot, of slow panning shots over the fjords, Terence Malick style.

    The Sunn 0)))-esque soundtrack is awesome though.

    There’s another movie I just streamed on Netflix about a doomed unit of teenaged Soviet paratroopers in Afghanistan, with those cute blue-and-white striped jerseys that make them look like Breton fishermen. Can’t remember the name, something like “Squad Nine”.

  • 58. crocodile_von_papaya  |  April 25th, 2011 at 5:59 am

    I have a recommendation: Vinland Saga
    Japanese graphic novel

    About Vikings around the year 1000.

    It’s heavy on action, more like an action story than a war story. The action scenes are well written and very interesting and suspenseful, so that you are keen to find out how the actions evolve.

  • 59. Michal  |  April 25th, 2011 at 7:12 am

    @ 57. I believe you mean 9th Company. Personally I thought it was horribly kitschy, I think War Nerd would find the final battle agonizing – in a bad way.

  • 60. Dan  |  April 25th, 2011 at 7:15 am

    I second the vote for “The Red and the White” (its on Netflix). Very unusual movie, but shows all kinds of atrocities.

  • 61. Ivan  |  April 25th, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Cross of Iron is total shyte. I don’t know how any self-respecting war nerd could worship such a shallow film. It’s basically nothing but close-up shots of James Coburn’s massive teeth. None of the actors look even remotely German. And it’s got all the usual clichés: tough sergeant shags fruity nurse, artillery barrage causes roof to collapse, soldiers just “die” with none of the horrific injuries – amputations and so on – that we know are true.

    I say again: watch “Le Capitaine Conan”. The final scene shows the main character pretty much on his way to the deathbed. BECAUSE THE WAR HAS ENDED.

  • 62. Esn  |  April 25th, 2011 at 8:06 am

    > it’s hard to get Russian war films over here

    Come on Mr. Brecher, learn to use torrents like everyone else, if you really have no access to Netflix or even better, a public library (these often will have foreign movies – try searching the online catalogue) where you live.

    These days, you can find pretty much ANYTHING on torrents, or uploaded to video sites. We’re not limited by geography – almost any movie in the world can be watched wherever you live, if you know where to look online. And if you can’t find a subtitled DVD, you can always search for separate subtitles for that film on Google…

    Lots of people are recommending “Idi i smotri / Come and See” and for good reason; if you only ever see one Russian war film, make it this one. The “KINO” DVD is good.

    But there are other amazing Russian war movies, too, which I mentioned last Sunday, so I won’t repeat them here…

    > But listen, if you’re going to watch war movies at all, you’re going to have to accept the fact that Germans speak with a German accent, even when they’re supposed to be speaking German.

    No, that’s only if you watch English/American war movies. In Russian war movies, this is unheard of.

    Maybe that’s because Russians don’t make the folly of trying to make films about the wars of other countries. I don’t think any film made by one country about about another country’s war can be genuine.

  • 63. my talkative ringpiece  |  April 25th, 2011 at 8:23 am

    #41 Oh Rly?

    34 Charlie Mopic is a pretty good one, I guess. It’s about a platoon in Vietnam and a guy whose MOS is 34C, motion picture technician or something, is filming what goes on. I think they get lost, lose most of the guys, and I think in the end the 34C guy gets killed and someone else continues the filming, not sure. Lots of death and despair and not a Diet Coke in sight.

  • 64. Art School Faggot  |  April 25th, 2011 at 8:49 am

    #41, Shamil, on that note:

  • 65. HueyLewis  |  April 25th, 2011 at 8:53 am

    I agree, “Black Robe” is a great movie, a much more convincing portrayal of Euro-native relations than the saccharine “Dances With Wolves.” It is very faithful to the book, by Brian Moore. I’ve never seen/read anything that better illustrates the huge cultural gulf between the natives and the newcomers, and the utter absurdity of trying to force Christianity on the natives. This theme also results in some humorous scenes, not altogether common in a war film. But I think the priest was traveling with a band of Algonkins, not Hurons, although the two tribes were cultural allies. They were trying to reach a Huron settlement where the Jesuits had built a mission and were ambushed along the way by Iroquois. The captive scenes are as gripping as those in “The Deer Hunter”!

    Glad somebody gave a shout-out to the underrated HBO movie “When Trumpets Fade,” about cold, demoralized, badly-led GIs getting mauled in the Hurtgen Forest just before the Bulge (when the same unit would get mauled again). The flipside of “Saving Private Ryan” which came out the same year.

