A Century of Film


War


The Genre

Though there are those who consider a less stringent definition, for me, a War film is one that actually depicts what is going on during the war.  By that, I generally mean the combat field, though it can also mean those fighting the war who aren’t in actual combat.  I don’t, for the most part, mean things that are happening due to effects of the war (for instance, Holocaust films or other films about civilians during the war), though those do sometimes get war sub-genres.

War films tend to have an American bent to the sub-genres.  That’s because the vast majority of the films I have seen are American made, but also because even a large amount of non-American War films are about the two world wars.

War films date back to the earliest feature length films.  The Birth of a Nation, as racist as it is, is the first great War film, depicting the actions of the Civil War at a time when World War I was still early and World War II was as yet undreamed of.

War films would tend to reflect their times.  Thus, after the waste of the Great War, we got films like Wings, All Quiet on the Western Front and The Grand Illusion, all of which showed the waste and destruction of war.  Perhaps because it showed such waste or perhaps because it provided the opportunity for aerial scenes (or bigger, louder battle scenes, after the advent of sound), the World War I film was solid in the 30’s while the Civil War was left behind as a subject (until the 1950’s, the only two films I have listed as Civil War films that I have seen are both Griffith films).  But, the arrival of World War II and especially the American entry into the war heralded a new kind of War film.  America, unlike the other countries involved in the war, wasn’t being damaged on the homefront, so the movie industry was thriving and the studios were all behind the war effort.  Without even being particularly interested in it, I have seen 53 World War II films made during the years of the war.  War films slowed down for a couple of years after the end of the war but returned not longer after.  They stayed strong through to the early 70’s when the morass of Vietnam slowed War film production, with mostly World War II films but also World War I and Korea thrown in as well.  I have seen well over 600 films made from 1972 to 1975, only seven of which are War films (none in 73 or 74) and only one of them, Slaughterhouse Five, was an English language film.

World War II films started to return in the late 70’s as well as the first group of Vietnam films  The 80’s would see fewer War Films but they would often be some of the best ever made (Gallipoli, Das Boot, Platoon, Hope and Glory, Empire of the Sun, Full Metal Jacket, Glory, Born on the Fourth of July) though some were among the worst ever made (Inchon, Revolution).  The 90’s would show a further decline in War film production though there would also be the start of films about Iraq (both the 1991 invasion, and then, after 2003, the new war).

One last note about the sub-genres: I tend to group War films by the specific war rather than the type of film.  Many more detailed histories (look at the books way down below) group them more by the type of film, especially those books that are only looking at films about a specific war.  Thus you get things like Combat, Training Camp, Prison Camp (The Great Escape and Stalag 17 being the most notable), Mission (like The Guns of Navarone or The Dirty Dozen).  Many World War II films would also have categories for Holocaust films but for the most part, I have placed those in Drama instead of War.

Sub-Genres

Civil War

  • Best Film:  Glory

Even when the Civil War is used as the subject for a film it’s usually about the background of the war or the civilians and not the combat itself.  I only list eight films, two of them Griffith films (The Birth of a Nation, America) and two of them based on the Shaara novels (Gettysburg, Gods and Generals).

World War I

  • Best Film:  The Grand Illusion

Until 1941, of course, the most dominant of War films and includes almost all the early great War films.  After 1941, it’s a decade before any more World War I films come along though European countries would start to make more of them starting in the 60’s.  It is perhaps notable that by far the best two World War I films made since 1941 were both completely passed over at the Oscars (Paths of Glory, Gallipoli).  World War I films mostly showed the futility of the war and rarely were celebratory, which in later years would make an interesting contrast to World War II films.

World War II

  • Best Film:  The Bridge on the River Kwai

The big one, not just in terms of the scale of the war, but in terms of the production of films.  Over the 437 War films I have seen, just over 60% of them are World War II films.  Because it was seen as a boon to the war effort and because there was no combat going on here, there was a huge boon of these films from 1943 to 1945.  At the moment (though this will change soon), I have even seen more War films from 1943 than Dramas.  There are a lot of solid films here but less so for great ones, at least percentage wise.  While accounting for 60% of the total War films, they only have two in the Top 10 and only 19 in the Top 50.  In the second 50, however, there are 35 WWII films.

Korea

  • Best Film:  Take the High Ground

Obviously the first thing to do is point out that I consider M*A*S*H a Comedy and not a War film.  It’s a fine line and I wouldn’t argue with anyone who wanted to consider M*A*S*H a War film, especially since it’s the only great film made about the Korean War.

Vietnam

  • Best Film:  Platoon

I’ve seen 17 films that are listed under Vietnam, the first four in the late 70’s and then a bunch in the late 80’s as well as some random ones.  I don’t know why they flourished in the late 80’s (seven films from 86 to 89).  Because I classify The Killing Fields as a Vietnam film, this group has a much higher ratio of great films than any other group (six great films out of 17, or 35% as opposed to 8.7% of all War films).  What’s interesting is that Vietnam has 4 of the Top 12 films and all four are very different – a straight combat film (Platoon), a film about a mission (Apocalypse Now), a film about one specific man (Born on the Fourth of July) and a film about the civilian population and the journalists covering the war (The Killing Fields).

Gulf War  /  Iraq War

  • Best Film:  The Hurt Locker

These films kind of blend together partially because I don’t really bother to look back and figure out which are which, although the first two, Courage Under Fire and Three Kings, are obviously from the Gulf War because they predate the Iraq War.  It’ll be interesting (actually, no it won’t) to see if we get more of these as more time goes by like the way Vietnam films started to get produced in the late 80’s.

Random War / Historical

  • Best Film:  Ivan the Terrible Part I

Every film I list in Historical and the majority of those in Random War are Foreign language films.  They cover anything from fictional wars (Shame), smaller specific wars that didn’t involve the U.S. (The Battle of Algiers, Charge of the Light Brigade, For Whom the Bell Tolls) or long ago historical wars (Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon).  There are so few films about the Revolutionary War that they are also here but they are films like Revolution and The Patriot and they suck.

Lit Adaptation

  • Best Film:  The Quiet American

This is tricky.  This is the only film I list here because it really predates the main action of Vietnam.  The Hemingway adaptations should be here as well (For Whom the Bell Tolls, two versions of A Farewell to Arms) but they get listed with their own wars.  If I listed the various versions of War and Peace as War films (I don’t – they’re under Drama), they would go here as well.

Assorted

  • Best Film:  Henry V  (Shakespeare)

Aside from this (I classify Branagh’s Henry V as a War film but not Olivier’s), there is also The Last Samurai (Samurai)

The Directors

Steven Spielberg

  • Films:  3
  • Years:  1987 – 2011
  • Average Film:  90.67
  • Best Film:  Saving Private Ryan
  • Worst Film:  War Horse

Because I count Schindler’s List as a Drama, he’s only got three but still, those three were massive awards hits (32 wins, 90 noms).

Oliver Stone

  • Films:  4
  • Years:  1986 – 1993
  • Average Film:  87.50
  • Best Film:  Platoon
  • Worst Film:  Heaven and Earth

Aside from Stone’s Vietnam Trilogy, which won him two Best Director Oscars (the only director to do so in War) he also directed Salvador, which, in its depiction of the situation there, I classify as a War film.

Samuel Fuller

  • Films:  5
  • Years:  1951 – 1980
  • Average Film:  66.80
  • Best Film:  The Big Red One
  • Worst Film:  Merrill’s Marauders

He actually started with a Korea film (Fixed Bayonets) and made one about the Indochina War (China Gate) but he also made three World War II films and if none of them are great, none of them are bad either.

Henry Hathaway

  • Films:  5
  • Years:  1939  –  1971
  • Average Film:  66.60
  • Best Film:  The Desert Fox
  • Worst Film:  The Real Glory

After a 1939 film about the Moro Rebellion (The Real Glory), Hathaway made several World War II films including two about Rommell and all of the World War II films are worth watching.

Howard Hawks

  • Films:  5
  • Years:  1930  –  1943
  • Average Film:  71.20
  • Best Film:  Road to Glory
  • Worst Film:  Sergeant York

You know you’re doing it right when your weakest film is nominated for Picture and Director at the Oscars.  Hawks focused mostly on World War I (and made good films) before making Air Force in 1943 (also a good film).

Andrzej Wajda

  • Films:  6
  • Years:  1955 – 2007
  • Average Film:  75.16
  • Best Film:  A Generation
  • Worst Film:  Katyn

Wajda’s father was murdered by the Soviets at Katyn when he was a boy and he was in the Polish resistance as a teen so it’s no wonder his career focused on the war.  Even his weakest War film, Katyn, is better than the average film for most of the directors on the list.

William Wellman

  • Films:  7
  • Years:  1927 – 1958
  • Average Film:  67.43
  • Best Film:  The Story of G.I. Joe
  • Worst Film:  Lafayette Escadrille

Wellman did make a couple of duds (Lafayette Escadrille, Thunder Birds) but he also directed Wings (the first Best Picture winner at the Oscars) and the very good The Story of G.I. Joe.  Interestingly enough, he made War films for five different major studios (Paramount, Fox, UA, MGM, WB).

John Ford

  • Films:  8
  • Years:  1928 – 1957
  • Average Film:  68.50
  • Best Film:  They Were Expendable
  • Worst Film:  The Wings of Eagles

Usually thought of as a Western director, Ford also directed several War films, making four World War I films by 1934 and then making a few World War II films, most notably They Were Expendable.  The big difference is that his War films are not among his best while his Westerns were.  Ford’s average War films were lower than his overall film average.

Lewis Milestone

  • Films:  8
  • Years:  1928 – 1958
  • Average Film:  70.50
  • Best Film:  All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Worst Film:  The Purple Heart

Milestone won Best Comedy Director at the 1st Academy Awards for Two Arabian Knights and then won Picture and Director two years later for All Quiet, still one of the greatest war films ever made.  Over a decade later he became a prolific director of World War II films making four of them before the end of the war although none of them were as good as two World War I films.

