Wednesday, August 4, 2010


MISSION: The mission I have undertaken is to watch and critique each of the films on Military History magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest War Movies” in reverse order. I hope to watch one movie each week which means this project will take about two years.

THE LIST: The editors of Military History magazine put together a diverse panel of experts which included historians and movie critics to determine the greatest war movies. The movies that made the list reflect the full spectrum of films that could be described as war movies. It includes spy movies, movies set on the home front, and even comedies. “What lifts the films reviewed…at least a cut above the rest is the revealing light they shed on the paradoxes that shape human nature…. They take us to places where the reality and unreality of war intersect.” These qualifications mean there are some movies on the list that many war movie fans will shake their heads at. One of my goals as a war movie buff is to keep an open mind as I review the questionable inclusions on the list.

MY QUALIFICATIONS: I teach Military History at New Iberia Senior High School. I created the course and use war movies as part of the course. I have always loved military history and have read extensively in the field, both nonfiction and fiction. I have been watching war movies since I was a child ( my favorite movie as a boy was “The Great Escape” ). I have also read extensively on the subject of war films. I have seen an enormous amount of war movies and had already seen most of the movies on the list. I have the ability to determine what is Hollywood and what is real history.

THE FORMAT: I will watch one movie per week starting with #100 and working to #1. My review will include back-story, the opening scene, summary, the closing scene ( spoiler alert! ), and the critique. I will grade the movie on action, acting, accuracy, realism, and plot. Most importantly, I will weigh in on how accurate the movie is. I will also include a section entitled “Would Chicks Dig It?” in which I will suggest whether women would like the film. I will conclude with my opinion on how I would rate the movie and whether it deserves its spot on the list. I welcome debate.

THE OUTCOME: You and I will adjust the list so it is the actual 100 greatest war movies of all time. I mention you because I welcome your input. I also welcome suggestions of what movies did not make the list, but should have. I will watch these movies and let you know what I think.


  1. I always enjoy a different approach. As you may have noticed when visiting my blog I just review as I please but I think it is a different and great approach to start from a list like the one you use. Since I have no military background but a father who was pretty much damaged by his war experience (Algeria) and a great grand father who served in French Indochina mine is more an emotional interest. That is why I do appreciate to hear from an expert, so to speak. I tend to overlook inaccuracies but I do not like corny.
    Good luck with the continuation of the project I will revisit.

  2. Wow. Thanks so much. I would not call myself an expert, but I am passionate and I do read alot on Military History and teach a course on it. By the way, one of my biggest frustrations is not being able to show R-rated war movies in my class. Seems most of the great ones are R-rated. Do you have any suggestions?
    As to my project, I am proud of thinking of it and it has lit a fire under me and I am loving it, plus the opportunity to meet interesting people like you. Keep in touch.

  3. I am really thinking about non R-rated movies but it is not going to be easy. Since you teach Military History and not just History there is bound to be combat in the movies you would choose, no? Or would a movie like Enigma also be of interest? Do they have to be on the list you explore? I did not like The Gardens of Stone but I believe it is said to be very accurate regarding Military Life. Court room/legal dramas, Aviation Combat and depictions of Boot Camp are probably most likely not to be R-rated, don't you think?

  4. My class tends to be full of macho teenage boys so I generally need action to keep them interested. Right now in my rotation are: A Walk in the Sun (which I love, but they don't), Master and Commander, the first Horatio Hornblower, the second All Quiet (it's in color), Gettysburg, Glory (rated R, but I have an edited copy - thank God), the Great Escape, 84 Charlie Mopic. The problem I face is any recent movie that is realistic would naturally be rated R.

  5. All great movies. Haven't watched the second All Quiet on the Western front. But the first is a bit hard. I think they would hate it. Still got that silent movie feel and was apparently shot in two versions. What about The Trench. Bit overlooked but good. Hornblower is fun. Did you watch Generation Kill with them?

  6. Please don't forget to change the link on the "Blogs you follow" as it is weird.

  7. I have tried showing the old "All Quiet" in class with lots of groans and yawns. The kids react much better to the remake.
    I can not show Generation Kill because of the language. I get away with showing Band of Brothers because soldier language in WWII was tame compared to Operation Iraqi Freedom. I think there is a commentary on modern society in that statement. I do have to skip the sex scene in BOB, however.
    I do not understand what you are referring to in your last message (I am new to this blogging stuff). Can you e-mail me?

  8. Really I must say, excellent a days I have started to write short reviews because of time constraints but this one is really very informative.

  9. Thank you for your positive remarks. I am aware that my posts are too long for the Internet audiences' limited attention span, but I am doing this blog for myself and people like you. I enjoy the process and if some people read the reviews that is just an added bonus. As I have said before, people can read just parts of the reviews, that's why I have the reviews divided into parts like "Accuracy".

  10. Good initiative! I've only 'discovered' your blog now, but will bookmark and keep track of new reviews. I must commend you on an excellent project. Myself, I've done a BA in history, also following courses on military history, so I do appreciate discussion going a little more in depth!
    Just so I know whats still ahead, did you post that top 100 list somewhere as a whole?

  11. the war movie buffAugust 20, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    Thanks for visiting. Please leave comments, you seem to be in my target audience.

    I have purposely not posted the whole list because I feel it would discourage people from popping in to see where we are on the list.

  12. My father was in the 11 TH BOMB GROUP HEAVY THE 42 SQ. They were there at Hickam the FIRST DAY OF THE WAR and they were there the LAST DAY OF THE WAR.

    The 7 TH Air Corp and the others who fought in the Pacific get the recognition of a politician.

    The fought a FORGOTTEN WAR IN A FORGOTTEN THEATER OF WAR FOR THE US Army Air Corp. There wasn't even an 8TH Air Corp and the 11 TH and its' squadrons were already fighting and having Air Men die.


  13. The Japanese attacked and bombed Hickam, Wheeler and all the other Air Corp bases before Pearl Harbor.

    Has anyone ever heard a song Remember Hickam or Wheeler, no it is Remember Pearl Harbor.

    The 11 TH Bomb Group was at war before and after all over Air Corp or Force Units. They had to win the Pacific living in rat infested jungles, poor water, bad food, no crews or fuel, little medical care of medical supplies, little ammunition, few trained replacements.

    IT ALL WENT TO ENGLAND AND THE BOMBER UNITS IN ENGLAND who came back to go into town to the pub.

    NOT SO IN THE PACIFIC, ROT, RATS, AND LITTLE ANYTHING EXCEPT SHORTAGES and death. No pubs, dry beds, hot food or decent water.

  14. I totally agree. The Army Air Corps does not get the credit it deserves for its accomplishments in the Pacific. I was a big fan of Richard Bong (our ace of aces)when I was growing up. I do not know af any movies about the AAC in the Pacific in WWII. Does anyone?

    1. How about "Air Force" (1943), directed by Howard Hawks, starring John Garfield, Gig Young, and Harry Carey?

    2. "Aerial Gunner" and "Bombadier" (both 1943). Both are mostly about training the bomber crews (with the usual cliche subplots) but the climax in both is an air raid on Japan.


Please fell free to comment. I would love to hear what you think and will respond.