Everyone will have a different way of reflecting (cinematically and otherwise) today upon the sacrifices so many have made. As for me, I’d prefer the “war movies” that don’t glorify war. My favorites are ones which depict war’s anguish, loneliness, and longing, all of which are present in these films. (All are widely available via streaming or disc.)
Attack! (1956; Lee Marvin) Underrated, powerful Robert Aldrich. One of designer Saul Bass’ early title sequences.
Saving Private Ryan (1998; Tom Hanks) Spielberg was inspired by Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front.
Sahara (1943; Humphrey Bogart) Cross-section of desperate soldiers find a common humanity.
Twelve O’Clock High (1949; Gregory Peck) Moving, wistful, other-worldy (“You’re already dead”) portrayal of a WWII bomber group. Peck is terrific.
Guns of Navarone (1961; Gregory Peck, David Niven) Another great Peck performance; an almost perfect film from start to finish. Gripping, tense, emotional.
The Great Escape (1963; Steve McQueen) Amazing cast in the story of a Nazi prison camp. Tragedy and humor blend perfectly together.
Dr. Strangelove (1964; Peter Sellers, George C. Scott) Disturbingly real in spite of a ridiculous story. Contrary to the movie’s full title, you won’t stop worrying.
The Dirty Dozen (1967; Lee Marvin) At times horrifying, at times funny. No film captures the camaraderie of soldiers better.
Casualties of War (1989; Sean Penn, Michael J. Fox) Underrated Brian DePalma. Beautiful Ennio Morricone score. Powerful final scene.
Apocalypse Now (1979; Marlon Brando) Even with some albeit interesting flaws (Brando), other than Platoon, this movie replicates the Vietnam experience better than any other.
Platoon (1986; Charlie Sheen) The most realistic portrayal of day-to-day soldiering in Vietnam.
Paths of Glory (1957; Kirk Douglas) Amazing, brutal, honest, maddening. Closing sequence is unforgettable.
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930; Lew Ayres) My personal choice as the finest “war movie”, but one with a definite anti-war message that cuts to the bone. Once again, there’s a final scene that’s as moving as anything ever put on the screen.