Best War Movies of All Time: A Countdown of the Most Powerful Movies in the Genre

Many movies have been in the war genre since the silent era, and many people still like and use these movies today. The fact that these stories keep being told and resonating with both viewers and reviewers shows how unfortunately universal war is. War itself never seems to end.

People who have seen war movies may remember wars that happened hundreds or even thousands of years ago. They may also show wars that are happening now. Any list of the best war movies of all time has to include movies from more than one country and different battles.

There are many points of view on many different wars, and it’s likely that as long as wars happen, movies that show how horrible war is and sometimes honor the sacrifices people have made will still be important.  The movies below are some of the best war movies ever,

Best War Movies of All Time

1. ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (1998)

Saving Private Ryan (1998) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

One of the most famous beginning scenes in movie history is in Saving Private Ryan. It drops viewers right into the middle of D-Day and shows one of the most accurate depictions of war ever seen on film.  From then on, the movie doesn’t stop. Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) is in charge of a group of troops who have to go through enemy lines to find  one soldier and bring him home.  

Anyone interested in World War II or war in general should watch Saving Private Ryan. Steven Spielberg’s amazing movies never shy away from the horrible truths of war. It shows both how terrible the battle can be and how these men worked together and gave their lives for their country and each other.

2. Life Is Beautiful’ (1997)

Life Is Beautiful | Official Trailer (HD) - Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi | MIRAMAX

In Life Is Beautiful, Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni) and his son Giosuè (Giorgio Cantarini) are sent to a concentration camp during WWII.

The loving father and store owner work hard to keep his child from realizing how bad things are. He treats the whole thing like a game and tells his son that if he follows the rules, he’ll win a gift.

The highly acclaimed war movie by Roberto Benigni shows how war heartbreakingly hurts innocent families. Fans will never forget the emotional scenes in this important Italian film that show how a father’s love can bring joy even in the worst times.

3. ‘The Pianist’ (2002)

The Pianist (2002) Official Trailer - Adrien Brody Movie

The Pianist, directed by Roman Polanski and winner of a BAFTA award, is a masterpiece that tells the story of Władysław Szpilman, a Holocaust victim who was played brilliantly by Adrien Brody. During the Nazi occupation of Warsaw, the talented pianist has to find ways to stay alive.

When his family is sent away in 1942, he is even more exposed and on his own. The war movie doesn’t hold back when it shows how bad things were for people and how much damage was done during that time. 

When seen through the eyes of the sad musician, The musician is a painful reminder of what people can do when things are at their worst. 

4. ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ (1988)

Grave of the Fireflies - Official Trailer

In Grave of the Fireflies, two young siblings, Seita and Setsuko, struggle to stay alive in Japan as World War II comes to an end. When an American bombing run separates them from their parents, they have to depend on each other to stay alive.

This animated classic from Studio Ghibli does a great job of contrasting the harsh themes of war with beautifully drawn images. Grave of the Fireflies never hides the harsh realities of war. It shows how innocent people are hurt and how much war costs.

5. Casablanca’ (1942)

Casablanca (1942) Official Trailer - Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman Movie HD

Casablanca is a famous classic movie set in 1942 during World War II. It’s about Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who has to choose an unexpected meeting with an ex-partner. His part in running his nightclub and gambling den in the title location is called into question by Ilsa Lund, played by Ingrid Bergman.

The award- winning movie by Michael Curtiz stands out from other war movies because it is mostly about love. You can feel the chemistry between the movie’s  interesting characters, and you can’t help but care about their decisions and relationships. It all leads to a famous ending that still works today 

6. ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979)

Apocalypse Now | Official Trailer

One of those movies that stays with you long after you’ve seen it is Apocalypse Now. It’s an adventure. A trip into a hellish world that is not like ours, where values don’t matter and absurdity rules. In Francis Ford Coppola’s epic Vietnam War story, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent to kill a crazy Colonel who says he is a god to the locals.

Apocalypse Now is not like any other war movie. It has famous images, huge set pieces, and a slow, steady pace. It makes you wonder if the soldiers who are left alone in the woods are crazy because they are constantly surrounded by horrible violence.

Men have to make a choice: they can either hold on to the little bit of humanity they still have, or they can fall into chaos and lose themselves forever. 

7. Come and See’ (1985)


Come and See is a strong anti-   war movie about Flyora, a young Belarusian girl played by Aleksei Kravchenko, who joins the resistance movement while Nazi Germany controls Belarus.

The war movie, which was directed by Elem Klimov, shows how dark and violent life was in Eastern European towns during that time. People will see the same horrible pain that Flyora sees when he goes back to a house that doesn’t look like the one he left.  

