1. The Great Escape (1963): This is easily my favorite war film. Not only does this film highly a vast array of tough guys from the era, but it lets each be himself within the story rather than just giving them cameos. Even better, it doesn’t make the Germans out as monsters or incompetents. That gives the good guys some strong characters to play off of, and it makes the challenge feel more authentic.
2. Zulu (1964): Love this film! Again, this is a film which respects both sides and shows the amazing bravery of both. Also, despite being written by Marxists, this film comes across as very fair in presenting the issues of the day.
3. Bridge on the River Kwai (1957): Alec Guinness is amazing in this. He plays the stiff-upper-lip British commander who works hard to keep his men from falling apart into a rabble in a Japanese prison camp and soon he starts to cross the line into becoming a collaborator, even as he humiliates his Japanese captors.
4. Gettysburg (1993): No CGI and yet, you get to see tens of thousand of soldiers fighting the most important battle in US history, and you get to hear both sides presented fairly and in detail. A truly thoughtful film.
5. Das Boot (1981): This is the definitive submarine film and it’s positively gripping to watch the horrors these guys go through.
6. The Dirty Dozen (1967): What a great idea combined with fantastic execution. I never get tired of watching this one.
7. Where Eagles Dare (1969): This is an awesome a spy thriller that involves two incredibly compelling actors – Eastwood and Richard Burton. A very smart and entertaining story.
8. Breaker Morant (1980): A strong morality tale that just happens to be true, this film shows you how the Boer War was fought and how Britain tried to wash its hands of its tactics by blaming commanders.
9. The Guns of Navarone (1961): Another film written by a communist, this one ends up as a surprisingly rousing call to arms to defend freedom.
10. Kelly’s Heroes (1970): A fun heist film about some guys who learn about a cache of gold bars behind enemy lines and they set out to get that gold by moving the lines.
11. The Longest Day (1962): Packed with stars, this gives you a huge overview of the D-Day landing.
12. Platoon (1986): This is the definitive Vietnam film and it’s truly impressively done.
13. Stalag 17 (1953): What an excellent film about a man wrongly accused of being a traitor.
14. All Quiet On The Western Front (1930): Based on an amazing book, this film captures the feel of what WWI was really like for long-suffering ground troops.
15. Stalingrad (1992): A fascinating film which does an excellent job of showing the horror of the fight to the death that was Stalingrad. Just seeing the size of the unit shrink throughout the film is shocking.
16. Sergeant York (1941): This film is kind of a last hurrah of the “innocent American.” It’s also an excellent feel good film as this humble hero does his duty in an amazing way.
17. Tora Tora Tora (1970): Easily the best Pearl Harbor film, this one presents both side quite fairly.