Best War Director  (weighted points system)

  1. Steven Spielberg  (210)
  2. Oliver Stone  (177)
  3. David Lean  (150)
  4. Jean Renoir  (129)
  5. Sergei Eisenstein  (126)
  6. Ed Zwick  (120)
  7. Stanley Kubrick  (114)
  8. Lewis Milestone  (94)

Analysis:  This adds up points on a weighted scale (90-1) for placing in the Top 20 at the Nighthawk Awards for Best Director in any given year.  These are all the directors who earned more than 90 points (I cut it off there because just winning the Nighthawk gives you 90 points and several directors earned 90 points for just one film and no other points).


The Stars

Gary Cooper

The first actor to win an Oscar in a War film, he was also in four Best Picture nominees (one of which, Wings, won the Oscar) and he’s still the only actor to earn two Oscar nominations in War films.  Because of the length of his career, he was in several World War I films, at least one World War II film and a film about the Spanish Civil War.
Essential Viewing:  Sergeant York, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Wings

Errol Flynn

Of the Warner Bros staple of actors, he was the one who was most likely to be found in War films (and some of his Westerns could qualify as well).  Not as good as he was as an Adventure star but still a solid lead.
Essential Viewing:  The Dawn Patrol, Desperate Journey, Objective Burma

John Wayne

For two decades, his only Oscar nomination was for a War film and there is probably no actor as identified with World War II films as he is (I’ve seen at least eight with him in it).  He was also in the notorious The Green Berets which I refuse to watch.
Essential Viewing:  The Sands of Iwo Jima, They Were Expendable, The Longest Day

Lee Marvin

The star of the later World War II films, including three of the better ones (The Dirty Dozen, Hell in the Pacific, The Big Red One).
Essential Viewing:  The Dirty Dozen, Hell in the Pacific, The Big Red One

The Studios

Once World War II began, 20th Century Fox was all over it.  I’ve seen 14 Fox War films made during the war and another 29 made between 1950 and 1965, the vast majority of them World War II films.  It doesn’t mean they were great (Fox’s only great War film is Patton) but they were certainly prolific.  In 1943, during the height of it, Paramount has six War films but Fox was by far the most prolific.

Countries

France has looked at World War I (eight films including one of the greatest films ever made) and World War II (seven films) though it doesn’t like to submit them to the Oscars (see below).  Italy seems to focus on World War II (13) and is mostly successful submitting them (see below).  The USSR has focused on WWII (11) but also made several Historical films about their own country’s history (which are some of the best War films) and they dominate the top of the list (five of the twelve **** Foreign films).

Oscar Submissions

Between the Soviets and the Russians, that country has desperately wanted to get approval for their War Films because they have submitted nine of them, though only The Dawns Here are Quiet managed a nomination.  Italy, on the other hand, has been liked but not really really liked by the Academy for their War films because all five of them have been nominated but none of them won the Oscar.  In fact, by my classifications, no War film has ever won Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.  France did earn a nomination for its only submission (Joyeux Noel) while Algeria earned it for both of theirs (Days of Glory, Outside the Law).  Yugoslavia has also wanted the Oscar approval, having submitted six War films with only one nomination (The Battle of Neretvna).

note:  For the next few lists, any links are to reviews I have written.  Some of them go to the Adapted Screenplay posts that discuss the film and the literary source but don’t actually review the film (but link to places where I had already reviewed the film).  There are a few that are not linked now but will be in the coming months as I get to more of the Adapted Screenplay posts.  The middle list deliberately includes any Crime films I have already reviewed as well as any Crime film I saw in the theater and some remakes of great films just to show the difference in quality.
note:  Please don’t try to make the following list match up with other lists I have made.  All my lists are fluid and they change.

The Top 75 War Films

  1. The Grand Illusion
  2. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  3. All Quiet on the Western Front
  4. Paths of Glory
  5. Glory
  6. Henry V
  7. Platoon
  8. Apocalypse Now
  9. The Killing Fields
  10. The Cranes are Flying
  11. Gallipoli
  12. Born on the Fourth of July
  13. Inglourious Basterds
  14. The Hurt Locker
  15. The Great Escape
  16. Hope and Glory
  17. Stalag 17
  18. In Which We Serve
  19. Saving Private Ryan
  20. Three Kings
  21. The Deer Hunter
  22. Europa Europa
  23. Ivan the Terrible Part I
  24. Empire of the Sun
  25. Das Boot
  26. Ivan’s Childhood
  27. Army of Shadows
  28. The Bridge
  29. The Birth of a Nation
  30. The Battle of Algiers
  31. The Quiet American
  32. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  33. Full Metal Jacket
  34. The Ascent
  35. Black Hawk Down
  36. Ivan the Terrible Part II
  37. Patton
  38. Shame
  39. Joyeux Noel
  40. Alexander Nevsky
  41. The Last Samurai
  42. As If I Am Not There
  43. The Charge of the Light Brigade
  44. Green Zone
  45. The Guns of Navarone
  46. Salvador
  47. Black Book
  48. War Horse
  49. King Rat
  50. J’Accuse
  51. A Christmas Tale
  52. Seven Beauties
  53. A Generation
  54. The Four Days of Naples
  55. The Story of G.I. Joe
  56. The Thin Red Line
  57. Wooden Crosses
  58. Ice Cold in Alex
  59. The Good Soldier Schweik
  60. Fail Safe
  61. Distant Journey
  62. Paisan
  63. Arsenal
  64. Letters from Iwo Jima
  65. Flags of Our Fathers
  66. Soldier of Orange
  67. The Burmese Harp
  68. Carry on, Sergeant!
  69. Ballad of a Soldier
  70. Hell in the Pacific
  71. Winter in Wartime
  72. Flame & Citron
  73. Road to Glory
  74. Five Graves to Cairo
  75. Decision Before Dawn

note:  The Top 38 are all **** films.  Everything down through #78 is ***.5.

Notable War Films Not in the Top 75

  • A Woman in Berlin  (#76)
  • The Battle of the Rails  (#77)
  • Korczak  (#78)
  • Battle of the River Plate  (#80)
  • The Human Condition Part I  (#81)
  • Wings  (#82)
  • The Dirty Dozen  (#83)
  • Come and See  (#84)
  • La Marseillaise  (#85)
  • Hell’s Angels  (#86)
  • The Man Who Never Was  (#87)
  • The Human Condition Part II  (#88)
  • The Train  (#89)
  • Catch-22  (#90)
  • The Pride of the Marines  (#91)
  • The Desert Fox  (#92)
  • Ashes and Diamonds  (#95)
  • They Were Expendable  (#99)
  • The Big Parade  (#101)
  • Fires on the Plain  (#104)
  • The Red Badge of Courage  (#109)
  • Four Sons (1928)  (#118)
  • Kapo  (#119)
  • Air Force  (#120)
  • Take the High Ground  (#121)
  • Angels One Five  (#123)
  • The Big Red One  (#126)
  • A Time to Live and a Time to Die  (#129)
  • Run Silent Run Deep  (#130)
  • The 49th Parallel  (#135)
  • The Steel Helmet  (#139)
  • Casualties of War  (#143)
  • Courage Under Fire  (#144)
  • Heaven and Earth  (#148)
  • Johnny Got His Gun  (#156)
  • The Bridges at Toko-Ri  (#159)
  • The Dawn Patrol (1930)  (#166)
  • Slaughterhouse-Five  (#170)
  • Today We Live  (#181)
  • The Dam Busters  (#182)
  • The Desert Rats  (#183)
  • Journey’s End (1930)  (#185)
  • Is Paris Burning  (#187)
  • Tora! Tora! Tora!  (#192)
  • Sands of Iwo Jima  (#198)
  • Twelve O’Clock High  (#199)
  • Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo  (#201)
  • A Farewell to Arms  (#203)
  • A Walk in the Sun  (#206)
  • Destination Tokyo  (#207)
  • And Quiet Flows the Don  (#208)
  • Go Tell the Spartans  (#209)
  • Valkyrie  (#215)
  • Sergeant York  (#222)
  • A Bridge Too Far  (#224)
  • Battleground  (#225)
  • The Damned  (#235)
  • The Longest Day  (#245)
  • So Proudly We Hail  (#246)
  • Sahara  (#247)
  • The War Lover  (#269)
  • Gettysburg  (#270)
  • Where Eagles Dare  (#277)
  • Fixed Bayonets  (#300)
  • Objective Burma  (#304)
  • In Harm’s Way  (#305)
  • We Were Soldiers  (#316)
  • Wake Island  (#323)
  • A Farewell to Arms (1957)  (#361)
  • The Boys in Company C  (#416)
  • Gods and Generals  (#424)

note:  As always, the list includes all films I have already reviewed (or will definitely review for the Best Adapted Screenplay project) as well as any films I saw in the theater.

The Bottom 10 War Films, #427-436
(worst being #10, which is #436 overall)

  1. The Steel Claw
  2. Hanover Street
  3. The Night of the Generals
  4. Operation Crossbow
  5. Waterloo
  6. The Patriot
  7. Revolution
  8. Napoleon  (1955)
  9. Pearl Harbor
  10. Inchon

The 10 Most Underrated War Films

These are all films that I rate at **** or ***.5 that have never appeared in TSPDT’s Top 1000 (now 2000) or their Top 250 21st Century Films (now 1000) and were not nominated for Picture or Director at the Oscars.

  1. Glory
  2. Europa Europa
  3. The Bridge
  4. Shame
  5. The Last Samurai
  6. Joyeux Noel
  7. The Charge of the Light Brigade
  8. Green Zone
  9. As If I Am Not There
  10. King Rat

Best War Films By Decade

  • 1910’s:  The Birth of a Nation
  • 1920’s:  Arsenal
  • 1930’s:  The Grand Illusion
  • 1940’s:  In Which We Serve
  • 1950’s:  The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • 1960’s:  The Great Escape
  • 1970’s:  Apocalypse Now
  • 1980’s:  Glory
  • 1990’s:  Saving Private Ryan
  • 2000’s:  Inglourious Basterds
  • 2010’s:  As If I Am Not There

The Most Over-Rated War Films

  1. Wake Island
    Won a critics award for Best Director and nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars only really because it was the first major film about the battle, released not long afterwards.

note:  War films just aren’t that over-rated in my opinion.  Even ones that I don’t hold to be great that are considered classics (like say They Were Expendable) are still high *** in my opinion.

