The 10 best old war movies showcase battles and wars from all across the world. These movies follow the trials and tribulations of soldiers and take the form of both thrilling war movies that deliver powerful messages. The best old war movies stretch back to the advent of cinema and continue through the horrors of the Vietnam War.
- “Apocalypse Now” – Francis Ford Coppola directed “Apocalypse Now,” an old war movie based on the Vietnam War that almost gave the director a nervous breakdown. The behind-the-scenes documentary based on the making of the film remains available as the feature length film “Heart of Darkness.” Martin Sheen stars as a soldier sent to take out a rogue former U.S. colonel played by Marlon Brando.
- “The Deer Hunter” – “The Deer Hunter” is an anti-war film made in 1978 starring Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken. The film follows a group of friends as they head into the war in Vietnam. Not all of them make it back alive and those who do remain changed forever. This old war movie won the Best Picture Oscar in 1978.
- “The Bridge of the River Kwai” – David Lean directs this old war movie based on the novel by Pierre Boulle. The movie, based on World War II, became the number one movie in 1957. It won eight Academy Awards and kick-started the career of Lean, who went on to direct “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Doctor Zhivago.”
- “Paths of Glory” - Stanley Kubrick tried his hand at an old war movie with this 1957 effort. Starring Kirk Douglas, the film features one of the more ambitious camera shots of the era as it travels nonstop through the trenches of a gun battle. The movie was not successful on release but grew in stature over time, added to the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress in 1992.
- “The Great Escape” – Steve McQueen stars in this prisoner-of-war epic about a group of men trying to escape from a Nazi POW camp. The movie also remains a technically accurate portrayal of an escape that was not entirely successful. Aardman Animation Studios loosely remade “The Great Escape” with their children’s animated movie “Chicken Run” in 2000.
- “Patton” – George C. Scott stars as General George S. Patton in this Academy Award winning biopic. Co-written by Francis Ford Coppola, “Patton” earned ten Oscar nominations while winning seven major Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Screenplay. The movie is a combination of two books about the general.
- “M*A*S*H” – Most people remember the long running television series but the movie that started it all remains one of the ‘70s best old war movies. Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould star as two rebel rousers assigned to a medical unit in the Korean War. Directed by Robert Altman, there is a lot in the way of dialogue but little in the way of action. Also appearing in the movie are Robert Duvall, Tom Skerritt and Sally Kellerman.
- “The Guns of Navarone” – While set up as an action adventure film, this old war movie is full of anti-war sentiment. Gregory Peck’s lead character is similar to a classic Jack Bauer, killing without remorse but, if watched carefully, the movie is a dark look at what killing does to a man.
- “The Dirty Dozen” - “The Dirty Dozen” remains the ultimate men-on-a-mission example of old war movies. The movie stars Telly Savalas, Jim Brown, Donald Sutherland, Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson as part of a group of twelve men sent on a suicide mission in World War II.
- “All Quiet of the Western Front” – Made in 1930, “All Quiet on the Western Front” instantly became one of the best old war movies when it became Universal Studios first Best Picture Academy Award winner. The movie tells the story of a generation of men emotionally scarred by the horrors of a World War.
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