The challenge of accurately depicting the horrors of war was first undertaken by the ancient Greek historians Herodotus and Thucydides. Many classic novels have since attempted the same feat – for instance, Stephen Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage” and Norman Mailer’s “The Naked and the Dead.” And for almost as long as there have been movies, filmmakers have strived to depict the realism of combat.
To compile a list of 20 of the most accurate war movies of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed lists of movies considered particularly accurate or realistic, by veterans among others, from numerous online sources, among them IMDb, Ranker, and WatchMojo. We only included films that were mentioned by at least two sources as being among the most accurate.
World War I provided fresh wartime storylines for the emerging motion-picture industry. Films such as “The Big Parade” (1925) and “All Quiet of the Western Front” (1930), both well-regarded by critics, humanized soldiers and did not glorify war. (These are the best military movies of all time.)
Strong storytelling and deeply held beliefs about the futility of war animated movie makers’ approaches in the ensuing decades. But it has been the advancements of camera technology that have taken war movies to another level. Handheld and lightweight cameras brought an unprecedented immediacy and intimacy to combat.
Among war movies that have made their mark with remarkable technique are “1917” (2019), famed for its opening moments following two British soldiers making their way across the desolate landscape of no-man’s land – in effect bringing the viewer along for their dangerous journey; and “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), which changed how war movies were made forever through the gruesomely realistic cinematography of Janusz Kaminski, who won an Oscar for his work. (These are 35 horrifying images of World War II.)
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