Gallipoli (1981), Director: Peter Weir, Running time: 118 minutes.
An outstanding drama, Gallipoli resonates with sadness long after you have seen it. Set during World War I, this brutally honest antiwar movie was co-written by director Peter Weir. Mark Lee and a sinfully handsome Mel Gibson are young, idealistic best friends who put aside their hopes and dreams when they join the war effort. This character study follows them as they enlist and are sent to Gallipoli to fight the Turks. The first half of the film is devoted to their lives and their strong friendship. The second half details the doomed war efforts of the Aussies, who are no match for the powerful and aggressive Turkish army. Because the script pulls us into their lives and forces us to care for these young men, we are devastated by their fate. (Rochelle O’Gorman for Amazon.com)
Gandhi (1982), Director: Richard Attenborough, Running time: 190 minutes.
A critical masterpiece, GANDHI is an intriguing story about activism, politics, religious tolerance and freedom. But at the center of it all is an extraordinary man who fought for a nonviolent, peaceful existence, and set an entire nation free. Winner of 8 Academy Awards® including Best Picture, Best Director (Lord Richard Attenborough) and Best Actor (Sir Ben Kingsley), Gandhi’s highly acclaimed cast also includes Candice Bergen, Edward Fox, Sir John Gielgud, Roshan Seth and Martin Sheen.
The Garden Of The Finzi Continis (1971), Director: Vittorio De Sica, Running time: 90 minutes.
Set in northern Italy's Ferrara community at the outbreak of World War II, this classic film by Vittorio De Sica concerns an old, aristocratic Jewish family, the Finzi-Continis, who maintain their isolated, idyllic ways within the stone walls of their lush estate while Mussolini imprisons Jews outside. The story's central figure, young Giorgio (Lino Capolicchio), is a middle-class Jew who has always found perfect sanctuary within the Finzi-Continis' walls and who is in love with his childhood friend from that family, Micol (Dominique Sanda). Micol, however, is sexually restless and fit to burst for want of experiences impossible under government oppression. As Giorgio suffers his estrangement from her, De Sica traces the disintegration of a lost and beautiful way of life, slowly turning his focus from the privileged refuge of tennis courts and private libraries to police barriers and rooms where Jews await transport to concentration camps. This powerful work of memory tragically captures a loss of innocence on both the most personal and historical stages. (Tom Keogh for Amazon.com)
Gardens of Stone (1987), Director: Francis Ford Coppola, Running Time: 112 Minutes.
The subtext of this grim, snail-paced Francis Ford Coppola film is the death of Coppola's son, Giancarlo, in a boating accident. Coppola came back with this Vietnam-era military drama about the men assigned to patrol and serve at the funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. James Caan is the world-weary patrol leader with a fatherly interest in a gung-ho cadet (D.B. Sweeney). Caan tries to show Sweeney the potentially fatal future that awaits him if he volunteers for combat, but he can't break through his young charge's zealousness. The subplot involves crusty Caan's attempts at romance with Anjelica Huston, who can't quite fathom his contradictions. The story is all glum and lumbering, despite a warm, full-bodied performance by James Earl Jones as one of Caan's buddies. (Marshall Fine, Amazon)
Gaza Strip (2002), Director: James Longley, Running time: 74 minutes.
In January of 2001, American director James Longley traveled to the Gaza Strip. His plan was to stay for two weeks to collect preliminary material for a documentary film on the Palestinian Intifada. It was during his stay that Ariel Sharon was elected as Israeli Prime Minister. As violence erupted around him, Longley threw away his return ticket and filmed for the next three months, acquiring nearly 75 hours of footage. Gaza Strip, his first feature documentary, is an extraordinary and painful journey into the lives of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip struggling with the day-to-day trials of the Israeli occupation. Filmed in verité style and without narration, Gaza Strip at last gives voice to a population largely ignored by mainstream media.
Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (2007), Director: Rory Kennedy, Running time: 78 minutes.
In this emotionally jarring piece from HBO Documentary Films, award-winning filmmaker Rory Kennedy explores the dark events that occurred in 2003 at Abu Ghraib, the infamous Iraqi prison. Interweaving news and archival footage, unsettling still photos of the crimes, and eyewitness accounts from military personnel and victims, The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib offers new insights into these events. The result is a startling look at how extreme situations can give rise to abusive behavior among soldiers, as well as how the chain of command and even US policy set the stage for these abuses to occur.
