The Consensus 100 Greatest War Movies

May 2011
New Iberia, La.
42. Battle of Britain (1969)

SYNOPSIS: This all-star epic is a dramatization of the Battle of Britain from WWII. It concentrates on the RAF pilots (Robert Shaw, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer), but gives some coverage to the Luftwaffe. There are some soap operaish elements to it. The movie has excellent aerial combat.

BACK-STORY: “Battle of Britain” was released in 1969 and was specifically meant to be a tribute to “the few”. The movie fits into the sub-genre of old-school all-star epics with vignettes supporting the main story line. It’s sisters are “The Longest Day” (1962) and “The Battle of the Bulge” (1965). In some ways it can be viewed as England’s response to those earlier films. It was directed by Guy Hamilton of “Goldfinger” fame. The screenplay is based on the book The Narrow Margin by Derek Wood and Derek Dempster. The book gives a traditional retelling of the Battle of Britain and thus the movie stands as the definitive film treatment of the battle. It is not a revisionist film. The film was big budget and it shows. Not only did the producers round up most of the great British actors of the time, but they went to a lot of trouble and expense to round up military hardware appropriate for a 1940 air battle. During the filming, more bullets (in the form of blanks) were fired than in the actual Battle of Britain. The movie has a very impressive list of technical advisers which included famous aces Adolf Galland and Robert Stanford Tuck. Several airfields that were part of the battle were used in the film. The scenes at RAF Fighter Command were filmed at the headquarters of Fighter Command. Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding's original office was used.

TRIVIA: wikipedia, imdb,TCM

1. Technical advisers included three of the greatest aces of WWII: Robert Stanford Tuck, Ginger Lacey, and Adolf Galland. Lacey was the main adviser. He shot down the second most German planes in the battle and finished with a total of 28 for the war. Tuck shot down 29 and was captured and imprisoned for much of the war. Galland became head of Luftwaffe fighters and was famous for speaking his mind to authority. He is portrayed in the film as Major Falke who gets to say Galland’s famous line about Goring giving his squadron some Spitfires. Galland wondered why they did not use his name for the character. So do I! Tuck and Galland became close friends because of the experience and Tuck became Galland’s son’s godfather.

2. The movie had the use of over 100 aircraft including 12 flyable Spitfires and 3 Hurricanes. The Germans were played by 32 Spanish versions of the He-111 and 27 versions of the Me-109. This “air force” was the 35th largest in the world at the time. The Ju-87 Stukas were models. Models that dropped their bombs AFTER they dropped their bombs.

3. The main filming platform was a B-25 Mitchell.

4. Queen Elizabeth II attended the premiere at Leicester Square in London.

5. Two samples were used in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”.The noise of the Stukas diving and the phrase “Where the hell are you, Simon?”

6. The aerial footage was reused in “Midway”, “Dark Blue World”, “Baa Baa Black Sheep”, “Piece of Cake”, and in the video for “Skeet Surfing” in the movie “Top Secret!”.

Belle and Blade = 2.5
Brassey’s = 3.0
Video Hound = 3.8
War Movies = 3.1
Military History = #90
Channel 4 = #29
Film Site = yes
101 War Movies = yes
Rotten Tomatoes = no

