Entertainment

The 15 Best War Movies Of All Time

Best War Movies

January 7th, 2020   |   Updated on January 10th, 2020

War movies and cinema have a long history. Since people have been inclined to shoot movies for entertainment, they are also shooting for the conflict purpose at the same time.

Now, when it comes to movies based on war, then there are two major divisions. Some are typical action oriented movies based on war whereas others are dealing with the human aspects of war like mankind loss.

2019 had it’s share of two best movies based on war. Both of which are fighting for Oscars. Darkest Hour narrates the episodes following Churchill ascension.

Dunkirk also shares the WWII horror stories as shared by soldiers and sailors during the evacuation of Normandy beaches. Both these movies are part of the list of best movies based on war.

Other than this there are many other excellent movies which are listed here to know the real agony behind the war.

1. Life Is Beautiful (1997)

In 1939, Jewish-Italian Guido Orefice comes into Arezzo, Italy, ultimately to open a book store. In the meantime, he will work as a waiter at the hotel restaurant where his Uncle Eliseo is the maître d’. In town, he meets a schoolteacher named Dora, who he calls Princess and who comes from a wealthy Italian family.

For him, it’s love at first sight. Despite her already being in a relationship with another man, Guido ultimately sweeps her off her feet. They get married and have a son they name Giosué. On Giosué’s fifth birthday, World War II is in full force. Since they are Jewish, the Germans take away Guido, Eliseo, and Giosué to a labor camp.

Wanting to be with her family, Dora insists she be taken too, but she is housed in the women’s side of the camp. To protect Giosué from the horror of what is happening to them, Guido tells him that they are playing a game, certain actions that garner points, other actions that take points away or disqualify one from the game. The first to reach 1,000 points wins the prize of a real tank. Guido’s primary goal is to keep Giosué safe at all cost, while he tries to figure out a way to get his family out of the camp and keep the Germans at bay from learning what he is doing with Giosué.

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Review

Buongiorno Principessa! A very powerful film that begins pre-war as a slap-stick comedy, introducing our characters with some memorable clever scenes, but then shows its real genius in the second-half when Guido uses his fast-talking talent to keep his young son’s high spirits and childhood naivety intact during their internment in a concentration camp. Guido’s character has an extremely and uniquely playful perspective on life that with great skill carries him, his son and indeed his wife, on through some of the bleakest times anyone could ever experience…

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2. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 American epic war film directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat. Opening with the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, members of the 2nd Ranger Battalion under Cpt. Miller fights ashore to secure a beachhead. Amidst the fighting, two brothers are killed in action.

Earlier in New Guinea, a third brother is KIA. Their mother, Mrs. Ryan, is to receive all three of the grave telegrams on the same day. The United States Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, is given an opportunity to alleviate some of her grief when he learns of a fourth brother, Private James Ryan, and decides to send out 8 men (Cpt. Miller and select members from 2nd Rangers) to find him and bring him back home to his mother.

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Review

The movie’s opening sequence is as graphic as any war footage I’ve ever seen. In fierce dread and energy it’s on a par with Oliver Stone’s “Platoon,” and in scope surpasses it–because in the bloody early stages the landing forces and the enemy never meet eye to eye, but are simply faceless masses of men who have been ordered to shoot at one another until one side is destroyed.

This landing sequence is necessary to establish the distance between those who give the order that Pvt. Ryan be saved, and those who are ordered to do the saving. For Capt. Miller (Tom Hanks) and his men, the landing at Omaha has been a crucible of fire. The turning point in the film comes, I think, when the squadron happens upon a German machinegun nest protecting a radar installation.

It would be possible to go around it and avoid a confrontation. Indeed, that would be the following orders. But they decide to attack the emplacement, and that is a form of protest: At risk to their lives, they are doing what they came to France to do, instead of what the top brass wants them to do.