Good Morning Vietnam (1987), Director: Barry Levinson, Running time: 121 minutes.
A new Disc Jockey is shipped from Crete to Vietnam to bring humor to Armed Forces Radio. He turns the studio on its ear and becomes wildly popular with the troops but runs afoul of the middle management who think he isn't G.I. enough. While he is off the air, he tries to meet Vietnamese, especially girls, and begins to have brushes with the real war that never appears on the radio. (Written by John Vogel for IMDb)
Grace is Gone (2007), Director: James C. Strouse, Running time: 85 minutes.
Upon hearing his wife was killed in the Iraq war, a father takes his two daughters on a road trip.
Grand Illusion (1937), Director: Jean Renoir, Running time: 114 minutes.
One of the very first prison escape movies, Grand Illusion is hailed as one of the greatest films ever made. Jean Renoir's antiwar masterpiece stars Jean Gabin and Pierre Fresnay, as French soldiers held in a World War I German prison camp, and Erich von Stroheim as the unforgettable Captain von Rauffenstein.
Grave of Fireflies (1988), Director:Isao Takahata, Running time: 159 minutes.
Isao Takahata's powerful antiwar film has been praised by critics wherever it has been screened around the world. When their mother is killed in the firebombing of Tokyo near the end of World War II, teenage Seita and his little sister Setsuko are left on their own: their father is away, serving in the Imperial Navy. The two children initially stay with an aunt, but she has little affection for them and resents the time and money they require. The two children set up housekeeping in a cave by a stream, but their meager resources are quickly exhausted, and Seita is reduced to stealing to feed his sister.
The strength of Grave of the Fireflies lies in Takahata's evenhanded portrayal of the characters. A sympathetic doctor, the greedy aunt, the disinterested cousins all know there is little they can do for Seita and Setsuko. Their resources, like their country's, are already overtaxed: anything they spare endangers their own survival. As in the Barefoot Gen films, no mention is made of Japan's role in the war as an aggressor; but the depiction of the needless suffering endured by its victims transcends national and ideological boundaries. (Charles Solomon for Amazon.com)
The Great Dictator (1940), Director: Charlie Chaplin, Running time: 120 minutes.
Since Adolf Hitler had the audacity to borrow his mustache from the most famous celebrity in the world—Charlie Chaplin—it meant Hitler was fair game for Chaplin's comedy. (Strangely, the two men were born within four days of each other.) The Great Dictator, conceived in the late thirties but not released until 1940, when Hitler's war was raging across Europe, is the film that skewered the tyrant. Chaplin plays Adenoid Hynkel, the power-mad ruler of Tomania, and a humble Jewish barber suffering under the dictator's rule. Paulette Goddard, Chaplin's wife at the time, plays the barber's beloved; and the rotund comedian Jack Oakie turns in a weirdly accurate burlesque of Mussolini, as a bellowing fellow dictator named Benzino Napaloni, Dictator of Bacteria. Chaplin himself hits one of his highest moments in the amazing sequence where he performs a dance of love with a large inflated globe of the world. Never has the hunger for world domination been more rhapsodically expressed. The slapstick is swift and sharp, but it was not enough for Chaplin. He ends the film with the barber's six-minute speech calling for peace and prophesying a hopeful future for troubled mankind. Some critics have always felt the monologue was out of place, but the lyricism and sheer humanity of it are still stirring. This was the last appearance of Chaplin's Little Tramp character, and not coincidentally it was his first all-talking picture. (Robert Horton for Amazon.com)
Shocking and heartbreaking, The Ground Truth is an Iraq war documentary that is truly essential viewing. A story of the U.S. battle against an often-phantom insurgency, told from the perspective of ordinary Americans who found themselves participating in a daily slaughter of innocent Iraqi civilians, The Ground Truth is the view kept off American televisions since 2003. The bombings, shootings, scenes of mistreatment of civilians, and countless, bloodied bodies of children, women, and unarmed men specifically targeted by U.S. troops, should rattle anyone with eyes to see. But the film’s many interviews with veterans, in which they describe an American war machine that chews up young people and abandons them to their physical and psychological wounds, are also stunning in their emotional clarity and intensity. (Tom Keogh for Amazon.com)
Hamburger Hill (1987), Director: John Irvin, Running Time: 94 Minutes.