    And I agree with those who wrote “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” is a much better move than “Michael Collins.” One of the best aspects of this movie is that it shows the difficulties and challenges faced when training guerillas for combat with regulars. Ironically some of the early IRA cadres like Tom Barry (whom I believe a minor character is based on) were British Army veterans.

  • 66. Victorvalley Villain  |  April 25th, 2011 at 9:21 am

    I would be interested in the War Nerd’s take on irregular warfare in the following:

    The Baader Meinhof Complex movie.

    The Wire HBO TV series
    With a focus on the drug war between the Barksdale Organization and Stanfield Organization of course. [This could be drawn out over a long time.]

  • 67. gubitz  |  April 25th, 2011 at 9:31 am

    I know I’m going to get s**t for this, but what about Thin Red Line? The cast is star studded and scenery chewing (check out Nick Nolte’s carotid arteries bulging) and the battle scenes are as good or better than Shaving Ryan’s Private’s or whatever. The best part is during the initial assault when the grunts are getting blown up by Japanese arty L and R Director Malick cuts away to a little baby bird fluttering about on the ground. I got chills! My only complaint – the Japanese guys were all very buffed out- not very realistic after months or years of starving in the jungle. Love your new blog!

  • 68. Cum  |  April 25th, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Seconding “No Man’s Land.” There is no message of hope.

  • 69. Grulf  |  April 25th, 2011 at 11:13 am

    “Tae Guk Gi”? Really…?

    Seriously recall that one as kinda ridiculous… The battle scenes were just stupid (lot of Ramboesque stupidity and laughable large-scale fistfights) and it felt very much like the conventional “good innocent boys go to war and turn crazy, yaddayadda”-stuff that Hollywood have done to death so many times already.

    They even had those scenes with the old veteran revisiting the grave of his friend (or whatever) – lifted straight out of that overrated BS-flick “Saving Private Ryan”!

    And I had honestly forgotten about that scene with the civvies “hangin’ high” – it really ain’t the kind of stuff that “stays in your head”, as you say!

    “Algiers”, “Come and See” and “Apocalypse Now” – that’s good stuff! This is just the same old copy-pasted Hollywood bullshit, just in a different language.

  • 70. Grulf  |  April 25th, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Oh, and if you like the REALLY epic stuff I must recommend the 1968 version of Tolstoys “Voyna i Mir”(“War and Peace”).

    The big battle sequence at Borodino is the most amazing thing I’ve seen in my entire life… They used something like 120 000 soldiers to recreate the Napoleonic battlefield. Looks like one of those great 1800s battle-paintings have come to life.

    From Russia with love, bitches:

  • 71. HueyLewis  |  April 25th, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    I also agree that “Cross of Iron” is way overrated, it’s no more realistic than “Kelly’s Heroes” and not half as fun to watch. But Peckinpah’s “Wild Bunch” is a great movie and certainly qualifies as a war film. The theme of rapacious gringoes blundering into a third world civil war they don’t fully understand was meant as a commentary on Vietnam, I suppose, and still resonates today.

  • 72. Cnut  |  April 25th, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Mel Gibson’s accent was the only semi-convincing thing in Braveheart. If you believe that movie shows an accurate depiction of either Wallace’s battles or of mediaeval warfare in general, you probably need to get back on the short bus and take a trip to clue school.

    It becomes increasingly clear that Brecher’s supposed knowledge of this thing called War is only impressive when compared to the braindead lardass basement dwellers who usually frequent this place.

    And to think, I actually believed that his article on the Harrier jet marked the depths of ignorance.

    Keep on keepin’ on, Gary. Keep on plumbing those depths and showing us just how little you actually know.

  • 73. allen  |  April 25th, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I second #2. Black Robe is the only movie I can think of about the era of colonization that I like(also strongly recommended to me by my father.)

    Almost all those movies either read: “colonizer evil” or “colonizer sad hero” back into it, which falls flat. There’s usually a lot of unconvincing dialogue.

    Black Robe did a good job of depicting both the French and the native people’s as somewhat outside our grasp — not West (us) meets alien, but alien meets alien. We cannot fully connect with what the world was like for either of these peoples now, though perhaps we can understand it.