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3. Pretty Village, Pretty Flame (1996)

Pretty Village, Pretty Flame is a 1996 Serbian film directed by Srdan Dragojevic with a screenplay based on a book written by Vanja Bulic. Though cloaked in explosive black humor, the serious anti-war message of this bitterly satirical and politically charged Yugoslav film cuts like shrapnel.

Set in Bosnia during 1980 and 1992 (like a pendulum, the time frame swings back and forth), and allegedly based upon a true story, the plot focuses upon the longtime friendship of Muslim Halil, and Serbian Milan. While growing up during the ’80s, the two often hung out near an abandoned tunnel. Though curious, the boys were too frightened by the mythical boy-eating ogres said to venture within.

The story moves to 1992 and begins as the war between the Serbs and the Muslims ignites in horrible violence and the friends find themselves forced into becoming enemies. Meanwhile, a beautiful American journalist is captured by the Serbs. The film opens with a shot of European and American dignitaries smiling broadly as they inaugurate the new Brotherhood and Unity tunnel that links Zagreb and Belgrade.

Later in the film, it will become the scene of horror when Serbian soldiers are trapped by Muslims within. With nothing to do but wait for death, the trapped soldiers amuse themselves by staging allegorical circus acts.

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Review

A bleak, almost brutally pessimistic film, as one would expect from a war film from Serbia, this film takes a volatile, hyper-real look at a singular moment in a long, ugly conflict. There are a lot of ideas that flash by your eyes as this film rapidly pushes along.

While the conceit of showing the volunteering (or conscription) of each soldier in the tunnel does give needed context to these men, the brief snippets only give us a small idea of what drives them. While the snippets in the hospital give us context for the post-tunnel situation and firmly remind us that the war neither began nor ended there, it still feels like it can’t really capture everything this film wants to include.

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4. Incendies (2011)

Incendies is a 2010 Canadian war film directed by Denis Villeneuve, who co-wrote the screenplay with Valérie Beaugrand-Champagne. Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad’s play of the same name, Incendies stars Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette, and Rémy Girard. Nawal (Lubna Azabal), a dying Middle Eastern woman living in Montreal, leaves separate letters to her twin children to be read once she passes away.

Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) is to deliver hers to the father the twins never knew, and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) is to give his to the brother they never knew they had. The siblings travel to the Middle East separately, where they each experience acts of brutality, uncover the startling family history and have revelations about themselves. The plot of “Incendies” is based on a play by Wajdi Mouawad, described as consisting of poetic monologues.

The screenplay by Villeneuve refashions the action in a way more suited to a film, where it is often better to show something than to evoke its mental image. The underlying story here could with a few adjustments be a noir set in any country, taking its choice of all the sad justifications men find for murder.

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Review

Incendies walks a tightrope between a mythic meditation on the devastating consequences of war and a grounded realism of everyday suffering. Put another way, its midway between tragedy and melodrama. Given the story it narrates, the film is surprisingly understated.

There are only three instances of explicit violence in the film: the murder of Wahab, the burning of the bus, and a sniper shooting. The distress of the characters is primarily imparted through sighs, silent tears, body language, and visual metaphor rather than through exclamatory language or emotional outbursts.

Powerful, haunting, brutal, unflinching & emotionally devastating, Incendies work like that slow poison whose real potency is realized only after it’s too late and the irrevocable damage to your psyche has already been done. Absolutely unforgettable once you’ve seen it, Incendies isn’t just the best feature that director Denis Villeneuve has made to date but is also the finest film to come out from the Canadian film industry.

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5. Braveheart (1995)

A nominee for 10 Academy Awards and the winner of 5, “Braveheart” captures both the picturesque serenity and abject brutality of 13th-century Scotland. Braveheart is a 1995 American epic war film directed and co-produced by Mel Gibson, who portrays William Wallace, a late-13th-century Scottish warrior. The film is fictionally based on the life of Wallace leading the Scots in the First War of Scottish Independence against King Edward I of England.

