Top 10 Criterion War Films

by Juan1

Created 07/21/12

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A majority of my favorite war films are included in the Criterion Collection. Here's my top ten list for war films that are featured in the collection.

  • What can I say about this movie that hasn’t already been said? It’s not only the best war film and the best political commentary ever made; it’s basically one of the best films ever…period. A lot of politicians and leaders all over the world can learn a thing or two by watching this amazing quasi-documentary.

  • Terrence Malick’s World War II tale is the most beautiful war film I’ve ever seen and also one of the most thought-provoking. It still boggles my mind how so many people revere "Saving Private Ryan," which was released in the same year as this film, but ignore Malick’s masterpiece.

  • If "The Thin Red Line" is the most beautiful war film ever made, "Ivan’s Childhood" has to be the second most beautiful. Tarkovsky’s poetic portrayal of a childhood devastated by a horrific war is incredibly moving and is probably the director’s best work (now that’s saying something).

  • It still amazes me that such a film was made before World War II. Jean Renoir’s war film which features no great battle sequences was way ahead of its time to say the least.

  • This is not only Stanley Kubrick’s first great film, it’s also the first great American film to explore the many despairs of war. "Spartacus" was good, but "Paths of Glory" is by far the better Douglas/Kubrick collaboration.

  • Although its timeframe is barely over thirty minutes long, Alain Resnais’ study of one of humanity’s greatest moral failures will stay with you for a very long time. Except for Claude Lanzmann’s "Shoah," you will not find a better film that covers the horrors of the Holocaust.

  • It’s a shame that Steven Soderbergh still has not received the level of praise that he deserves for making this epic piece about one of the 20th Century’s most influential figures. Soderbergh’s juxtaposition of the elements of revolution and counterrevolution is nothing short of masterful.

  • Kon Ichikawa’s moving tale of a conscience-driven soldier adopting a more meaningful way of life after growing weary of the lies and manipulation of war is extraordinary. Private Mizushima has to be one of the greatest characters ever used in a war film.

  • Claire Denis’ haunting examination of Africa’s postcolonial nightmare provided me with one of the most unsettling experiences I’ve had while watching a film from recent years. It brilliantly covers a conflict whose existence continues to be unacknowledged by Western media and the general population. Denis’ direction along with Isabelle Huppert’s stellar performance and the Tinderstick’s mesmerizing score make this film a stunning work on every level.

  • Carol Reed’s delightful thriller is a stern reminder that not all great war films have to be all gloom and doom. Although it’s not as powerful as the films mentioned above, it does invoke a level of enjoyment that is hardly ever achieved while watching a war picture.

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