If there is one thing that I’ve learned in my many years of being the War Movie Correspondent, it’s that when it comes to war movie action, you really can’t go wrong. In fact, with only a few exceptions, every war movie brings something to the table and the really great ones make war seem like hell.
However, there are a rare few great scenes of war that go above and beyond. They check off all the boxes of what makes a great war movie great. Such scenes are able to simultaneously combine brutality, realism and overall entertainment to create a true masterpiece.
Here are three movies that are able to do just that:
Gladiator opens with a stunning battle between General Maximus and his Roman soldiers and the fearsome Germanic tribes. The Romans combine their discipline, training and far superior weaponry to quickly put down the enemy and show why the Roman Empire was such a force in history. Although the Romans didn’t actually use some of the tactics shown during the battle, the blood and violence was certainly accurate and set the tone for an overall violent film but exceptional film.
Check out this scene from Gladiator here:
Apocalypse Now (1979):
When the United States military invades or assaults somewhere, they do it with everything they have. And the U.S. Cavalry beach assault from the movie, Apocalypse Now is no exception. Military helicopters rain down bullets and missiles to decimate a beach populated by the enemy, for the lone reason that it has excellent surfing waves. The addition of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” playing in the background, puts the icing on the cake.
Check out a scene from Apocalypse here:
Being outnumbered in war is never a good thing. And for British soldiers fighting during the battle of Rorke’s Drift, they weren’t just outnumbered they were completely overwhelmed. Only 100 British fought against thousands upon thousands of Zulu warriors during the battle and held their own against wave after wave of the assault. The movie comes to its climax as the Zulu charge one final time and the British do what they can to survive.
The movie used absolutely no CGI effects and even used actual Zulu tribesman to make it as realistic as the movie makers could.
Check out a scene from Zulu here:
What were your favorite war scenes? Whether they are realistic or not, please share them in the comments!