William Wallace is a Scottish rebel who leads an uprising against the cruel English ruler Edward the Longshanks, who wishes to inherit the crown of Scotland for himself. When he was a young boy, William Wallace’s father and brother, along with many others, lost their lives trying to free Scotland. Once he loses another of his loved ones, William Wallace begins his long quest to make Scotland free once and for all, along with the assistance of Robert the Bruce.

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Review

Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart” is a full-throated, red-blooded battle epic about William Wallace, the legendary Scots warrior who led his nation into battle against the English in the years around 1300. It’s an ambitious film, big on simple emotions like love, patriotism, and treachery, and avoids the travelogue style of so many historical swashbucklers: Its locations look green, wet, vast, muddy and rugged.

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6. Jojo Rabbit (2019)

A World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.

Writer-director Taika Waititi (THOR: RAGNAROK, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE), brings his signature style of humor and pathos to his latest film, JOJO RABBIT, a World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy (Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo) whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.

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Review

An enchanting, whimsical satire about the absurdity of war as seen through a child’s eyes, “Jojo Rabbit” doubles as an important film about the need for understanding in a divided world. In addition to writing and directing the sharp, colorful comedy, Taika Waititi stars as a buffoonish version of Hitler, the imaginary friend of 10-year-old Jojo (the wonderful Roman Griffin Davis). It’s the waning days of World War II in Nazi Germany, and in his head, Jojo is dedicated to the idea of Hitler and joining the war alongside his fellow countrymen.

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7. Turtles Can Fly (2004)

Turtles Can Fly is a 2004 Kurdish war drama film written, produced, and directed by Bahman Ghobadi, with notable music composed by Hossein Alizadeh. The first film to be filmed in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein is set a few months before that event took place, as a handful of orphaned children try and survive in a Kurdish refugee camp.

Just trying to get by is a challenge in a place without running water or electricity, but these children survive by finding and trading the deadly landmines that the ground is littered with. Satellite is a young entrepreneur who mays his way by selling electrical goods and by installing satellite dishes to that people can receive the news they are desperate for.

One-armed Hyenkov and Agrin look after their little brother Risa as best they can until the trauma of what they have been through threatens to overwhelm them.

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Review

Few films can match the dazzling visuals and heart-wrenching storyline of Ghobadi’s unforgettable Oscar-nominated drama, which spins a tender, engrossing tale about the costs of war from the perspective of three Kurdish children. The film won Glass Bear for the Best Feature Film and Peace Film Award at Berlin International Film Festival. Turtles Can Fly is a hauntingly beautiful, hypnotic work of film poetry and a sobbing song of the indomitable human spirit.

The main character in the film is “Satellite”, a 13-year-old who sets up satellite dishes for villagers, thus gaining his nickname. The other characters include Hengeow, an aimless teenager who unscrews land mines with his teeth; Agrin, his sister who was raped by Saddam’s soldiers, and her blind child Riga, the child of that rape; Pesheow, the best friend of Satellite, who has one non-functional leg, is another victim of exploding mines.

There is no doubt that Turtles Can Fly is a human rights film as it deals with human rights violations against Kurds in Iraq in general and children’s rights, land mines and refugee issues in particular. It is also an anti-war movie that criticizes American policy regarding its role in causing war in the name of bringing peace to the world. The narrative of the film is based on the real situation of the Kurds and it is told to us through the actual victims and their daily life in a very realistic manner that makes the film authentic.

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8. Hotel Rwanda (2004)

Hotel Rwanda is a 2004 drama film directed by Terry George. It was adapted from a screenplay co-written by George and Keir Pearson and stars Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo as hotelier Paul Rusesabagina and his wife Tatiana. Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager, leads a happy life with his wife and children in Rwanda.

He displays immense courage by saving the lives of many helpless refugees during a communal war. Ten years ago some of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind took place in the country of Rwanda–and in an era of high-speed communication and round the clock news, the events went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world.

In only three months, one million people were brutally murdered. In the face of these unspeakable actions, inspired by his love for his family, an ordinary man summons extraordinary courage to save the lives of over a thousand helpless refugees, by granting them shelter in the hotel he manages.

