Five Underrated War Flicks that are Actually Great!

Here’s a list of five underrated war flicks — gems that are waiting to be discovered within the war film genre. These five are lesser known compared to the “big guns” like the war classics Saving Private Ryan or All Quiet on the Western Front but movie critics have given them the “thumbs up”. Some of these underrated war flicks are not widely known since they didn’t enjoy an equally wide distribution over the US. Some just flew under the radar just because of the bigger war movies, so to speak. 

So, let us get through these five underrated war flicks that tackle the war theme. You can, then, tell us what you think about them through your feedback/comments.

[They’re listed from oldest to latest.]

Five Underrated War Flicks #1: Fires on the Plain [1959]

If you are looking for a look at a conflict from the perspective of the “enemy”, then, Fires on the Plain is a must-watch. This Japanese war film directed by Kon Ichikawa was adapted from a Japanese novel entitled Nobi and centers on Japanese private Tamura and the struggles he went through just so he could stay alive in the Philippines as the American troops liberated the islands during the latter part of WWII.

The film initially received mixed reviews from both Japanese and international movie critics when it was first released due to the prevailing bleak and violent themes all throughout the movie. But it was also able to garner several awards. Now, the war flick is well regarded [a hundred percent rating in Rotten Tomatoes].

A recent remake of the film was released just last year bearing the same title.

Five Underrated War Flicks #2: Army of Shadows [1969]

This French film directed by Jean-Pierre Melville is another book adaption of a novel bearing the same name and authored by Joseph Kessel which was released in 1943. Kessel was a member of the French Resistance and this served as his inspiration of his book along with fictionalized accounts of others who, like him, were members of the said secret group. While the theme heroism prevailed throughout his whole novel, the Resistance was portrayed in a dark and unromantic light.

Upon its initial release, Army of Shadows wasn’t well-received. In fact, French movie critics denounced it due to its seeming glorification of then hated president Charles de Gaulle. American movie programmers picked their cue from their French counterparts and did not release the movie in the country.

Eventually, it was reappraised thirty-seven years later which led to its restoration and re-release in the cinemas way back in 2006. Now, it is seen as one of the best war movies about French Resistance and is hailed as one of the best films ever made by Melville.

Five Underrated War Flicks #3: Come and See [1985]

This Russian-language, highly praised movie by director Elem Klimov is a devastatingly bleak and graphic picture about a young lad’s experiences during the time that the Nazis invaded Belarus in WWII.

The movie was so stirringly explicit that one movie critic compared it to the 1979  war flick Apocalypse Now and stated that the latter looked lighter compared to the film’s heavy scenes.

While the film was a box-office hit in the Soviet Union, it is greatly unknown in the US. It was chosen as the Soviet’s entry for the 58th Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film category but was not chosen as a nominee.

Five Underrated War Flicks #4: The Beast or The Beast of War [1988]

Despite hitting it low in the box-office, The Beast of War, an American war film by Kevin Reynolds, enjoys a cult following throughout the years since it was first released.

The movie centers on a Soviet tank crew who got lost during the time that their country invaded Afghanistan. Though a war film, The Beast focuses more on the relationship of its characters rather than on the conflict itself.

Five Underrated War Flicks #5: J.S.A.: Joint Security Area [2000]

Korean director Park Chan-wook, best known among the American audience as the director of the movie Oldboy, helmed this war flick which was based on Korean author Park Sang-yeon’s novel, DMZ. JSA centers on on the ongoing conflict between the two Koreas, the North and the South.

The movie’s title refers to an area within the Demilitarized Zone [DMZ] which separates the two countries. This said place is where soldiers from the North and the South can see each other face-to-face. The film centers on an investigator who was trying to find out the story behind a fatal shooting that occurred in the said area.

JSA was critically-acclaimed within South Korea when it was released and was able to bag several awards in its sleeve. Despite that and a number of endorsements from known Hollywood filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, however, the movie remained under the radar for common moviegoers throughout the years.

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE