The Consensus 100 Greatest War Movies

May 2011
592
New Iberia, La.
92. Ulzana's Raid (1972)

SYNOPSIS: In the 1880's in the American West, a group of Apache Indians led by a Geronimo-type of leader named Ulzana escape from their reservation and start raiding, which includes murdering and torturing. A cavalry unit under a green lieutenant (Bruce Davison) is sent to track them down. The cavalry is led by a seasoned scout named MacIntosh (Burt Lancaster) and an Apache Indian tracker who has sided with the whites. It is a cat and mouse game from here.

BACK-STORY: "Ulzana's Raid" is a revisionist Western by Robert Aldrich ("The Dirty Dozen") which was released in 1972 toward the end of the Vietnam War. It was filmed on location in Arizona and Nevada. It is loosely based on a true story. Ulzana was an Apache who went on a raid in Arizona in 1885. The movie has been described as an allegory about the Vietnam War.

TRIVIA: Wikipedia, imdb

1. Screenwriter Alan Sharp was inspired by "The Searchers". He felt that three of the worst historic locales were Nazi Germany, Turkey during WWI, and the American Southwest during the Indian Wars.
2. Since Burt Lancaster was one of the producers, he got to edit his own version of the film. His version was similar to Aldrich's, however.
3. The production cost only $1.2 million and took only seven weeks of filming.

Belle and Blade = N/A
Brasseys = 3
Video Hound = N/A
War Movies = N/A
Military History = #54
Channel 4 = not on list
Film Site = yes
101 War Movies = no


OPINION: I understand why some consider it to be a war movie, but in my opinion it is clearly in the Western genre. With that said, I do not think it is even a great Western. I believe it gets more love than it deserves from critics because they like the criticism of the Vietnam War. If Aldrich meant to comment on Americas role in the Vietnam War, he missed the mark because Ulzana and his Indians are not sympathetic characters. It seems more likely that Aldrich was trying to make a revisionist Western and in this respect he was successful, but the 1970s were full of revisionist Westerns and this is not one of the better ones.
 
May 2011
592
New Iberia, La.
91. The Sea Hawk (1940)

SYNOPSIS: "The Sea Hawk" is the tale of an English privateer played by Errol Flynn. The film is set pre-Spanish Armada. Queen Elizabeth I is attempting to juggle diplomacy with covert support for raids on Spanish shipping. Flynn's Thorpe is doing the raiding and has some swash-buckling adventures and chaste romancing to do before the obligatory sword fight.

BACK-GROUND: “The Sea Hawk” was a remake of the 1924 silent classic, but while the original was loosely based on the novel by Rafael Sabatini, the 1940 version was inspired by the adventures of Sir Francis Drake. It was directed by Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca”). The movie had a huge budget of $1.75 million and was a box office success. Part of the money went into building a sound stage that had a water tank that could hold two full-size ships (which were built for the film). The movie was nominated for four Academy Awards: Art Direction, Music, Sound Recording, and Special Effects. In an interesting decision, “The Sea Hawk” was filmed in black and white whereas the earlier “Adventures of Robin Hood” was in Technicolor.

TRIVIA: Wikipedia, imdb

1.This was the tenth collaboration between director Michael Curtiz and Errol Flynn. Their other movies included “The Adventures of Robin Hood” and “Captain Blood”.They made a total of twelve although they despised each other.
2.The movie was originally intended to be an adaptation of Rafael Sabatini’s novel, but it actually has little to do with the book and is more based on the adventures of Sir Francis Drake.
3.Queen Elizabeth’s rousing speech was aimed at the British audience that was in WWII when the movie came out.The line about the world not belonging to one man was a reference to Hitler.However, the studio insisted that dialogue aimed at American intervention be toned down or removed.
4.The costumes were reused from the previous year’s “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex”.
5.A huge sound stage was constructed that included a large water tank that held two full-sized sailing ships in twelve feet of water.
6.Flora Robson also played Elizabeth in “Fire Over England”.
7.One of Churchill’s favorite films.
8.The costumes were reused from the Curtiz/Flynn The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Exeter.

