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Best War Movies to Watch on Memorial Day

Celebrate Memorial Day with the power of cinema.

Warner Bros.

Monday is Memorial Day—a somber holiday dedicated to honoring the fallen members of our armed forces.

While movies are often a great medium for escapist entertainment, they can also serve to help us explore unfamiliar perspectives and experiences. So if you're looking for a good way to contemplate the trials and tribulations of war on your day off, look no further than these cinematic tales of war:

Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket - Trailer [1987] HD www.youtube.com

Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket depicted the horrors of the Vietnam War with a mix of brutality and human empathy that few other films have ever managed. Based on The Short-Timers, a semi-autobiographical novel by U.S. Marine Corps veteran Gustav Hasford, the movie follows Private Davis (Matthew Modine) as he journeys from bootcamp to the battlefields of Vietnam. Along the way, we watch him change from a goofy kid, nicknamed "Joker" by his drill sergeant (R. Lee Ermey), into a hardened, hollow shell of his former self.

Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan (1998) - Official Trailer www.youtube.com

Steven Spielberg's WWII masterpiece, Saving Private Ryan, features some of the most realistic battle scenes ever committed to film. Set during the Invasion of Normandy, the movie's most famous feature is its 27-minute on-the-ground portrayal of the assault on Omaha Beach. The scene is intensely harrowing, full of sensory confusion and horrendous gore. It's upsetting and powerful, making you feel like you're on the ground with the soldiers, wanting nothing more than to be anywhere else.


PLATOON - TRAILER [HD] (Updated) www.youtube.com

Platoon is directly based on writer/director Oliver Stone's own experiences as an infantryman in Vietnam. In fact, it was the first Hollywood film to ever be written or directed by an actual Vietnam veteran. Platoon was made in direct response to earlier war films, like John Wayne's The Green Berets, which depicted tales of heroism, camaraderie, and bravery. Instead, Stone wanted to depict the horror and dehumanization of war and the lasting damage it causes to the soldiers who survive.

Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now (1979) Official Trailer - Michael Sheen, Robert Duvall Drama Movie HD www.youtube.com

Often considered one of the greatest films ever made, Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now follows U.S. Army Special Operation Officer Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen), on his mission to travel up through South Vietnam into Cambodia during the Vietnam War in order to assassinate rogue US Army Special Forces Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando). The movie ultimately displays the propensity for insanity amidst war, forcing us to reach into the darkest recesses of the human soul and face our true animalistic nature.

Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds Official Trailer #1 - Brad Pitt Movie (2009) HD www.youtube.com

While serious war films might be more enlightening, there's something to be said for just wanting to watch a bunch of Nazis get wrecked, too. So for those looking for some lighter Memorial Day fare, few options hold up better than Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. What could be cooler than a special task force made up of Jewish-American soldiers, led by Brad Pitt, with the express purpose of killing Hitler? The action is great, the comedy is great, and the movie is an overall cathartic experience for everyone who hates Nazi scum. So, pretty much everyone.

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