20 War Stories That Should Be Movies

Blood, bravery and bears on the battlefield

The Recluse

The Real Story: 89 year old Torquay resident Eileen Nearne dies alone, only for family to discover she was a radio operator for the Special Operations Executive who endured Nazi imprisonment and torture without ever caving in.

Movie Version: A history-straddling weepie, contrasting young Eileen's daring exploits with her elderly version's quiet, secretive life by the seaside.

Directed By: Danny Boyle

Starring: Kate Winslet and Judi Dench reprising their young/old Iris Murdoch role.

The Bear

The Real Story: Private Wotjek, a bear adopted by the Polish Army's 22nd Artillery Supply Company, who helped lug weaponry around in the anti-Nazi fight. Don't believe us? Even The One Show has covered the story .

Movie Version: An R-rated Disney movie, in which the bear necessities turn out to be smoking, drinking beer and beating the crap out of Nazis.

Directed By: Terry Zwigoff.

Starring: A bear, possibly with Paul Giamatti as his human handler.

The Leg

The Real Story: King Charles 1's loyal soldier Sir Arthur Aston, captured by Cromwell's forces after the King's execution in 1649 and beaten to death with his own wooden leg.

Movie Version: A blood 'n' guts take on the English Civil War, from the viewpoint of the losing side, with a surreal, gory ending.

Directed By: Neil Marshall.

Starring: Sean Bean.

The Survivor

The Real Story: Maja Kazazic, a refugee who lost her leg after a mortar bomb during the Bosnian war, before being a successful businesswoman in America.

Movie Version: The Bosnian conflict has largely been ignored by Hollywood, so here's an inspirational, unusual take - especially as the recovering Kazazic learnt English from scratch watching Cosby Show reruns.

Directed By: Sam Mendes.

Starring: Natalie Portman

The Trumpet

The Real Story: Trumpeting soldier Jackie Roy Tuner bugles a love song while under threat from a German sniper. The next morning, he learns that the sniper gave himself up after the music reminded him of his family.

Movie Version: Tuner is entrusted by the military to 'tame' the Nazis by playing his songs, like some kind of military Pied Piper.

Directed By: Ang Lee.

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal as Tuner, Daniel Brühl as the sniper.

The Pig

The Real Story: In 1859, American settler Lyman Cutlar shoots Irishman Charles Griffin's pig, but since this happened on disputed territory on the American/Canadian border, the armies waded in. However, war was averted, and the only casualty was the pig.

Movie Version: A surreal black comedy about a diplomatic squabble, that doubles as a reminder to today's governments that you don't always need to shoot first and ask questions later.

Directed By: David O. Russell.

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton as Cutlar, Brendan Gleeson as Griffin.

The Objector

The Real Story: U.S. Marine Stephen Funk, court-martialled for being the first soldier to refuse to deploy to Iraq in 2003... and, as if that wasn't enough controversy, he came out as a gay man.

Movie Version: A tale of unpopular principle versus the state; and a liberal blast against the Iraq War.

Directed By: Gus Van Sant.

Starring: John Cho as Funk.

The PoW

The Real Story: Kenneth Bailey aka @POWKen , who kept a diary of his three-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war building the Burmese railway.

Movie Version: A realistic, Corporal's-eye-view of the events depicted in The Bridge Over the River Kwai.

Directed By: Terence Malick.

Starring: Andrew Garfield as Bailey.

The Defence

The Real Story: During the Battle of Stalingrad, four Russian survivors of a raid on a strategically vital apartment building not only held off the Nazis but killed hundreds from ideal sniping positions.

Movie Version: Sergeant Yakov Pavlov turns his troops into a killing machine, in a true-life Inglourious Basterds .

Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow.

Starring: Tom Hardy as Pavlov.

The Traveller

The Real Story: English soldier Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Fremantle's trip to America during the Civil War, based on his memoir, Three Months in the Southern States .

Movie Version: An outsider's eye-witness view of the war, including the Battle of Gettysburg, with plenty of twists as he continually switches allegiance based on his experiences.

Directed By: Ron Howard

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe as Fremantle.

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