20 Military Movies You Should Watch

Even though many military movies have multiple mistakes and are not even close to being realistic (John Wayne pulling a grenade pin with his teeth), we still watch them. They are entertaining, and we can still learn many lessons we can use in our military careers.

We have a subscription to Netflix, and I often watch military movies. Some are good, some are average and others are downright terrible.

Recalling the many war and military movies I have watched over the years, I thought I would do a top 20 list of military movies I felt were great, and everyone should watch. Some of these are on Netflix, and others you may have to rent elsewhere.

These are in no particular order. They are 20 military movies you should watch.

Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed

I watched this excellent film on Netflix. It is set in Southern France during World War II. Without telling too much, there are 3 paratroopers who must make their way to the drop zone. In route, they encounter French Resistance and Nazis. It is a well-made movie.

Full Metal Jacket

If you have not watched Full Metal Jacket, I am surprised. Following a platoon of Marines in Vietnam, we see a lot of violence and the crazed chaos in Vietnam. I believe everyone who can handle the gore should absolutely see this 1987 movie.

Patton

Made in 1970, George C. Scott was the perfect person to play the great United States General. He was controversial but was successful in almost every thing he touched. Karl Malden played Omar Bradley. This is a great movie, and I watch it religiously every year.

The Heavy Water War

This was originally a TV miniseries in Norway. I watched it as a movie on Netflix, and you should too. It is about the Nazis attempting to get “heavy water” to develop nuclear weapons during World War II.

We Were Soldiers

Based on the book by Lieutenant General Hal Moore who is played by Mel Gibson, this is set at the opening of the United State’s entrance into the Vietnam war. It is primarily about the Battle of la Drang, and the perils the soldiers faced there. This is a must watch movie.

Black Hawk Down

This movie is about the United States raiding Mogadishu. With tensions rising in Somalia, American forces are not welcome, and they also must follow United Nation’s standards. This is a movie that I believe everyone should watch. It shows just what our soldiers face in Africa and the Middle East daily.

Saving Private Ryan

If you have not seen this movie, you must be hiding in a cave somewhere. Tom Hanks plays a great roll, and as we have written here on Part Time Commander, there are a ton of leadership lessons that can be learned from this movie.

Three Kings

I don’t believe you will learn anything good from this movie, but the entertainment value is high. It is the invasion of Iraq, and these soldiers find a map with Saddam Hussein’s gold stash. They make a plan to steal it. Will they pull it off?

Braveheart

Some may ask how this made the military movie list. Well, it is military, just from many years past. War strategy can be learned from this, and if nothing else, Mel Gibson is a great actor. You know, I think I will watch this again for about the 30th time after I finish writing this post.

Inglourious Basterds

The plan?? Assassinate the elite Nazis during World War II. Brad Pitt is led by writer and director Quentin Tarantino in this movie that has a lot of action. The Basterds are American Jews who are bent on revenge. You really need to see this movie.

Wings

This takes us back to the age of silent films. This was made in 1927 and the setting is World War I. This was the launch of Gary Cooper’s acting career, and this movie was so good that it is the only silent film to win the Academy Award for best picture.

Tora! Tora! Tora!!

This movie made in 1970, is as close to realistic as it could possibly be. It is about the attack on Pearl Harbor and what each side was doing just before it occurred. If you have never watched this movie, I believe you should.

Rescue Dawn

I just watched this movie a few weeks ago on Netflix. It is about a German/American war pilot by the name of Dieter Dengler. It is based on the true account of Dieter getting shot down over Laos and his attempts at escape from a POW camp. This is a wonderful movie with a great ending.

Twelve O’Clock High

The first time I saw this classic movie about the Army Air Force, it was at a drive-in movie with my parents. While trying to see the movie through their kissing lips, I believed I wanted to be an Army pilot. That never happened, but I still relive those dreams every time I see Gregory Peck in this great war movie.

The Great Escape

This movie was made back in 1963 and stars Steve McQueen. It is based on the escape of British soldiers from a German POW camp. All soldiers are taught that escape should be a priority if they are ever captured. This movie shows how these British soldiers did just that.

The Longest Day

This movie that was made in 1962, is about the D-Day landings. The cast is amazing, and many of them did serve in the war. Some of the famous names in this movie were:

  • John Wayne

  • Paul Anka

  • Robert Mitchum

  • Sean Connery

  • Red Buttons

  • and many more

Apocalypse Now

This is an excellent movie set during the Vietnam War. Marlon Brando has lost his mind, and now is acting as if he is a god. He must be stopped and it is up to Martin Sheen to do so. I know that in 1979, I was in that movie theater line to see this movie. Were you?

Restrepo

Spend one year with a platoon in Afghanistan. This shows people how it really is. This is not made with a bunch of actors, it is a true documentary that puts us all right inside the U.S. Army’s Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. This is a movie all should see.

Enemy At The Gates

This is a movie about a Russian sniper and his life during the Battle of Stalingrad against German forces during World War II. While this movie did not gain a large following in the U.S. probably because it was about Russians, it has some great lessons about war.

Defiance

This is another movie I watched on Netflix. It is based in Belarus when the Germans occupied the area and began to systematically exterminate Jews. Some Jews did not lay down. They fought back. You really should watch this movie.

Final Thoughts

There are many more military movies that could be on this list. Which ones did I miss that you think should be here?

Out of these movies, which is your favorite? You can answer in the comments area below. I believe I favor this one:

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