The Consensus 100 Greatest War Movies

May 2011
383
New Iberia, La.
#61
53. The Dam Busters (1955)

SYNOPSIS: “The Dam Busters” is an old-school British film about a bombing mission to destroy some German dams. It covers the development of a “bouncing bomb” by a scientist named Barnes Wallis (Michael Redgrave) and the training and delivery by a squadron of Lancaster bombers led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson (Richard Todd). The movie concludes with the iconic bombing raid.

BACK-STORY: The studio asked Paul Brickhill to write a treatment of his book for a possible Richard Todd vehicle. Brickhill decided to concentrate on just Operation Chastise and not include the later missions covered in the book. Operation Chastise was the bombing of three Ruhr Valley dams using Wallis’ bouncing bombs. R.C. Sheriff (“Journey’s End”) wrote the screenplay. The director was Michael Anderson (“Operation Crossbow”). It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Special Effects. It was nominated for BAFTA’s for Best British Film, Best Screenplay, and Best Film From Any Source. It was voted the 68th best British film of the 20th Century. It was the biggest box office success of 1955.

TRIVIA:Wikipedia, imdb

1. It is based on “The Dam Busters” by Paul Brickhill and “Enemy Coast Ahead” by Guy Gibson.

2. It was the biggest box office hit in 1955 in Great Britain.

3. The climactic attack scene (and the one in “633 Squadron”) influenced the attack on the Death Star in “Star Wars”.

4. The War Ministry made four Lancasters available for 130 pounds per plane per day.This cost was 10% of the budget.

5. Guy Gibson’s dog was named N*****, so the movie is accurate about that.The dog was not as beloved by the squadron as the movie implies.The men would get him drunk and he would pee on their pants.Unlike the movie, the driver of the car tried to avoid hitting him and several passengers were injured in the crash.The dog used in the movie was also named N*****.In 1999, ITV censored the name and in American versions of the movie, the name was changed to Trigger.

6. Before release, Gibson’s widow sued, which held the film up for months until references to her husband’s book were added to the movie.

Belle and Blade = 3.5
Brassey’s = 4.0
Video Hound = N/A
War Movies = 3.8
Military History = no
Channel 4 = #11
Film Site = no
101 War Movies = yes
Rotten Tomatoes = no

OPINION: It is historically accurate in the main points. It is pretty realistic for its time. It was a huge hit in England, helped by the thrilling opening theme. It glamorizes the RAF like "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" recruited for the U.S. Air Force. The two parts are both interesting and the raid itself is thrilling. However, it is definitely old school in its quaintness and Peter Jackson's version should be much better, although unnecessary. It may be the 53rd greatest war movie, but it is not the 53rd best war movie.
 
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#62
Another great Brit war milm.

Two others I like------Of course, I saw these as a gossoon. In more innocent times, when one simply believed the tag "based on a true story"

The Cruel Sea

The Cruel Sea is a 1953 British war film starring Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden, Denholm Elliott, Stanley Baker, Liam Redmond, Virginia McKenna and Moira Lister. The film, which was made by Ealing Studios seven years after the end of the Second World War, was directed by Charles Frend and produced by Leslie Norman. It is based on the best selling novel of the same name by former naval officer Nicholas Monsarrat, though the screenplay by Eric Ambler omits some of Monsarrat's grimmest moments.

The Cruel Sea (1953 film) - Wikipedia


Reach For The Sky; a pretty fanciful story about Douglas Bader, a fighter pilot who lost both legs but remained a fighter pilot.

Reach for the Sky is a 1956 British biographical film about aviator Douglas Bader, based on the 1954 biography of the same name by Paul Brickhill. The film stars Kenneth More and was directed by Lewis Gilbert. It won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film of 1956. The film's composer John Addison was Bader's brother-in-law.


