Idol Chatter

blackhawkdown.jpgMemorial Day weekend is upon us, and if this is the year to stay home, I suggest you gather with those you love and watch great war movies.

Here are ten of my favorite military movies of all-time which you can find on DVD. Notice, it’s not a “Best Military Movies” list, because when it comes to war, sacrifice, heroism, death and what comes after that, I truly think the beauty of this art form is certainly in the eye of the beholder. Let me know your favorites by posting in the comments area below.

“Platoon” (1986): This film captured the absolute chaos and unfairness that marked so many Americans’ year (or more) in country. And the expansive and beautiful music score made the hard movie more enjoyable and memorable.

“Black Hawk Down” (2001): The Battle of Mogadishu, part of the Somalia campaign of 1993, just hasn’t received the kind of heroic treatment in the history books of our culture as, say, World War II or Vietnam. The politics and policy issue of the ’90s just haven’t lent themselves to the kind of clarity as the former wars. But wow! This movie is a gritty realistic as any war movie I’ve ever seen, and a few of the dialogue sequences undress a new kind of soldier whose been fighting for our nation for decades.

“The General” (1927): It’s old. It’s powerful. It takes work. It’s worth it.

“First Blood” (1982): This movie featured no war footage and, in fact, was set entirely in a little Northwest town. But it told the tale of Vietnam vets after they came home and illustrated the unfairly rough journey so many of them had to face. And Sly Stallone was both believable and restrained as a war hero who won sympathy for a generation of those who lived his on-screen fate.

“M*A*S*H*” (1970): M*A*S*H* brought comedy and color in a time of war when our nation needed it, and endures in both its inspiration and its irony.

“A Bridge Too Far” (1977): I think this film hasn’t endured on highlight lists for the simple reason that it focused on something we didn’t get right. Operation Market Garden was a mission that didn’t quite succeed, but the telling of the tale was heroic and included Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, James Caan, Michael Caine and a rare appearance by Robert Redford in a movie where he was just one of the guys.

“The Great Escape” (1963): An all-star cast, tragedy and comedy, the hardness of war, and the softness of gentlemen, Germany and Switzerland and the brutality that was World War II are all captured in this wonder that’s wonderful, but hard to watch twice.

“The Dirty Dozen” (1967): If war movies are supposed to bring hope, few succeeded as much as this zany tale of P.O.W.’s gone bad and a mission only they could pull off.

“Top Gun” (1986): Okay, so this was Military Light, I know. But the great score, jock relationships, tragedy of a best friend lost, and redemption of a lost son found made for a great movie undercut by some pop culture add-ons and a love thing that didn’t really work.

“The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957): Among the famous lists, including AFI’s, this classic continues to drop in the rankings. Its style is a challenge to the current generation, but tune into this one and be transported across the miles and years to a time when wars were fought differently by leaders few of us have ever encountered.

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