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Ever since the beginning of human history, our species has been skilled in two different activities: war and communication. Whatever your opinion about the statement is irrelevant because it is the truth. The Word of God speaks of wars between kings during the time of Abraham. Heck, the first two recorded siblings ended up with one brother killing the other. So, it is safe to say that one of the oldest traditions is that of the war story. The oldest known text outside of the Bible is The Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem about a mighty warrior king, Gilgamesh, who fights impossible creatures and overcomes enormous odds in the search for eternal life. Every culture has had their epics: Beowulf from the Anglo-Saxons, the Iliad from the Greeks, the Ramayana from the Indians, The Aeneid from the Romans, and the list goes on forever. We have carried on this tradition today in the form of the war film. These films can be big business if done right because of modern public’s fascination with stories of courage and commitment similar to how the ancients wanted to be entertained.
The film that inspired this list, American Sniper carrying on the age old tradition of war storytelling, is certainly receiving a lot of good and bad press. Many critics feel that its black and white view of Operation Iraqi Freedom does not belong in a recounting of the War in Iraq. I totally disagree, however, and I think the best war movies are either black and white or filmed with possibly a hint of gray in them. I said before in a previous post: We are the good guys! And that is how I like my movies where my values are the values of the good guys. Now, that we have gone somewhat deep with history and political discourse, let’s get to the list and lighten things up a little. One thing to note is that I have not seen every war film and there will probably be some films missed. For example, I have never seen Bridge on the River Kwai which is considered by many to be the greatest war film ever made; though, because of my lack of viewership, it will not be on this list.
Additionally, I want to note with my audience being mostly Christian, many of these movies contain a lot of violence and a lot of vulgar language and behavior. So, please watch at your risk if you are not a big fan of vulgarity and violence.
I know what you might be thinking, “What the Heck?! Aliens doesn’t belong on a list of greatest war movies!” Obviously, I disagree. I believe this film absolutely belongs on a list such as this even if we were only basing the decision on the movie’s influence on hundreds of films, television shows, books, and video games. One can make a case that the genre of military science fiction would not be what is today without two works: Starship Troopers and Aliens. The former, though, was a huge inspiration for the latter film; so, one can make the case that the whole genre stems from Starship Troopers. In an ironic twist, the original script for the film version of Starship Troopers, titled Bug Hunt on Outpost Nine, drew more from Aliens than Heinlein’s book.
Exploring media today, there is no denying that much of what we see in war movies today can harken back to the 1986 film. Each member of the squad of the Colonial Marines exhibits a distinct personality spawning or reinforcing archetypes in countless films to follow. Corporal Hicks is the reluctant leader who must take command after those in charge have died and the official leadership is incompetent. Private Hudson is the overconfident Marine who falls apart in the middle of combat whose desperate one-liner, “Game Over, Man! Game Over!” has become iconic. Sergeant Apone is the gruff sergeant and Lieutenant Gorman is an incompetent officer.
Okay, so the movie is extremely influential. Is it any good? The answer to that question is, “Yes!” The movie is endlessly re-watchable with a great script. The banter between the marines is probably the greatest and funniest part of the writing not to mention somewhat realistic. I like to think of this movie as Zulu in space with much of the same themes of overconfidence and nonsense plaguing the marines as they did the British fighting the Zulu tribe.
However, not all of the contents of the film are of good nature and quality. One thing that I have always severely disliked about the movie is its Liberal leanings contributing to a low rating on the list. The Alien franchise as a whole contains an underlying anti-Capitalist bend, continued from the first movie, with the super corporation Weyland-Yutani always hovering in the background and playing in the forefront with the sleazy Carter J. Burke consistently towing the company line at the expense of the lives and well-being of the rest of the characters. Additionally, there is an undercurrent of anti-Vietnam War sentiment, especially in the character of Private Hudson.
Thus, if you would not like to see an extremely violent war movie with Left-leaning underpinnings than I would definitely stay away from this movie. However, because the political message is not as overt as many movies today, including James Cameron’s own Avatar, I would recommend this movie to anyone who can take the violence, profanity, and overlook the underlying message. This will definitely be the most Liberal film on my list.