Memorial Day war movies

May 2011
New Iberia, La.
This Memorial Day offers a plethora of war movies on TV. Pick one or two out and enjoy. But don’t forget all of them are not the real thing. But some of them do a good job remembering our troops. Here they are with a little commentary and a rating of 1-10 on how well they fit Memorial Day. (All times are Eastern)

9 A.M. The Red Badge of Courage - rendering of the classic war novel by Stephen Crane. The movie follows the book closely. It stars Audie Murphy in his greatest performance. It was extensively and tragically cut by the studio so you can watch and wonder what might have been. Still a great movie, however. 10 rating - the greatest American war novel on Memorial Day starring the most decorated soldier of WWII

10:45 Friendly Persuasion - Soap opera about a family of pacifists in the Civil War. Not that pacifism does not deserve respect, but an odd choice for Memorial Day. Plus its not a very good movie. 2

12:45 P.M. Men in War - A Korean War curio starring Aldo Ray and Robert Ryan, so expect a lot of testosterone. Ray plays an insubordinate anti-hero which caused the Pentagon to withdraw cooperation. It’s a small unit mission movie. 6 – it is not typical of the Korean War soldier experience

2:45 Pride of the Marines - Biopic of blinded Marine Al Schmid. A bit of a tearjerker, but it does cover the lot of a wounded veteran of WWII. 8

5 Best Years of Our Lives - The classic post-WWII returning veterans movie. A trio of stories that intertwine and tell various aftermaths of the war. Features a performance by a disabled veteran named Harold Russell who won two Oscars – Best Supporting Actor and an honorary Oscar because they did not think he would win the other one. 9 - a bit of a soap opera, but sincere

8 The Great Escape - Highly entertaining all-star take on the most famous prison escape of WWII. More interested in entertaining than memorializing as the camp comes off as a fantasy camp for celebrities. 6

11* Bridge on the River Kwai* -* Classic film about the building of a bridge in the middle of a jungle with typical British pluck.* The other arc concerns a commando mission to blow up the bridge.* Because it has only one American character (for marketing purposes), it seems an odd choice for our Memorial Day.* 5

2 A.M. Breakthrough - This is the 1950 infantry from boot camp to combat movie. Good template for a Memorial Day movie, but a forgettable film. 6

3:45 The Naked and the Dead - Norman Mailer’s best selling novel stripped of the profanity and the verve. (He hated the movie.) A small unit dynamics movie with a minimum of combat and a maximum of dysfunctionality. Does not really honor veterans. 4


11:30 A.M. Zero Dark Thirty - Outstanding movie about the hunt for and taking down of Bin Laden. Great memorial to the CIA and Special Forces. 10

3 Lone Survivor - True story of a Special Forces patrol in Afghanistan gone bad. Huge amount of ammunition expenditure makes it an essential guy movie, but it is very well acted and not mindless. Some gut-wrenching deaths makes this a perfect choice for Memorial Day. 10


11 A.M. The Longest Day - The granddaddy of all-star battle epics. It tells the story of D-Day from both the Anglo-American and German perspective. More command-centric, but does get some average Joes in. Very appropriate for Memorial Day. 10

3 P.M. Patton - Great biopic of the controversial WWII general highlighted by an outstanding performance by George C. Scott. Does not really memorialize his G.I.s, but does show what they had to put up with. 8

7 Midway - Fairly good coverage of the naval battle marred by a silly subplot involving a father-son relationship. Other than the son, the movie concentrates on command so it does not really give much credit to the men who actually fought and died in the battle. 7

10 The Green Berets - The famously bad John Wayne take on the early Vietnam War years. It is quite jingoistic and a Cold War curio. The movie does attempt to jerk tears over American deaths in the war against godless communism, but in a patronizing way. 4

1 P.M. The Dirty Dozen - The template for dysfunctional unit-on-a-commando mission movies. Very entertaining, for guys. Great memorial for psychopaths, murderers, and rapists. 4

HBO (HB2e)

9:30 A.M. Band of Brothers marathon - Awesome miniseries about a paratrooper unit in WWII. 10


12:30 P.M. - Band of Brothers marathon

BBC America

12 P.M. Black Hawk Down - Action-fueled true story of the Battle of Mogadishu. No female speaks in the movie. Admirably accurate homage to modern American warriors. 10
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