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Best war movies of all time

  • Best war movies of all time

    Here's the thing about war: it's always been around. Historians believe the first war took place in Mesopotamia in 2,700 B.C. In fact, of the past 3,400 years, humans have been at peace for only 268.

    This is all to say that for millennia, there has been a fascination with war—both the waging of it and the recounting of its stories. Since the start of civilization, people have engaged in war and recounted conflicts through oral, visual, and written storytelling. The 20th century saw this type of storytelling evolve into motion pictures. In fact, one of the earliest films ever made, 1915’s “Birth of a Nation,” was about the Civil War and subsequent Reconstruction. Even before making that controversial film, director D.W. Griffith had made numerous one-reelers centered on the events of the Civil War.

    While some war films emphasize the inhumanity of battle, others focus on the valiant heroes carrying out their patriotic duties. There are also films that take another approach by focusing on how war can influence the lives of civilians or soldiers who’ve returned home. When taken as a whole, the genre leaves no psychological or physical stone unturned. In other words, if it’s been done in battle, it’s probably been reproduced on screen.

    Stacker compiled data on all war movies to come up with a Stacker score—a weighted index split evenly between IMDb and Metacritic scores. To qualify, the film had to be listed as “war” on IMDb, have a Metascore, and have at least 2,500 votes. Ties were broken by Metascore, and further ties were broken by IMDb user rating. Every film on the list has been considered according to the cinematic history and development of the genre. Click through to see which films made the cut.

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  • #50. Hotel Rwanda (2004)

    - Director: Terry George
    - Stacker score: 86
    - Metascore: 79
    - IMDb user rating: 8.1
    - Runtime: 121 min

    Paul Rusesabagina and his wife, Tatiana, are hoteliers living in Rwanda during the genocide. The film follows the couples' heroic efforts to save more than 1,000 refugees by turning their Hotel des Mille Collines into a shelter. The film is based on a true story. The producers of the movie teamed up with the United Nations Foundation to create the International Fund for Rwanda, which provided assistance for survivors of the genocide.

  • #49. The Hill (1965)

    - Director: Sidney Lumet
    - Stacker score: 86
    - Metascore: 81
    - IMDb user rating: 7.9
    - Runtime: 123 min

    Five soldiers of the British army are captured in a detention camp in the Libyan Desert during World War II, among them Sgt. Major Roberts, who is convicted of assaulting an officer. As penance, he endures the Sisyphean task of climbing a hill in the blistering heat, over and over again. Sean Connery took on the lead because it was a drastic change from his typical James Bond persona, he told The New York Times.

  • #48. The English Patient (1996)

    - Director: Anthony Minghella
    - Stacker score: 87
    - Metascore: 87
    - IMDb user rating: 7.4
    - Runtime: 162 min

    A man suffering from burn wounds finds himself at the hands of a nurse in an Italian monastery at the end of World War II. Through a series of flashbacks he describes to his nurse, we learn about his true identity and a woman he left behind. “The English Patient” was released to a mountain of praise, receiving 12 Oscar nominations. It took home nine, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress.

  • #47. 1917 (2019)

    - Director: Sam Mendes
    - Stacker score: 87
    - Metascore: 78
    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Runtime: 119 min

    Two World War I British soldiers are tasked with a seemingly insurmountable mission: cross into enemy territory to deliver a message that could save 1,600 of their fellow soldiers, including one of their own brothers. While the characters were fictionalized, Sam Mendes says he got the idea for the film from snippets of memories his grandfather shared with him about his own experiences in World War I, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

  • #46. From Here to Eternity (1953)

    - Director: Fred Zinnemann
    - Stacker score: 87
    - Metascore: 85
    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Runtime: 118 min

    “From Here to Eternity” follows the intertwining stories of three soldiers stationed in Hawaii and the women in their lives in the days leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. A star-studded cast includes Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr, and Donna Reed. The movie cleaned up at the Academy Awards, taking home best picture, best director, best supporting actor, and best supporting actress.

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  • #45. The Wind Rises (2013)

    - Director: Hayao Miyazaki
    - Stacker score: 87
    - Metascore: 83
    - IMDb user rating: 7.8
    - Runtime: 126 min

    A film doesn't need real-life action in order to be a great war film. Just look at “The Wind Rises,” an anime movie that tells the story of engineer Jiro Horikoshi, whose career credits include the creation of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane. These planes were used by Japan during World War II.

  • #44. City of Life and Death (2009)

    - Director: Chuan Lu
    - Stacker score: 88
    - Metascore: 85
    - IMDb user rating: 7.7
    - Runtime: 133 min

    In the "City of Life and Death," the city they're referring to is Nanjing, China, specifically during the Battle of Nanjing and the subsequent massacre during the second Sino-Japanese War. Prior to being released, the film had to undergo a long period of analysis to maintain Chinese censorship standards. This included script and final approval of the finished film.

  • #43. Timbuktu (2014)

    - Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
    - Stacker score: 88
    - Metascore: 92
    - IMDb user rating: 7.1
    - Runtime: 96 min

    It's a memorable day when The New York Times names your film one of the best films of the 21st century (so far). Timbuktu took the #12 spot on The New York Times' 2017 list of the most important movies of the century. It tells the story of the city of Timbuktu, which is under the control of Islamist extremists, and the relationship between that dynamic and the story of a cattle herder living just outside the city.

  • #42. No Man's Land (2001)

    - Director: Danis Tanovic
    - Stacker score: 88
    - Metascore: 84
    - IMDb user rating: 7.9
    - Runtime: 98 min

    As the name suggests, this film tells the story of two soldiers stuck in no man's land, the trench between enemy lines during the Bosnian War. One soldier is Bosnian and the other Serbian. A third soldier is also with them, laying on top of a bomb that will explode underneath them all if he moves. It marked the breakout of Bosnian writer and director Danis Tanovic and won the Oscar for best foreign language film.

  • #41. Incendies (2010)

    - Director: Denis Villeneuve
    - Stacker score: 88
    - Metascore: 80
    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Runtime: 131 min

    “Incendies” premiered at both the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals in 2010 to critical acclaim. In fact, it was nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign language film. It follows the story of two Canadian twins who return to their mother's home country in the Middle East to shed light on her elusive past while a civil war wages in the background.

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