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On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, guns were put down and a ceasefire was put into place on the Western Front. This marked the end of World War I and became a holiday in many of the allied nations. Initially known as Armistice Day in the United States, after World War II, it became known as Veterans Day. Every Veterans Day, Americans honor all veterans that have served in action, whether they are alive, dead, or missing.
While it is incredibly difficult to capture the horrors of war on film, there have been several war films that attempt to do so. This year, many people will take November 12 off of school or work in observance for all the veterans who have served. So, in honor of Veterans Day, here are some of Hollywood’s best war movies.
Although still entangled in the war in Vietnam, M*A*S*H gave Americans a chance to laugh at something that would usually be so horrible. Set during the Korean War, the film serves as a satire of the glorification of war and social hypocrisy. Crass and biting, this black comedy gives people the ability to look at war in a more comical sense, as twisted as that thinking may be.
Way before being known for "winning" and calling himself a warlock with tiger blood, Charlie Sheen starred in 1986's Platoon. Sheen portrays Charlie Taylor, a college student that quits school in order to serve in the military during the Vietnam War. Bolstered by director Oliver Stone's own experiences in Vietnam, the movie does not get preachy, but instead gives a more harrowing look into the horrors of war.
08. Inglorious Basterds
Taking more than a few liberties with the facts, Quentin Tarantino's World War II epic tells an alternate history about the attempts to assassinate Nazi leadership. Big, bold, and bloody, Basterds shows that the right words can be as harmful and evil as the violence of war, especially if they come from the deliciously evil Hans Landa, perfectly played Cristoph Waltz, who garnered an Academy Award for his portrayal of the Nazi leader.
07. Born on the Fourth of July
Another Oliver Stone film that looks into the Vietnam War, Born on the Fourth of July follows the story of Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise), an All-American athlete who surprises everyone by enlisting for the war. His enthusiasm for serving for his country quickly turns into horror as he accidentally kills one of his fellow soldiers and later is hit by a bullet, which leaves him paralyzed from the chest down. After returning home, Kovic's life spirals out of control, but he somehow turns himself around, and becomes an anti-war advocate. Considered by some to be Cruise's and Stone's best work, they both received Academy Award nominations, with Stone ultimately receiving a statuette for Best Director.
06. The Great Escape
Based on a true story, The Great Escape follows the soldiers who escaped from a supposedly inescapable Nazi prison camp during World War II. Running close to three hours, the film is an epic adventure that highlights the importance of teamwork and trust needed in war.
05. All Quiet on the Western Front
After a group of friends join the army to fight in World War I, are assigned to the Western Front. Their once patriotic spirit quickly changes, as they see the disaster and misery of trench warfare. The film turned into an anti-war piece after jolting the audience by depicting the horrors of war, and had the honor of being one of the first Best Picture Oscar winners.
04. Full Metal Jacket
Based on The Short Timers by Gustav Hasford, Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket exemplifies the experiences of Vietnam on film. It follows a group of volunteers to the Marines as they undergo boot camp training under the guidance of the profane Sgt. Hartman. Played by Lee Ermey, Sgt. Hartman provides one of the most realistic depictions of a drill instructor to be seen on film. After being shipped to Vietnam, the film follows the newly minted Marines as they participate in the Tet Offensive. Jacket serves as way to see how regular men are turned into killing missions and the results that doing that could cause.
03. The Hurt Locker
While American troops are attempting to make Iraq a safer place, they rely on American soldiers that are part of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal crew. Their consists of dismantling improvised explosive devices. Katheryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker is an unflinching look at the intense pressure these soldiers go through as they do their job, which leaves no room for error. Based on the experiences of journalist Mark Boal's experiences in Iraq, the film's tense look at soldiers flirting with danger won Best Picture, as well five other Oscars, at the 2010 Academy Awards.
02. Saving Private Ryan
Steven Spielberg adds a more personal story to his sweeping World War II drama based on World War II's Omaha Beach landing, as they search for a missing private. It includes an unflinching, 27 minute re-creation of the historic landing, splattered with blood and mud, providing a realistic look into how horrific combat can be. Bolstered by a strong performance by Tom Hanks and the devastating depiction of war, Saving Private Ryan serves as a milestone in war movies, almost redefining the genre.
01. Apocalypse Now
Captain Benjamin L. Willard, already suffering from the after effects of participating in the Vietnam War, is given an assignment to find the AWOL Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, believed to be hidden in the Cambodian jungle. Colonel Kurtz is rumored to have made himself into a local god, after going crazy. Based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Francis Ford Coppola's film traces the descent into madness that could be caused by war. Expertly made, Apocalypse Now is widely considered to be a modern masterpiece, and is often cited as one of the best of movies of all time.
While no film can truly capture the feelings and experience of the actual men and women who have served in the military, these films try and help civilians understand the difficulties and horrors of war. As horrible as war can be, the men and women in the armed forces continue to lay their life on the line in service to their country and to protect the citizens of the United States, and for that we wholeheartedly thank them.