The Statistics

Total Films 1912-2011:  437  (7th)

Total Percentage of All Films 1912-2011:  3.24%

  • 1912-1929:  11  (7th)  – 3.06%
  • 1930-1939:  32  (7th-tie)  –  2.91%
  • 1940-1949:  72  (4th)  –  6.32%
  • 1950-1959:  82  (5th)  –  6.37%
  • 1960-1969:  79  (6th)  –  5.24%
  • 1970-1979:  45  (9th)  –  2.96%
  • 1980-1989:  38  (11th)  –  2.23%
  • 1990-1999:  18  (13th)  –  0.92%
  • 2000-2011:  60  (11th)  –  2.05%

Biggest Years:

  • 28:  1943
  • 15:  1951
  • 14:  1957
  • 13:  1958
  • 11:  1961

Biggest Years by Percentage of All Films:

  • 1943:  26.42%
  • 1951:  12.00%
  • 1957:  9.40%
  • 1958:  8.84%
  • 1961:  8.59%

Best Years:

  • 1943, 1957, 1987, 1989:  3 films in the Top 10

Eras:

  • 1942 to 1945:  Top 5 Most Films every year
  • 1949 to 1963:  Top 5 Most Films 8 times

The Top Films:

  • Nighthawk Winner:  1930, 1938, 1957, 1978, 1989, 2009
  • 3 Films in the Top 10:  1943, 1957, 1987, 1989
  • Top 10 Films:  44
  • First Year in the Top 10:  1926
  • Latest Year in the Top 10:  2009
  • Longest Streak with at least one Top 10 Film:  1968-70
  • Longest Streak without a Top 10 Film:  1992-97, 2000-05
  • Best Decade for Top 10 Films:  1980’s  (9)
  • Worst Decade for Top 10 Films:  1920’s  (1)
  • 5 Films in the Top 20:  1943
  • 4 Films in the Top 20:  1945, 1957, 1961
  • Top 20 Films:  84
  • Longest Streak with at least one Top 20 Film:  1943-47
  • Longest Streak without a Top 20 Film:  1992-97
  • Best Decade for Top 20 Films:  1960’s  (17)
  • Worst Decade for Top 20 Films:  1920’s  (2)

Nighthawk Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  102
  • Number of Films That Have Won Nighthawks:  29
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  69
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  19
  • Best Picture Nominations:  27
  • Total Number of Nominations:  408
  • Total Number of Wins:  94
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Sound Editing  (62)
  • Director with Most Nighthawk Nominated Films:  Sergei Eisenstein  /  Lewis Milestone  /  Steven Spielberg  /  Oliver Stone  (3)
  • Best Film with No Nighthawks:  Paths of Glory
  • Best Film with No Nighthawk Nominations:  Green Zone
  • Number of Films That Have Earned Drama Nominations:  58
  • Number of Films That Have Earned Comedy Nominations:  6
  • Number of Films That Have Won Drama Awards:  20
  • Number of Films That Have Won Comedy Awards:  5
  • Drama Picture Nominations:  28
  • Comedy Picture Nominations:  4
  • Total Number of Drama Nominations:  160
  • Total Number of Comedy Nominations:  22
  • Total Number of Drama Wins:  43
  • Total Number of Comedy Wins:  12
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Director  (36 – Drama  /  6 – Comedy)
  • Best Drama Film With No Nominations:  Army of Shadows
  • Best Comedy Film With No Nominations:  When Willie Comes Marching Home
  • Most 2nd Place Finishes:  Paths of Glory  (8)
  • Most 6th Place Finishes:  La Marseillaise  (3)
  • Most Top 10 Finishes:  The Bridge on the River Kwai  (16)
  • Most Top 20 Finishes:  The Bridge on the River Kwai  (16)
  • Best Film Without a Top 10 Finish:  Green Zone
  • Best Film Without a Top 20 Finish:  Days of Glory

Most Nighthawk Nominations:

  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  15
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front  –  13
  3. For Whom the Bell Tolls  –  13
  4. Glory  –  12
  5. Inglourious Basterds  –  12
  6. The Grand Illusion  –  11
  7. Patton  –  11
  8. Henry V  –  11
  9. Paths of Glory  –  10
  10. The Deer Hunter  /  Saving Private Ryan  –  10

Most Nighthawks:

  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  13
  2. Glory  –  9
  3. All Quiet on the Western Front  –  8
  4. The Grand Illusion  –  7
  5. The Deer Hunter  /  Inglourious Basterds  –  6

Most Nighthawk Points:

  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  780
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front  –  645
  3. Glory  –  625
  4. The Grand Illusion  –  570
  5. Inglourious Basterds  –  565
  6. The Deer Hunter  –  525
  7. For Whom the Bell Tolls  –  495
  8. Saving Private Ryan  –  385
  9. Patton  –  375
  10. The Hurt Locker  –  335

Most Drama Nominations:

  1. For Whom the Bell Tolls  –  7
  2. The Deer Hunter  –  7
  3. All Quiet on the Western Front  –  6
  4. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  6
  5. Inglourious Basterds  –  6

Most Comedy Nominations:

  1. The Good Soldier Schweik  –  4
  2. Catch-22  –  4
  3. Seven Beauties  –  4
  4. Hope and Glory  –  4
  5. Three Kings  –  4

Most Drama Wins:

  1. The Deer Hunter  –  5
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front  –  4
  3. The Grand Illusion  –  4
  4. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  4
  5. Glory  /  Inglourious Basterds  –  4

Most Comedy Wins:

  1. Seven Beauties  –  4
  2. Three Kings  –  3
  3. The Good Soldier Schweik  –  2
  4. Catch-22  –  2
  5. Hope and Glory  –  1

Most Drama Points:

  1. The Deer Hunter  –  450
  2. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  430
  3. All Quiet on the Western Front  –  400
  4. Inglourious Basterds  –  395
  5. The Grand Illusion  –  365

Most Comedy Points:

  1. Seven Beauties  –  340
  2. Three Kings  –  300
  3. The Good Soldier Schweik  –  260
  4. Hope and Glory  –  210
  5. Catch-22  –  205

All-Time Nighthawk Awards

note:  These are my all-time Top 5 in each category.  But in the Analysis section, I discuss not only how War films have done in the Nighthawks but also in-depth discussions of how they have done in all the awards groups.  Films in red won the Oscar.  Films in blue were Oscar nominated.  There are a few lists here that aren’t in my usual Nighthawk Awards.

  • Best Picture
  1. The Grand Illusion
  2. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  3. All Quiet on the Western Front
  4. Paths of Glory
  5. Glory

Analysis:  Of course, the Top 100 is the full ranking for this category.
Six films have won the Nighthawk, though two of them, The Deer Hunter and Inglourious Basterds, won in weaker years and are much further down the list than say Paths of Glory, which is from the same year as Bridge on the River Kwai.  Another 21 films have earned nominations, including 8 that finished at the #2 spot.  Overall, 42 War films have landed in the Top 10 in a year.  Three films have won the Comedy award (Good Soldier Schweik, Seven Beauties, Three Kings) while Hope and Glory, which is better than any of those three, was nominated.
Seven films have won the Oscar: Wings, All Quiet, Bridge on the River Kwai, Patton, Deer Hunter, Platoon and Hurt Locker.  They are an interesting progression, always moving forward (two from WWI, two from WWII, two from Vietnam, one from Iraq).  Another 21 films have earned nominations, though, aside from the two winners, the only other two nominees between 1951 and 1979 were Guns of Navarone and Longest Day.
Bridge, Guns of Navarone, Platoon, Hope and Glory (in Comedy), Born on the Fourth of July and Saving Private Ryan all won the Globe, which is interesting in its mostly lack of overlap with the Oscars.  Another 11 films have been nominated (all in Drama).
Four films have won the BAFTA (Bridge – which also won British Film, the only War film to win that, Ballad of a Soldier, Killing Fields, Hurt Locker) while another 24 films have been nominated though 16 of them were in the 50’s when there was no limit on nominees (and 10 of those also earned British Film noms which no film has done since).
Saving Private Ryan and Hurt Locker both won the BFCA while six films have earned nominations.  Both of those films also won the PGA while six others have earned nominations (three of them in 1989 – Born on the Fourth of July, Glory and Henry V).
War films have done well at the critics awards, with Hurt Locker winning five (all but the NBR), Saving Private Ryan winning three, two each for In Which We Serve, Bridge on the River Kwai (the only two available for both), Hope and Glory and Letters from Iwo Jima while eight other films have won one award each.