Reach for the Sky - Wikipedia
 
May 2011
383
New Iberia, La.
#63
52. The Killing Fields (1984)

SYNOPSIS: “The Killing Fields” is a war journalism movie. It is a tragic buddy film. A New York Times journalist (Sam Waterson) is covering the situation in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge is taking over. He is aided by his Cambodian interpreter (Haing Ngor). When the foreign journalists are evacuated, the interpreter is captured by the Khmer Rouge and put in an indoctrination camp.

BACK-STORY: The movie was Roland Joffe’s directorial debut. The screenplay was based on Schanberg’s article in the NY Times entitled “The Death and Life of Dith Pran”. The movie was a critical and box office success. A British film, it did very well at the BAFTAs winning Best Picture and Actor (Ngor) among other awards. Amazingly, Ngor also won the award for Beat Newcomer. It was nominated for Academy Awards for Picture, Director, Actor (Waterston), and Adapted Screenplay. It won for Supporting Actor (Ngor), Film Editing, and Cinematography. It is #30 on AFIs list of “Most Inspiring Movies”. It is #100 on BFIs list of greatest British films of the 20th Century.

TRIVIA: Wikipedia, imdb

1. Ngor was in the labor camps.His wife died in childbirth because she refused to call for his help because she knew the Khmer Rouge was murdering doctors.After four years, he escaped to Thailand.He was discovered by the casting director at a Cambodian wedding in Los Angeles.He became the first Southeast Asian to win an acting Oscar.He was the second non-professional actor to win one.(First was Harold Russell for “Best Years of Our Lives”.)He was murdered in his garage by a thief interested in his gold locket (which had a picture of his wife).When his Oscar was found in his home, all the gold had been rubbed off it indicating that he had clutched it a lot.

2. It has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

3. The score is by Mike Oldfield of “Exorcist” fame.

Belle and Blade = N/A
Brassey’s = 4.0
Video Hound = N/A
War Movies = 5.0
Military History = no
Channel 4 = #15
Film Site = no
101 War Movies = yes
Rotten Tomatoes = no

OPINION: The plot is solid. The theme of friendship is not maudlin. The final reunion is touching and believable. The movie does a good job of leaving doubts about Schanberg’s motives. His guilt feelings come out and there is an element of redemption, but I felt he was something of an ass hole. This ambiguity added to the depth of the character. The theme of the perseverance of the human spirit as exhibited by Pran’s survival and escape is the main reason the film is rated as inspirational. The camaraderie and competition between the journalists and their love/hate relationship with war is not ground-breaking, but well handled. The government as cover-upper is also stereotypical, but Joffe does not rant.
“The Killing Fields” is an overrated movie, as are most from this subgenre. Movie critics like to imagine that because they write for newspapers, they are kin to war journalists. If they give one of these movies a bad review, they may have to face a collegue who will ask them if they have ever been in the ****. Plus, those guys are fracking crazy and may bash your head with a beer bottle (or put their joint out on your face). As far as the Academy voters are concerned, they love their screenwriter buddies who are cousins to the war journalists.
 
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#64
Good movie set amidst a most distressing subject.

My Sis was in Cambodia on holiday last year.She wanted to see Angkor Wat, She reported with photos, that Cambodia's level of recovery is quite stunning., but that the scars run very deep, as one would expect.
 
May 2011
383
New Iberia, La.
#65
51. Birth of a Nation (1915)

SYNOPSIS: “The Birth of a Nation” is the story of two families during the Civil War and Reconstruction. The Stoneman’s are Northerners and the Cameron’s are Southerners and slave-owners. Ben Cameron is in love with Elsie Stoneman. The war breaks the friendship of the families. The movie concentrates on the Cameron family as it has a pro-Southern point of view. Ben Stoneman goes off to war and the film has a grand depiction of a battle. During Reconstruction, Congressman Stoneman is a Radical Republican who is interested in turning over the South to black rule. Ben fights against this by joining the KKK.

BACK-STORY: “The Birth of a Nation” was the first major motion picture and is both famous and infamous. It was directed by D.W. Griffith and the innovations he incorporated into the production are mind-boggling. The movie created cinema as we know it today. Relative to its budget, the movie became one of the most profitable films in history. When it opened in New York City, tickets were an astronomical $2 (equivalent to about $18 today). The success was in spite of the controversy with regard to its treatment of blacks. The NAACP encouraged boycotts of the film and it was banned in some cities.

