“War is Hell!” According to these 7 Antiwar Films

War is Hell: Still from Saving Private Ryan
War is Hell: Still from Saving Private Ryan


War is Hell: Still from Saving Private Ryan
War is Hell: Still from Saving Private Ryan

When we talk about “war” we think explosions, killings, blood and lost human lives. Yes, war, with its being costliness when it comes to money and lives, is nothing short of hell. These 7 antiwar films portray that.

War is synonymous to violence and death. These two elements are gruesome but they are also the factors that make war an interesting movie subject. While there are films that critics slam as “glamorizing” war, there are also the ones which paint war as what it is – vicious, shady and bloody. These films are dubbed “antiwar”.

With skirmishes existing all over the globe and the recent tensions in the Crimean peninsula, it is but a fitting time to examine some of the best “antiwar” films in the movie industry. These are the films which successfully depicted war as hell.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Based on the book Heart of Darkness authored by Joseph Conrad, Francis Ford Coppola’s take on it had been hallucinatory but very powerful. The film follows the story of Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen), a distraught war veteran who was given the assignment of killing demented Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando).

The movie has several violent scenes on murder but it successfully shows the psychological effects war brings to its participants.

Apocalypse Now is considered as one of the best films of the century and is the most compelling antiwar films ever produced and shown on the silver screen.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

This Steven Spielberg masterpiece which follows the story of a band of soldiers tasked at saving the last surviving brother of one American family during WWII is nothing short of an inspirational war story.

However, because of its appallingly realistic portrayal of war not shying out on the violence and death that are its constant denominators, many critics have branded Saving Private Ryan as one of the antiwar films.

Its opening scene of the allies on Normandy landings was especially explicit.

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Full Metal Jacket, directed by Stanley Kubrick, centers on a US Marine group and the mental indoctrination and the physical rigors they went through boot camp before being shipped off in Vietnam for the actual combat.

How the film realistically depicts the ordeals dealt by the band of soldiers while in the boot camp is really remarkable. That is, in part, due to the participation of R. Lee Ermey who was a former US Marine drill instructor in real life.

Jarhead (2005)

Despite the lack of bloody fighting scenes in this Sam Mendes-directed movie, it earns a spot in the antiwar films list due to its compelling depiction of war’s uselessness.

Based on a memoir of the same name about Anthony Swofford, the movie takes on the struggles of a US Marine sniper as he fights depression and boredom while on assignment in the first Gulf War. Jarhead focuses on the stresses war puts on the soldier’s psychological aspect.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Based on a novel written by World War I veteran Erich Maria Remarque, this 1930 film directed by Lewis Milestone did not shy away from portraying the harsh realities of trench warfare during the Great War.

The movie’s story is all about a brood of young and idealistic German recruits, their disenchanting journey as they go through basic training and ultimately, the horrors they faced in the trenches of WWI.

It is an utmost example among antiwar films as it frankly showed the brutalities, the deprivations and the brutal conditions on which WWI soldiers were exposed to.

Platoon (1986)

The film directed by Oliver Stone may have fictional characters but the story was loosely based on his actual experiences being part of an infantry unit serving during the Vietnam War.

It won four Oscars in 1986 including the biggest award – the Best Picture spot. It also earned Stone a statuette as Best Director of that year.

Stone’s hard-line portrayal of the barbarity of war and the discord existing even amongst American soldiers has earned it a place among the most realistic Vietnam War films ever produced in the movie industry.

Paths of Glory (1957)

Based on a novel by a WWI veteran, this Stanley Kubrick film tells the story of three French soldiers executed to serve as an example to their regiment’s supposed cowardice for backing out on a suicidal attack.

Set in WWI, the movie moves on the following unfair proceedings in court-martial against the three men which ultimately led to their being sentenced to death.

Its take on the injustice in the military, on the hard fact that a path to glory at times leads to death and its story’s basis on several actual WWI events make Paths of Glory one of the most heartbreaking antiwar films there is.

Wall St. Cheat Sheet reports

Heziel Pitogo

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