5. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
This dark comedy takes aim at the Vietnam war, told through the eyes of Matthew Modine's Joker, a man who hedges his bets by scrawling 'Born to kill' on his helmet but also wears a peace symbol, to show "the duality of man". Yeah, he's quite a character, and this is a film full of complex, troubled individuals each dealing with the pressures put upon them by their intense drill instructor. R. Lee Ermey's role is one of the most memorable of the whole movie, his torrent of insults designed to toughen up the men, the source of an hour-long improvisational rant. This is war, Kubrick-style.
4. Casablanca (1942)
Hollywood's definitive wartime propaganda pic blends together the melodrama of lovers who can't be together with the harsh reality of conflict. Michael Curtiz's World War II actioner has two top-of-their-game actors in the lead roles, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, as Rick and Ilsa. Rick's a bartender in Casablanca, Ilsa's an old flame in town with her new husband, a notorious rebel who's out to bring down the Nazis. The great source of tension between them stems from Rick, who can't stand idly by when he has the power to help Ilsa's man. It's chemistry like theirs that's rarely seen onscreen nowadays, a result of their off-set friendship, which also gave the film its most memorable one-liner. Casablanca is the wartime romance to end 'em all.
3. Come and See (1985)
Some of the most horrific images shot by wartime correspondents include children. They're innocents, in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's that child's eye view of war which drives home the horrors of the Nazi-occupied Soviet Republic in Come and See. Inspired by the experiences of a survivor, the movie follows young lad Florya (Aleksey Kravchenko) as he's lured away from his family to help fight the Resistance. It's only when he attempts to return home that he witnesses the hallucinatory terrors implied by the title (e.g. villagers herded into a church, into which grenades are then thrown). Hard-hitting in its unflinching approach to the material, there's no stone unturned when it comes the atrocities the Nazis committed in Belarus.
2. Schindler's List (1993)
Steven Spielberg received a bit of a critical mauling for ignoring the entire six million who lost their lives in the Holocaust, but this movie still remains heart-wrenching, tear-jerking stuff. His effort to zero in on 1000 or so fortunate survivors, as a way to highlight the larger tragedy, nevertheless works. He brings his Spielbergian touch to a story that's about the dichotomy of man: within us all is the power to unspeakable acts of evil alongside the power to do untold acts of kindness. The story is based on the efforts of one Oskar Schindler - played here by Liam Neeson - a man who chose to help as many Jews as possible through his business endeavours, proving that in our darkest hours, there is light.
1. Apocalypse Now (1979)
The hallucinatory madness depicted in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now is unlike any other Vietnam movie. There's nothing remotely normal about the film's take on war; this isn't a typical tale of ‘us vs. them’. Martin Sheen's Captain Willard is sent on a kill mission. It's up to him to take out the seriously unhinged Colonel Kurtz who's gone off the deep end. Watching Willard himself try and keep it together amidst Wagnerian helicopter attacks, tigers, Playboy bunnies, and Dennis Hopper's mental photographer is a pure cinematic delight. It begs the question; who's really losing their mind here? Sheen or the absolutely mad as a hatter Marlon Brando as Kurtz? The casualties of war shown here are the minds of men.
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