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From Lawrence of Arabia to Schindler’s List…..My top ten Military/War movies…..



Letterboxed has given me a great platform to rank my favorite movies.  The first list I will highlight is in the WAR/MILITARY category.  (https://letterboxd.com/fwpahlke/list/my-favorite-war-military-films/)  I have catalogued 404 films and I know I have viewed more which will be added later as I view newer and even older flicks I have missed.  All movies that I have considered have been classified in this WAR/MILITARY genre by critics and Letterboxed.
War/military films that I consider my favorites are not particularly the best critically speaking, just the movies that I will would rank by my own rating system that takes into account quality,  my viewability, and importance toward the cinema. Do not fixate on the rankings as they can change after various viewings.  And they are just MY personal choices which are just opinions of mine.



Lawrence of Arabia is the finest film in War/Military ever made in my opinion. It is also the third greatest film ever made in my opinion. Citizen Kane and Vertigo are the only films better, again, in my opinion.


My top ten:
  1.  Lawrence of Arabia:  A great film that needs to be viewed on the biggest screen possible in a theater.  David Lean’s greatest directorial work.  Peter O’Toole’s work here as the Lawrence is one of the best protrails of a historical figure ever put to film  He was the best actor of that year and the decade of the 60s.   With the use of the best camera’s ever made, Lean’s work is a total masterpiece and is one fo the treasures of film beauty.  You can almost see every gain of sand of the desert.  His tracking shots in this film are the best ever filmed.  A great war film and the historical accuracy is beyond reproach.  Having the Delux set from the 50th Anniversary along with the DVD of the 40th, they are my most prized films I own.
  2.   Saving Private Ryan:  The most intense and best shot battle sequences ever put on film, Steven Spielburg has made the ultimate in realistic war violence.  The deaths of men in battle are personal and not just one bigtime fucking waste of film  As you know I hate war porn where the deaths are impersonal and the bodies just stack up indiscriminately.  As Mel Gibson can kill ten, fifteen soldiers a minute in his good but overworked films like HACKSAW RIDGE, Spielberg makes every death personal, one way of another.  The opening invasion was horrific and the final battle in the town was the ultimate battle ever filmed.  Again, another great film that was overlooked by OSCAR as of political agendas.  
  3.   The Best Years of Our Lives:  Again, a total masterpiece of film making.  William Wyler put to the screen the greatest emotional homecoming of men back from war and how they learned to adjust to civilian life.  The greatness of this film must have been just too much for those that viewed it when it opened in 1948 of the men and women that actually lived through the years after the war.  I cannot imagine. The film is one of my top ten in any film category.  A cast that actually overperformed, such as Dana Andrews and the real deal in Harold Russell as a true veteran that lost his hands in the war,  this film is still on topic with regard to America and why we send our soldiers to foreign lands to fight for our freedoms.  The most “American” film of the decade of the 1940s, the values we hold make this a must for any politician to view yearly.
  4.   Come and See: “A movie that I have only viewed once and will not see again. It creeped into my psyche on that first viewing. The images come to mind on a regular basis. Those images are not good. It is not a film for entertainment. It is horrific and most disturbing.”   My complete review on this great flick at (https://fredsportsextra.com/?p=5137)
  5.   Paths of Glory:  Stanley Kubrick’s (with the unofficial help of Kirk Douglas) World War One drama has some of the best set pieces in war film. With that, the filming of the trenches, over-the-top, and the tracking of Douglas in those trenches and charge to the anthill is masterful film making.  The political overtones of this film are so strong that the French would not allow the viewing of this movie for many years. It is an indictment on the Great War, the French leadership/military, and on humanity itself.  Never was a war film more provocative and thanks to Kubrick and Douglas for making this one.  I was indoctrinate by this film as a child and by the time I was in high school had viewed it six or seven times.  It is a movie that has deep roots in what I love about film and one that is always fresh on each and every viewing.
  6.  Das Boot (the movie, director’s cut):  An intense look at a German wolf pack as it makes a run during the war in the Atlantic.  Made directly as a motion picture in 1981, Wolfgang Petersons film was turned into a German mini-series in 1985 and from all the footage, the Director’s Cut was produced in 1998 (208 minutes) You cannot go wrong with any version you view.  It is an intricate film of sea voyage during warfare with the daily life experiences of a submariner at war.  Want realism mixed with claustrophobia in an intense setting, this is your film. The best submarine flick among a group of excellent films that focus on the war under the sea.
  7.   The Battle of Algiers:  Shot in documentary form/style, this movie was completely staged by director Gillo Pontecorvo and is one of the greatest films of cinema ever made.  It is one of my top ten films any genre, and to view it you cannot imagine this was not a first person documentary filmed by a cameraman. From wiki: For The Battle of Algiers, Pontecorvo and cinematographer Marcello Gatti filmed in black and white and experimented with various techniques to give the film the look of newsreel and documentary film. The effect was so convincing that American releases carried a notice that “not one foot” of newsreel was use.  Another film that was not viewed for five years after it premiered in France.  Given any film that you might not have viewed, this is one that has to be viewed if you are a serious war/military film buff.
  8.   Full Metal Jacket:  Second film by Kubrick on my list, I have talked to Marines that went through boot camp during the Viet Nam War and they all  have indicated that the director got it completely correct.  This was one of the first movies on Viet Nam that completely overwhelmed me with the dread of being attacked by an unseen foe as when the truck worked it’s way to the gate as the North Viet Nam regulars tried to overrun the military base.  The best of many Viet Nam movies and a personal favorite as of those that experienced the war, a war that I thank God I wasn’t drafted to go fight.  I would have and probably have been killed.  A man needs to know his limitations and I have known mine since a child.  Just saying.
  9.   The Thin Red Line (1998)  Terrence Malick’s look at Guadalcanal and has become a staple in war/military films.  A true “art” film this movie has been called the “finest contemporary war film I’ve seen” by critic Gene Siskil.  I agree.  It is more than a war film, yet the heart of this film is the thoughts of the many that went through hell on this island.  It stands equal in most respects with the other great film of the year, Saving Private Ryan, and out does Speilburgs masterpiece in art direction and screenplay.  The realism and acting are second to none with regards to any war/military film  Nick Nolte’s greatest performance is also noted.  
  10.   Schildler’s List:  Spielburg’s 1993 film is another great film that I chose over my number eleven, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.  I chose List over the other great films I have viewed as of the work this director went to the trouble to do to show a true to life look at Schindler and what he did to save the many Jews he did.  A great film, with things you need to look for on various viewings.  Did you get the comedy that the director put into this grim film?  It is there if you look.


About Fred Pahlke

Fred Pahlke, an Oklahoma native has viewed over 10,000 sporting events in his 65 years. A season ticket holder of the Oklahoma City Thunder, former season tickect holder for the Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma City University Chiefs/Stars, he is an expert in both professional and college basketball and football. A high school athlete at Classen High School in basketball and tennis, he played amateur tennis after high school in the Missouri Valley Tennis Association. A graduate of Oklahoma City University, he taught in the public schools for 6 years before becoming a building administrator in the Oklahoma City Public Schools for 31 years, 28 as the Principal of various schools in the district. He has guided various high school and college athletes in his time as an educator and coach. Fredsportsextra has recorded 101, 410 article views in its first ten months, from August 2015 through May 2016.

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