TRIVIA: Wikipedia, imdb, TCM

1. it was based on Thomas Dixon’s novels The Clansman and The Leopard’s Spots. The original title was going to be “The Clansman”.

2. The NAACP tried to have it banned.It was banned in some cities like Los Angeles and Chicago.

3. It was the first movie ever screened in the White House. President Wilson was a Southerner and not noted for progressive ideas on race, but he is incorrectly credited with the famous quote:“It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.”Most likely, Dixon made up the quote and attributed it to Wilson. However, his historical take on Reconstruction appears on a title card in the movie and the plot fits his pro-segregation views.

4. Director DW Griffith was the son of a Confederate officer and had a negative view of Reconstruction.Surprisingly, he was taken aback by the backlash to the film’s racism.

5. West Point provided the artillery and technical advice.

6. The movie cost the enormous sum of $110,000.

7. It was the highest grossing film until “Gone with the Wind”.It’s premiere engagement at a NYC theater cost $2 a ticket which would be equivalent to $17-20 today.

8. Most of the African-American characters were played by whites in black-face.Especially if the character came in contact with a white actress.

9. Joseph Henabery, one of the assistant directors, played 13 characters, including Lincoln.

Belle and Blade = N/A
Brassey’s = 4.0
Video Hound = 3.8
War Movies = N/A
Military History = no
Channel 4 = #92
Film Site = yes
101 War Movies = yes
Rotten Tomatoes = no

OPINION: How can a movie be both great and terrible? Watch “Birth of a Nation” and see. If you changed the word “writing” to bulls****ing and the word “true” to false in the Wilson quote, you’d be spot on. The film did hit the nation like a lightning bolt. If it had come out ten years later, it would not have been successful. It was the spectacle that drew people to the theater outside the South. This is the best explanation for why the movie did well in the North. Griffith was a master movie-maker. His innovations helped cinema take off. The movie was the “Citizen Kane” of its day. The cinematography is astounding even today. The battle scenes are epic. The score is grand. The problem is the plot is ahistorical and the stereotypes are vile. It may be great film-making and entertaining story-telling, for that time. But it is a reprehensible work of racism. I strongly feel it does not belong on this list.
 
#66
Congrats on the halfway mark @warmoviebuff !

The 1910s saw the introduction of feature-length films since before then it was cheaper & ultimately more profitable to produce 1 or 2-reel films (which would be classified as short films nowadays), only the biggest studios could afford to produce 90+ minute films back then. Unfortunately a lot of silent-era films are now lost forever since film preservation wasn't a big deal back then.

Italy and France also produced some epic films during that time; historical epic Cabiria (1914) from the former and the crime serial Les Vampires (1915) from the latter.
 
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#67
Have never seen the movie and have no plans to. The subject matter does not appeal.


I do understand that "Birth Of A Nation" is seen as a great movie, especially given at what point of Hollywood history it was made.

However, as I understand( going only by documentaries) is that the film vilifies black Americans ,and glorifies the KKK. Why on earth would I want to watch that?
 
May 2011
383
New Iberia, La.
#68
50. Ballad of a Soldier (1959)

SYNOPSIS: "Ballad of a Soldier" is a Russian movie set in 1942 on the Eastern Front. Alyosha becomes a hero by destroying two German tanks. His reward is a pass to return home. Thus begins an odyssey which sees him interact with various people. The young, humane soldier has a positive effect on those he meets. The backdrop is the desperation of the Great Patriotic War. His most significant encounter is with a young woman named Shura. They have an awkward, chaste, and endearing "affair". He finally arrives home having used up all of his leave getting there.

