Memorial Day weekend means the beginning of summer, grilling out, hanging with family and...war movies.
Yes, for several years now cable stations, particularly those in the Turner system, have shown war movies throughout this weekend. I must admit it's one of my favorite parts of this holiday weekend as I've always loved this genre, in particular movies set during World War II.
So, given the number of war movies airing this weekend, here are my top ten favorites, with the caveat that I have only included movies set in World War I to present day.
1. Saving Private Ryan. Generally acknowledged as the best war movie ever, the movie won five Academy Awards, including a Best Director win for Stephen Spielberg. The all-star cast featured Tom Hanks but also included Tom Sizemore, in one of his better performances, Ed Burns, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Matt Damon and Ted Danson. The opening scene of the landing on Omaha Beach is the most moving portrait ever of the horror of battle.
2. Patton. George C. Scott became General George S. Patton in this 1970 film, which won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, and Scott's Best Actor.
3. The Great Escape. This is one of those movies where I've lost count of how many times I've seen it, but I love the story and the coolness of Steve McQueen. Oh yeah, it's on now so I'd better finish this up so I can watch it...again.
4. Kelly's Heroes. One can argue that this isn't really a war movie, but the story of an anti-hero set in World War II. Whatever...it's Clint Eastwood doing what Clint Eastwood does best--saying little, squinting his eyes, and saying "I'm doing this--with you or without you."
5. From Here to Eternity. This is simply one of the best movies ever--eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra) and Best Supporting Actress (Donna Reed), not to mention Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr and Montgomery Clift. James Jones' excellent novel made an ever better movie.
6. In Harm's Way. It's long, it's sprawling and it's certainly not John Wayne's best effort. But, it does a good job of capturing the drama of post-Pearl Harbor/December 7 naval life and combat.
7. The Blue Max. The only non-World War II movie to crack my list, Max showed the chivalry of air combat in World War I and how these early pilots were merchandised as heroes. The movie stars George Peppard and a very hot Ursula Andress.
8. The Battle of the Bulge. Bulge is one of three movies based upon the non-fiction trilogy by Cornelius Ryan. While The Longest Day may be more accurate in its documentary-like approach to D-Day, Bulge is a slicker production, better acted and features, like many in this genre, a full cast of stars--Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas and others.
9. The Dirty Dozen. A dozen convicts, recruited for a suicide mission, and led by tough guy actor Lee Marvin--what's not to like? It also features NFL great Jim Brown's acting debut.
10. Tora Tora Tora. There were many I considered for this tenth spot but Tora Tora Tora is notable for its battle sequences.
There were a lot of movies which could've made the list--Memphis Belle, Letters from Iwo Jima (a terrific film but one I've only seen once, thus making it hard to quality for my top ten), The Eagle Has Landed, A Bridge Too Far, Guadacanal Diary, Platoon, Stalag 17, Black Hawk Down, The Deer Hunter and Bridge on the River Kwai. And, there's The Best Years of Our Lives, a movie not about war but about returning from war time.
The ten movies listed above represent the ones I most enjoy watching--the ones which, when they come on, I find myself drawn to watch yet again.
Hey, I've got to go--like I said, The Great Escape is on again and Steve McQueen is about to vault that barb-wired fence on his stolen German motorcycle.