  • Best Director
  1. David Lean  (The Bridge on the River Kwai)
  2. Steven Spielberg  (Saving Private Ryan)
  3. Ed Zwick  (Glory)
  4. Francis Ford Coppola  (Apocalypse Now)
  5. Stanley Kubrick  (Paths of Glory)

Analysis:  Coppola and Kubrick don’t win the Nighthawk (Kubrick loses to Lean) but six others do (All Quiet, Grand Illusion, Deer Hunter, Das Boot, Empire of the Sun, Inglorious Basterds).  In all, 29 directors are at least nominated at the Nighthawks with Lean, Spielberg and Oliver Stone the only ones to do it twice.  There are three Comedy winners (Seven Beauties, Hope and Glory, Three Kings), twelve Drama winners (all up above plus Gallipoli, Patton and Platoon) with a total of seven Comedy nominees and 35 Drama nominees.
There are nine Oscar winners – all the Picture winners except Wings (though Two Arabian Nights won Comedy Director that same year) and two films that won and were widely expected to win Picture but then didn’t (Born on the Fourth of July, Saving Private Ryan).  There are another 16 nominees.  In an odd departure, through 1951, the only War film nominated at the Oscars for Director but not Picture was Two Arabian Nights while there had been eight films nominated for Picture but not Director.  Since 1951, however, only two War films earned a Picture nom without Director (Longest Day, War Horse) while six War films have earned Director noms but not Picture (Stalag 17, Battle of Algiers, Seven Beauties, Das Boot, Henry V, Black Hawk Down).
Six films have won the Globe, four of which were the same as Picture but while Guns of Navarone and Hope and Glory didn’t win Director, Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now did (in back-to-back years).  Another nine films have earned nominations, the only two without a Picture nom being the two Clint Eastwood films in 2006.
Four films have won the BAFTA; Apocalypse Now did it while earning a Picture nom, Platoon without one (but with another BAFTA win), Henry V without a Picture nom and with no other wins and The Hurt Locker while winning Best Picture.  In addition, six other films have earned nominations.  Saving Private Ryan and Hurt Locker won the BFCA while Eastwood (Letters), Tarantino and Spielberg (War Horse) earned noms.
There have been seven DGA winners: Lean, Schaffner (Patton), Cimino, Stone (twice), Spielberg and Bigelow.  Another 12 directors have earned nominations.
Bigelow won five critics awards, Lean, Boorman and Malick won two each while twelve other directors won one with Spielberg winning two for two different films (Empire, Ryan).

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Glory
  3. Paths of Glory
  4. All Quiet on the Western Front
  5. The Killing Fields

Analysis:  All Quiet, Bridge and Glory win the Nighthawk while the other two earn nominations as do 11 other films.
Bridge is the only Oscar winner though 14 films have earned nominations (none since 1998).  Born on the Fourth of July won the Globe but The Killing Fields and Glory are the only other adapted scripts to earn noms there.  Bridge won the single BAFTA category while The Killing Fields won in the first year of the Adapted category.  Five other films have earned noms.  There have been no BFCA noms.  The Killing Fields won the WGA while 13 films have earned noms.  No adapted script has won a critics award.

  • Best Novel Adapted into a War Film:
  1. Heart of Darkness
  2. Catch-22
  3. Slaughterhouse-Five
  4. The Quiet American
  5. A Farewell to Arms

Analysis:  The top three novels are in my Top 100.  The other two are in my Top 200.  Don’t forget, of course The Good Soldier Schweik, The Red Badge of Courage, The Naked and the Dead (all Top 200), For Whom the Bell Tolls, Paths of Glory or All Quiet on the Western Front.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. The Grand Illusion
  2. Inglourious Basterds
  3. Hope and Glory
  4. Three Kings
  5. The Hurt Locker

Analysis:  Grand Illusion and Basterds both win the Nighthawk while the other three are among 15 films that earn nominations.
Four films have won the Oscar: Dawn Patrol, Battleground, Patton and Hurt Locker.  A whopping 32 films have earned nominations, the majority of them (20) in the days when there were three Screenplay categories (before 1957).  Five films earned nominations in the 60’s and all of them were Foreign films.
Battleground won the Globe while six other films that are Original earned nominations.  The Man Who Never Was and Orders to Kill won the BAFTA before the Screenplay categories were split while Hurt Locker won original and four other films have earned nominations.  Basterds won the BFCA over Hurt LockerCommand Decision, Steel Helmet, Patton and Hurt Locker won the WGA while seven others earned noms (not Basterds, which was ineligible).  Hope and Glory won the LAFC and NSFC while Hurt Locker won the CFC.

  • Best Actor:
  1. Alec Guinness  (The Bridge on the River Kwai)
  2. Kenneth Branagh  (Henry V)
  3. Kirk Douglas  (Paths of Glory)
  4. Jeremy Renner  (The Hurt Locker)
  5. George C. Scott  (Patton)

Analysis:  Only two of these performances win the Nighthawk (Guinness, Renner) but there are four other Nighthawk winners (Lew Ayres for All Quiet, Nikolai Cherkasov in Ivan the Terrible Part I, Holden in Stalag 17, De Niro in Deer Hunter) while there are 12 others who received nominations but didn’t win.  Aside from the six winners (all of whom win Drama), there are three Comedy winners (Alan Arkin in Catch-22, Giancarlo Giannini in Seven Beauties, Clooney in Three Kings).
Gary Cooper (Sergeant York), Holden, Guinness and Scott won the Oscar while 12 others earned nominations, though, while three of those winners came in the gap, there were no nominees between 1949 and 1976.  Over half (9) of the total (16) nominees have come since 1970 but no wins.
Guinness, Scott and Tom Cruise (Born on the Fourth) won the Globe while five others have earned Drama noms and Dan Dailey (When Willie Comes Marching Home) earned a Comedy nom.  Guinness and Haing S. Ngor (Killing Fields) won the BAFTA while there have been 19 other nominees.  Renner earned a BFCA nom.  Hanks (Ryan) and Renner earned SAG noms.
Scott and Renner won three critics awards each.  Guinness won the only two existing awards at the time.  Seven others have won one award each.

  • Best Actress
  1. Tatyana Samojlova  (The Cranes are Flying)
  2. Ingrid Bergman  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
  3. Nataša Petrović  (As If I Am Not There)
  4. Melanie Laurent  (Inglourious Basterds)
  5. Liv Ullmann  (Shame)

Analysis:  Bergman wins the Nighthawk while three of the other four earn nominations (Petrovic doesn’t) though Lilian Gish does for Birth of a Nation.  The only difference at my Globes is that Petrovic is nominated in Drama and Samojlova also wins in Drama.
Bergman is the only Oscar nominee.  There have been no Globe noms.  Irene Worth won the BAFTA British Actress (Orders to Kill) as did Patricia Neal (In Harm’s Way) though both were before there was a supporting category.  Samjlova earned a BAFTA nom as did Meryl Streep for The Deer Hunter and Sarah Miles for Hope and Glory.  Ullmann won the NBR and NSFC.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Denzel Washington  (Glory)
  2. Haing S. Ngor  (The Killing Fields)
  3. Robert Duvall  (Apocalypse Now)
  4. Christoph Waltz  (Inglourious Basterds)
  5. Sessue Hayakawa  (The Bridge on the River Kwai)

Analysis:  The Top 5 all win the Nighthawk as do Erich von Stroheim (Grand Illusion), Robert Mitchum (The Story of GI Joe) and Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter).  There also another 14 nominees.
There have been five Oscar winners: Dean Jagger (12 O’Clock High), Walken, Ngor, Denzel and Waltz.  There have been 15 other nominees including two from Platoon.
This has been a successful category at the Globes: there have been seven winners (Akim Tamiroff for For Whom the Bell Tolls, James Whitmore for Battleground, Duvall, Ngor, Berenger, Denzel, Waltz) as well as six other nominees.
Edward Fox won the BAFTA (A Bridge Too Far) as did Duvall and Waltz while Walken and Ian Bannen (Hope and Glory) earned noms (Ngor was as lead).  Waltz won the BFCA while Ken Watanabe (Last Samurai) and Adam Beach (Flags of Our Fathers).  Waltz won at SAG while Watanabe was nominated.
Waltz won five critics awards (all but NBR) while Ngor won two and five others won one each.

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Katina Paxinou  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
  2. Meryl Streep  (The Deer Hunter)
  3. Diane Kruger  (Inglourious Basterds)
  4. Simone Signoret  (Army of Shadows)
  5. Sammi Davis  (Hope and Glory)

Analysis:  Paxinou wins the Nighthawk while Streep and Kruger earn nominations as do Beryl Mercer (All Quiet) and Celia Johnson (In Which We Serve).
Paxinou won the Oscar and Streep earned a nomination as did Margaret Wycherly (Sergeant York) and Paulette Goddard (So Proudly We Hail).  Paxinou won the Globe and Streep earned a nomination.  Susan Woolridge (Hope and Glory) won the BAFTA, its only nominee, though Streep was nominated as a lead.  There have been no BFCA nominees and the only SAG nominee is Kruger.  Streep won the NSFC.

  • Best Ensemble
  1. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  2. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  3. The Deer Hunter
  4. Inglourious Basterds
  5. The Killing Fields

Analysis:  Not a coincidence that three of these films actually have major female performances while the other two have several really strong supporting performances.

  • Best Editing:
  1. Saving Private Ryan
  2. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  3. Glory
  4. Inglourious Basterds
  5. The Hurt Locker

Analysis:  Bizarrely, Saving Private Ryan doesn’t even win the Nighthawk (it lost to Out of Sight) and of course The Hurt Locker doesn’t either.  But in addition to the other three, All Quiet, Grand Illusion and Great Escape all win the Nighthawk.  In total, 26 films either win or earn a nomination.
War films have done quite well at the Oscars, winning 12 of them, winning at least once every decade since the 40’s except in the 60’s (though it did earn five nominations that decade).  In total, 30 films have either won the Oscar or earned a nomination.
Four films have won the BAFTA (Deer Hunter, Killing Fields, Platoon, Hurt Locker) and another seven films have earned nominations.  Three films have earned BFCA noms (Hurt Locker, Basterds, War Horse).  Nine films have won the ACE and there’s never been a gap longer than nine years between War winners.  Seven additional films have been nominated.  Hurt Locker won the CFC, the only critics win.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. Glory
  2. Apocalypse Now
  3. Saving Private Ryan
  4. Platoon
  5. Empire of the Sun

Analysis:  There are actually more perfect 9 scores than can fit into my Top 5 and outside the Top 5 are The Bridge on the River Kwai and Born on the Fourth of July.  The Top 5 win the Nighthawk as do All Quiet, Grand Illusion, Bridge, Deer Hunter and Basterds.  An additional 23 films earn nominations, one of the best categories for War films.
Eight films have won the Oscar, generally one a decade (two in 80’s, none in the 00’s).  An additional 33 films have earned Oscar nominations including a whopping seven films in 1943.  War films seem to come in pairs in this category with at least two nominees as well in 1970, 1987, 1989, 1998 and 2009 (plus three in 1965 when it still had two categories).
Five films have won the BAFTA (A Bridge Too Far, Deer Hunter, Killing Fields, Empire of the Sun, Hurt Locker) and 14 more have earned nominations.  Interestingly, every War film nominated for Editing at the BAFTAs also earned a Cinematography nomination.
War Horse won the BFCA while Basterds and Hurt Locker were nominated.  Empire, Thin Red Line and Patriot have won the ASC with seven other films earning nominations.
Killing Fields won four critics awards, Thin Red Line won three, Ryan won two as did Hurt Locker and Hope and Glory won one.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. Glory
  2. The Great Escape
  3. Born on the Fourth of July
  4. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  5. Empire of the Sun

Analysis:  In what I am sure will be a shock to many, John Williams doesn’t win here, though he’s in #3 and 5.  Only Glory, Great Escape and Bridge win the Nighthawk but joining Born and Empire with nominations are 13 other films.
Bridge is the only Oscar winning Score from a War film though 22 other films have received nominations including five scores composed by John Williams (Empire, Born, Saving Private Ryan, Patriot, War Horse).  Three films have won the Globe (Guns of Navarone, Apocalypse Now, Heaven and Earth) while 12 have earned nominations.  Three films have won the BAFTA (Bridge Too Far, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Empire) with seven more earning nominations.  Ryan won the BFCA with nominations for Last Samurai and War HorseEuropa Europa won the LAFC.

