Top 10 Best Modern War Movies of All Time

February 11, 2023
M.N. Miller 0
Lists, RSC Originals

Keep this page handy as we celebrate and list what have been deemed the Top 10 Best Modern War Movies of All Time.

What are the best modern-day war movies? We are not talking about Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, Black Hawk Down, or even the polarizing Full Metal Jacket. Those movies are relevant as ever but moved into the senior tour of films depicting the horrors of war. Today’s modern warfare is more complex than ever than just the fight of good versus evil.

Please look at our 10 best modern war movies of all time!

Top 10 Best Modern War Movies of All Time

10. The Hurt Locker (2008)

The film made Jeremy Renner a star, and if any Avenger asked what the hell Sergeant James is doing right now, they would make him an honorary member. Katherine Bigelow’s film works because she keeps doubling down on the hazardous situations James finds himself in and the moral dilemmas and hauntingly human costs of the war he lives for. Anthony Mackie was also robbed of a nomination and the award for Best Supporting Actor. (Take a look at his emotionally vulnerable turn as JT Sanborn and tell me you were not moved). The Hurt Locker is a viscerally powerful film.

9. Restrepo (2010)

An absolutely stunning documentary that had filmmakers spending a year with one platoon in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan. It is a film no one talks about and kicked off a decade of the golden age of documentary filmmaking.

8. American Sniper (2014)

Say what you want about Clint Eastwood’s remarkable film about an American hero, Chris Kyle. His trauma-filled film is a startling depiction of a man in a difficult position during a time of great political unrest, moral complexities, and split-second decisions that no person would ever want to find themselves in. And despite the fake baby thumb scene that has gone down in history, American Sniper is ultimately moving and powerful, with an outstanding performance from Bradley Cooper about the most decorated sniper in US military history.

7. Da 5 Bloods (2020)

Spike Lee has never been a filmmaker you can peg unless it’s that reputation for standing outside the box instead of inside it firmly. In the same sense, Martin Scorsese pathologically holds your attention with images that should make you turn away. Lee does this by toying with classic cinematic genres while blending them with modern themes and eye-opening visuals. Da 5 Bloods leaves you uneasy and vulnerable. Lee’s themes extend far beyond our borders and, for that matter, much closer within our circles. It’s harsh poetry on the battle against hate.

6. Zero Dark Thirty (2008)

Suspenseful, sleek, and almost surreal, Katherine Bigelow’s quintessential film on modern-day warfare succeeds because it holds nothing back on the war of gathering intelligence. The best film of 2012 is about the greatest manhunt in US History and the scene choices that show the shadowy side of the sacrifices made to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice.

5. The Outpost (2020)

The Outpost is based on the best-selling nonfiction book by Jake Tapper titled The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor. The film chronicles a specialized unit of U.S. soldiers who protect Combat Outpost Keating. Directed by Rod Lurie, a veteran himself, it is a contemporary one that takes its time to get there with its unusual setup leading to a relentless second half — it shakes your core and rattles your bones.

4. Dunkirk (2017)

Nolan brings his brand of twisty narrative filmmaking to the grand spectacle of Dunkirk. An exhilarating, profound, and profoundly moving war epic that rarely lets up. Reminiscent of The Thin Red Line, Nolan’s script throws waves of nameless soldiers from different perspectives and views that drown the viewer in the absolute horrors of war with visually arresting poetry.

3. 1917 (2019)

The only thing that kept popping up in my head while watching director Sam Mendes’s gloriously immersive, thoroughly gripping, and spine-tinglingly suspenseful film was, for lack of a better term, the balls on this guy. The talk of using the innovative large-format camera for one continuous shot is a grand piece of filmmaking. It surpasses the beach scene in Atonement in almost every way at its blistering 119 minutes. It was a gutsy decision that paid off handsomely. 1917 is stunning cinematic moviemaking.

2. Inglorious Basterds (2009)

A dark revenge fantasy tale about a group of Jewish-American soldiers taking down the Nazi regime in Germany. After Pulp Fiction, it remains Tarantino’s finest film. Inglourious Basterds is a horrific, nightmarish fairy tale of what our troops were fighting against and for.

1. All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

One of the most gut-wrenching, brutal, and uncompromising anti-war films ever made. There are few cinematic experiences this or any year, like Edward Berger’s adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s book. The director captures the source’s material’s visionary concept of the anti-war story. The first anti-war novel abandoned popular themes of nobility, patriotism, and the romanticizing of fighting for something as inconsequential as a few meters of land. Berger brilliantly helps bring to life the curtain that Remarque pulled back. All Quiet on the Western Front is a haunting achievement.

Honorable Mentions: The Forgotten Battle, Retrografe, Father Soldier Son, Hacksaw Ridge, The Bombardment, Son of Saul, Fury, Lone Survivor.

And that completes our Top 10 Best Modern War Movies of All Time list. What’s your favorite of All Time? Comment below.

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