OPINION: “Battle of Britain” is a good movie, but probably does not deserve the fondness many war movie buffs have for it. As a tutorial, it does a fine job in informing about this important event in history. It is fair-minded and does not treat the Germans as evil and the British as saints. In fact, it is not even very patriotic, which is surprising considering it was made in England in the 30th anniversary of the beginning of WWII. It covers both strategy and tactics so you get the pilots perspective as well as what the commanders were thinking. Unlike “Midway”, BOB makes better use of its cast. The heavy-weights (with the exception of Olivier) are put in officer rather than high command roles. This allows Shaw, Plummer, and Micheal Caine (Squadron Leader Canfield) to put their stamps on their roles. They are all effective. The dogfights are spectacular, but tend to be repetitive as the movie goes along. The stand-out is the “silent” scene which is almost surreal. Interestingly, the score for this scene is from the original composer and differs from the more bombastic, patriotic music that backs the rest of the movie.
In conclusion, “Battle of Britain” is the best movie on its subject. It could have been better, but it could also have been much worse. The producers tried hard and deserve to be credited with a game effort. You can learn a lot from this movie and if you hate to read it’s the best tutorial you will get.
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May 2011
New Iberia, La.
Can anyone tell me about where to watch these war movies ?? I am a woman but I love to watch war movies. I found a website Showbox App Download Updated Guide 2019: Windows/Android - Showbox , IS anyone ever present here watches the movies on this platform so he can help me in downloading this app ?? If you know about any other sites then You can tell me about that.
Personally, I don't use any of those "free" sites for fear they are illegal. (Not that I'm not open to a suggestion of a safe site.) I use Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube (some of the older ones are on it intact). I have seen all 100 of these movies and some I had to get the DVD or pay to watch it. P.S. If you love war movies, I run a Facebook group called War Movie Lovers Group and I have a blog called War Movie Buff.
May 2011
New Iberia, La.
41. Guns of Navarone (1961)

SYNOPSIS: “The Guns of Navarone” is a WWII action/adventure based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. A commando team of various talents is sent to a German controlled island to destroy two enormous artillery pieces that control the nearby sea and would prevent a British fleet from passing by. They have to overcome obstacles like climbing a cliff in a rainstorm, a traitor in their midst, and getting into the well-defended emplacement. The cast is led by Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, David Niven, and Anthony Quayle.

BACKSTORY: “The Guns of Navarone” was released in 1961 and was the top box office attraction of that year. It is based on the popular novel (1957) by Alistair MacLean, although the characters underwent major changes by screenwriter Carl Foreman ( for instance, there are no major female characters in the book ). At $6 million, the film was one of the most expensive up to that time. It paid off as the movie was a smash hit and critically acclaimed. It served as a template for the James Bond series with its mixture of action, characters, and exotic locale. It is often linked with similar movies from that time period, specifically with “Bridge on the River Kwai”, “The Longest Day”, and “The Great Escape”. It was nominated for 7 Academy Awards and won for Best Special Effects. It was awarded the Golden Globe for Drama. One of the Oscar nods went to Foreman for his first credited screenplay since being blacklisted as a Communist. The movie was filmed mostly on the island of Rhodes which hosted an all-star cast. One of whom, David Niven, almost died during filming because of immersion in a pool of water for the explosives on the elevator shaft scene.

TRIVIA: Wikipedia, imdb, TCM, Cinema Retro

1. The original director was Alexander MacKendrick. He was fired (officially he was ill) by producer Carl Foreman for creative differences. Foreman had set himself up as second unit director and was very protective of his script. He also felt MacKendrick was not up to his standards. Foreman also found fault with the script written by thriller writer Eric Ambler and decided to write it himself. Foreman, a communist sympathizer, had been blacklisted in the U.S. during the Korean War. Although he had dropped out of the Communist Party ten years earlier, he refused to name names before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. After finishing “High Noon”, he had relocated to England.

2. Director J. Lee Thompson had had a great success with “Ice Cold in Alex”. He later went on to direct “John Goldfarb, Please Come Home”. He was known for frequent rehearsing. The movie uses a lot of painted mattes for effects and rear projection. Most of the shots of the boat are models. The cliff scene was done on the floor of the studio with the actors lying down for the scaling.

3. The Greek government provided a thousand troops, dozens of vehicles, and a number of ships. Foreman was given access to all historical sites. The cooperation soured after Thompson accidentally sank the ship in the scene where their boat is stopped by a German patrol ship. Members of the royal family appear in the wedding banquet scene.

4. The shipwreck scene was done in the studio tank using airplane engines that had water from fire hoses sprayed into them. It took 10 days. The tidal wave was an effect. Peck suffered a deep gash on his head and was nearly crushed by the hydraulics. Quinn injured his back. Niven reopened an old war wound. Darren nearly drowned.