  • Best Sound:
  1. Saving Private Ryan
  2. The Hurt Locker
  3. Das Boot
  4. Glory
  5. Apocalypse Now

Analysis:  Again, there are more perfect 9 scores than slots available.  Also earning that perfect 9 are Bridge on the River Kwai and Black Hawk Down.  A whopping 13 films win the Nighthawk though Black Hawk Down isn’t one of them.  There are also 43 films that earn nominations making this one of War’s best categories.
There were two early Oscar winners (A Farewell to Arms, 12 O’Clock High) then a gap of 21 years before the next winner, but from 1970 to 2009 there have been eight winners.  There have been 21 nominees as well and again, they are mostly later (10 before 1982, 12 since).
Five films have won the BAFTA with an additional 10 nominees.  There have been two BFCA nominees (Hurt Locker, War Horse).  Ryan and Hurt Locker both won CAS while six films have earned nominations.

  • Best Art Direction:
  1. Glory
  2. Henry V
  3. Inglourious Basterds
  4. Empire of the Sun
  5. The Bridge on the River Kwai

Analysis:  There have been two Nighthawk winners: Glory and Bridge.  There have also been nine other nominees.
Patton is the only Oscar winner though 17 films have earned nominations.  There have been three BAFTA winners (Blue Max, Waterloo, Killing Fields) with nine additional nominees.  Basterds and War Horse are the only BFCA nominees.  Hurt Locker won the ADG while seven films have earned nominations.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Saving Private Ryan
  3. Pearl Harbor
  4. Black Hawk Down
  5. Das Boot

Analysis:  Most of the effects in these films deal with explosions.  Several films have won the Nighthawk (including Bridge) but all of them were before the big Sci-Fi and Fantasy explosion after Star Wars.  Another 13 have earned Nighthawk nominations but the only ones after 1970 are A Bridge Too Far, Empire of the Sun and Saving Private Ryan.
There have been eight Oscar winners, the most recent being in 1970.  There have been another 16 nominees but Pearl Harbor is the only one since 1970.  Saving Private Ryan won the BAFTA while four others have earned nominations.  There have been no BFCA nominees.  Last Samurai and Flags of Our Fathers both won VES awards while four others have earned nominations, usually in the Supporting Visual Effects category.

  • Best Sound Editing
  1. Saving Private Ryan
  2. Das Boot
  3. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  4. The Hurt Locker
  5. Black Hawk Down

Analysis:  This is the most successful category for War films at the Nighthawks.  There are 13 Nighthawk winners and another 49 nominees.  In both 1943 and 1957 War films account for all five nominees.
There have been six Oscar winners (The Dirty Dozen and then five from 1998 to 2009) and another five nominees.  War Horse, in 2011, was the first War film to lose the Oscar to a film other than another War film since 1982.
War films have also done well at the MPSE.  Three films have won multiple awards there (Born on the Fourth of July, Saving Private Ryan, Letters from Iwo Jima), three won an award and earned another nomination, four simply won an award, four didn’t win an award but earned multiple nominations and twelve films simply received a nomination (for a total of 22 films earning a combined 12 awards among 38 nominations).

  • Best Costume Design:
  1. Henry V
  2. Glory
  3. Ivan the Terrible Part I
  4. The Last Samurai
  5. The Charge of the Light Brigade

Analysis:  It’s not a coincidence that none of these are War films that take place in the 20th Century.  La Marseillaise, Bridge and Henry won the Nighthawk while eight others earned nominations (Glory lost to Henry).
Henry won the Oscar while Morituri, Empire of the Sun and Last Samurai earned noms.  Waterloo won the BAFTA while Blue Max, Charge of the Light Brigade, Empire of the Sun and Henry earned noms.  Basterds has the only BFCA nom while Last Samurai has the only CDG nom.

  • Best Makeup
  1. Saving Private Ryan
  2. Henry V
  3. Black Hawk Down
  4. Inglourious Basterds
  5. The Last Samurai

Analysis:  No film has won the Nighthawk but five have earned Nighthawk nominations (but not these same five – Patton gets a nom instead of Samurai).
Ryan is the only film to earn an Oscar nom.  Killing Fields, Hope and Glory and Ryan earned BAFTA noms.  Ryan came out the year before the MUASG awards began but The Patriot won two awards, Last Samurai won an award and earned a second nomination and Three Kings earned a nomination.

  • Best Technical Aspects
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Glory
  3. Saving Private Ryan
  4. Henry V
  5. Inglourious Basterds

Analysis:  This is based on looking at the totals for all the technical categories, based on the individual film.

  • Best Original Song:
  1. “Cross the Green Mountain”  (Gods and Generals)
  2. “Try Not to Remember”  (Home of the Brave)
  3. “Linda”  (The Story of G..I. Joe)
  4. “The Bold and the Brave”  (The Bold and the Brave)

Analysis:  This is literally every original song from a War film that earns any points from me.  None of them are all that great.
Two songs earned Oscar noms (“Linda”, “There You’ll Be” from Pearl Harbor), two earned Globe noms (“There You’ll Be”, “Try Not to Remember”) and one earned a BFCA nom (“There You’ll Be”).

  • Best Animated Film:
  1. n/a

Analysis:  There are no Animated films that I classify as War films though Grave of the Fireflies certainly could be considered one.

  • Best Foreign Film:
  1. The Grand Illusion
  2. The Cranes are Flying
  3. Europa Europa
  4. Ivan the Terrible Part 1
  5. Das Boot

note:  Like with Picture, the full list can be found by looking at the full list; every Foreign film in the Top 78 goes on this list.  Grand Illusion, Europa and Das Boot win the Oscar (Cranes is from a ridiculously competitive year) while 23 other films earn Nighthawk nominations.  In all, there are 36 films that earn Top 20 finishes at the Nighthawks.  None of my Top 5 were even Oscar submitted.
As mentioned up in the submissions section, no film that I classify as a War film has ever won the Oscar though 14 of them earned a nomination including two in 1959 (The Bridge, Kapo) and 2007 (Katyn, Beaufort).  Three films have won the Globe (Bridge, Europa, Letters from Iwo Jima) while 8 more have earned nominations though that includes Gallipoli.  Three films have earned BAFTA nominations (Das Boot, Europa, Black Book).  Letters won the BFCA while Days of Glory and Christmas Tale earned nominations.  Europa won three critics awards, Grand Illusion won the only two existing ones and one award each was won by 8 films.

  • Best Film (by my points system):
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Glory
  3. Henry V
  4. Inglourious Basterds
  5. Saving Private Ryan

Analysis:  This is the total of all my category points.  Bridge is at 120 which is just outside the all-time Top 10 with its combination of fantastic production values and solid acting.

  • Best Film  (weighted points system)
  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Glory
  3. Inglourious Basterds
  4. Henry V
  5. The Killing Fields

Analysis:  Killing Fields takes over from Ryan because of the quality of the acting but it finishes just a few points above Apocalypse Now.

Best Films With No Top 5 Finishes:

  • Gallipoli
  • Stalag 17
  • In Which We Serve
  • Ivan’s Childhood

note:  These are all mid to high *** films but they just can’t quite make it into the Top 5 anywhere.

Worst Film with a Top 5 Finish:

  • Pearl Harbor

Note:  As terrible as the film is (and it’s pretty terrible), its Visual Effects are more impressive than almost all other War films, mainly because it’s more recent and had a huge budget.

Nighthawk Notables

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Inglourious Basterds
  • Best Line  (comedic):  “You give me powders, pills, baths, injections, enemas when all I need is love.” (William Holden in The Bridge on the River Kwai)
  • Best Line  (dramatic):  “I love the small of napalm in the morning.”  (Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now)
  • Best Response to an idiotic studio suggestion:  When told to provide a happy ending to All Quiet on the Western Front, Lewis Milestone responded “Okay.  We’ll have the Germans win the war.”
  • Best Opening:  Apocalypse Now
  • Best Ending:  The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Best Scene:  the motorcycle chase in The Great Escape
  • Most Gut-Wrenching Scene:  the slaughter of the cow in Apocalypse Now
  • Most Heart-Wrenching Scene:  the ending of Glory
  • Best Use of a Song:  “Imagine”  (The Killing Fields)
  • Best Soundtrack:  Born on the Fourth of July
  • Worst Sequel:  Burn by the Sun 2
  • Best Remake:  Henry V
  • Best Sequel:  Ivan the Terrible Part II
  • Watch the Film, SKIP the Book:  The Birth of a Nation
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Tatyana Samojlova in The Cranes are Flying
  • Sexiest Performance:  Melanie Laurent in Inglourious Basterds
  • Highest Attractiveness / Acting Ability Ratio:  Kate Beckinsale in Pearl Harbor
  • Coolest Performance:  Steve McQueen in The Great Escape
  • Best Tagline:  “Welcome to the suck.”  (Jarhead)
  • Best Cameo:  Robbie Coltrane in Henry V

note:  It doesn’t include categories that are covered in some of the lists above like Worst Film, Most Over-rated Film, Best Ensemble, etc.