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Review

Hotel Rwanda is a very well-made film, but its version of events is far from universally accepted. When “Hotel Rwanda” premiered at Toronto 2004, some reviews criticized the film for focusing on Paul and the colonel and making little effort to “depict” the genocide as a whole.

Cheadle holds his performance resolutely at the human level. His character intuitively understands that only by continuing to act as a hotel manager can he achieve anything.”Hotel Rwanda” is not about hotel management, but about heroism and survival.

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9. Underground (1995)

Underground is a 1995 comedy-drama film directed by Emir Kusturica, with a screenplay co-written by the director and Duš a Kovacevic. Black marketeers Marko (Miki Manojlovic) and Blacky (Lazar Ristovski) manufacture and sell weapons to the Communist resistance in WWII Belgrade, living the good life along the way. Marko’s surreal duplicity propels him up the ranks of the Communist Party, and he eventually abandons Blacky and steals his girlfriend.

After a lengthy stay in a below-ground shelter, the couple reemerges during the Yugoslavian Civil War of the 1990s as Marko realizes that the situation is ripe for exploitation. This allegorical European black comedy examines the past 50 years, between 1941 and 1992 in Yugoslavia’s history. The subtitled film is over three hours long and is divided into three segments. The protagonists are band-leader Marko and his best friend Blacky who in Belgrade, 1941, were simultaneously communist patriots and racketeers.

When the Nazis invade Belgrade, the men take their families down to an enormous wine cellar where the rebels have set up an underground munitions factory. There Blacky’s wife dies while giving birth; he later begins wooing an actress who throws him over for a Nazi, whom Blacky shoots. Unfortunately, the German survives and Blacky is arrested. Fortunately, Marko saves him, and as his friend recuperates from the torture, Marko sleeps with the actress.

Even as the Allied bombers destroy the remains of Belgrade, the treacherous Marko convinces the subterranean refugees that the war is still in effect and that they must continue making arms to be prepared when Tito calls for them. Twenty years pass, and the refugees, living on dog food, are still hard at work, cheerfully making guns to save their country. Meanwhile, Marko has become a prominent party official. He and his wife, the actress, continue to sell illegal arms and drugs. The situation for them is very good until Marko’s brother discovers his treachery and all hell breaks loose.

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Review

“Underground” is still a rich, vibrant, visually spectacular survey of the changes the place has gone through during the past 50 years. It begins in 1941, with the first German bombing of Belgrade, and follows two families through Tito’s reign and the breakup of the country in the 1990s. Here is a film — the 1995 winner of the Cannes Festival Palme d’Or — that is provocative both artistically and socially, a symphony of mayhem in three acts.

It’s an amazing portrayal of 20th Century political insanity, so pointed and controversial that many of Kusturica’s old neighbors — in besieged and bloody Sarajevo — have ostracized him for it. Yet, “Underground,” possibly the finest film made in the old Yugoslavia, is no apologia for Serbian bloodbaths or ultra-nationalism. Instead, it examines the bloody chaos and brutality of half a century with corrosive dark humor and compassion that both exhilarate and terrify.

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10. The Imitation Game (2014)

Based on the real-life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.

During WWII, mathematician extraordinaire Alan Turing’s mission is to crack the Enigma machine’s code used by the Wehrmacht. Turing’s work will not only be instrumental in shortening the war but will also as a result, save many millions of lives. Apart from that, this is a masterful portrayal of a genius.

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Review

A brilliant adaptation of the story of Bletchley Park and the cryptanalysis team ran by Alan Turing, that cracked the code of the German Enigma Machine during World War II. Featuring an outstanding starring performance from Benedict Cumberbatch as war hero Turning and supporting acts from a brilliant cast including Keira Knightley, Charles Dance, and Mark Strong, ‘The Imitation Game’ is a powerful and eminently well-made biopic that illuminates the facts whilst respecting the story it is based upon. The English-language debut of ‘Headhunters’ director Morten Tyldum, this British World War II thriller is a highly conventional story about humanity that creates a fascinating character, anchored by a hypnotically complex performance.