Because it was released less than a year after Oliver Stone's Platoon and within months of Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, this exceptionally well-made film about one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War was largely overshadowed and overlooked. It's a pity, because in some respects this is the best of the Vietnam films of the late 1980s, at least in terms of the everyday authenticity it depicts.
Stripped clean of dramatically extraneous narrative, the movie opts instead for a straightforward approach to its day-by-day account of one of the war's costliest victories—a deadly siege on Hill 937 in the Ashau Valley, where soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division engaged the enemy over the course of eleven brutal assaults between May 10th and 20th, 1969. The film specifically follows the 3rd Squad, 1st Platoon, a mixture of "new guys" and battle-weary "short-timers" who fought against terrifying odds and suffered a 70% casualty rate. From first scene to last, Hamburger Hill traces the rise and fall of their battle experience, from the horror of firefights to the camaraderie of men who've faced death and survived. Racial tensions flare and subside, trusts are established, and courage emerges from unexpected places.
Through it all, writer Jim Carabatsos and director John Irvin maintain a purity of focus that pays tribute to the soldier's life without promoting false patriotism or gung-ho theatrics. In addition, the film features a cast full of talented and well-known actors in the early stages of their careers, including Dylan McDermott (from the TV series "The Practice") and Don Cheadle, before gaining fame in Devil in a Blue Dress and Boogie Nights. Color accuracy, image clarity, and the explosive soundtrack have been remarkably preserved in a flawless DVD transfer, lending even greater immediacy to this underrated film. (Jeff Shannon, Amazon)
Harsh Times (2006), Director: David Ayer, Running time: 116 minutes.
Bleak as its South Central Los Angeles setting, Harsh Times is like a suicidal vortex swallowing men who ought to know better but can't stop their self-destruction. Christian Bale stars as Jim Davis, a stressed-out, former Army Ranger who becomes a very bad influence on his weak-willed buddy, Mike Alvarez (Freddy Rodriguez of Six Feet Under). Together the two meander through streets at night, getting drunk and stoned, finding trouble for its own sake and inviting danger as a ritual of machismo bonding. Mike's wife, Sylvia (Eva Longoria), a lawyer whom Mike, working as a telemarketer, put through school, is repelled by Jim and watches in pain as her spouse chooses a downward spiral over renewal and redemption with her. When Jim's application to join the L.A. police is turned down, he leads Mike into pure anarchy. An impractical change of fortune doesn't help any, and first-time director David Ayer, who wrote the screenplay for Harsh Times years before his script for Training Day, goes to some lengths, dramatically and visually, to convey Jim's unhinged condition. The dreariness of it all, and a sense that Bale has constructed—but not exactly lived in—another character in his gallery of lost, misfit souls, makes it hard to connect with this film. Still, it is hard to turn away from these desperate and dangerous characters. (Tom Keogh for Amazon.com)
Hearts and Minds (1974), Director: Peter Davies II, Running time: 112 minutes.
A courageous and startling film, Peter Davis' landmark documentary Hearts and Minds unflinchingly confronts the United States' involvement in Vietnam. Using a wealth of sources—from interviews to newsreels to documentary footage of the conflict at home and abroad—Davis constructs a powerfully affecting portrait of the disastrous effects of war. Explosive, persuasive, and shocking, Hearts and Minds is an overwhelming emotional experience and the controversial winner of the 1974 Academy Award® for Best Documentary.
Hell Is For Heroes (1962), Director: Don Siegel, Running time: 89 minutes.