    Side note … I think “recognizable actor” face kills movies where we’re supposed to somehow connect to the “reality” of the atmosphere. Apocalypto sucked for one reason: Mel Gibson was in it. Ditto any war movies with big name actors, for the same reason, and this includes SPR, which I hated.

  • 74. HueyLewis  |  April 25th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    The Wire – David Simon said he meant season 3 (when the Barksdale-Stansfield war gets rolling) as a metaphor for Iraq, aptly summarized in an immortal line from one of Barksdale’s lieutenants: “Don’t matter who did what to who at this point. Fact is, we went to war, and now there ain’t no going back. I mean, shit, it’s what war is, you know? Once you in it, you in it. If it’s a lie, then we fight on that lie. But we gotta fight.”

  • 75. Padilla  |  April 25th, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    I am with Ivan… “Capitaine Conan” is splendid.

    Another excellent WWI movie: Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory”… Due to pressures from the local military, the film was banned in France (and in Spain too) for more than 20 years… Which says a lot, or so I believe.

    Other pretty good flics:

    “Battle of Algiers”
    “Das Boot”
    “Come and see”
    “Full Metal Jacket”

    Not strictly war movies, but great movies with war in the background:

    “The Hill” (Sidney Lumet’s)
    “The Man Who Would Be King”
    “Lacombe Lucien”

  • 76. Ivan  |  April 25th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Forgot this gem:
    “La chambre des officiers”

    French film, about these horribly disfigured soldiers in World War I. Think of born on the 4th July with REAL injuries, facial injuries, the sort where the whore in the brothels will refuse to get shagged by you. No roadtrips to Mexico this time.

    And here’s another forgotten masterpiece:
    “Scemo di guerra”

    Italian film about Italian troops in the Libyan desert in World War II. It’s s sort of comedy in that Italian cinema verità style.

  • 77. Ivan  |  April 25th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    And another brilliant sort-of-comedy: “Le Rose del Deserto”

    Again, Italian troops in the Libyan desert. No clichés about incompetent officers and brave men. More like trying to stay alive amid the chaos, while having a few laughs. There’s one scene where a pompous general, full of martial spirit and fine speeches, orders the toops to build a cemetery for his future casualties, “a place fit for heroes”, and they’re all taking the piss.

    Like someone said, the best war movies those made by a country about itself. Perhaps in five hundred years’ time, or whatever the half-life for German guilt is, we’ll have proper German films about German troops in World War II.

  • 78. Gary  |  April 25th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Best movie for ancient combat try


    I thinks its produced by Mel Gibson but good tribal combat based around the fall of the mayan civilisation. Malthusian themes and the inability of the ruling class to get their shit togeather (much like today 🙂

  • 79. Joe Oi  |  April 25th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    “Harrison’s Flowers” Odd title, story isn’t too bad, Andie MacDowell is shrew-like and annoying at times but the portrayal of the siege of Vukovar is harrowing and realistic. I’ve been to Vukovar (depressing ass place that it is) and I had trouble believing the movie wasn’t filmed there (Czech republic, I think). Plot revolves around MacDowell’s search for her war correspondent husband who’s presumed dead somewhere in the Croatian war zone. She ends up smack dab in the middle of all kinds of bad shit, which is filmed in a hyper-realistic and accurate fashion. Well worth watching.

  • 80. Niall O'Doherty  |  April 25th, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    I cant believe nobody mentioned the Serbian film, “Pretty Village, Pretty Flame”. IMO, the best war film made about the wars in ex Yugo. Far suprior to the overhyped and better known, “No Man’s Land”. Told the war in Bosnia from the Serbian point of view and not surprising was panned by the critics because the film portrayed the Serbs as human beings, not Nazis or subhumans as the Western press had been spoonfeeding us for years.

    From an Irish perspective, The Wind that Shakes the Barley provides one with the most accurate and gritty description of the Irish War of Independence and the Civil War which followed it. The Irish Civil War as with most civil wars was a nasty and vicious one.

  • 81. chubbz molinoire  |  April 25th, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    “Tunes of Glory” not a battle movie, but a great barracks ptsd psychodrama.

  • 82. spark  |  April 25th, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    I liked the “Generation Kill” series a lot.

