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Top 5 Military Movies To Watch On Veterans Day

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It is Veterans Day and that can only mean one thing - I'm already late for my free meal at Applebee's. But when I get home, inevitably TNT, AMC, and every other channel worth its salt will be playing military movies all day or at least they should. After all, I didn't spend a year in Iraq to only have super hero movies playing on 11/11. No offense. 

In order for you to better understand what makes a good military movie, you need to know the criteria. When you understand the following, you are better equipped to make your own lists. Now, that dolt White Sox Dave will probably tell me I'm wrong but he never served a day in his life so I'll continue dismissing his opinion. Anyway, here is the criteria:

Military and historical accuracy – Do the uniforms look right? Is the jargon accurate? Do the tactics make sense? All while staying true to the events as they occurred in history if the movie is based on actual events? This is the most important criteria because if you score poorly here I will trash the entire movie. See: The Hurt Locker.

Emotions evoked – 4 of my top 5 movies move me to tears no matter how many times I watch them. I’m a crier, what can I say.  A good military movie should make you laugh and cry because in the military as we deal with grave consequences sometimes, a sense of humor is a staple of any unit no matter the branch or time in history. Not to mention displays of camaraderie do it for me.

Rewatchability – When I stumble onto something for the 69th time on AMC, I’m sticking around until the end.

Character investment – I think it’s imperative to feel like you know the characters and want to see them succeed in overcoming whatever hardships they may encounter in the plot.

Badassery – This one is simple – I need to see cool explosions or displays of heroism or both.

Keeping those in mind, here is my top 5 in no particular order:

  1. Saving Private Ryan 

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    Speilberg went to painstaking efforts to ensure he did right by the brave men who fought in World War II and stormed the beaches of Normandy. Although fictional characters, you cannot tell me you don't cry at the end when Ryan salutes CPT Winters' grave. 

  • American Sniper

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    Kudos to Bradley Cooper for honoring Chris Kyle with his portrayal. This is one of the most accurate depictions of what the fighting was like in the streets of Iraq. When I watched this the first time in the theater I sat alone in silence for 20 minutes following those end credits. Powerful movie. In the very early days of ZBT, we interviewed Kevin Lacz who was Chris Kyle's teammate and friend who portrayed himself in the movie.

  • Platoon

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    Oliver Stone's take on the war in Vietnam was certainly heavy. This is to be expected of Stone, especially when the movie is based on his own experiences. This was also the movie that got Dale Dye started on his Hollywood career consulting for military movies. It's a super interesting story to hear how he forced his way into the business. 

  • Black Hawk Down

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    This was a battle we point to as an Army and learned many hard lessons from unfortunately. Although we learned they took some creative liberties to turn the book into the movie, Hollywood did a great job portraying the bravery exhibited in Somalia. 

  • We Were Soldiers

    Interesting tidbit from this movie. You'll remember when the taxi cab driver comes to deliver the telegram to tell the woman her husband was killed. LTC Moore's wife flips out on him (rightfully so) and offers to deliver the telegrams to the wives herself. In real life, Julia Moore worked to overhaul how the Army informed families if someone was KIA. Now, all branches will send a Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO) and their team to inform the family. This team goes through extensive training to ensure this is done properly and with compassion.

  • Not on this list really only because it is a mini-series and not a movie is Band Of Brothers. I religiously watch that twice a year at least. The lessons I took with me to my platoon from Dick Winters based on this series and his memoir were many.