There are few genres as contested and contentious amongst film
fans as the war movie. Since the birth of cinema as a medium and up to as
recently as this year's 1917, the naturally dramatic spectacle of war has been
a favourite focus of filmmakers from across the political spectrum.
As a result, war films have evolved over time from shameless
pieces of glossy propaganda promoting US interests, into virulent anti war
screeds from filmmakers embroiled in protest movements, to trippy psychedelic
re-imaginings of real life conflicts as psychological head f***s.
To this day, a great many war films are essentially paid
advertisements for the US empire (cough cough Kathryn Bigelow's acclaimed
propaganda piece Zero Dark Thirty), but every once in a while a war movie is
released which reshapes public perceptions of real life conflicts.
Many of the films on this list may be dated, but its testament
to their extraordinary achievements that the changes they made to the war film
genre have become commonplace in the decades since.
Whether it's Kubrick deconstructing the image of heroic American
soldiers, Coppola delving inside the mind to offer a stranger vision of war, or
Spielberg reframing the Holocaust as one man's struggle, these films changed
how war films were made, and how audiences viewed war as a result, for good.