  • 83. tony  |  April 25th, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    “Come and See – Idi i smotri. A Russian movie about the German slaughter of WWII in Byelorussia. A bit like The Tin Drum in that it as the story of a small boy caught up in war…but ABSOLUTELY horrific.
    The scene where resistance fighters are bombed in the forest is a stunner…the next 20 minutes of the film are played as if the viewer has been deafened by the bombs. Amazing stuff. Better than Apocalypse Now (9 Stars)…my most watched war movie, only because I can’t track down an English copy of Come and See.
    You gotta watch. 10 Stars

  • 84. Karl  |  April 25th, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    How about the other movie made about Algiers called “The Lost Command.” The movie was based on the book by Jean Larteguy, but doesn’t really follow it too closely. However, it is a good look at insurgency and counterinsurgency as the French paras learn the hard way about communist revolutionary warfare by surviving a North Vietnamese prison camp after Dien Bien Phu. They then apply what they have learned to Algiera and inevitably to their own people back in France.

    Supposedly, the movie rights to Guy Sajer’s “The Forgotten Soldier” have been settled and it is currently in pre-production. If the movie is faithful to the book, it should be great.

  • 85. Destro  |  April 25th, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Zulu is a war movie classic and a does a good job at accurate depictions.

  • 86. RobertD  |  April 25th, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    I was just about to mention Zulu myself! It’s surprisingly short on imperialistic cheerleading for a near 50 year old Brit war movie set during the height of the Empire. Yeah, the story is still told firmly from the British point of view, but the Zulus are depicted as clever and resourceful tacticians in their own right. The relentless battle scenes are excellent, if a bit short on grue by modern war movie standards.

    Breaker Morant is also worth a look. Spends more time in the court room than on the battlefield, which sounds kind of lame, but it does have a few interesting points to make on the nature of guerilla warfare (the second Boer War in this case).

    On Black Robe: it’s good that this criminally overlooked movie is getting a mention, but a bit of a stretch to call it a war movie though eh?

  • 87. darthfader  |  April 25th, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    Paul Verhoeven is way into gratuitous rapes and naked tits. That’s pretty much what he does, as a career.

  • 88. Tomioka  |  April 26th, 2011 at 5:03 am

    I agree that there are really very few good war movies. Most of the ones listed here are pretty poor — including the heart-wrenching Brotherhood of War. And for me any war movie before, say, 1980 is almost unwatchable as the acting, editing, effects and “action” look extremely boring and sedated (and this includes Cross of Iron, A Bridge Too Far…).

    War movies I like are The Boat (truly a masterpiece), The Beast (fun but a little preachy) and A Midnight Clear –

    The first 10 minutes of Saving Private Ryan and the battle scenes in Braveheart were quite cool, too.

  • 89. SN  |  April 26th, 2011 at 6:10 am

    Wind That Shakes the Barley and Battle of Algiers are tops. WTSB is loosely based on Guerrilla Days in Ireland by Tom Barry and On Another Man’s Wound by Ernie O’Malley. Both Barry and O’Malley were leading figures in the IRA. Both are solid accounts of guerrilla warfare.

  • 90. Korman643  |  April 26th, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    “Rose del Deserto” is a very good movie, and was directed by Mario Monicelli, one of the greatest geniuses of Italian moviemaking (and a magnificent, cruel, mean bastard). You should really try to see his take on WWI – “La Grande Guerra” (“The Great War”). It’s the kind of stuff Monicelli was very good at – mean spirited and very funny comedy that suddenly turns out to be a sad, almost compassionate look at human condition ( the plot is the story of two friends drafted on the Isonzo front in 1916, a cowardly and very opportunistic pair, who ends up playing a heroic and completely futile role “just of the hell of it”). The historical reconstruction of the Isonzo carnage is very accurate (both Emilio Lussu and Carlo Salza helped with that) and the two lead actors – Alberto Sordi and Vittorio Gassman – are stellar. It’s a great movie, whose only demerit is that it’s was successful on re-establishing the horrid truth about the Italian role on WWI that it established almost a cliché, pissing off a lot of veterans of the Dolomite front (who had fought a much different war than their unfortunate counterparts on Isonzo)

    Almost every Monicelli movie is a must see – particularly “The Brancaleone Army” (a great satirical take on every medieval cliché ever conceived, and later looted mercilessly by Monty Pythons for their “Holy Grail”) and the “Amici Miei” / “Friends of Mine” trilogy (particularly the first and the second). But even the non comedy stuff is good – if you can get a subbed version try seeing “Un Borghese Piccolo Piccolo”, the story of a milquetoast, middle aged civil servant who goes on a grotesquely brutal rampage to revenge his son, accidentally killed during a hold up. Imagine “Death Wish” but realistic, desperate and sarcastic.