The movie doesn’t hold back when it comes to showing how horrible war is and how quickly things can get out of hand in once-quiet places.

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8. ‘Dr. Strangelove’ (1964)

Dr. Strangelove (1964) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a famous war movie and a dark comedy that uses humor to show how people are worrying too much about a nuclear war. 

The movie follows the events that happen after a crazy general orders a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. Peter Sellers plays three different parts in the movie, including the main character.The movie doesn’t shy away from making controversial points at that time.

 It does so with cutting humor and a direct attack on how silly the nuclear arms race is. The way Dr. Strangelove shows how ridiculously close the world is to a nuclear war makes people laugh, get mad, and be scared about the future.

9. ‘The Boat’ (1981)

The Boat aka Das Boot (1981) Trailer

The legendary movie The Boat (Das Boot) by Wolfgang Petersen is based on Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s 1973 novel about his life on the German submarine U-96 during World War II. At first, they were looking for allied ships, but soon they were being followed and put in danger.

Because it doesn’t want to overwhelm viewers with too much chaos, The Boat focuses on the relationships between the troops instead.  While they are depending on each other to stay alive, they learn more about each other’s lives, dreams, and fears. These private moments make the big scenes more exciting and tense.  

10. ‘Paths of Glory’ (1957)

Paths of Glory (1957) Trailer - The Criterion Collection

Paths of Glory, a harsh war movie, was one of Stanley Kubrick’s first bold attempts to break down the military system through film. There are two World War I leaders in the movieGeneral Mireau (George Macready) and Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas).

They send their troops on a suicide mission to try to break through a German wall. The movie’s anti-war message is based on how silly authority figures are in wartime.   

Its leaders are shown to be cruel careerists who want to get to the top of the company and will kill anyone who gets in their way. Kubrick does a great job of framing the scenes and acts in the movie, which keeps people interested and angry to the end.  

11. ‘The Great Dictator’ (1940)

The Great Dictator (1941): Original Trailer - Charlie Chaplin - Paulette Goddard - Classic Comedies

One of Charlie Chaplin’s most famous works, The Great Tyrant is a satirical comedy in which he plays both a Jewish barber and a cruel tyrant named Adenoid Hynkel. Everything changes for The Barber when Adenoid takes over the “made-up” country of Tomania.   

The movie makes fun of Nazi governments at the time, mostly Hitler’s and Mussolini’s, in a way that is both brave and funny. Chaplin’s famous comic humor is used in The Great Dictator to show how silly these dictatorships are. This was a very important message, especially since the movie came out while the world was still in the middle of WWII.

12. ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (2009)

Inglourious Basterds Official Trailer #1 - Brad Pitt Movie (2009) HD

The movie Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino is a war movie that doesn’t need to be introduced. The movie has two different plots. The first is a made-up story about a group of Jewish-American fighters who enjoy killing as many Nazis as they can. Around the same time, a young Jewish theater owner in France plans her revenge against the regime that killed her family. 

Stars like Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, and Michael Fassbender give great performances in this movie, which is why it’s thought to be one of Quentin Tarantino’s best. The filmmaking and production design are also truly impressive, and the dialogue is remembered for being snappy, smart, and often hilarious.

Inglourious Basterds is a daring, original, and fun movie  that takes place during World War II and offers a new take on the genre. It’s no surprise that it has a high rating on IMDb.

13. ‘Braveheart’ (1995)

Braveheart (1995) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Braveheart is a war drama movie based on the life of the Scottish hero William Wallace. It stars and is directed by Mel Gibson. After seeing his family and friends killed by the English, the main character goes on a dangerous mission to get rid of a platoon.   

Soon, this sparks a full revolt against English rule, and William gets more people to join the fight. Many things are wrong with Braveheart, but fans love the silly and funny parts.  Unquestionably, it’s known for the big, bloody action scenes where the main character leads his people in dangerous battles.

14. ‘Full Metal Jacket’ (1987)

Full Metal Jacket | 4K Trailer | Warner Bros. Entertainment

Stanley Kubrick’s famous war movie Full Metal Jacket is likely to be on any list of the top 10 war movies of all time. The movie stars an all-star cast, including Matthew Modine as Private Joker, Adam Baldwin as Animal Mother, and Vincent D’Onofrio as Private Pyle.   It’s about Marine trainees who go through basic training and then fight in the Vietnam War.   