5. Peck was chosen after William Holden asked for too much and did not want to star because he felt the movie was too much like “Bridge on the River Kwai”. Peck liked the anti-war theme because he was a confirmed pacifist who had not supported U.S. intervention in WWII until Operation Barbarossa. He refused to do an English accent so the character was changed to American. He later admitted he was miscast. His German was dubbed. He was hoping to revive a career that was beginning to skid.

6. Anthony Quinn loved the Rhodes location shoot so much he bought land in the area that is still called Anthony Quin Bay. He and Peck did not get along at first, but bonded over chess (which Quinn was very good at). He angered the cast by wearing the vibrant red t-shirt under his uniform and then using its uncovering to steal eyeballs in the climactic scenes.

7. David Niven felt his role was underwritten and pouted a bit about it. This movie was the only one that the anti-smoking Brit smoked in. Niven returned to the British Army at the start of the war. He was the only British actor to return to serve in the war. He was assigned to a commando unit, but did not like to talk about his experiences. He suffered a serious viral infection shooting the rigging the rigging the elevator scene because the water was polluted. He came close to dying and was hospitalized for several weeks. The movie was in jeopardy until he returned.

8. Anthony Quayle was a Major organizing guerrilla forces in Albania during WWII.

9. Bobby Darren was hoping to change his teen idol image, but his next movie was the sequel to “Gidget” in which he played Moondoggie. He had only ten lines of dialogue.

10. Stanley Baker was a big star in England, but was not high on the movie’s totem pole. He was bitter throughout the filming.

11. Gia Scala (Anna) was a head-case and difficult to work with (she later committed suicide). She was upset with director Thompson for having her character with short hair. When given the opportunity to cut Foreman’s hair, she gouged the back of it.

12. Dimitri Tiomkin got a record $50,000 and a percent of the profits. The score was the longest ever at 147 minutes.

13. The guns were built by an armaments company and were functional. The guns were based on Big Bertha. The guns set was the largest ever built. It took five months. It was three stories high and had and working elevator.

14. The number of times Barnsby (Richard Harris) says “bloody” in his rant about aerial bombing of the guns – 9. The British censor insisted it be redubbed “ruddy” for British prints.

15. *** Spoiler Alert: Foreman made substantial changes to the novel. He added the Pappadimos character. He added the leadership dysfunction between Mallory and Miller. He added the revenge issue for Stavros with regard to Mallory. He added Stavros saving Mallory on the cliff. He built up the scopolamine angle. Mallory kills the traitor. He added the wedding scene. There was no well of water at the bottom of the elevator in the book. (I bet Niven wished he had not added that!) He made the story more anti-war.

Belle and Blade = 2.0
Brassey’s = 4.0
Video Hound = 4.4
War Movies = 5.0
Military History = #93
Channel 4 = #14
Film Site = no
101 War Movies = yes
Rotten Tomatoes = no

OPINION: Although considered one of the great manly films, “Guns” is probably a bit overrated. It has some ridiculous moments like the escape from the German arresters and Pappidamos’ machine gun duel. Not to mention squeezing a song into a war movie! It also has several standard movie clichés like Stavros finding a woman in the end to restart his life. The Germans are depicted as not so much evil as stupid. The movie is also a little slow and talkie at times. When compared to a similar MacLean inspired movie, “Where Eagles Dare” (which did not make the list), it comes up short in almost every way. However, as an example of an old school action movie set in war, it is pretty good. It has the old-fashioned soundtrack, stellar acting, and the twist of who the traitor is. It is rousing entertainment, but a bit staid.
Oct 2018
Adelaide south Australia
Gee, I 'd forgotten this film, great memories..

Saw it with my Dad on one of our rare outings together when it first came out.. It was in Adelaide's ;fanciest theatre, 'The Regent":
Sweeping white marble staircase, red and gold carpet, statues. Inside, massive chandeliers, and an organ which rose majestically through the floor with the organist playing something grand..--------

We both loved it. I do remember thinking Gregory Peck was very hammy. The finale was fantastic; guns blown up along with a gratifying number of Nazis.