At the Theater

By the end of 2011, I had probably seen over 1000 films in the theater at some point or another.  I had certainly been to the movies well over 1000 times.  But not only were War films kind of out of vogue, they also have never been my thing.  So the only War films I have ever seen in the theater are Glory, Born on the Fourth of July, Heaven and Earth, Courage Under Fire, Saving Private Ryan, Three Kings, The Quiet American and The Last Samurai.

Awards

Academy Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  123
  • Number of Films That Have Won Oscars:  36
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  60
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  18
  • Best Picture Nominations:  28
  • Total Number of Nominations:  345
  • Total Number of Wins:  78
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Cinematography  (41)
  • Number of Films with Nominations I Haven’t Seen:  1  (Women in War)
  • Directors with Most Oscar Nominated Films:  Howard Hawks  /  Lewis Milestone  /  Steven Spielberg  /  Oliver Stone  /  Raoul Walsh  /  William Wellman  /  Ed Zwick  (3)
  • Best Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Paths of Glory

Oscar Oddities:

  • Of the five films to win their only Oscar nomination, three of them were for Visual Effects (I Wanted Wings, Crash Dive, The Enemy Below).
  • Only two directors have directed multiple War films that won multiple Oscars.  Oliver Stone’s films won Director and Editing twice.  William Wellman’s two films won two Oscars each and they didn’t overlap at all (Picture, Visual Effects for one, Screenplay, Cinematography for the other).
  • Only four War films have been nominated for the five major Tech Oscars (Editing, Cinematography, Score, Sound, Art Direction) and two of them were directed by Spielberg (Empire of the Sun, Saving Private Ryan).  Two more have been nominated for all but Editing and Spielberg directed one of those as well (War Horse).

Most Oscar Nominations

  1. Sergeant York  –  11
  2. Saving Private Ryan  –  11
  3. Patton  –  10
  4. For Whom the Bell Tolls  –  9
  5. The Deer Hunter  –  9
  6. The Hurt Locker  –  9
  7. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  8
  8. Apocalypse Now  –  8
  9. Platoon  –  8
  10. Born on the Fourth of July  –  8
  11. Inglourious Basterds  –  8

Most Oscar Wins:

  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  7
  2. Patton  –  7
  3. The Hurt Locker  –  6
  4. The Deer Hunter  –  5
  5. Saving Private Ryan  –  5

Most Oscar Points:

  1. Patton  –  540
  2. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  520
  3. The Hurt Locker  –  485
  4. The Deer Hunter  –  470
  5. Saving Private Ryan  –  450
  6. Sergeant York  –  405
  7. Platoon  –  405
  8. Born on the Fourth of July  –  335
  9. The Killing Fields  –  330
  10. For Whom the Bell Tolls  –  305

Critics Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Won Critics Awards:  36
  • Number of Films With Multiple Awards:  19
  • Best Picture Wins:  24
  • Total Number of Awards:  107
  • Category With the Most Awards:  Picture  (24)

Most Awards:

  1. The Hurt Locker  –  17
  2. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  7
  3. Hope and Glory  –  7
  4. The Killing Fields  –  6
  5. Saving Private Ryan  –  6

Most Points:

  1. The Hurt Locker  –  1289
  2. Hope and Glory  –  558
  3. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  516
  4. Saving Private Ryan  –  475
  5. The Killing Fields  –  451

note:  The Hurt Locker is #7 all-time.  The Bridge on the River Kwai was #1 all-time at its release.

Highest Critics Point Percentage:

  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  63.08%
  2. In Which We Serve  –  43.90%
  3. The Hurt Locker  –  32.31%
  4. Paisan  –  27.51%
  5. Wake Island  –  21.95%

Most Points by Critics Group:

  • NYFC:  The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  260
  • LAFC:  Hope and Glory  –  270
  • NSFC:  Shame  /  The Hurt Locker  –  260
  • BSFC:  The Hurt Locker  –  360
  • CFC:  The Hurt Locker  –  390
  • NBR:  The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  320

Golden Globes

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  43
  • Number of Films That Have Won Globes:  18
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  21
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  8
  • Best Picture Nominations:  17
  • Total Number of Nominations:  94
  • Total Number of Wins:  31
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Picture  (17 – 1 in Comedy)
  • Best Film with No Globe Nominations:  Paths of Glory

Globe Oddities:

  • Only four War films have won three or more Globes and two of them were directed by Oliver Stone
  • Only two War films have been nominated in Comedy categories – Hope and Glory (Picture) and When Willie Comes Marching Home (Actor).

Most Globe Nominations:

  1. The Deer Hunter  –  6
  2. The Killing Fields  –  6
  3. Born on the Fourth of July  –  5
  4. Saving Private Ryan  –  5
  5. Glory  –  5

Most Globes:

  1. Born on the Fourth of July  –  4
  2. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  3
  3. Apocalypse Now  –  3
  4. Platoon  –  3
  5. four films  –  2

Most Globe Points:

  1. Born on the Fourth of July  –  365
  2. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  290
  3. Platoon  –  290
  4. Saving Private Ryan  –  290
  5. The Deer Hunter  –  275
  6. The Killing Fields  –  255
  7. Apocalypse Now  –  250
  8. Glory  –  220
  9. The Guns of Navarone  –  195
  10. Inglourious Basterds  –  195

Guild Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  58
  • Number of Films That Have Won Guild Awards:  24
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  27
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  11
  • Best Picture Nominations:  8
  • Total Number of Nominations:  152
  • Total Number of Wins:  48
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Sound Editing  (26)
  • Best Film with No Guild Nominations:  Europa Europa
  • Best English Language Film with No Guild Nominations:  The Quiet American

Most Guild Nominations:

  1. Saving Private Ryan  –  12
  2. The Hurt Locker  –  11
  3. The Last Samurai  –  10
  4. Inglourious Basterds  –  9
  5. Born on the Fourth of July  /  Black Hawk Down  –  7

Most Guild Wins:

  1. Saving Private Ryan  –  6
  2. The Hurt Locker  –  6
  3. Patton  –  4
  4. Born on the Fourth of July  –  3
  5. The Patriot  –  3
  6. Inglourious Basterds  –  3

Most Guild Points:

  1. Saving Private Ryan  –  550
  2. The Hurt Locker  –  550
  3. Inglourious Basterds  –  390
  4. Born on the Fourth of July  –  310
  5. Patton  –  260
  6. The Last Samurai  –  250
  7. Black Hawk Down  –  235
  8. The Deer Hunter  –  180
  9. Platoon  –  180
  10. War Horse  –  155

Highest Guild Point Percentage:

  1. Born on the Fourth of July  –  19.02%
  2. Patton  –  18.84%
  3. Platoon  –  15.25%
  4. The Killing Fields  –  14.56%
  5. Saving Private Ryan  –  13.41%

The BAFTAs

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  54
  • Number of Films That Have Won BAFTAs:  19
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  34
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  11
  • Best Picture Nominations:  28
  • Total Number of Nominations:  180
  • Total Number of Wins:  44
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Picture  (28)
  • Best Film with No BAFTA Nominations:  Gallipoli

Most BAFTA Noms:

  1. Hope and Glory  –  13
  2. The Killings Fields  –  12
  3. Saving Private Ryan  –  10
  4. Apocalypse Now  –  9
  5. The Deer Hunter  –  9

Most BAFTA Wins:

  1. The Killing Fields  –  7
  2. The Hurt Locker  –  6
  3. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  4
  4. A Bridge Too Far  –  4
  5. Empire of the Sun  –  3

note:  The Bridge on the River Kwai won all four of the awards it was nominated for.

Most BAFTA Points:

  1. The Killing Fields  –  565
  2. The Hurt Locker  –  465
  3. Hope and Glory  –  400
  4. The Deer Hunter  –  355
  5. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  350
  6. Apocalypse Now  –  350
  7. A Bridge Too Far  –  340
  8. Saving Private Ryan  –  315
  9. Orders to Kill  –  250
  10. Empire of the Sun  /  Inglourious Basterds  –  215

Broadcast Film Critics Awards
(Critic’s Choice Awards)

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  12
  • Number of Films That Have Won BFCA:  5
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  6
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  3
  • Best Picture Nominations:  8
  • Total Number of Nominations:  37
  • Total Number of Wins:  9
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Picture  (8)
  • Best Film with No BFCA Nominations:  The Quiet American
  • Most Nominations:  Inglourious Basterds  (8)
  • Most Wins:  Saving Private Ryan  (3)

BFCA Points:

  1. The Hurt Locker  –  335
  2. Inglourious Basterds  –  320
  3. Saving Private Ryan  –  240
  4. War Horse  –  235
  5. Letters from Iwo Jima  –  135

All Awards

Most Nominations:

  1. The Hurt Locker  –  55
  2. Saving Private Ryan  –  47
  3. Inglourious Basterds  –  40
  4. The Killing Fields  –  36
  5. The Deer Hunter  –  31
  6. Hope and Glory  –  29
  7. Apocalypse Now  –  25
  8. War Horse  –  25
  9. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  24
  10. Patton  /  Born on the Fourth of July  –  23

note:  The Hurt Locker, Deer Hunter, Bridge, Patton and Born are all #1 in their respective years.
note:  The Hurt Locker is tied for #6 all-time.

Most Awards:

  1. The Hurt Locker  –  37
  2. Saving Private Ryan  –  24
  3. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  22
  4. The Killing Fields  –  20
  5. Patton  –  16
  6. The Deer Hunter  –  14
  7. Inglourious Basterds  –  13
  8. Platoon  –  12
  9. Born on the Fourth of July  –  10
  10. Hope and Glory  –  9

note:  The Hurt Locker, Ryan, Bridge, Patton and Deer Hunter are all #1 in their respective years.
note:  The Hurt Locker is #5 all-time.
note:  The Bridge on the River Kwai was #1 all-time upon its release and stayed at #1 until 1966.