Belle and Blade = N/A
Brassey’s = 3
Video Hound = N/A
War Movies = N/A
Military History = #48
Channel 4 = not on list
Film Site = yes
101 War Movies = no


OPINION: This is a fun movie. It is classic action/adventure and holds up surprisingly well. There are no sour notes. It is consistently strong across the board (acting, cinematography, music). It is one of the greatest swashbucklers, but also fits comfortably in the war movie genre. Along with the entertainment value, there is a tasty morsel of history in it.
 
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May 2011
592
New Iberia, La.
90. The Man Who Would Be King

SYNOPSIS: "The Man Who Would Be King" is the retelling of the classic adventure story by Rudyard Kipling. Two British soldiers (Sean Connery and Michael Caine) trek to Afghanistan to make their fortune. They offer themselves as military trainers and help a village defeat its rivals. In the process, one of them is proclaimed a god. They now are governing the area and are rich beyond their dreams. Unfortunately, being a god can go to your head.

BACK-STORY: "The Man Who Would Be King" is a war movie that was released in 1975. It was directed by John Huston and is based on a short story by Rudyard Kipling. Huston co-wrote the screenplay. Originally intended as a project for Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable, then Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, then Robert Redford and Paul Newman, it was finally made starring Michael Caine and Sean Connery. It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Writing, Costume Design, and Editing. The movie was critically acclaimed and did well at the box office.

TRIVIA: Wikipedia, imdb

1.In the novella, the narrator was anonymous.The movie makes him Rudyard Kipling.
2.John Huston was a huge Kipling fan from childhood when he was bedridden and read all of his works.He wanted to make the movie since the 1950s. Originally he envisioned the two leads to be Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart, and then Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, and then Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole, and then Robert Redford and Paul Newman.
3.Huston wanted a native-looking actress to play Roxane and was complaining to Michael Caine at a dinner with Caine's wife Shakira.They both looked at Shakira, who was from Asia, and had a brainstorm.
4.The movie was nominated for Oscars for Art Direction, Writing, Costume Design, and Editing.
5.Sean Connery's favorite role.


Belle and Blade = N/A
Brassey's = 4.0
Video Hound = N/A
War Movies = 5.0
Military History = #74
Channel 4 = not on list
Film Site = yes
101 War Movies = no

OPINION: While not really a war movie, "The Man Who Would Be King" certainly belongs on the list.It is one of the greatest adventure stories and a must-see for men and teenage boys.Connery and Caine are a dream teaming.You get the famous story by Kipling without having to read it and you get it improved over the source material.This is a movie that should not be remade.
 
May 2011
592
New Iberia, La.
89.Hail the Conquering Hero

SYNOPSIS: A sad sack's dream of becoming a Marine is foiled by his hay fever. He (Eddie Bracken) vows never to return to home town humiliation until a group of Marine vets (led by William Demarest) take him under their wings. They tell the townspeople that Woodrow is a hero and before he knows it, he is running for mayor. Oh what a tangled (and humorous) web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

BACK-STORY: “Hail the Conquering Hero” is a comedy war movie set in home front America in World War II. It was released in 1944 and is a black and white classic directed by Preston Sturges. It is considered by many to be his best movie. He was nominated for the Oscar for Best Screenplay. Fans of Sturges will recognize several familiar faces from his “stock company” including William Demarest, who made ten movies with Sturges. The movie came out a year after another Sturges home front satire, “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” (which also starred Demarest and Bracken).

TRIVIA Wikipedia, imdb
1.This was the ninth of ten films William Demarest made with director Preston Sturges.
2.After a failed preview, the producer recut the movie, but the next preview was bad also.Sturges was brought back and he rewrote and reshot scenes for the finished product.
3.Sturges praised the film by saying it was “the one with the least wrong with it”.
4.Sturges reused the sets from “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek”.
5.Sturges was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for both “Hail” and “Miracle”.“Wilson” won.

Belle and Blade = N/A
Brassey’s = 4.0
Video Hound = N/A
War Movies = N/A
Military History = #70
Channel 4 = not on list
Film Site = yes
101 War Movies = no

OPINION:“Hail” is a typical Sturges satire of small town life. Since it is set in WWII, it is technically a war movie, although it only marginally comments on the home front. It does not belong on the list because, while amusing, it is not hilarious. Especially to a modern audience. Perplexingly, it made the list but the superior Sturges “Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” did not.
 
