Recently I read an article about the ten best military movies of the last ten years. It was from a respected site and was a competent list. However, it was heavily inhabited by box office successes and overlooked more obscure movies. I had seen all of the movies and some of them are not good. None of them are terrible, either. You can see the article here. It got me to thinking about what my list would look like so I back and looked at list of all the significant war movies over the last ten years. Here is my take on the top ten.
10. Beneath Hill 60 - The story of a mining engineer and his unit that dig a mine under the German line in WWI. It is an Australian film that is well-acted, claustrophobic and suspenseful.
9. My Way - If you have never seen a South Korean war film, you are missing the best combat porn available. This is the gonzo tale of two rivals who fight in the Japanese army against the Soviets and end up in a Soviet prison camp and eventually in the German army in Normandy in time for D-Day. You heard that right, now see it to believe it.
8. 13 Hours - Speaking of combat porn, this American true tale of the Benghazi incident has plenty of ammo expenditure. It does not have a political agenda. It depicts the FUBAR of modern war well. It is pretty accurate, but of course the body count is inflated.
7. Good Kill - This shamefully overlooked movie deals with drone warfare. Ethan Hawke is excellent as the stressed out and conflicted push button warrior who kills terrorists from the air conditioned comfort of an air base outside Las Vegas. Learn about the modern war on terror and its collateral damage.
6. Eye in the Sky - This movie is similar to Good Kill, but it looks at drone warfare from the political and command level. It stars Helen Mirren as the Pattonesque Colonel who is obsessed with getting a high value target and is willing to risk civilian casualties. The movie is eye-opening about the incredible technology available to the "good guys" and the political decision-making behind the scenes.
5. 13 Assassins - This is the best samurai movie to come out of Japan in a long time. 13 ronin are hired to assassinate a very villainous shogun. In the process they must stop his army at a village. They set the village up in an extreme update of Seven Samurai. The action is incredible and will leave you exhausted, but smiling. If you've seen Seven Samurai, see where samurai films are now.
4. Rogue One - This may be a sci-fi movie, but it also has a lot of the elements of a WWII movie. It is the best Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back. It has some of the best combat scenes in recent war movies, an intriguing plot, and appealing characters. And the special effects are incredible. It is a prequel to the first Star Wars.
3. '71 - Another criminally overlooked gem. The title refers to 1971. A British soldier, played outstandingly by Jack O'Donnell, gets separated from his unit in Dublin during "the Troubles" between the IRA, the Protestants, and the British. In one night he encounters all sorts of intrigue and action. It's an edge of your seat thriller.
2. Lone Survivor - Another tastefully done combat porn film. Based on a true story, four SEAL team members are sent to take out a Taliban leader and end up with his jihadists trying to wipe them out. The cast is great, with Mark Wahlberg and Ben Foster standing out. Historically accurate, but enhanced for the viewing pleasure of anyone wanting a high body count.
1. Zero Dark Thirty - How did this movie not make the other list? Perhaps it was not considered to be a military movie, but if you consider movies about the war on terror to be military movies, this is the best. It accurately tells (to the best of our knowledge) the story of the take-down of Bin Laden. Jessica Chastain is amazing as the CIA analyst who tracks him down which leads to the raid. It is well worth the wait, but the lead-up is great, too.