Here in the U.S. of A. it is Memorial Day. For those that don’t live here, Memorial Day is the one day a year that we remember those who died fighting for our country. A lot of people like to have barbecues and family gatherings. I like to spend the day making those people feel guilty for enjoying three days off from work instead of solemnly reflecting.
That aside, it is also a day that HBO and TMC show all-day war movie marathons! I can’t stream them here legally, but I can talk about some of my favorites and no one can stop me from doing that, yet.
Stalag 17 is one of my favorite war movies, and one of my favorite William Holden films. It’s a set in a German P.O.W. camp for downed pilots and crews. It’s a great comedy-drama and Holden is as cool as ever. I personally think Holden was cooler than Steve McQueen This movie has a little bit of everything in it for you. Mystery, thrills, suspense, comedy. You can’t not enjoy it.
Pork Chop Hill doesn’t get talked about much anymore. It’s a Korean war film based on a true story. An army unit is sent to retake a hill that has been overrun by North Korean and Chinese communist troops. Things go wrong from the start. The unit manages to take the hill but then HQ won’t send them help because they don’t want to reinforce failure. Not willing to withdraw the survivors and not willing to sacrifice more men, the guys have to hang on the best they can until the brass makes up its mind. Some big names are in this one, most too young for you to recognizance. If you watch the Livestream, Gregory Peck’s radio operator might even remind you a little of someone.
Objective Burma! has a very simple plot. Some commandos jump into Burma on a commando mission. Then they have to make it to their pick-up alive. Things go wrong, of course, and it’s a cat and mouse chase to get away from the Japanese. It’s simple, but it’s a great war flick with Errol Flynn.
I love Kelly’s Heroes. A real classic. It’s a heist movie set in World War 2 as an Army unit finds out that there is a bank full of gold behind German lines. They concoct a scheme to get it and it becomes one of the best high concept war movies of all time. Great action and hilarious comedy. The cast is amazing with Sutherland as tank commander Oddball stealing the show.
The Big Red One is a masterpiece. An 80’s World War 2 movie starring Lee Marvin as the salty old Sarge who has to lead a squad through Africa all the way to Germany. More a series of vignettes, it gives us glimpses into the slog of the World War 2 infantry soldier. Most of it really happened to the writer/director Sam Fuller. If you go to watch this movie, find the Fuller Restoration cut for the full impact.
Most Last Movie Outpost readers probably don’t know this, but I am a bit of a Vietnam war historian. My Dad was in that one, so it is endlessly interesting to me. So obviously I like We Were Soldiers. Directed by, and starring, King Mel it is based on the true story of the battle of the Ia Drang Valley in the former Republic of South Vietnam.
It is realistic in the extreme. The gear and period uniform details are impressively accurate. There is a huge problem though. The battle in the movie doesn’t come close to ending the way it did in real life. That’s OK, I guess. It is Hollywood. The other problem is the man played by Sam Elliot turned out to be full of it. He was there at the battle, but he lied about his service record in World War 2 and Korea for his entire life, right up until recently when he was exposed. Don’t let that ruin a great movie for you though.
A Bridge Too Far is a World War 2 film as epic as the real-life airborne operation it portrays. It is very long and huge in scale. Monty’s failed attempt to end the war by Christmas got a lot of people killed and accomplished nothing. Limeys… am I right?
We get the pleasure of seeing Michael Cane, Anthony Hopkins, Sean Connery, Robert Redford, James Caan, and a bunch of others all in the same film. If that isn’t enough for you, I don’t want to be your friend.
Hamburger Hill is the best film to come out of the 1980s Vietnam war movie cycle. It follows a platoon of the 101st Airborne as they try to take Ap Bia Mountain in the infamous communist stronghold above the A Sầu Valley. Based on a real battle, we get to see the guys try to slog up the hill, over and over again, like some Greek tragedy. Very realistic in every way. There is no Hollywood ending like We Were Soldiers. This is the 80s when we still had to pretend everything about the Vietnam war was evil. Red Pill statement coming, it wasn’t. It is a great movie, though, with a perfect cast.
Gettysburg is one of the two best films ever made about The War Of Northern Aggression. The other being Gods And Generals. Sadly the second one did not do well at the box office so we will never get the last in the trilogy, The Last Full Measure.I would put Gettysburg up there at the top of any war movie list. I give it my highest recommendation. I have been to the battlefield three times over the years and stood in many of the same places you see in the film, as they filmed it on the actual ground where the battle took place. If possible, everyone should visit the park at least once in their life.
Enjoy your Memorial Day, and remember them.