May 2011
592
New Iberia, La.
88. The Cruel Sea (1953)

SYNOPSIS: “This is a story of the Battle of the Atlantic, the story of an ocean, two ships, and a handful of men. The men are the heroes; the heroines are the ships. The only villain is the sea, the cruel sea, that man has made more cruel...” The first ship is the HMS Compass Rose, a corvette used for escort duty in the Battle of the Atlantic. Its captain (Jack Hawkins) and crew are going to go through the realistic activities, frustrations, and hardships of convoy duty. The second ship is another corvette that is on anti-submarine duty.

BACK-STORY: The movie is based on the best-seller by Nicholas Monsorrat. Monsorrat was a Lt. Commander in the Royal Navy in the North Atlantic so the novel was semi-autobiographical. The HMS Compass Rose was played by the HMS Coreopsis which was on loan to the Hellenic Navy and was due to be disposed of. The Royal Navy had already disposed of all its WWII era corvettes. Scenes were shot in the English Channel and the water tank at Denham Studios. The movie was the biggest hit of 1953 in Great Britain and a surprise hit in America.

TRIVIA: Wikipedia, imdb, BFI screen online

1. The movie made a star out of Jack Hawkins.
2. Hawkins saved Donald Sinden from drowning in the water tank in the sinking scene.
3. Upon returning to port, the cinematic Compass Rose collided with the HMS Camperdown and did significant damage to it.
4. The scene where Ericson breaks down as he thinks about the controversial depth charging was shot several times with varying amounts of tears. The movie ended up using the first, weepiest take.

Belle and Blade = 2.0
Brassey’s = 4.0
Video Hound = N/A
War Movies = 4.4
Military History = not on list
Channel 4 = #41
Film Site = no
101 War Movies = yes


OPINION: “The Cruel Sea” is a good movie. It is not rip-roaring, which makes it a realistic depiction of sometimes boring convoy duty. The sea does play a major role. The weather is the biggest problem the crews face. This is one of the wettest movies ever made. It is a good examination of command and command relationships. It is one of the most realistic naval combat movies ever made, which means it not all about the combat. Its place at #88 seems about right.
 
May 2011
592
New Iberia, La.
87.They Died With Their Boots On (1941)

SYNOPSIS: "They Died With Their Boots On" is the story of George Custer (Errol Flynn) and his wife Elizabeth (Olivia de Havilland). It covers their relationship from Custer's appearance at West Point to his death. The movie is part romance, part biopic, and part Western. The climax is the Battle of Little Big Horn, or as this movie calls it: Custer’s Last Stand.

BACK-STORY: “They Died With Their Boots On” is an old school war movie from 1941. It was directed by Raoul Walsh (“Objective Burma!”) and was the eighth and last screen pairing of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. It was a huge box office hit.

TRIVIA:Wikipedia, imdb, TCM

1.Three died during the filming. One fell from his horse and broke his neck.A stuntman died of a heart attack.Actor Jack Budlong was thrown from his horse as he rode alongside Errol Flynn and was impaled by his sword.
2.Only sixteen Sioux were available as extras and were used for the closeups.The rest of the more than 1,000 extras were Filipinos.
3.Jim Thorpe was an extra and he got into a fight with Flynn during a break.Thorpe knocked him down with one punch while Flynn was in uniform.
4.Louis Zamperini of “Unbroken” fame, was also an extra.
5.Flynn collapsed from exhaustion during the shoot.
6.One of the most historically inaccurate war movies ever made.

Belle and Blade = N/A
Brassey’s = 5.0
Video Hound = 3.1
War Movies = N/A
Military History = #68
Channel 4 = not on list
Film Site = yes
101 War Movies = no

OPINION “They Died” is more of a Western than a war movie. It is a classic and was a big hit, but when you compare it to modern war movies like “Son of the Morning Star”, it is an antique. The ludicrous historical inaccuracies make the movie hard for history buffs to watch. And, given the power of movies in the 1940s, it created a misshapen portrait of Custer. It is on a par with “Braveheart” in accuracy, but at least William Wallace was a legitimate hero. I strongly disagree with it being in the top 100.
 
May 2011
592
New Iberia, La.
86.Foreign Correspondent (1940)

SYNOPSIS: An American reporter (Joel McCrea) is sent to pre-WWII Europe to report on treaty negotiations to avoid war. He gets involved in the kidnapping of a diplomat. He is ensnared in espionage and romance. This is a Hitchcock movie.

