The Best and Worst War Movie for Each American Conflict
The war movie genre is a staple. It gives filmmakers the opportunity to tell stories featuring acts of bravery, moments of tragedy or horror, and events that are guaranteed to get the viewer’s adrenaline pumping. But not every war movie is an example of inspired film making. While some shine, others falter, and a few are downright horrible.
While some viewers may disagree with some of the entries, based on a list compiled by Popular Mechanics, most moviegoers can likely see why these films are being recognized as some of the best and worst war movies ever created.
Here are some of the films, organized by the American conflict on which they were based.
Best Revolutionary War Movie – The Crossing (2000)
Jeff Daniels plays George Washington in this magnificent made-for-tv focused on Washington’s December 26, 1776, raid on Trenton.
Worst Revolutionary War Movie – Revolution (1985)
This film, starring Al Pacino, featured a lot of missteps and mistakes, including issues with costuming, battle details, and geography. The plot was also questionable, making this a move worth skipping.
Best War of 1812 Movie – The Buccaneer (1985)
When it comes to the War of 1812, there aren’t many films to choose from but, out of those available, The Buccaneer takes top honors. It isn’t necessarily accurate, but Charlton Heston’s portrayal of Andrew Jackson and Yul Brenner’s performance as Jean Lafitte make it an entertaining movie.
Worst War of 1812 Movie – Mutiny (1952)
Mutiny is incredibly predictable, and even dull at times, until the questionable moment where the film’s hero takes a submersible to bring back gold that ended up in British hands.
Best and Worst Mexican-American War Movie – One Man’s Hero (1999)
This is another time where there isn’t a wide selection of movies to choose from, leading One Man’s Hero to come out on top. The subject matter is intriguing, but the film itself leaves a little to be desired.
There aren’t many battle scenes, usually a staple in the genre, and the love triangle is a disaster. Ultimately, the experience comes off as one-dimensional, which isn’t ideal for a war movie.
Best Civil War Movie – Glory (1989)
The film focuses on a little-known battle and explains why it was actually so relevant. The story is compelling, the action well-managed, and the characters well-acted, checking all of the major boxes someone could hope to find in a war movie.
Worst Civil War Movie – Birth of a Nation (1915)
While the movie marked an important turn in filmmaking, the content leaves a lot to be designed. Some of the battle scenes are actually imagery from World War I, which could be considered a significant issue.
It’s a silent film where the founders of the Ku Klux Klan are depicted as the heroes, leading to some questionable panels, including one that reads: “The former enemies of North and South are united again in defense of their Aryan birthright.”
Best WWI Movie – Lost Battalion (2001)
The second made-for-tv movie on the list, the film exceeded the expectations of many for its portrayal of combat and the quality of the performances.
Worst WWI Movie – Von Richthofen and Brown (1971)
At attempt at an aerial combat epic, the film didn’t have the budget or editing to make a positive impression from an action standpoint, and the script and acting left a lot to be desired.
Best WWII Movie – Downfall (2004)
While some may take issue with the presence of subtitles, as well as the focus on Adolph Hitler, it’s a film that truly sucks the viewer in and highlights events that aren’t usually depicted in WWII films.
Worst WWII Movie – Battle of the Bulge (1965)
Filled with inaccuracies and bogged down by subpar acting, most WWII buffs despise this film.
Best Korean War Movie – Pork Chop Hill (1959)
With exceptional acting and a gripping story focused on an American push against a hill occupied by enemy troops, Pork Chop Hill is an attention-grabber.
Worst Korean War Movie – MASH (1970)
Much of the commentary in Mash wasn’t actually about the Korean War, but Vietnam, making much of it feel misplaced.
Best Vietnam War Movie – Bat 21 (1988)
Based on an actual rescue, but given a bit of the Hollywood treatment, the film focuses a lot on the relationship between the lead actors. Ultimately, it’s a human story supported by great chemistry between Donny Glover’s and Gene Hackman’s characters, bringing something to the table that many other Vietnam films didn’t include.
Worst Vietnam War Movie – The Green Berets (1968)
Filled with clichés of the cowboys-and-Indians variety and a heavy-handed approach, this film, intended to be a celebration of US Special Forces, misses the mark.
Best Persian Gulf War Movie – Jarhead (2005)
While this movie didn’t entirely resonate with members of the military community, it does show that combat zones aren’t always the fast-paced environments people expect, highlighting how false expectations can impact a person’s mindset.
Worst Persian Gulf War Movie – The Finest Hour (1992)
The depiction of Navy SEALs as no more than love-struck men who can’t stop acting like teenagers as they fight over a woman drags the film down, eliminating nearly any potential it may have had.
Best Afghanistan War Movie – Lone Survivor (2014)
Using examples of the challenging decisions military members face in war zones, and based on a true story, the film is gripping and shows that even areas where conflicts are taking place are filled with real people at risk on both sides.
Worst Afghanistan War Movie – Lions for Lambs (2007)
Dull, unrealistic and, at times, preachy, this film paints an unfair picture of soldiers and offers practically nothing worth mentioning.
Best Iraq War Movie from Operation Iraqi Freedom – The Hurt Locker (2008)
While the film contains a variety of inaccuracies, the story is compelling, and the tone helps keep you engaged. It also shows how those in high-tension jobs can struggle after they leave an adrenaline-fueled world and try to reintegrate with the society at home.
Worst Iraq War Movie – Green Zone (2010)
The story is dull, full of antiwar sentiment, and laden with conspiracy theories, making it one of the worst films based on this conflict.