    It’s remarkable to note that Monicelli lived his world view to the bitter end – he killed himself, aged 95, jumping from the fifth floor of a Rome hospital, after learning he had a terminal cancer, “just to avoid being a problem for anyone”.

  • 91. Korman643  |  April 26th, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    It’s strange no one has already mentioned it, and I feel a bit ashamed not being the one doing it – but “Kagemusha” and expecially “Ran” have some of the most beautiful battle scenes ever done – particularly “Ran”: whoever else but Kurosawa could have built an entire fortress on the slopes of Mount Fujii and then burn it down for a movie’s sake? And the music!

  • 92. dan stabel  |  April 26th, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    What? No mention of “johnny got his gun”?
    amazing. And no mention of “rescue dawn”? the latter is truth stranger than fiction. Also true and if it were fiction, it would be dismissed as too wildly improbable. Likewise the sequel, entirely true, “Little Dieter Needs To Fly”. These will leave you talking to yourself for days-

  • 93. Kurt G  |  April 26th, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    @50 Korman643: Unfortunately, I can only agree with you. After I saw “Kippur”, I watched some of Gitai’s other films and they were … well, not so good. There are hints here and there that he is actually a very good director, but as a whole all his other movies that I’ve seen are a disappointment, especially “Carmel”, which taunts you with some good military scenes, but then …

    Also worth a mention may be Sam Fuller’s “The Big Red One” (have not seen it myself so far), which Gitai explicitly cites as an inspiration for “Kippur”, if I remember correctly

  • 94. swr  |  April 26th, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Paths of Glory by Stanley Kubrick

    Short, Sharp, Brutal

  • 95. swr  |  April 26th, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Attack with Jack Palance and Eddie Albert

    Not very realistic that you could survive having your arm run over by a King Tiger but very realistic in that the troops are led by incompetent cowardly southern officers.

  • 96. Ivan  |  April 26th, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    And you know what? “Brancaleone” doesn’t pretend to be historically accurate like “Braveheart”. American producers, actors, reviwers, viewers and anyone remotely connected to the movie industry should stick to the only slice of history they know: the the one that starts with the American Civil War.

    Fancy stating that Braveheart is accurate. Or 300….

    Oh and did I mention that Restrepo was total pigswill?

  • 97. Robbo  |  April 26th, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    1. Pretty Village,Pretty flame – A squad of Serbian soldiers are trapped in a tunnel during the Serb/Bosnian war.

    2. Saviour: Never liked Dennis Quiad till I saw this.

    3. 9 Company. Russian conscripts in Afghanistan. History’s repeating on this one.

    4. ‘Stalingad’ has been mentioned and so it should be. Also ‘Enemy at the Gate’ about the sniper duel in Stalingrad.

    Good to see the War Nerd posting again.

  • 98. bigfan  |  April 27th, 2011 at 4:44 am

    The Battle of Algiers!

  • 99. fnord  |  April 27th, 2011 at 5:40 am

    Nobodys mentioned “Gallipoli” yet? Was a good movie I seem to remember..

  • 100. viktor  |  April 27th, 2011 at 9:06 am

    P.S. I don’t know if there are english subs for any of the stuff I gave links to. I heard there are open source communities that have folks uploading .srt files, you might want to research these.

    It’s worth it, trust me. I think you will be pleasantly surprised to discover that there were places that retained a moral compass.

  • 101. viktor  |  April 27th, 2011 at 9:14 am

    crap, what happened to the post I just left with the links?

  • 102. michael  |  April 27th, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    As a result of this article, I watched Black Robe, The Last Valley, The Brotherhood of War and Red Dawn. All today.

    Well actually I skimmed through Red Dawn. Watch a bunch of rot. It’s safe to say that tears were not rolling down my face as watched Patrick Swayze carrying the mortally wounded Charlie Sheen.

    I lapped up the other three movies.

    The Indians in Black Robe are actually Algonquin, escorting the Jesuit preist to a Huron camp.

  • 103. Zhu Bajie  |  April 27th, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    The Last of the Mohicans, the 1992 version. The politics are nonsense (colonial militias were not voluntary) but the battle scenes are pretty good. Wes Studi is perfect as Magua.