BACK-STORY: “Ballad of a Soldier” was a Soviet film released in 1959. It is a significant example of the movies made during the period after the death of Stalin and the rise of Khrushchev. The new Soviet dictator loosened the reins on Soviet cinema which resulted in some remarkably non-doctrinal films. In the case of “Ballad”, it helped that Khrushchev was a fan of the director Grigori Chukhrai and allowed even more leniency in censorship. Chukhrai made the daring decision to cast two inexperienced leads, but it paid off. The movie quickly acquired international acclaim including an Oscar nomination for Original Screenplay. It won the BAFTA for Best Film From Any Source. (It tied with “The Hustler”.) It won a special jury prize at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. It is one of the most beloved Soviet-era films.

Belle and Blade = N/A
Brassey’s = 4.0
Video Hound = N/A
War Movies = 5.0
Military History = #81
Channel 4 = no
Film Site = yes
101 War Movies = yes
Rotten Tomatoes = no

OPINION: This is not so much a war movie as a movie set in war. It is certainly interesting and well worth the viewing, but I think it is a tad overrated. It almost seems the critics went overboard in accolades in order to encourage the new cinema that was coming out of Khrushchev’s Russia. Plus, compared to the pompously patriotic films under Stalin, this movie must have been bracingly refreshing.

There is some good cinematography, but some of it is a little artsy. We get lots of close-ups of stoical Russian faces. There are numerous long shots. There is lots of scenery from moving trains.

Some of the characterizations are not true to human nature. For instance, one of the guards Alyosha encounters is armed with a rifle and bayonet, yet turns out to be a pushover who can be bribed with a can meat when he could clearly have taken whatever he wanted. But most perplexing is the portrayal of the Russian officers, starting with the general. I’m not saying all Russian officers were tyrants, but certainly a majority were. The movie has all of them being nice to the enlisted men. This strains credulity.

On the plus side, the main characters are likable. We want Alyosha and Shura to fall in love and live happily ever after. We root for him to get back to his mother. We cheer when the crippled soldier’s wife welcomes him back without flinching. We are incensed that Pavlov’s wife is cheating on him. The movie takes some unexpected turns. It does a great job showing the spirit of the Russian people.
 
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#69
@warmoviebuff

Thanks for that. Had not heard of that movie, will see if I can get hold of a copy.

If you have not seen them, I recommend; "Ivan's Childhood" and "Come and See"

Ivan's Childhood (Russian: Ива́ново де́тство, translit. Ivanovo detstvo), sometimes released as My Name Is Ivan in the US, is a 1962 Soviet war drama film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (his first feature film) and co-written by Mikhail Papava and an uncredited Tarkovsky, based on Vladimir Bogomolov's 1957 short story Ivan (Russian: Иван).[2] The film features child actor Nikolai Burlyayev, Valentin Zubkov, Evgeny Zharikov, Stepan Krylov, Nikolai Grinko, and Tarkovsky's wife Irma Raush.

Ivan's Childhood tells the story of orphaned boy Ivan, whose parents were killed by the invading German forces, and his experiences during World War II. Ivan's Childhood was one of several Soviet films of its period, such as The Cranes Are Flying and Ballad of a Soldier, that looked at the human cost of war and did not glorify the war experience as did films produced before the Khrushchev Thaw.[3] In a 1962 interview, Tarkovsky stated that in making the film he wanted to "convey all [his] hatred of war", and that he chose childhood "because it is what contrasts most with war."[4

Ivan's Childhood - Wikipedia


Come and See (Russian: Иди и смотри, Idi i smotri; Belarusian: Ідзі і глядзі, Idzi i hlyadzi) is a 1985 Soviet war tragedy film[3][4][5][6][7] directed by Elem Klimov, with a screenplay written by Klimov and Ales Adamovich based on the 1978 book I Am from the Fiery Village[8] (original title: Я из огненной деревни,[9] Ya iz ognennoj Derevn, 1977) by Adamovich et al..[10] The film stars Aleksei Kravchenko and Olga Mironova.[11] Come and See appears on many lists of films considered the best, and has been ranked by many as one of the greatest war films of all time.

