War? What is it good for? Well, for one it makes some great movies. For better or worse, some of the most potent aspects of any story — drama, action, suspense, horror, and even humor — can be found in portrayals of war. Whether they’re revealing fictional portrayals of the battlefield, documentaries, or fantastic re-imaginings, war movies have limitless potential to captivate and emotionally affect audiences. If you’re a Hulu subscriber, then you have an impressive library of war movies to choose from. We’ve looked through them all and chosen the absolute best so you don’t have to.
Both a commercial and critical success — it was nominated for eight Oscars and took home half of them — Platoon catapulted Oliver Stone’s directing career into the stratosphere and spawned a long series of film and TV copycat productions about the Vietnam War. Charlie Sheen stars as the initially naive and idealistic Chris Taylor, whose tour of duty in Vietnam makes him a witness to the brutality and ugliness war reveals in its combatants, including in himself. After one of the platoon’s sergeants is suspected of trying to murder another, the unit is split down the middle — forcing these young men to face not only the enemy but also themselves. Regardless of how you feel about Stone’s later films, Platoon is a powerful triumph with a stellar ensemble cast, including Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Forest Whitaker, Tony Todd, Johnny Depp, John C. McGinley, and even Living Colour singer Corey Glover.
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Stars: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Depp
Director: Oliver Stone
Runtime: 120 minutes
The 12th Man (2017)
Thankfully, World War II had no shortage of heroes, and the acclaimed Norwegian historical drama The 12th Man tells the stories of one of those heroes, those who hunted him, and those who saved him. Thomas Gullestad plays Jan Baalsrud, a Norwegian resistance fighter and the only survivor of a doomed sabotage mission. Forced to travel in subzero temperatures and hounded by the forces of German officer Kurt Sage (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), Baalsrud has no one to help him but the locals desperate to get rid of the Nazis as much as he is, and they answer the call. The 12th Man is a harrowing, gripping tale of survival and resistance.
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Stars: Thomas Gullestad, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Marie Blokhus
Director: Harold Zwart
Runtime: 135 minutes
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
While it was nominated for 10 Oscars, Peter Weir’s amazing war drama Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World had the bad luck to come out the same year as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and so took home only two of the statues. Based during the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century, Master and Commander follows the obsessed Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe) and his British crew on their quest to sink French privateer vessel the Acheron. Visually gorgeous with an old-fashioned feel that makes you think of classic epic makers like David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago) — and including wonderful performances by Crowe and Paul Bettany as the ship’s surgeon — Master and Commander is just about the best naval film of this era that isn’t based on a Disney ride.
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Stars: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd
Director: Peter Weir
Runtime: 138 minutes
While it may not be set during a “traditional” war, ’71 is nevertheless as much of a war movie as any movie could be. Unfolding in Belfast during the Troubles, ’71 follows fresh recruit Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) after his unit unintentionally abandons him. Alone and on the run, Hook does everything he can to survive long enough to learn who will find him first — the British army or the IRA.
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Stars: Jack O’Connell, Sam Reid, Sean Harris
Director: Yann Demange
Runtime: 99 minutes
Legion of Brothers (2017)
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the United States used special forces units extensively to take down the Taliban. The powerful documentary Legion of Brothers follows the soldiers who were sent overseas both during their tours of duty and after they come home. There’s no political agenda here. In Legion of Brothers, we hear from soldiers glad they had the opportunity to fight in Afghanistan and those who wish they had never been involved. The only agenda is to tell their stories and, above all, to highlight the brotherhood their experiences have forged.
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: Jason Amerine, George W. Bush, Mark Nutsch
Director: Greg Barker
Runtime: 79 minutes
Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)
If you’re in the mood for a good old-fashioned patriotic war flick, you’re not going to get much better than Sands of Iwo Jima. Legendary Hollywood tough guy John Wayne stars as John Stryker, an unforgiving Marine sergeant whose squad can’t stand how much he pushes them. Once they see combat, they begin to appreciate exactly why Stryker drives them as hard as he does. By the end of the film, those who survive go from seeing him as a petty tyrant to appreciating him as an American hero. Sands of Iwo Jima was nominated for four Oscars after its release, and there aren’t many World War II films that followed — including those released in the 21st century — that weren’t influenced by it.
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: John Wayne, John Agar, Adele Mara
Director: Allan Dwan
Runtime: 100 minutes
Eye in the Sky (2015)
In this nail-biting and thoughtful thriller, a more modern and different kind of warfare takes center stage. During what is initially meant to be a mission to capture a terrorist in Kenya, things get more heated when a disguised surveillance drone sends back video footage confirming that terrorists are planning a suicide bombing. The “capture” order is quickly changed to a “kill” order, but the presence of a child in the target area complicates the decision-making. Driven by a stellar cast including Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, and the final live-action film performance of the late Alan Rickman, Eye in the Sky creates a suspenseful and entertaining story while at the same time dealing with the complicated moral questions revolving around drone warfare.
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Stars: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman
Director: Gavin Hood
Runtime: 102 minutes
Classic war films like 1962’s The Longest Day and 1998’s Saving Private Ryan received piles of accolades for their depictions of D-Day. But what were those films and others like them missing? Zombies. In the 2018 gorefest Overlord, director Julius Avery takes care of that omission. When a squad of paratroopers is tasked with taking out a German tower used to jam Allied radio, things go bad quickly. Only four men survive, and pretty soon they might wish they hadn’t. Alone behind enemy lines, the paratroopers soon discover that German scientists are working on developing more than just bombs and missiles. Rather than just dealing with enemy soldiers, the wayward Americans have to face the disfigured, zombielike monsters the Axis powers are attempting to add to their war machine.
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Stars: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier
Director: Julius Avery
Runtime: 110 minutes
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