  • 104. London John  |  April 28th, 2011 at 6:18 am

    (1) In Ill-met by Moonlight (I think) German characters speak correct English to represent correct German and British characters supposed to be speaking German speak broken English. Doesn’t work.
    (2) The Americans have won most of their battles, but I believe the most-filmed are the Alamo, the Little Big Horn and Pearl Harbour. What does this mean?

  • 105. Ilona  |  April 28th, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    So far nobody has mentioned:

    Andrei Tarkovsky
    Ivan’s Childhood (Ivanovo detstvo)

    Well, I’m not surprised, because it’s not a typical war movie loaded with explotions, tanks, planes and sexy results.

    It’s a haunting depiction of the war seen through the eyes of the high-strung 12-year-old orfan, Ivan, whose family has been killed by Nazis. While not being pissed off about his lost childhood and brooding bloody revenge to Nazis, he carries out perilous reconnaissance missions at the enemy’s front lines.

    Tarkovsky at his simplest, most conventional, and not so overbearingly heavy with abstract philosophical bombast, cryptic symbolism and what not.

    A masterpiece!

  • 106. Ak  |  April 30th, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Waterloo, Rod Stieger ‘miles better than Brando’ Christopher Plummer, Red Army playing the extras Battlefield of waterloo created at a scale of 1:1 by buldozer, last film to use trip wires to create authentic cavalry charge under fire. The last true film spectacular before CGI.Dry aristo wit, French Damn your eyes revolutionary attitude, Prussian severity and ruthless efficiency.
    Failing this read Flashman, Flashman and the Great game.

  • 107. Ak  |  April 30th, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Sorry forgot to mention Full Metal Jacket purely for the Sergeant majors scenes. BBC mini series The Monocled Mutineer. Read The Good soldier Sjvec, Python before Python.
    Seven Samuraii, best aysymetrical ressitance film ever.

  • 108. Peter Lovett  |  May 5th, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    For those who think “Battle of Algiers” shows how a guerilla group can win, think again.

    It actually shows how the first phase of the Algerian war of independence was lost. The first uprising against the French occurred in the cities and the French were able to suppress it due to informants. The insurrection was then taken to the countryside where they ultimately wore out the French.

    The film, however, is a damn fine film.

  • 109. Carpenter  |  May 12th, 2011 at 9:55 am

    The Beast from 1988 had some pretty good scenes. It is about a Soviet tank crew getting lost in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. They are being chased by a group from a tribe – the Soviets “interrogated” some tribal villagers, by slowly crushing them under the tank wheels. Classic Soviet and Uzbek-druglord technique in Afghanistan. So Taj, the son of the killed village elder, is coming after the Soviets with a few men and an RPG-7.

    The Afghan interpreter in the tank is killed by the not-so-nice Commander Daskal, and the only guy in the crew who stood up for him, Konstantin, is tied to a rock and left to be hacked to pieces by the Afghans.

    Then comes a scene where the Afghan women want to tear Konstantin to bits, starting with his testicles, as revenge for the men in their village. Now that’s a scene you don’t see often – bloodthirsty, cruel women. Usually they’re shown as morally superior and just better in every way. But here they have to be stopped by Taj, because Konstantin was taught by the now-dead interpreter to ask for Hospitality in the Pashtun language, which saves his life.

    Oh yeah, they’re Pashtuns fighting the occupier. Parents to the Taliban. Not a very politically correct movie today.

    Konstantin fixes Taj’s RPG-7 so it can shoot again and helps the Afghans track the tank. He wants revenge on Commander Daskal. He and Taj don’t speak the same language but you can tell they become good friends – both young and insecure in their roles, both really not keen on war, but here they are.

    Konstantin does not end up as a full-time Afghan, like some Rambo. He actually has a family and a real life to go home to back in Russia. Which makes Taj sad, because he lost the sanest guy around for miles.

    A good movie, one of those low-key war movies that manage to capture something real and gritty. Not many special effects, not many guns. That’s the only way you can get a feeling from a movie that an RPG or a Kalashnikov is a weapon that can actually kill you.

  • 110. Stephen Wordsworth  |  May 17th, 2011 at 12:39 am

    Lord of War shows the modern world for what it is and the malthusian reality of the third world. Any preacing the actors wanted to do was thankfully saved for the special features the content of the film itself is wonderfully cynical.