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11. Persepolis (2007)

Persepolis is a 2007 adult animated film based upon the Marjane Satrapi autobiographical graphic novel of the same name. It was written and directed by Satrapi in collaboration with Vincent Paronnaud. The story follows a young girl as she comes of age against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution.

Based on Satrapi’s graphic novel about her life in pre and post-revolutionary Iran and then in Europe. The film traces Satrapi’s growth from a child to a rebellious, punk-loving teenager in Iran. In the background are the growing tensions of the political climate in Iran in the 70s and 80s, with members of her liberal-leaning family detained and then executed, and the background of the disastrous Iran/Iraq war.

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Review

Like Art Spiegelman’s seminal Holocaust-themed graphic novel Maus, this stirring film explains history from the point of view of one family. The film is at its strongest when examining the turbulent history of Iran through Marjane’s eyes. Marjane-as-a-child is one of the most appealing characters in years, happy to embrace new ideas like the latest Igglepiggle and believing herself, briefly, to be a prophet appointed by God.

That’s not to say that she is’t spoiled, wilful and occasionally cruel – witness Marjane and friends deciding to arm themselves with nails and torture a classmate whose father worked for the secret police. But there’s an innocence and exuberance to her schemes that is endlessly charming, and having a child as our guide perfectly pitches the history for those of us who know little about Iran’s murky politics.

In a sense, the film is the antithesis of most modern animation: where they tell a relatively simple story using complex instruments, this uses very basic tools to tell a story about a very complex time.

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12. Before the Rain (1994)

Milcho Manchevski’s directorial debut Before the Rain from 1994 is set around the Yugoslav Wars (the 1990s). Like Mothers – Manchevski’s latest piece -, the film is split up into three parts, the episodes being loosely intertwined. The first segment tells the story of a youthful monk who leaves his monastery when he falls in love with a young Albanian girl. The girl – short-haired and shy – is on the run from a gang of crooks who want her killed.

Though the two manage to escape the gang, they fall into the hands of some Albanians (including the girl’s grandfather) who are not willing to let the girl go with the “Christian scum.” In the heat of the moment, the girl is shot fatally. From the beginning, the film is highly stylized, with the admittedly beautiful landscapes somewhat distorted by the TV-like color correction and the over-present scoring. The second episode takes place in London, but Manchevski is keen on telling us that one is not safe from danger here, either.

The story revolves around Aleksander, an acclaimed photographer who reported from the war in Bosnia, and Anne, a middle-aged British woman drawn between her marriage, and Aleksander’s intrusive charm. Over dinner, Anne tells her husband that she wants a divorce, when a man (Yugoslav, it seems) enters the restaurant and begins shooting at the crowd, killing Anne’s husband. It is the second time in the film that a scene of great emotional tension is overshadowed by an act of violence, and the third time shall follow near the end of the film when Aleksander shows remorse for an act he had triggered when reporting from the war.

Aleksander had complained to a Bosnian soldier about not getting satisfying images. The soldier answered his complaint and shot a prisoner right in front of Aleksander’s lense, the incident haunting Aleksander since then. But Manchevski gives his character a second chance, and in a biblically symbolic act that surmounts the logic of time and space, Aleksander sacrifices himself for the life of a stranger…

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Review

The first film made in the newly independent Republic of Macedonia, Milcho Manchevski’s Before the Rain crosscuts the stories of an orthodox Christian monk (Grégoire Colin), a British photo agent (Katrin Cartlidge), and a native Macedonian war photographer (Rade Šerbedžija) to paint a portrait of simmering ethnic and religious hatred about to reach its boiling point. Made during the strife of the war-torn Balkan states in the nineties, this gripping triptych of love and violence is also a timeless evocation of the loss of pastoral innocence and remains one of recent cinema’s most powerful laments on the futility of war.

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13. Dunkirk (2017)

Dunkirk is a 2017 war film written, directed, and produced by Christopher Nolan that depicts the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II. During World War II, soldiers from the British Empire, Belgium, and France try to evacuate from the town of Dunkirk during an arduous battle with German forces.