Full Metal Jacket is a famous Kubrick movie that is known for showing the horrors of war and how it affects soldiers’ minds without holding back. The director’s touch is clear in the movie’s intense mood and the way it goes deep into the characters’ minds, getting more and more upsetting as it goes on.

15. ‘Incendies’ (2010)

Incendies Official Trailer #1 - (2010) HD

Denis Villeneuve’s filmography has a hidden gem called Incendies. It’s a heavy story about Canadian twins who go on the hardest trip of their lives after their mother dies. They visit her home country in the Middle East and are horrified by the violence they see. Along the way, they also learn scary things about their family’s past. 

The story of these women and their families, as well as the ongoing war in the country they visitare told in a dark spiral in Incendies. This is a scary and deep story that ties together the main characters’ personal stories with the larger picture of violence and chaos that they could never really escape.

16. ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ (1962)

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Lawrence of Arabia, directed by David Lean, is known as one of the best historical epics of all time. It follows the title character, Lawrence, played by Peter O’Toole, as he goes to Greater Syria during the First World War. There, he acts as a go-between for the British and the Arabs, but he soon goes against what he was told and attacks a Turkish port. 

The movie got great reviews and won seven Oscars in 1963, including Best Picture and Best Director. People often compare its huge set pieces and stunning frames shot on-site to the way CGI and green screens are used today.

Lawrence of Arabia was the best movie ever made and the pinnacle of film technology in the 1960s.  It’s a 3-hour drama that you should still watch today. 

17. ‘Judgment at Nuremberg’ (1961) 

Judgment at Nuremberg Official Trailer #1 - Burt Lancaster Movie (1961) HD

Maximilian Schell in “Judgment at Nuremberg” (United Artists image)After World War II, twelve Nuremberg Military Tribunals were held to punish people who committed war crimes during the Holocaust. The Judges’ Trial of 1947 is based on one of these trials and is the subject of an epic crime movie directed by Stanley Kramer.    

The court at Nuremberg is led by Chief Trial Judge Dan Haywood, played by Spencer Tracy. The suspect is Ernst Janning, played by Burt Lancaster, his lawyer Hans Rolfe, played by Maximilian Schell, a Nazi general’s widow, played by Marlene Dietrich, and a U.S. Army captain (William Shatner) and Irene Wallner, who doesn’t want to be a witness (Judy Garland). 

Judgment at Nuremberg is a tense trial drama with great acting from its A-list cast. It’s also surprisingly emotional. It gets nasty when the judge starts to think about his own biases since he has friends who are German and views that are at odds with his own.

18. ‘Shershaah’ (2021)

Shershaah - Official Trailer | Vishnu Varadhan | Sidharth Malhotra, Kiara Advani | Aug 12

Sidharth Malhotra plays Vikram Batra, a soldier in the Indian Army who fought in the Kargil War, and the movie Shershaah is based on his life. It shows what the main character goes through before and after he joins the army, which makes him realize how hard life as a soldier can be. 

This song is about the Kargil war, but it is also a tribute to Batra. The fighter is shown to be a perfect example of a brave and heroic person, but the bad things about war are not shown well enough. Even so, people  who are interested in Batra and what he did during the war should still see it.

19. ‘Ayla: The Daughter of War’ (2017)

Ayla: The Daughter of War Trailer

Ayla: The Daughter of War is based on the unbelievable real story of Kim Eun-ja and Süleyman Dilbirliği’s (played by Lee Kyung-jin and Çetin Tekindor) unexpected friendship. It’s about two strangers who meet on the battlefield after Turkey sends a brigade to South Korea.

The movie takes place during the Korean War and shows what Sergeant Süleyman does when he finds a young girl on the battlefield and has to take her back to her home country.   

In Ayla: The Daughter of War, the innocent bond that grows stands in contrast to the violence going on around  them. This shows the best in people, especially when it comes to protecting those who can’t defend themselves. Fans who want to see war stories from other countries and a different point of view should watch the South Korean-Turkish show 

20. 1917′ (2019)

1917 - Official Trailer [HD]

1917 is set in World War I and is about two soldiers, Will Schofield (George MacKay) and Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), who are sent on a dangerous mission. They have to go through enemy land and get to another camp before an offensive attack is supposed to happen.  

One thousand troops, including Lance Cpl. Blake’s brother could have died if they had not told him  that  the attack should be stopped. 1917, which was directed by Sam Mendes, has been praised for its technical achievements that make people today understand how horrible trench fighting was.

Its one-shot scenes and shockingly beautiful scenery go well with its more shocking scenes that show how bad things were for the soldiers. In addition, it’s a war movie with an ending that will stay with people for a long time.

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