  • 111. Davide  |  May 17th, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    What about Regeneration?

  • 112. meridian  |  June 23rd, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Let’s give the Navy its due…

    The Gallant Hours

    Master and Commander

    Brown on Resolution (retitled from Sailor of the King [British])

    In Which We Serve (Noel Coward, superb)

    The Enemy Below

    One other not mentioned; WWI Army made for tv, Meuse-Argonne during 1918:

    The Lost Battalion (amazing what a soldier with a 12″ wood splinter sticking out of his shoulder can accomplish)

  • 113. meridian  |  June 23rd, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Two others not yet mentioned based on books by Howard Fast:

    The Crossing (Jeff Daniels stars as G. Washington’s attack the day after Christmas 1776. The brief scene of the assault on the Hessian guard post would put any samurai movie to shame)

    April Morning (Battle of Lexington and Concord 1775, Tommy Lee Jones stars)

  • 114. Lincoln Rasswell  |  September 16th, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Downfall — greatest WW2 movie ever

    Elite Squad — the urban war b/t drug gangs and Brazilian commandos

    9th Company — Americans will cheer Soviets fighting the pederast Afghan mujahedeen

  • 115. Old Nick  |  June 27th, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    This comment is so late that no one will ever read it, which means I can say whatever I like.
    You can keep Apocalypse Now, Deer Hunter, Full Metal Jacket, et al – all absolute crap (I spent seven years in the front line, in 12 wars/campaigns, so I do have some slight idea of what I’m talking about).
    The best war movie of all time is Avatar – that it lost out at the Oscars to that utter shite, The Hurt Locker, is a disgrace.
    War movie? I hear you say. You’re kidding!
    Absolutely not. It demonstrates with perfect clarity why the US Army has fled from every war it’s fought in the last 60 years with its tail between its arrogant legs. It’s all there, in cartoon form: the stupid strutting Marine general; the venal mining contractor; the racist attitude (think gook, skinny, camel jockey, sand nigger, etc, etc); the supposedly invincible hardware.
    You reckon semi-naked natives on the backs of birds can’t take on gunships? Think again. I was once involved in a very serious scheme, with a bunch of ragged African guerrillas, which would have wiped out an entire national air force, and the industrial base of the national economy, in less than ten minutes, using armed weight-shift ultralights. They looked almost exactly like those creatures in Avatar – plus machine guns and wire-guided missiles. (The only thing missing was the tails. I’ve said for many years that humans should have tails, and Avatar demonstrates conclusively how incredibly sexy they could be.)
    Actually the film works on so many levels, apart from the above. It’s near genius, but I doubt it will ever be recognised as such by the chatterati – ordinary Joes love it, however. And ordinary Joes are the ignorant schmucks who win insurgencies. Remember that next time someone in the White House talks about regime change.

  • 116. Old Nick  |  June 28th, 2014 at 9:20 am

    Although I’m just muttering to myself really, I thought I’d add a couple more things that Avatar elucidates (I’d had about three martinis when I wrote the first comment).

    The first is actually the most important of all – don’t know how I left it out. It’s the gratuitous slaughter of civilians, especially women and children, with heavy weaponry. Rule one thru ten of counter-insurgency is DO NOT KILL CIVILIANS. Not one.

    The second illustration: infantry moving all in a bunch. I once accompanied the 101st Airborne on a few minor ops in Mosul. Absolutely bloody terrifying. I always thought that Hollywood just got it wrong, but no, they depict accurately how US infantry goes about its business. Like a mob of Boy Scouts. (It was the same in WW2 apparently – at least, according to my Dad who was mixed up in a helluva lot of fighting in Tunisia and Italy.)

    Anyway, that’s it. I’ll shut up now.

  • 117. Iraq  |  July 4th, 2014 at 4:57 am

    Segun parece Nostradamus ya predecia esta situacion en Iraq

  • 118. Peter Konrad  |  January 19th, 2015 at 7:37 am

    @Destro: Zulu exaggerates the number of British casualties (in fact only 17) as well as the number, quality and use of firearms by the Zulu.

  • 119. Broggly  |  January 7th, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    I think Allo Allo is the one time the English are shown having their own accent
    “Good Moaning.”
    “I was pissing by the door when I heard two shuts. You are holding in your hend a smoking goon. You are clearly the guilty potty.”
    etc etc

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