Acclaimed auteur Christopher Nolan directs this World War II thriller about the evacuation of Allied troops from the French city of Dunkirk before Nazi forces can take hold. Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, and Mark Rylance co-star, with longtime Nolan collaborator Hans Zimmer providing the score.

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Review

Few films have stripped war down to its terrifying, thrilling essence as Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and few films have turned war into such an overwhelming, almost physical experience. It’s gripping, perilous and uniquely envisioned. Dunkirk blends the fine direction of Christopher Nolan and the captivating historical event to put you on the edge emotionally.

Nolan’s latest film – his 10th feature – is “Dunkirk,” based on the real-life World War II evacuation of hundreds of thousands of British soldiers from a French beach in 1940. With German forces closing in, the English had to muster everything they had – air and naval forces and even civilian assistance – to execute the largest-scale (and one of the most strategically important) military retreats in history.“Dunkirk” has its share of exceptional performances as well.

Whitehead plays Tommy with a combination of vulnerable desperation and indefatigable will; his moments of courage and of cowardice render him heartbreakingly human. Rylance is awesome as usual; in his hands, Mr. Dawson is the embodiment of the British spirit, an anthropomorphized stiff upper lip.

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14. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

Letters from Iwo Jima is a 2006 Japanese-language American war film directed and co-produced by Clint Eastwood, starring Ken Watanabe and Kazunari Ninomiya. The island of Iwo Jima stands between the American military force and the home islands of Japan. Therefore the Imperial Japanese Army is desperate to prevent it from falling into American hands and providing a launching point for an invasion of Japan.

General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) is given command of the forces on the island and sets out to prepare for the imminent attack. General Kuribayashi, however, does not favor the rigid traditional approach recommended by his subordinates, and resentment and resistance fester amongst his staff.

In the lower echelons, a young soldier, Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya), a poor baker in civilian life, strives with his friends to survive the harsh regime of the Japanese Army itself, all the while knowing that a fierce battle looms. When the American invasion begins, Kuribayashi and Saigo find strength, honor, courage, and horrors beyond imagination.

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Review

“Letters from Iwo Jima” is truly a great achievement is several ways, the script is powerful, the production is superb, all the technical departments almost perfected their jobs, there is some really good acting as well, and Eastwood’s touch as a director is very visible, and it’s beautiful, its flaws almost flawlessly in this regard.

This movie draws you into the caves and makes you a part of the Japanese soldier’s life. The main characters all have an interesting story to tell. But in the end, the message is clear. War is futile.

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15. Beasts Of No Nation (2015)

Beasts of No Nation is a 2015 American-Ghanaian war drama film written, co-produced and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, who acted as his own cinematographer, about a young boy who becomes a child soldier as his country goes through a horrific war. Follows the journey of a young boy, Agu, who is forced to join a group of soldiers in a fictional West African country.

While Agu fears his commander and many of the men around him, his fledgling childhood has been brutally shattered by the war raging through his country, and he is at first torn between conflicting revulsion and fascination Depicts the mechanics of war and does not shy away from explicit, visceral detail, and paints a complex, difficult picture of Agu as a child soldier.

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Review

Fukunaga brings out the best of his actors, his story, and his resources for a movie that will sit heavily in your heart. Fukunaga brings flair, muscular storytelling, directness and a persuasively epic sweep to this brutal, heartrending movie about child soldiers and a civil war in an imaginary West African country, based on the 2005 novel by Nigerian-American author Uzodinma Iweala.

Idris Elba gives an outstanding performance as a charismatic and sinister warlord who finds that military power, however intoxicating, is subject to the fickle imperatives of politics, and the suit-wearing opportunists in the cities far from the country badlands he has come to rule.

This is a very powerful and confidently made movie, a film that really puts its audience through the wringer, which finally refuses any palliative gestures, with towering performances from Elba and Attah. The awards season really has begun.

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