BACK-STORY: “Foreign Correspondent” was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and was only his second American production (after “Rebecca”). It was released in 1940. It was Hitchcock’s attempt to help the British war effort. The film has an incredible 14 writers which can be explained by the desire to keep up with current events during the filming. It was a critical and box office success. It was nominated for 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture (ironically, it lost to “Rebecca”), but won none. The events and characters are fictitious, but obviously Hitchcock meant it as a commentary on the storm clouds rising in Europe. It was dedicated to “those forthright ones [foreign correspondents] who early saw the clouds of war while many of us at home were seeing rainbows…”.

TRIVIA: Wikipedia, imdb, TCM

1.It was based on an autobiographical book called Personal History by Vincent Sheean. Producer William Wanger purchased the rights for $10,000.Little of the book made it into the screenplay.
2.Alternate titles were “Imposter” and “Personal History”.
3.This was Alfred Hitchcock’s second Hollywood movie after coming to America from England.The first was “Rebecca” which was also released in 1940.
4.Originally the movie was going to be set in the Spanish Civil War, but it ended too soon for the movie to be topical.
5.It received five Academy Award nominations, but won none. It lost Best Picture to “Rebecca”.Albert Besserman was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.It was also nominated for Original Screenplay, Art Direction, Cinematography, and Special Effects.
6.Besserman was German and did not speak English.He memorized his lines phonetically.
7.Hitchcock wanted Gary Cooper to play Jones / Haverstock, but Cooper did not want to make a thriller.He later admitted he made a mistake.Clark Gable turned down the role and Cary Grant was not available because he was filming “Only Angels Have Wings”.He wanted Joan Fontaine to play Carol, but her studio would not loan her.
8.Hitchcock makes his cameo around the thirteen-minute mark.He is reading a newspaper when Haverstock sees Meer getting in a car.
9.Ben Hecht was brought in after the movie was completed to write a new ending which involved Haverstock giving an inspirational speech at a radio station.The scene was filmed on July 5 and bombs fell on London on July 10.The original ending had Haverstock discussing the events of the film on a transatlantic flight.
10.Josef Goebbels admired the film and felt it was a “masterpiece of propaganda”.The film was not shown in Germany until several years after WWII and not shown uncut until 1995.
11.Hitchcock may have gotten his persona for his TV show from working with humorist Peter Benchley on this film.Benchley wrote his own lines.

Belle and Blade = N/A
Brassey’s = 5.0
Video Hound = N/A
War Movies = 5.0
Military History = #86
Channel 4 = not on list
Film Site = yes
101 War Movies = no

OPINION: Once again, we have movie that is not really a war movie. “Foreign Correspondent” is clearly a Hitchcockian mystery/thriller. It is not even a good Hitchcock movie. I would not put it in his top five. The plot and characters are not realistic or believable. It should not be on this list.
 
May 2011
592
New Iberia, La.
85. Ride With the Devil (1999)

SYNOPSIS: It is an Ang Lee film set in Missouri during the Civil War. Jake Roedel (Tobey McGuire) joins the Bushwhackers who are secessionists at war with the Unionists and Union army. It is a messy guerrilla war that leads up to the infamous raid on Lawrence, Kansas. Roedel and his buddies (one of whom is a slave fighting alongside his master) go through a lot, but he does find time to marry a feisty widow (Jewel). Jake has to contend with a nemesis played with verve by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.

BACK-STORY: It is a film by Ang Lee (“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”) and has his typical lush colors. It is based on the novel Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell. The actors were put through a three-week boot camp. The movie bombed at the box office.

TRIVIA: Wikipedia, imdb

1. Jewel made her acting debut. She claims that director Ang Lee chose her because her crooked teeth were appropriate for a poor Southern woman.
2. The movie used over 250 Civil War era pistols.
3. There were over 200 reenactors involved.
4. The movie was shot on location in Missouri. Pattonsburg stood in for Lawrence. Pattonsburg had been flooded in 1993 and the city was relocated leaving many empty buildings and houses.
5. Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon passed on the lead role that went to Tobey McGuire.

