Are you looking for a great war film or military movie to watch this weekend? Read on for nine movies we believe are some of the best military movies of all time.
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Guide to the Best Military Movies
With so many great movies about the military, how did we determine what makes the “best” war movies? It’s subjective, we know. That’s where crowdsourcing comes in.
The movies below received high critic and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes and/or IMDb, as well as high box-office numbers and accolades like Academy Awards.
Best War Movies
These three war movies consistently show up on best-of lists and are well worth watching.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Tom Hanks and Matt Damon star in this World War II movie about a detachment tasked with rescuing a missing paratrooper who is the last surviving son of the Ryan family. It’s been praised for its realism, with special recognition going to the accuracy of the film’s 25-minute D-Day sequence. It won five of the 11 Academy Awards it was nominated for, including Best Director for Steven Spielberg.
Where to watch: Paramount+, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, (Row8), Redbox
Glory is based on the true story of one of the first regiments of black soldiers in the Union Army, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, as they train and fight in the American Civil War. The movie’s cast includes Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, and Denzel Washington, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (one of five it was nominated for).
Where to watch: HBOMax, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Redbox
Director Oliver Stone fought in the Vietnam War, which undoubtedly contributed to making Platoon feel so authentic. It focuses on new recruit Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) and two strong-willed sergeants (Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe) in a South Vietnam platoon. The movie not only delivers heart-pounding action sequences but also explores the morality of war. It won four of its eight Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Where to watch: YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Redbox
Best Movies About Military Life
These three excellent movies about the military highlight other aspects of military life besides wartime combat.
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
More than 75 years after its release, William Wyler’s movie about three men returning home from WW2 may be the most highly regarded film about the veteran experience ever. It still resonates today with its subtle examination of various social, psychological, and physical challenges many veterans face as they readjust to civilian life. Best Years was an immediate hit, becoming the highest-grossing film of the decade and winning nine of the 10 Academy Awards it was nominated for.
Where to watch: PlutoTV, kanopy, Watch TCM, (Hulu), Amazon Prime Video, YouTube TV, Sling TV, Redbox
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
This movie about British POWs forced to work on the construction of a railway bridge in 1940s Thailand was based on a 1952 novel by Pierre Boulle. While the story and characters are fictional, the Burma Railway is real, and tens of thousands of people died during its construction. Alec Guinness and William Holden star in this top-rated movie that was the highest-grossing film of 1957 and took home seven Academy Awards out of eight nominations the following year.
Where to watch: DirectTV Stream, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
It’s the first half of this movie, depicting Marines enduring boot camp at Parris Island, SC, that lands it on this list. R. Lee Ermey famously plays a harsh drill instructor, ad-libbing many lines based on his real-life experience as a drill instructor in the 1960s. The second half is set in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive. Matthew Modine and Vincent D’Onofrio also star in this movie directed by Stanley Kubrick. It was nominated for one Academy Award.
Where to watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Redbox
Best Military Comedy Movies
The best military comedy movies often have a dark or satirical edge to them, like these three.
Joseph Heller’s 1961 multi-narrative WW2 novel served as the basis of this movie, which chiefly tells the story of bombardier Yossarian (Alan Arkin) and his desire to get out of the Army. It highlights the absurdities of a military bureaucracy pitted against the young men whose lives are at stake. (More recently, Hulu and Sky Italia produced a positively reviewed miniseries adaptation of the book.)
Where to watch: kanopy, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play Movies & TV, Redbox
Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
This satirical black comedy set during the Cold War follows the chaos that ensues after unhinged Air Force General Jack D. Ripper commands an air attack on the U.S.S.R, all but guaranteeing world-annihilating retaliation. Dr. Strangelove was directed by Stanley Kubrick and stars Peter Sellers (in three roles), George C. Scott, and Sterling Hayden. It was nominated for four Academy Awards.
Where to watch: Tubi, YouTube TV, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play Movies & TV, Redbox
The wildly successful, long-running TV show has all but overshadowed the Robert Altman movie that spawned it. But this black comedy, which focuses on two irreverent combat surgeons in the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War, was a big hit when it came out. It was the third highest-grossing movie of the year (very good for a comedy) and was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one.
Where to watch: HBOMax, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play Movies & TV Redbox