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
44. Wings (1927)

SYNOPSIS: "Wings" is the granddaddy of all aerial combat movies. It is the tale of two Americans (Charles Rogers, Richard Arlen) who go off to the Western Front to become pilots. They start off enemies, but that changes. They are joined by the girl next door (Clara Bow) for a romantic subplot. There is plenty of aerial derring do.

BACK-STORY: "Wings" was a movie that was loaded with firsts. First aerial combat movie. First male kiss. First Best Picture (and the only silent movie until "The Artist"). It set the template for future air combat movies. The director was William "Wild Bill" Wellman ("Beau Geste", "The Story of G.I. Joe", "Battleground") who had been a pilot with the Lafayette Escadrille in WWI. Sadly, he is one of the few directors who were not even nominated for his Best Picture efforts. The movie was filmed at Kelly Field in San Antonio with full cooperation of the U.S. military. The planes provided were mainly Thomas-Morse MB-3s and Curtiss PW-8s. The German fighters were played by Curtiss P-1 Hawks. One stunt flier broke his neck in a crash and another was a fatality.

TRIVIA: wikipedia, imdb, TCM

1. It was filmed at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas.

2. Director William Wellman had been in the Lafayette Flying Corps in WWI. He flew Nieuport 24's and chalked up three confirmed kills and five probables. He was shot down and had a permanent limp from the incident. He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre. His wife and daughter played the mother and daughter of the farmhouse where the crash occurs. Wellman himself has a cameo as a doughboy and has the line: "Atta boy!Them buzzards are good after all!" Wellman was notoriously anti-infantry.

3. The Battle of St. Mihiel took ten days of rehearsing. The Pentagon provided 3,500 soldiers and five tanks. It also cooperated with over 100 planes for the production.300 pilots were used. An Army Air Corps pilot was killed in a crash during the production.

4. The entire score was written, composed, and recorded on a Wurlitzer Pipe Organ.

5. It won the first Oscar for Best Picture (called Best Production back then) and was the only silent movie to win until "The Artist". It also won for Engineering Effects.

6. The script was adjusted for Clara Bow. She did not like the movie. She complained that her uniform did not show off her curves enough. She does flash a bit of nudity, but you have to be very good at pausing. She had recently gotten engaged, but that did not stop her from having an affair with Gary Cooper during the production.

7. Cooper was launched to stardom by his small role. He was distraught with his performance and went to Wyler to ask for a reshoot because he had picked his nose in the scene. Wyler told him to keep picking his nose because he was going to be a star.

8. Main actors Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen are actually flying their planes for closeups. Their kiss was one of the first male kisses in film history.

9. It has one of the earliest product placements - Hershey's Chocolate Bar.

Belle and Blade = N/A
Brassey's = 5.0
Video Hound = 3.8
War Movies = N/A
Military History = #11
Channel 4 = no
Film Site = yes
101 War Movies = yes
Rotten Tomatoes = no

OPINION: "Wings" probably deserved the Best Picture award. It is epic in scale and execution. Wellman had access to 60 planes and 3,500 extras. He also had a bevy of intrepid stunt men who were willing to risk life and limb to depict the thrills of air combat. The acrobatics of the doomed planes are particularly impressive. In this film even the planes ham it up. The acting is problematical. Clara Bow dominates when she is on screen. I know our perceptions of what is hot has changed greatly from the 1920s, but she has "it" even in today's climate. Rogers and Arlen give typical silent movie over-emoting performances. The movie is melodramatic and patriotic, especially in the title cards, but not overly propagandistic. It does not demonize the enemy. The movie is justifiably famous for its aerial sequences. They are among the best from that era. Better than most, but not superior to "Hell's Angels" (which was greatly influenced by it). Amazingly, the trench sequences are actually stronger than the air combat and they get much more coverage than in similar films. In conclusion, it is certainly a very important film, but it is not worthy of being in the top 50 war movies.
Given some of the other choices you listed, it has far more right to be in the top 50. For historical purposed alone, and its impact on future movies, it deserves to the in the top 50.
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May 2011
New Iberia, La.
40. THE DEER HUNTER (1978)

SYNOPSIS: It covers the impact of the Vietnam War on some working-class buddies who live in a Pennsylvania steel town. The first part depicts a traditional wedding of one of them. Three of the friends go to Vietnam and are captured by the Viet Cong and tortured. They eventually get away, but one stays in Vietnam as the other two return home. Michael (Robert DeNiro) goes back to try to find Nick (Christopher Walken).

