The Edwin Starr video.
Around this time of the year we see lots of war movies on our Tee Vees starring John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood and other familiar faces. And I know many of our vets with experience in combat stay away from them, much like people whose families have suffered through childhook leukemia would avoid movies like My Sister's Keeper.
So just what do War Movies do for us? Many were blatant propaganda, but many helped give mom and pop back home a glimpse of what their sons and daughters in uniform overseas were facing. Some, like The Best Years of Our Lives made us see what our fellow citizens returning from war often wounded and damaged had to face in trying to reassemble a normal life. Others were, simply put, entertainment. The Rambo series comes to my mind here, although IMO "First Blood" has redeeming qualities.
Rarely did any of these movies, the serious ones of the genre at least, give us civilians back home a truly realistic description of what war does to the body. The mind and sould received all kinds of dramatic treatment, inside and out, but censorship would never allow us a view of the inside of a blown tank or a naval turret opened up with shellfire or human bodies shot to pieces or hit with a grenade blast. And so for most of us Americans, except for those with close personal experience, of course, the mental image of war is limited to some sort of "cool" video game or childhood Cops and Robbers.
Ignorance breeds unsuspected consequences all too often.
That's why I put Saving Private Ryan at the top of my list of ten. Hard to believe 11 years have gone by since it came out. As a civilian whose only experience in shooting anything dead was hunting, it's my belief that SPR is the closest Hollywood has ever come to presenting the viewing public with a true version of life and death in war. The rest fall in no particular order.
My second pick is We Were Soldiers, for realism and a glimpse of the enemy and his family, contrasted with the home-grown version.
Schindler's List, the Red Dress and human suffering and next to it ( yes, I know, I'm cheating by sticking in a few more ) The Empire of the Sun.
The Sand Pebbles, for Steve McQueen in one of his best roles and Mako.
Paths of Glory, for the bureauocracy of war, the good ol' boy network, and the girl's song at the end that still makes me well up.
Dr. Strangelove, another Kubrick classic and a continuing source of quotes for all seasons.
Glory, because in high school I read all I could on the War between the States and because of the eternal question, "Why am I doing this?"
Good Morning, Vietnam, although I'm sure it's greatly fictionalized, a good story on could happen when you live among the enemy.
Battle of Britain, if only for Susanna York's Maggie Harvey "Don't you yell at me, MR Warrick!" and Spits, Hurricanes, Messerschmidts, Heinkels and Stukas. And along with that, I need to include Wings with its early look at Gary Cooper.
Tora Tora Tora, for its contrasting views from the American and Japanese side and for it's decent attempt at historical accuracy. And with it for the same reasoning, I'd include Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima.
There are other movies I could have included in my list, but I'll leave that to my readers to suggest and discuss.