Total Awards Points

  1. The Hurt Locker  –  3110
  2. Saving Private Ryan  –  2159
  3. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  1699
  4. The Killing Fields  –  1685
  5. Inglourious Basterds  –  1545
  6. The Deer Hunter  –  1511
  7. Hope and Glory  –  1322
  8. Patton  –  1230
  9. Platoon  –  1045
  10. Born on the Fourth of July  –  1044

note:  The Hurt Locker, Ryan, Bridge, Killing Fields, Patton and Deer Hunter are all #1 in their respective years.
note:  The Hurt Locker is #3 all-time.
note:  The Bridge on the River Kwai was #1 all-time upon its release and stayed at #1 until 1966.

Highest Awards Percentage:

  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  18.37%
  2. The Killing Fields  –  14.91%
  3. The Hurt Locker  –  14.81%
  4. The Deer Hunter  –  14.70%
  5. All Quiet on the Western Front  –  13.93%
  6. Patton  –  13.45%
  7. Saving Private Ryan  –  12.39%
  8. Hope and Glory  –  10.52%
  9. Sergeant York  –  9.50%
  10. A Farewell to Arms  –  9.04%

note:  This is why I do the percentage, because it gives a historical perspective.

Lists

I won’t do a lot of lists, because that’s the whole point of TSPDT – they put a ridiculous amount of lists in the blender and come out with the “definitive” one.  Their lists includes lists by genre, so you can always go there and look at their source lists.

The TSPDT Top 25 War Films:

  1. Apocalypse Now  (#11)
  2. The Grand Illusion  (#42)
  3. The Battle of Algiers  (#66)
  4. Come and See  (#156)
  5. The Deer Hunter  (#160)
  6. The Thin Red Line  (#196)
  7. Ivan the Terrible Part 2  (#210)
  8. Paisan  (#212)
  9. Ashes and Diamonds  (#221)
  10. Ivan the Terrible Part 1  (#254)
  11. Paths of Glory  (#265)
  12. The Birth of a Nation  (#280)
  13. Ivan’s Childhood  (#370)
  14. The Bridge on the River Kwai  (#379)
  15. Army of Shadows  (#389)
  16. Alexander Nevsky  (#473)
  17. The Cranes are Flying  (#476)
  18. The Damned  (#524)
  19. Full Metal Jacket  (#586)
  20. The Great Escape  (#666)
  21. Saving Private Ryan  (#723)
  22. The Ascent  (#733)
  23. All Quiet on the Western Front  (#737)
  24. They Were Expendable  (#795)
  25. Das Boot  (#893)

note:  These are the current (2018) rankings from TSPDT.  There haven’t been any dramatic changes in a while.  Apocalypse Now has held the top spot since 2013, when it took it from Grand IllusionThe Hurt Locker is in the Top 50 for this century but just outside the Top 1000 overall.

AFI:

The AFI didn’t do a War list.  There are five films in their Top 100 (Apocalypse Now, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Deer Hunter, Saving Private Ryan, Platoon) with three on their original Top 100 list but eliminated for their second one (The Birth of a Nation, All Quiet on the Western Front, Patton).  All Quiet and Private Ryan were on their Top 10 Epic list while also appearing on their Epic ballot were Apocalypse Now, The Big Parade, The Birth of a Nation, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Glory, Letters from Iwo Jima, The Longest Day and Patton.

The IMDb Voters Top 10 War Films:

  1. Saving Private Ryan
  2. Apocalypse Now
  3. Das Boot
  4. Paths of Glory
  5. Inglourious Basterds
  6. Full Metal Jacket
  7. Come and See
  8. The Great Escape
  9. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  10. Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office  (1979-2011)

  1. Saving Private Ryan  –  $216.54 mil
  2. Pearl Harbor  –  $198.54 mil
  3. Platoon  –  $138.53 mil
  4. Inglourious Basterds  –  $120.54 mil
  5. The Patriot  –  $113.33 mil
  6. The Last Samurai  –  $111.12 mil
  7. Black Hawk Down  –  $108.63 mil
  8. Apocalypse Now  –  $83.47 mil
  9. Valkyrie  –  $83.07 mil
  10. War Horse  –  $79.88 mil

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office (all-time, adjusted to November 2018)

  1. The Longest Day  –  $518.31 mil
  2. The Bridge on the River Kwai  –  $504.28 mil
  3. Sergeant York  –  $446.10 mil
  4. Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse  –  $425.66 mil
  5. Saving Private Ryan  –  $424.07 mil
  6. The Guns of Navarone  –  $388.35 mil
  7. Patton  –  $369.30 mil
  8. The Dirty Dozen  –  $349.68 mil
  9. Platoon  –  $328.49 mil
  10. Pearl Harbor  –  $325.17 mil

note:  This only includes what Box Office Mojo has information on (and I had to put some of it together myself).  The Numbers provided the box office info for The Longest Day, The Guns of Navarone and The Dirty Dozen, all of which seem like they should be in BOM but which aren’t (though I had to use BOM’s average ticket prices to figure out the adjusted totals for those three).

Books

Hollywood at War: The American Motion Picture and World War II, Ken D. Jones and Arthur F. McClure, 1973

If you go into this book thinking it’s an in-depth look at its purported subject, you would be vastly mistaken.  There is a 10 page introductory essay that talks about films and World War II, noting specific movements among those films and the progression through the years leading up to American involvement in the war and then running through the war.  But the vast majority of the book is simply a listing of films dealing with World War II made between 1938 and 1945 with a still for most of them.  It’s useful as a list of films but really nothing more than that.

A Pictorial History of War Films, Clyde Jeavons, 1974

This is a coffee table pictorial book.  It might seem like it’s quite outdated, but surprisingly, if you read the Basinger book (see below), it is very well-timed.  There was a serious drop-off in the production of War films in the mid 70’s as the World War II film (or Korea) had dropped off and the Vietnam film hadn’t really come into play yet.  So, while it’s true that this book doesn’t cover any Vietnam films and there are a lot of other solid films it doesn’t have, the vast bulk of World War II films (and World War I films for that matter) are covered in this book.

Films and the Second World War, Roger Manvell, 1974

A decent book on World War II films (and the war’s impact on film) that at least is more narrative than photographic.

War Movies, Jay Hyams, 1984

A coffee table book with a good amount of text.  If you’re not trying to get a too-detailed book on war films, this might be your best bet.  It groups the films by time period (which also, in some ways, groups them by war subject) and has a good number of stills.  It was, unfortunately, published in 1984, so except for the few films made at the end of the 70’s, it doesn’t really have much on Vietnam War films.

The World War II Combat Film: Anatomy of a Genre, Jeanine Basinger, 1986

This is a first-rate book from one of America’s foremost film scholars.  Basinger goes through a long description of what qualifies as a “combat” film, separating those from other types of War films (which she thoroughly discusses) and then goes in-depth on their history, specifically noting the importance of Bataan.  She also gives a very thorough appendix, going through year by year and including a variety of films that she didn’t discuss (and why), including World War I films, non-combat films and non-American films (the book is specifically about how American War films changed, starting with the advent of World War II).  Having read this book before looking at the book above, I realized that 1974 was a good time for that book to have been published because there really was a drop-off at that time of War films.  Anyone with a serious interest in War films, especially World War II films should seek this book out.

Hollywood’s World War I: Motion Picture Images, ed. Peter C. Rollins and John E. O’Connor, 1997

A small academic study of World War I films.  It’s not a particularly important book, based on the academics involved and that it was published by a minor university press (Bowling Green State).  The title is also an odd choice as it doesn’t actually have any stills in it.  But if your focus is World War I films specifically and you want an academic take on them, this is probably the book for you.

The War Film, ed. Robert Eberwein, 2006

An academic book, one of the type of books that has individual articles contributed by a wide array of film academics.  A decent book with a mix of articles that talk about War films in general (or about the genre) while some specifically focus on one film or even on one aspect of a particular film.

Women in War Films: From Helpless Heroine to G.I. Jane, Ralph Donald and Karen MacDonald, 2014

A rather dry academic book but one that takes a much ignored aspect of War films and gives it a deservedly detailed study.

Reviews

The Best War Film I Haven’t Yet Reviewed

The Battle of Algiers  (1966, Gillo Pontecorvo)

This is no longer a singularly fascinating film but it is still pretty damn close.  In Post-War Italy, filmmakers tried a new approach to film called Neorealism which relied on existing locations and often used amateur actors.  Yet, you could still feel that they were feature films.  The best of those films, The Bicycle Thieves, had the look of a documentary but with its plot and performances you never thought you were actually watching one.  But then came The Battle of Algiers, technically an Italian film (the director, Gillo Pontecorvo, is Italian and the financing was Italian) but it was made in Algiers about the Algerian War and the dialogue is in French and Arabic.  To the credit of the Academy, they allowed this as the Italian submission (later rules would not have allowed it as neither language is endemic to Italy) but to their failure, it lost the Oscar to A Man and a Woman, a very good film, but nowhere near on the same level.  But again, to their credit, they nominated it for both Director and Original Screenplay two years later when it finally earned a full release in Los Angeles and if this film barely misses out on the first one at the Nighthawks that’s only because 1968 is actually a hell of a year for film when you go by what was Oscar eligible.

Getting back to what made this film for so long a singularly fascinating film, it’s that if you were to simply watch it without knowing anything about it, in its realism on the streets of Algeria, the way the story is told (it doesn’t really have a plot but rather just focuses on some events in the Algerian War while changing names of real people involved), the actors involved (for the most part not professionals) and the style in which it is shot, you would be forgiven for believing that you had just watched a documentary.  This is, for all intents and purposes, a filmic depiction of what was happening in Algeria during those years and if these scenes have been reconstructed, well that’s not much different than what many documentaries do when they don’t actually have footage for specific events.