The film focuses upon the Nazi German occupation of the Byelorussian SSR, and primarily upon the events witnessed by a young Belarusian partisan teenager named Flyora, who—against his parents' wishes—joins the Belarusian resistance movement, and thereafter depicts the Nazi atrocities and human suffering inflicted upon the populace.

Come and See - Wikipedia
 
May 2011
383
New Iberia, La.
#70
49. The Big Parade (1925)

SYNOPSIS: A spoiled rich boy (John Gilbert) is peer-pressured into volunteering for the Western Front in WWI. He befriends two common Joes (Karl Dane and Tom O'Brien) and hooks up with a feisty French femme (Renee Adoree). Before they can consummate the affair, the trio of doughboys are off to fight the Battle of Belleau Wood.

BACK-STORY: "The Big Parade" is a very influential war movie released in 1925. It was directed by King Vidor ("Northwest Passage") and was a huge hit. The film cost $245,000 and made over $22 million. It is the highest grossing silent movie in history. The screenplay is based on a play by Joseph Farnham and the autobiographical novel Plumes by Marine veteran Laurence Stallings. It made a superstar of its lead John Gilbert (previously known for romantic roles opposite Marlene Dietrich) and boosted the career of Renee Adoree, who sadly died a few years later from tuberculosis. Vidor had the cooperation of the War Department, specifically the 2nd Division and the Signal Corps. Vidor watched hours of Signal Corps film to get the rhythm of battle and used some of the footage in the movie.

TRIVIA: wikipedia, imdb, TCM

1. It was based on the autobiographical novel by Laurence Stallings. Stallings had been a Marine captain in WWI and was wounded in the leg in the Battle of Belleau Wood. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre and Silver Star.

2. It was MGMs highest grossing film until "Gone With the Wind".

3. The movie made a major star of Renee Adoree. Unfortunately, she died a few years later at age 35 from tuberculosis. Her co-star John Gilbert died at age 38.

4. The gum chewing scene was improvised after director King Vidor saw a crew member chewing some. He and Gilbert were not expecting Adoree to swallow it at the end of the scene.

5. Vidor had a contract that called for 20% of the profits. The studio's lawyers conned him into believing the movie had been overly costly and would underperform. He sold out for a small sum, thus avoiding becoming a millionaire.

6. After a successful screen testing, it was decided to expand the film. Vidor reshot the column scene with 3,000 extras, 200 trucks, and 100 planes (all provided by the War Department). Uncredited director George W. Hill added some more combat.

7. First film to use the word "damn" (on a title card).Gilbert's Apperson says:"GOD DAMN THEIR SOULS!"

8. Vidor used a bass drum when the soldiers are marching through the woods to get the men to keep a relentless pace into death.

9. It was the second most profitable silent movie after "Birth of a Nation".

Belle and Blade = N/A
Brassey's = 4.0
Video Hound = 3.8
War Movies = N/A
Military History = #58
Channel 4 = no
Film Site = yes
101 War Movies = yes
Rotten Tomatoes = no

OPINION: If you define "greatest" as most important, "The Big Parade" belongs in the top 100 and probably should be higher than #49. It is one of the great WWI movies. It will be interesting to see how it stacks up against "Wings" and "Hell's Angels". As far as the most obvious comparison, it is definitely inferior to "All Quiet" which came out five years later. However, if you define "greatest" as best quality, "The Big Parade" naturally comes up short due to its simplistic plot and the drawbacks of the silent era. I would not hesitate to call it a classic, but it is not one of the best war movies ever made.

The battle section of the movie is very good. It may lack a bit of accuracy and realism, but it is excitingly done. The deaths are unexpected. The fog of war is emphasized. Audiences got a taste of what it must have been like to be trapped in no mans land.

The movie is important because it showed the human dimensions of war. Previous movies about war had not concentrated on the grunts (or in this case, doughboys). You had not seen realistic deaths like Slims and Bulls. The main character would not have been crippled. Previous movies were either anti-German or propagandistic, or both. This movie is neither. It is anti-war, but not as strongly as some critics have claimed. It does have a happy ending which dilutes the anti-war message.
 

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