Belle and Blade = N/A
Brassey’s = N/A
Video Hound = N/A
War Movies = N/A
Military History = not on list
Channel 4 = #73
Film Site = no
101 War Movies = yes


OPINION: The inclusion of “Ride With the Devil” on the list is a bit of a surprise. The movie did not make a dent at the box office and was not critically acclaimed. However, the movie did not get the respect it deserved. It is one of the better Civil War movies and covers an overlooked theater of the war. The war in Missouri was like a mini civil war that was marred by the nastiness that irregular wars are typified by. It was neighbor versus neighbor. The movie’s strengths are the acting by a good cast and the historical accuracy (although the main characters are fictional). Lee adds his vibrant visuals to a war movie and it makes for an original take on the Civil War. It deserves to be on the list and seems appropriately placed.
 
May 2011
592
New Iberia, La.
84. Casualties of War

SYNOPSIS: It is the tale of an atrocity in the Vietnam War. A small recon patrol is sent out to locate an enemy base camp. For recreational purposes, the sergeant (Sean Penn) has them kidnap a Vietnamese girl. One of the men (Michael J. Fox) is not on board for the entertainment and after the mission ends in a fire-fight, brings charges against his squad-mates.

BACK-STORY: "Casualties of War" is Brian De Palma's entry into the Vietnam War movies competition. It was based on an actual incident known as "the incident on Hill 192" which occurred in 1966. De Palma wanted to make the movie after reading Daniel Lang's article in The New Yorker in 1969. Lang later turned the article into a book entitled "Casualties of War". The movie was filmed in Thailand where the local cuisine ravaged the cast. The bridge used in the climactic scene was part of the Japanese Burma railway system of River Kwai fame. The budget was $22 million and the box office was $19 million. The movie was a hit with most critics and is considered by some to be one of the better Vietnam War films.

TRIVIA: Making of documentary, Wikipedia, imdb

1. Brian DePalma wanted to make the movie after reading Daniel Lang's article in the New Yorker in 1969. Lang wrote about the "incident on Hill 192". Later Lang turned it into a book entitled Casualties of War. No studio wanted anything to do with a controversial Vietnam War movie at the time. DePalma was only able to get financing after his successes with movies like "The Untouchables".
2. Screenwriter David Rabe was a playwright. He was a veteran of Vietnam. He wanted to end the film with Eriksson having a nightmare about the other four getting revenge. He was not happy with DePalma's more upbeat conclusion.
3. DePalma was very anti-Vietnam War. He had avoided the draft by doing several things including claiming to be homosexual.
4. DePalma approached Michael J. Fox about doing the film. Fox was interested in continuing to break out of light comedies. He had already made "Light of Day" and "Bright Lights, Big City". Fox got very ill from the Thai food and spent some time in a hospital during the shoot. He gave gifts to the snake-beaters who protected the sets.
5. Sean Penn was already an established star. He stayed away from Fox during the production and made remarks about Fox's status as an actor. Whether this was to enhance the tension between their characters or he was being a dick is unclear. I think the latter. Fox was diplomatic in describing the experience.
6. John C. Reilly had been hired as an extra. He had just gotten off a 24 hour flight back to Chicago when DePalma had him reboard to assume the role of Hatcher. This was necessitated by the firing of Stephen Baldwin. The movie was Reilly's debut. This was also true for John Lejiuzamo.
7. Thuy Thu Le answered a casting call in Paris because she wanted to meet DePalma. It was her first and only role. She became a schoolteacher in California. Her voice as the girl on the train was dubbed by Amy Irving.
8. Principal photography was done in Thailand. The bridge in the climactic scene was part of the Burmese Railway featured in "Bridge on the River Kwai".

Belle and Blade = 4.5
Brassey's = 2.0
Video Hound = N/A
War Movies = N/A
Military History = not on list
Channel 4 = #55
Film Site = yes
101 War Movies = no

OPINION: "Casualties" is often overlooked in the Vietnam War canon. While not in a league with the iconic films like "Platoon" and "Full Metal Jacket", it does have the advantage of being a true story and is actually pretty accurate in covering the incident on Hill 192. Fox does a great job as the naïve, but principled protagonist. Unfortunately, the movie is taken down a notch by a grating performance by Penn. The rest of the cast is fine with early roles for John Leguizamo and John C. Reilly. It's position at #84 shows that the experts can sometimes get things right.