BACK-STORY: “The Deer Hunter” was released in 1978 and was the first important major motion picture about the Vietnam War. Its success marked the rise of the subgenre that has produced some great war movies. Significantly, 1978 also saw the releases of “Coming Home”, “The Boys in Company C”, and “Go Tell the Spartans”. The movie was directed and co-written by Michael Cimino and marked the peak of his career. He battled the suits to get his vision on the screen and succeeded for the most part. The movie was a big critical hit and did well at the box office. It was awarded Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Christopher Walken), Editing, and Sound. It was nominated for Actor (Robert De Niro), Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep), Cinematography, and Original Screenplay. It is ranked #53 on the most recent AFI’s greatest movies list. The film was Streep’s first big movie role and ironically, John Cazales’ last film. He was dying from cancer and passed before he saw the finished product.

TRIVIA: wikipedia, imdb, TCM

1. De Niro was a last minute replacement for Roy Scheider who left because of creative differences.

2. John Cazale was dying from terminal cancer. When the studio wanted to drop him, Meryl Streep (who was in a relationship with him) and Cimino threatened to drop out. Since he was uninsurable, De Niro paid the insurance. nominated for Best Picture.

3. Streep’s role was enhanced after she was cast. Cimino had her write her own lines.

4. It was based on a script called “The Man Who Came to Play” which was about Russian roulette in Las Vegas.

5. The scenes in Clairton were actually filmed in eight different towns in four states.

6. The wedding scene lasts 51 minutes. Cimino originally claimed it would last 21 minutes. The Russian immigrants who were the extras for the scene were asked to bring wrapped boxes as authentic looking gifts. When production was over, the crew opened up the boxes and found actual wedding gifts.

7. The deer (actually an elk) that Michael lets go was later used in commercials for Connecticut Life.

8. The river Michael and Steven fall into was the River Kwai. DeNiro and Savage did their own stunt – fifteen times.

9. When Nick spits in Michael’s face, Walken ad-libbed it and De Niro was not happy.

10. The slapping by the Viet Cong leader was for real. Cimino cast an actor who hated Americans

11. When Steven is in the cage and yells “Michael, there’s rats in here”, it was Savage telling Cimino that there were actual rats on the set.

12. De Niro has said that Michael’s visit to see Steven in the hospital was the most emotional scene in his career. He also said the movie was the most physically exhausting of all his movies.

13. When Michael puts the pistol to Stan’s head to reenact Russian roulette, De Niro insisted on a bullet being in the gun. Cazale insisted on checking the gun before each take.

Belle and Blade = 2.5
Brassey’s = 4.0
Video Hound = 3.1
War Movies = 4.4
Military History = #29
Channel 4 = #12
Film Site = no
101 War Movies = yes
Rotten Tomatoes = #30

OPINION: This is an extremely well-made movie. The cinematography and acting keep you focused through the slow moments. The interior shots are intimate, the exterior shots of Clairton are industrially grimy. The hunting scenery is breathtaking. The camera work is not pretentious. The score is fine. The movie also has an eclectic mix of period songs.

The acting could not be better. De Niro and Walken are electric from their first appearance. This was Walken’s first major role and seldom is it more obvious that you are watching the beginning of a great career. Streep is Streep, of course. She wrote some of her lines and the role was expanded because of her talent. The rest of the cast is up to these three. Special mention has to be made of John Cazales. It was tragic that this was his last film, but he went out on top. As usual, he plays a dislikable character, but he makes a good foil for Mike. Savage is kind of odd man out, but he gives a sincere performance as the weakest of the “warriors”. The screenplay tends to be a little heavy-handed. The themes are hammered in. War impacts not just the warriors. There are different types of wounds – physical and mental. Cimino comments on working class patriotism and male bonding in a knowing way.

