US Army Armor Officer and Commander Nicholas Moran Rates Popular Tank Battle Scenes

Photo Credit: 1. michaella92 / MovieStillsDB 2. Hope72 / Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: 1. michaella92 / MovieStillsDB 2. Hope72 / Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures / MovieStillsDB

It might be surprising to some, but tanks have become pretty commonplace in Hollywood productions. We’re not just talking about war and military films, but also action features. In an interview with Insider, Nicholas “The Chieftain” Moran, a military historian and active-duty US Army armor officer, rates scenes from various movies and television shows, identifying which ones are accurate and which are the result of poetic license.

If there was anyone to take on this monumental task, it would certainly be Moran, who’s currently the commander of the 1st Armored Division Main Command Post – Operational Detachment. He also has experience with M1 Abrams and M3 Bradleys.

Band of Brothers (2001)

Still from 'Band of Brothers'
Band of Brothers, 2001. (Photo Credit: jeffw616 / Dreamworks Pictures / HBO / MovieStillsDB)

In a scene from the third episode of the popular HBO miniseries Band of Brothers (2001), American infantrymen come under attack by the Germans, and it’s not long before US-manned M4 Shermans arrive to help.

The authenticity of this scene is evident in even the smallest details. The Americans have men standing on the backs of the tanks, operating the .50 caliber machine guns. This is accurate, as the weapon’s original purpose on its external mount was to produce anti-aircraft fire. It allowed the operator to easily aim upwards when compared to the cramped space within the turret’s hatch.

The Germans are also shown as not having any tanks. This would have been true, since the country’s manufacturing saw fewer armored vehicles built, compared to the Americans and other Allied nations. The German armor shown in the scene includes a Marder, a Sturmgeschütz (StuG) and a Jagdpanther.

Up against Sherman tanks and infantrymen armed with bazookas, the Germans retreated. Nicholas Moran says, “This is as good as you’re going to get… If there’s ever going to be a 10 for ‘rate a tank battle,’ this is probably it.”

With such high praise, it’s no surprise the US Army commander gives Band of Brothers gets a solid 10/10.

All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

Still from 'All Quiet on the Western Front'
All Quiet on the Western Front, 2022. (Photo Credit: michaella92 / MovieStillsDB)

Tanks were first used during the First World War. In one scene from the 2022 adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front, French Saint-Chamonds approach German trenches. The tanks, unsurprisingly, aren’t original. Only one still exists, and it’s located at the Museum of Armoured Vehicles in Saumur, France.

Nicholas Moran explains that the tanks used in the film were built upon Cold War-era Soviet vehicles, such as the BMP-1.

Taking place toward the end of the war, the Germans had already come up against Allied tanks. However, as Moran explains, they would still shoot at the armored vehicles because 1) infantrymen sometimes accompanied tanks into combat and 2) early ones weren’t as well armored as modern iterations. As well, even if these shots didn’t do anything, the act helped boost German morale.

Moran gives All Quiet on the Western Front a rating of 9/10, explaining, “I could quibble a few things, but it generally gets the concept across.”

Rambo III (1988)

Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo in 'Rambo III'
Rambo III, 1988. (Photo Credit: classicman / Carolco Pictures / TriStar Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

At this point, there are several Rambo movies, but the one Nicholas Moran focuses on in this instance is the third.

In one scene, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) climbs into a Soviet T-72 to take on what’s supposed to be a Mil Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship. They charge at each other, immediately showing significant issues. The first is that Rambo shoots at the helicopter, which Moran explains is not realistic, as there’s only one tank that’s capable of being operated by one person in combat: the Swedish Stridsvagn (STRV) 103, also known as the S-tank.

The helicopter attacking Rambo is also unrealistic. Instead of using missiles, the pilot fires unguided rockets at the front of the T-72. In reality, they’d have a greater chance of disabling the tank if they fired at the rear engine compartment.

The scene concludes with the tank and helicopter colliding head-on, resulting in the latter exploding. This leads Moran to conclude, “And so the enemy pilot dies the death that his stupidity would deserve.”

His rating for Rambo III (1988) is a 1/10, simply because “it has a tank.”

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Still from 'The Dark Knight Rises'
The Dark Knight Rises, 2012. (Photo Credit: stl71 / Warner Bros. / Legendary Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

Another action movie Nicholas Moran rates is The Dark Knight Rises (2012), the final release in Christopher Nolan’s DC trilogy.

In one scene, Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) attacks a convoy from the air, and the “tanks” tasked with protecting a truck within the line use cannons and missiles to fire back. There’s only one way Moran can sum up what he’s just seen, saying, “I guess when you’re dealing with Batman, anything goes.”

Despite featuring tanks, The Dark Knight Rises receives a dismal rating of 0/10.

Fury (2014)

Still from 'Fury'
Fury, 2014. (Photo Credit: egge / Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

It wouldn’t be a video about Hollywood tank battles without Fury (2014).

While approaching a treeline, four American M4 Shermans, accompanied by infantrymen, are fired upon by the Germans. The enemy troops use 7.5 cm Pak 40 anti-tank guns, which Nicholas Moran confirms were a definite threat. In the scene, the four tanks keep in close formation, and the armor officer explains that, in an open field, this isn’t necessarily what one would choose to do. However, due to the number of infantrymen behind them, a single platoon might have been superior.

Moran also addresses the number of times the Germans miss the Americans. Despite its reputation for being an accurate gun, the Pak 40 had to be fired 20 times to actually score a single hit. He blames this partially on stress in combat. At the end of the scene, the Shermans open fire using all of their machine guns and main cannons.

Moran exclaims, “That scene is basically why I became a tanker,” which is why it comes as no surprise that he gives Fury a 9/10 rating.

Watch the video!

More from us: Ex-Submarine Commander David Marquet Rates Naval Scenes from Popular Movies

Now that you’ve read what Nicholas Moran has to say about these scenes, give the video a watch and see what you think! Do you agree with his ratings, or would you have voted differently?

Ryan McLachlan

Ryan McLachlan is a historian and content writer for Hive Media. He received his Bachelor of Arts in History and Classical Studies and his Master of Arts in History from the University of Western Ontario. Ryan’s research focused on military history, and he is particularly interested in the conflicts fought by the United Kingdom from the Napoleonic Wars to the Falklands War.

Ryan’s other historical interests include naval and maritime history, the history of aviation, the British Empire, and the British Monarchy. He is also interested in the lives of Sir Winston Churchill and Admiral Lord Nelson. Ryan enjoys teaching, reading, writing, and sharing history with anyone who will listen.

In his spare time, he enjoys watching period dramas such as Murdoch Mysteries and Ripper Street and also enjoys reading classical literature and Shakespeare. He also plays football and is an afternoon tea connoisseur.