Top 5 Realistic Military Movies

By Joonsung Oh

Everyone knows that there is a bit of Hollywood inserted into most military movies.  But how does the average movie-goer know how to distinguish between what is real and what is movie magic?  We’ve compiled a list of our top 5 favorite films that are as close to real as you can get without having to put on a flak jacket.

blackhawk down

Black Hawk Down

Ridley Scott’s modern-day warfare drama focuses on a failed 1993 mission to take down Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aided.  Based on true events, the film demonstrates the harsh realities of war while capturing the camaraderie among the soldiers. The film was praised for its “…stylistic, fast-paced combat sequences – complete with POV gunner shots—that seem to thrust the audience right in the middle of the action.”


saving private ryan


Saving Private Ryan

Spielberg’s World War II drama has made its mark in the war movie genre, distinguishing itself from other films with its realistic battle scenes (the epic Normandy landing); so much so that many veterans of D-Day stepped away from the film for a duration of the landing scene. Tarantino and other filmmakers have lauded the film for its realistic capture of the difficulties and atrocities of war.


 rescue dawn

Rescue Dawn

Christian Bale, playing Navy Lieutenant Dieter Dengler, aids Steve Zahn, playing Air Force 1st Lieutenant Duane Martin, after escaping a POW camp during the Vietnam War. The film is based on Dengler’s actual experience, and Rescue Dawn authentically portrays his experience as a POW. To accurately capture his experience, the filmmakers shot scenes in Thailand jungles in order to show the humid and lush setting. Bale even lost a considerable amount of weight to play the POW.

thin red line

The Thin Red Line

Director Terrence Malick’s film examines the Pacific theater of World War II, with a focus on the emotional state of US soldiers in a distant land.  The Thin Red Line shows realistic detailed scenes, such as soldiers throwing up before combat.  Starring Sean Penn and James Cavezial, the film captures the vulnerability, and bravery, of these young men in a time of war.

letters from iwo jima

Letters From Iwo Jima

Director Clint Eastwood’s film depicts the Japanese soldiers’ point of view during the Battle of Iwo Jima, which contrasts the American perspective shown in Eastwood’s earlier film Flags of Our Fathers. The film shows both the good and evil on both sides of the battle, while highlighting the human characteristics that all men possess. “Even Japan praised the film for its accurate depiction of Japanese soldiers and [1940s Japanese culture].”


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