In conclusion, “The Deer Hunter” is an important movie. It opened the flood gate of Vietnam movies and still remains one of the best. I think it is appropriately placed at #40 on the list of great war movies.
May 2011
New Iberia, La.
39. A Bridge Too Far (1977)

SYNOPSIS: "A Bridge Too Far" is an all-star battle epic from the subgenre founded by "The Longest Day". It is the story of Operation Market Garden in WWII Europe. This was an attempt to seize several bridges leading into Germany. The movie covers both the British and the American effort and also gives the German perspective. It tends toward being command-centric, but has a lot of combat.

“A Bridge Too Far” is basically a sequel to “The Longest Day” and suffers a bit in the comparison. They are both based on books by Cornelius Ryan. ABTF was released in 1977, three years after the book. It has a similar format as its sister film – the all-star cast in a war epic. The movie was something of a flop which should not have been a surprise given that it was about a mostly British affair and a loss at that. Given the odds stacked against it, the movie mirrors the event it portrays in that respect.

TRIVIA: wikipedia, imdb, TCM

1. It is based on the book by Cornelius Ryan. He also wrote The Longest Day.

2. One thousand paratroopers using Dakotas were used in the drop scenes.

3. Dirk Bogarde had been on Montgomery’s staff . He was an intelligence officer who was sent to Arnhem during the battle. He took issue with the portrayal of Gen. Browning, as did Browning’s family.

4. All the lead actors agreed to work for “favored nation” fees which was $250,000 per week. Robert Redford was an exception. He was paid $2 million for two weeks work.

5. Director Richard Attenborough shot 2.7 million feet of film, equivalent to more than 500 hours.

Belle and Blade = 2.5
Brassey’s = 4.0
Video Hound = 4.4
War Movies = 3.1
Military History = #94
Channel 4 = #7
Film Site = yes
101 War Movies = yes
Rotten Tomatoes = no

The obvious thing to do is to compare this movie to “The Longest Day”. In some ways it is a sequel and we all know about sequels – they seldom live up to the original. However, ABTF has some big shoes to fill and it is probably asking too much for it to surpass or even equal its parent. Technically, it is a superior film. The airborne landing scene and the fighting in Arnhem are superior to any action in TLD. Compare the combat in Arnhem specifically to the scenes in Ouistreham and you will see what I mean.
Another comparison is ABTF is more command-centric than TLD. There is only one grunt character – Dohun. TLD is full of privates. I do not know if it reflects the difference, but Sean Connery portrays a private in TLD and he has been promoted to general by ABTF ( think on that ). It does not have to be either/or as TLD proves with its blend of scenes showing the strategic ( the generals ) and the tactical ( the foot soldiers and their officers ). ABTR does not blend as well.

I admire the guts of the producers in making a movie that is a history lesson and a downer at that. I cannot believe the marketing people were thrilled with that. Kudos for swimming upstream.

The movie came out in the mid-seventies and reflects the transition from old-school war movies ( like TLD ) to the more cynical modern war film ( Patton ). It clearly reflects the post-Vietnam view of the military and warfare in general. The emphasis on SNAFU, clueless strategists, the waste of human lives, and pressing on with flawed plans are apparent in the movie.

"A Bridge Too Far" is sadly underrated, but not here. It is fairly treated on this list. I can see why people who don't care about history might not be excited about it, but as a war movie lover it is a real treat.
Jan 2017
I know a couple people who absolutely despise The Deer Hunter, main criticisms centre around the wedding scene (too long), russian roulette scenes (unrealistic) and the depiction of the Viet Cong (racist). Maybe it's also down to Cimino's career tanking after "Heaven's Gate", considered too difficult for audiences to get on the same wavelength as him, though even with all those criticisms Idoubt many people can fault the acting in Deer Hunter.