11. Dr. Strangelove (1964) by Stanley Kubrick
This film is filled with images of surrogate penises serving military functions. It’s all about real, macho men working toward the total obliteration of human civilization as we know it. So General Ripper thinks the commies are behind the fluoridation of water and this is robbing American men of their manhood.
What I think is funny is that there seem to be a lot of people who, to this day, are anti-fluoridation and they say that the only other major societies that used fluoridation were Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Sometimes I wonder – what if Ripper was right!!!!!?????
George C. Scott makes this film and I guess this film allows one to forgive him for making Patton a few years later. Peter Sellers plays three roles in a film that openly mocks the military and implies that it is comprised of insecure guys who continually need to prove themselves sexually or in mock sexual ways.
OK, Colonel Bat Guano will shoot that Coca Cola machine to get you your change to call the president from a pay phone. But if you don’t get the president, well, you know what’s gonna happen? Yes! You’re gonna answer to the Coca Cola Corporation!
12. King of Hearts (1966) by Philippe de Broca
In WW I English soldier Charles Plumpick doesn’t know anything about bombs – he’s a bird guy: carrier pigeons and all that. No matter – it is his duty to find the bomb the Germans have placed in the next town before it detonates and tears the whole city down. But nobody is supposed to be there so if he fails it’s really no big deal.
The problem? Plumpick finds out the town has been completely evacuated except for the folks who were in the local mental hospital. They won’t leave. Plumpick can go and save himself but he won’t. He has to find that bomb before all the folks from the hospital get killed. OK, no spoilers here, just a word of warning: if you don’t see this film you suck. This is probably the coolest film ever made with a surprise ending that will warm your heart.
13. Orders to Kill (1958) by Anthony Asquith
Summers is an American who grew up in France and who can pass for French. He is sent by the Allies into Paris to kill a man (Lafitte) who is believed to be a double agent and who is apparently providing the Nazis with valuable information.
The only problem is that upon meeting the man, he saves Summers life and Summers is convinced he is not a double agent for the Nazis. Summers’ handler is a French woman who attacks Summers’ masculinity and upbraids him for lacking the courage and manhood to kill someone. Summers goes back and kills Lafitte.
The same day his handler tells him Lafitte is an innocent man and Summers will be sent back to London. Summers implodes and is found months later by the Allies lying drunk in a gutter. OK I spoiled it, but watch this film if you get a chance.
14. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) by Lewis Milestone
A young man is encouraged to go to war by one of his teachers who appeals to his students’ sense of patriotism. In the trenches there is little idealism or patriotism and in one of the most famous scenes in film history the hero gets shot reaching for a butterfly.
15. Catch 22 (1970) by Mike Nichols
The film wasn’t as great as the book, and I’m listing the film here on the weight, somewhat, of the book, but how can you dislike a film that has both Art Garfunkel and Alan Arkin? So you want to get out of the military because you don’t like dropping bombs on civilians? Well the only way to get out is if you’re nuts. Ah, but there’s a catch: only a nut would want to drop bombs on civilians, so if you tell us you want to leave, you must be sane.
16. Paths of Glory (1957) by Stanley Kubrick
Based on a true story from World War I – if the French can capture a German emplacement called the Anthill, a French General will rise even higher in rank. There’s just one problem: even stepping out of their trenches seems impossible for the French facing the Anthill, so they won’t do it.
Another General attempts to have French artillery fire on the French soldiers refusing to go and finally a few French soldiers are chosen for execution as an example to the rest. Can the execution be stopped? Check out the film.
17. Breaker Morant (1980) by Bruce Beresford
Lord Kitchener wants to finally end the Boer War and seems willing to sacrifice a few Aussie soldiers accused of dubious war crimes to prove his sincerity to the enemy. But are these guys as innocent as they look? Apparently Beresford wanted to show the factors that could push a guy beyond the limits and engage in inhumane behavior even beyond the rules of warfare.
18. Born on the Fourth of July (1989) by Oliver Stone
This is the biographical film concerning Ron Kovic, a disabled Vietnam War vet who ultimately joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) due to his experiences in battle and his treatment back in the states.
It’s a complex film about a man who has done horrible things and finally is able to honestly confront them and their effects on his life. It recounts an epic personal journey from naïve patriotism to horrific battle to mistreatment in a VA hospital to openly challenging something he is now sure is dead wrong.
19. The Bridge (1959) by Bernhard Wicki
A film produced in West Germany about a group of 16 year old German boys who are drafted into the army and told to hold a bridge on April 27th 1945, even though the war is obviously lost. The boys accomplish their mission because defending just one square meter of Germany is a priceless honor. In the process they wreak havoc on Germans and Americans alike who are just trying to get through the last few days of World War II.
20. Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005) by Park Kwang-hyun
In a village called Dongmakgol, during the Korean War, an American pilot, North Korean soldiers and South Korean soldiers are brought together by fate (the American pilot’s plane crashed after he flew through a large grouping of butterflies). Dongmokgol becomes a type of symbol for a united Korea as the villagers are not even aware of the war and all the men begin to work collaboratively to support the village after inadvertently destroying its food stock.
Trouble ensues, however, when the US military feels it has to ‘free’ the ‘captured’ US pilot. Remember the film Old Boy? The girl who played the role of the daughter/lover is also in this film (Kang Hye-jung).
Author Bio: Daniel Gauss is a graduate of Wisconsin and Columbia who teaches, tutors and writes about art in New York City.