I have said, twice now, of course, that it is not a singularly fascinating film and the only reason I have to make that distinction is that not long after I originally saw this film in 1995, I saw a film in the theater that was so lifelike in its authenticity and used actors who were mostly amateurs (though two of them have gone to very impressive film careers) that in those mostly pre-internet days, I actually wasn’t certain that I hadn’t seen a documentary (it’s Kids if you haven’t guessed).  But just because a second film came along and made this film slightly less unique, it did not make it less great, fascinating or powerful.  Though widely condemned in France (banned for years, many critics spoke out against it), this film actually does a good job of presenting both sides of what was going on (in, what we should remember, was essentially a war of independence) and it also did a magnificent job of showing why America was, at the time, losing the war in Vietnam, and why it did such a piss poor job in its post-9/11 military excursions.

The Battle of Algiers is not just a great film, but an important film.  It was not my #1 Foreign Film of 1966 (it came in second to Persona) and it sits at #6 in my list for 1968 (where it is eligible for everything else) but it is probably more important and should be watched before films that I rank above it (with the exception of 2001).  Pontecorvo as a director, mostly made documentaries but, after his fascinating Kapo in 1959 (a similar style, but more like a regular feature film) he really found a way to merge the two types of films here in a kind of hybrid that is so rare that it must be seen to be properly appreciated.

The Worst War Film I Haven’t Yet Reviewed

Inchon  (1982, Terence Young)

Most War films aren’t bad.  That may sound a bit facetious, but I actually mean that.  I classify bad films as ones that are ** or lower.  I have seen 436 War Films (as mentioned above) and only 31 of them are bad by that definition.  Indeed, only five of them, as mentioned above, fall below **.  This is, by several points, the worst.

There are lessons to be learned here.  The first lesson is that you don’t make a War movie that is being funded by a cult.  This film was funded by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and it was his goal to show how horrible North Korea was and how the Communists are the root of everything bad.  To that extent, over $40 million was sunk into the production and marketing of this film and it barely over $5 million.  After the first several films about Vietnam showing the moral compromises of that war, American audiences weren’t really interested in a big epic war film showing how one general (a megalomaniac who I’m certain would have gotten along with Moon just fine) won the big battle that helped win the war.  But director Terence Young, who had been good with the early James Bond films, was completely out of his depths, Laurence Olivier, playing MacArthur, was just going through the motions trying to earn some money for his children after years of poor health (the same reason he made Clash of the Titans) and the script is a complete mess.  And, honestly, why would people bother to go pay and spend two hours sitting through this mess when they could stay at home and find ways to laugh about this war by watching M*A*S*H?

Perhaps this film wouldn’t have been so bad if they had just focused on the battle itself.  But it wants to do too much.  There is a subplot about an American couple – the wife (played with ample cleavage replacing acting by Jacqueline Bisset) is trying to get a car full of young Koreans to safety while her husband, played by Ben Gazarra, who comes to closest to not giving a terrible performance in the film, is trying to break off his affair with a young Korean woman.  Why bother to fill so much of the time with this subplot if your goal is to show important the battle was in turning the tide of the war?

This film is so bad that not only was it a complete box office disaster, but they didn’t even think they could defray some of the costs with video sales because they never bothered to release it on video.  However, since it was on television, there are copies available online to watch if you really want to torture yourself, but don’t bother.  You would actually be better off watching Pearl Harbor.

Bonus Review

The Last Samurai  (2003, dir. Ed Zwick)

“Do I contradict myself?  /  Very well then I contradict myself,  /  (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”  Walt Whitman wrote that and while I try not to contradict myself, sometimes I do.  I bring up that quote here to address the fact that there are actors that I am not particularly inclined to at least in part due to their personal views or choices (Ginger Rogers, Charlton Heston) while there are also actors who I like quite a lot on-screen even when they continually act like bizarre lunatics when they are not on-screen.  Thus we get to Tom Cruise.

I am, I must admit, a big fan of Tom Cruise when on-screen.  He is, at once, a popular actor who can do big budget action films but can also turn around and prove time and time again that he can be one of the best actors on-screen.  Since his nutjob interview on Oprah he has mostly focused on the popular films and gone away from the serious acting although perhaps he had simply decided that the Academy wasn’t going to give him an Oscar and so he might as well do other things.  This was one of the last really serious roles that he did (he would follow it up the next year with Collateral) as a former soldier who is tired of the slaughter he has committed against Native Americans and when given a chance for some redemption (and pay) by training soldiers in Japan against an uprising of Samurai (loosely based on the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion), he heads across the ocean.  What he finds there perhaps can be guessed.  He will, of course, find the deep and fascinating Japanese culture, so different from what he had thought it would be, a long history of honor and civilization and discover that the war he thought he was going to fight is not the war he is going to fight.

That of course dives right into the biggest weakness of this film, which is that it is very much tied into the narrative of the white savior, to the point where it will be a white man who will remind the Emperor about honor and history.  It’s not that surprising from Ed Zwick, who, as the creator of Thirtysomething, created one of the whitest shows around and in a sense had already done a film like this with Glory by having the white officer as the main character in the film.  But, to Zwick’s credit, this film did its homework on the history, the language and the culture (to the point where it was actually a bigger box office hit in Japan than it was in the States) and in both this and Glory, the story becomes bigger than the white savior narrative because of the direction, the acting and all of the technical achievements.

The Last Samurai is a war film that is different from almost all other films that I classify as War films.  It is not technically a real war (as I said, it’s only loosely based on the Satsuma Rebellion) and the vast, vast majority of war films are about the major wars of the 20th Century (as can be seen from the top).  But it shows how men respond in wartime, respond to their actions, to the violence, to the way war affects the population and the reasons that we fight wars in the first place.  This film, like so many, shows the amazing sights of combat, coming alive with the sound and the cinematography and reminds you what is lost in war.

Cruise is the star of the film, of course, be he is not its anchor.  That would be Ken Watanabe, the samurai that Cruise learns from (and the real title star of the film) who managed to become an international film star after this role after over 20 years as an actor.  Perhaps that is the real connection to Glory because Watanabe is a reminder of the Denzel Washington character who taught Broderick why the war was really being fought.

It comes down to this: if you want to criticize this film because of the white savior narrative, I won’t argue.  If you don’t particularly like Cruise because he’s clearly kind of a nutjob, I won’t argue that either.  But there are good reasons to watch this film, to subsume yourself to its score and cinematography, to its art direction and costumes (the technical aspects of the film are fantastic) and to remind yourself that Cruise was, for a long time, one hell of an actor and thanks to this film, Ken Watanabe’s acting has been appreciated by millions more and if you haven’t seen this film, you are missing out.

Not War Films

Just because there is a war on, doesn’t mean I consider it a War film.  Dramas that have some scenes set during a war or are set against a backdrop of a war but not actually showing the war itself I don’t count (such as Gone with the Wind or Casablanca).  I don’t count Holocaust films for the most part.  I am not 100% consistent, but in general, unless it really focuses on the actions of the war itself, I don’t classify it as a War film.

Ten Great Films I Don’t Classify as War Films

  1. The General  (Comedy)
  2. Gone with the Wind  (Drama)
  3. The Great Dictator  (Comedy)
  4. Casablanca  (Drama)
  5. The Diary of Anne Frank  (Drama)
  6. Lawrence of Arabia  (Drama)
  7. M*A*S*H  (Comedy)
  8. Grave of the Fireflies  (Drama)
  9. Schindler’s List  (Drama)
  10. Pan’s Labyrinth  (Fantasy)

Post-2011

All-Time List:  Dunkirk would land at #7 (and is clearly the top War film of the decade) with War Witch, American Sniper and Beasts of No Nation low in the Top 75.  Act of Valor would be the second lowest film.  Fury and Hacksaw Ridge would rank among the most over-rated War films.

Foreign Submission:  The Russians still want approval for their War films because they have submitted two more since 2011 (White Tiger, Stalingrad) though they still just have the one nomination (though they have submitted nine War films since then).  Three more films have earned Foreign nominations (War Witch, Tangerines, A War).

Nighthawks:  Dunkirk, with its magnificent technical achievements, makes the All-Time Top 5 in numerous categories (Editing, Cinematography, Sound, Art Direction, Visual Effects (where it’s #1), Sound Editing and Makeup) while it’s close to the Top 5 in Picture, Director, Score and Costume Design.  Dunkirk is also first in Technical Aspects, second in Points and third in Weighted Points.

Awards:  The Oscars have been dominated by three films: American Sniper (6 noms, 1 win), Hacksaw Ridge (6 noms, 1 win) and Dunkirk (8 noms, 3 wins).  Though nine films have earned nominations those three have all 5 wins (2 for Editing, 2 for Sound, 1 for Sound Editing).  Hacksaw Ridge and Dunkirk both went 0 for 3 at the Globes with three other films earning nominations with Act of Valor just the third to earn a Song nom.  Dunkirk won a BAFTA among 8 noms and Hacksaw Ridge won a BAFTA among 5 noms.  Three films dominate the BFCA: Dunkirk (7 noms, 1 win), Hacksaw Ridge (5 noms) and Unbroken (4 noms) with all three earning Picture and Director noms with Dunkirk becoming the first War film to earn a VE nom there and Hacksaw the first to earn a Makeup nom.  Dunkirk won 4 guild awards among 11 noms with American Sniper, Unbroken and Hacksaw Ridge combining for 4 awards and 22 noms.  Dunkirk won 3 critics awards (Director, Cinematography, Editing) while American Sniper won Director.  Dunkirk lands among the all-time leaders with 40 total noms, 12 awards and 1334 points.  Hacksaw Ridge scores 26 total noms.

Box Office:  American Sniper easily is the #1 film all-time ($350 mil) with Dunkirk coming in at #4 ($190 mil).  American Sniper also makes the Top 10 adjusted with $390 mil.

At the Theater:  Not being a big fan of War films, Dunkirk (in 70mm) is the only War film I’ve bothered to see in the theaters since 2011.

Nighthawk Notables:

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