War movies are nearly as old as the genre itself. One of the most written about and debated movies in history–“The Birth of A Nation”–is partially about the Civil War. Denounced today as racist, it remains known for its length and the technical skill of director David Wark Griffith. Some war films are about characters invented by the writers, like “Saving Private Ryan”. Others are about people and incidents that are real. The classic “Sergeant York” which starred Gary Cooper is an example.
24/7 Tempo has identified the best military movie of all time by creating an index based on metrics such as user and critic ratings from IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes.
The list we considered includes classics as well as more recent, well-received films, and they all convey their messages effectively either by using comedy or by exploring the darkness of war.
The films we considered are from every decade, starting with the 1930s. These films are about more than a dozen different conflicts or wars. Many are about World War II. World War I is also a popular topic. Even the most recent movies we reviewed have plots set in either of these global wars.
To determine the best military movie of all time, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator. All ratings are as of October 2021 and were weighted equally. Only movies tagged with the word “military” or the war genre tag on IMDb with at least 10,000 audience votes on that site were considered. Movies that have military elements but are not explicitly about the military experience were excluded. Directorial credits and cast information come from IMDb.
The best war movie is Apocalypse Now (1979). Here are the details:
IMDb user rating: 8.4/10 (629,925 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (286,235 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98% (96 reviews)
> Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola