On Nov. 11, Veterans Day honors approximately 18 million Americans like myself who served in the United States military. Here are five of my favorite war films, in no particular order, to celebrate the holiday.
1. “Glory” (1989)
“Glory” follows Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) leading the first all African-American volunteer regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, during the Civil War. Along with soldiers like Private Silas Trip (Denzel Washington), Shaw challenges opposition from the North and South, both on the battlefield and from their superiors’ racist treatment toward black soldiers. Other stars include Morgan Freeman and Cary Elwes.
“Glory” is available to watch on HBO Max or Prime Video.
2. “Sergeant York” (1941)
Though it embellished the details, ”Sergeant York” adapts the diary of Alvin Cullum York (Gary Cooper), a Medal of Honor recipient who served in the United States Army during World War I. It follows York from his humble beginnings as a farmer in Tennessee to the front lines in France. In 2008, the Library of Congress preserved the film to the National Film Registry for “cultural, historical or aesthetic significance.”
“Sergeant York” is available to watch on Turner Classic Movies.
3. “Windtalkers” (2002)
“Windtalkers” follows a group of World War II marines in the Pacific Theater, where Navajo code talker Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach) transmits messages to other allied forces and is assigned to Sergeant Joe Enders (Nicolas Cage). Though the story is fictitious, Navajo code talkers were a real thing; Navajo is one of the hardest languages to decipher, which is why code talkers used it during WWII.
“Windtalkers” is available to watch on Prime Video.
4. “We Were Soldiers” (2002)
Based on “We were soldiers … and young,” the memoir of Lt. Col. (Ret) Hal Moore (Mel Gibson), “We Were Soldiers” follows the newly formed 7th Air Cavalry into the Ia Drang Valley. On Nov. 14, 1965, Moore led 400 men against the much larger forces of the North Vietnamese Army, being outnumbered by over 4,000 fighters. This film also shows the ramifications of communication errors on the homefront.
“We Were Soldiers” is available to watch on Hulu.
5. “Blackhawk Down” (2001)
“Blackhawk Down” shows the 3rd battalion/ 75th Ranger Regiment during the Somali Civil War in 1993. Despite being based on actual events, this film has been heavily criticized for some of its details, including its depiction of certain characters’ sacrifices during the rescue scene. However, it perfectly captures the fear of intense firefights and features several A-listers like Josh Hartnett, Tom Sizemore, Orlando Bloom and Ewan McGregor.
“Blackhawk Down” is available to watch on HBO Max.