Don Siegel brings his tough worldview and crisp, no-nonsense direction to this quintessential World War II drama of an undermanned American platoon in France holding off a German advance through sheer bluff and bravery. Steve McQueen is curt and surly as the insubordinate loner whose tactical skills and soldiering savvy make him indispensable to his new unit. His reputation precedes him, but commander Fess Parker is in no position to be choosy when he learns that his tired platoon will not be shipping home as rumored, but is tossed into a ragged new offensive. Harry Guardino co-stars as the soulful Sarge; James Coburn is the slow-talking, forever-tinkering mechanic; Bobby Darin is the scavenger with a small fortune in trinkets; and Nick Adams is the Polish orphan and unit mascot. Bob Newhart makes his feature debut as a hopelessly lost typing clerk drafted into the undermanned unit and re-creates his nightclub shtick making phony phone calls near a Nazi listening post in the pillbox. Like Pork Chop Hill, this film is less a patriotic flag-waver than a "war is hell" drama that frames the battle not in its tactical importance (which is negligible) but in its cost in human life. McQueen's taciturn performance as a ruthlessly effective soldier and Siegel's tough, lean direction make it a modest classic of the genre. (Sean Axmaker for Amazon.com)
High Treason (1928), Director: Maurice Elvery, Running time: 90 minutes.
The story is set in the future—1940, to be exact. The Federated Countries of Europe seem poised on the brink of another war, this one sparked by a border dispute between Canada and the United States. Dr. Seymour, head of the European Peace League, tries to avert the war, while Seymour's daughter Evelyn carries on a romance with Michael Deane, the militaristic head of the Air Force. In the end, Dr. Seymour is forced to resort to assassination to keep the peace (in other words, "support the anti-war movement or I'll kill you.") (Wikipedia)
Home of the Brave (2006), Director: Irwin Winkler, Running time: 106 minutes.
The fact that Home of the Brave is about soldiers coming home from a war that isn't even over is just one of the things that's off in this film; director Irwin Winkler and screenwriter Mark Friedman's 2006 tale of the problems faced by the men and women returning from Iraq is also hampered by thoroughly predictable storytelling, sub-par acting, and sometimes painfully on-the-nose dialogue, reducing what could have been a provocative and challenging effort into so much TV movie fodder. When Army medic Will Marsh (Samuel L. Jackson, who does his best to rise above the level of the material) and soldiers Vanessa Price (Jessica Biel) and Tommy Yates (Brian Presley) return to Spokane, Washington, major readjustment problems loom, mostly due to a chaotic ambush in a small Iraqi town (occurring less than two weeks before they were to be sent home, the incident is so unsurprising that anyone could have seen it coming). Will and his angry teenage son wage their own war, while Dad takes to the bottle; Vanessa's learning to cope with a prosthetic hand, while Tommy's grieving over the best buddy who died in the ambush and the loss of his job, girlfriend, and self-respect. Those matters and the clichéd, unconvincing way in which they're handled, along with the film's refusal to take a strong stand either for or against the war, obscure the potentially much more interesting issues. Are these soldiers patriots, or merely pawns? Were they doing their righteous duty by serving in this conflict, or were they victims sent off to suffer and perhaps die by a bunch of men in suits who never saw a minute of combat themselves? Other home-from-war films, from 1946's The Best Years of Our Lives to 1978's Coming Home to 1989's Born on the Fourth of July, have dealt with these and other issues a good deal more effectively than the earnest and well-intentioned but not very compelling Home of the Brave. ( Sam Graham for Amazon, com)
Hotel Rwanda (2004), Director: Terry George, Running time: 122 minutes.
Once you find out what happened in Rwanda, you'll never forget. Oscar nominee Don Cheadle (Traffic) gives "the performance of his career in this extraordinarily powerful" (The Hollywood Reporter) and moving true story of one man's brave stance against savagery during the 1994 Rwandan conflict. Sophie Okonedo (Dirty Pretty Things) co-stars as the loving wife who challenges a good man to become a great man. As his country descends into madness, five-star-hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina (Cheadle) sets out to save his family. But when he sees that the world will not intervene in the massacre of minority Tutsis, he finds the courage to open his hotel to more than 1,200 refugees. Now, with a rabid militia at the gates, he must use his well-honed grace, flattery and cunning to protect his guests from certain death.
How I Won the War (1967), Director: Richard Lester, Running time: 110 minutes.
This film features former Beatle John Lennon and Roy Kinnear as ill-fated enlisted men in under the inept command of Lieutenant Earnest Goodbody. The story unwinds mostly in flashbacks of Lieutenant Goodbody who has lower-class beginnings and education which make him a poor officer who commands one of the worst units of the army. (Written by Jenny Evans for IMDb)