War, war never changes. Except for in many video game franchises, where it undergoes various iterations and changes that attempt to make them separate themselves from previous chapters in their own franchise, as well as other game series. Take Call of Duty, for instance. It started out as a series set during World War II, but has traveled forward in time since then – both to present day and the future. It’s back in World War II for now. So let’s celebrate that era of war movies.
Here are some movies you might enjoy if you like the (World War II) Call of Duty games.
The Bridge on the River Kwai
Set during the Second World War, The Bridge on the River Kwai follows both a group of British prisoners of war as they’re ordered to build a bridge – and the Allied mission to destroy it. It’s a fascinating movie whose second half is immensely entertaining.
Flags of Our Fathers
In 2006, Clint Eastwood released two World War II movies that detailed the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima. The first of these is Flags of Our Fathers, which tells the story from the perspective of the Americans – a select few of them, in particular. It’s entertaining and very rah-rah patriotic, and it seems like a fairly accurate retelling of the story.
Fury is the movie for you if you like tanks. It follows an American tank crew in Nazi Germany right near the end of World War II. It’s time to make the final push, these men have already gone through hell and back, and it’s a gritty, action-packed film with a fantastic cast.
Grave of the Fireflies
“But I don’t want to watch a cartoon. I like war games where you shoot people in the face, not cartoons for children and starring children.”
Shut up. And bring tissues, Mr. Manly Man. Grave of the Fireflies is a heartbreaking movie told from the perspective of a couple of siblings as they try to survive during the final months of World War II. It is devastating. You will cry. It’s also gorgeous.
Inglourious Basterds tells a bunch of different stories. It’s set during the Second World War, but there isn’t a ton of violence or shooting – except in one of the stories, which follows a group of Americans as they try to kill (and scalp) as many Nazis as they can get their hands on. It also follows a cinema owner and a Nazi colonel, all leading up to these characters meeting in its finale. It’s a great movie – one of Quentin Tarantino’s best.
Letters From Iwo Jima
Letters From Iwo Jima is the other 2005 Clint Eastwood World War II movie about the Battle of Iwo Jima. This time, it’s told from the perspective of the Japanese – and the dialogue is almost all Japanese, too. If I had to recommend only one, it’d probably be this one. It tells a perspective that often doesn’t get told – “Rah-rah America!” is how many of these movies wind up – but it’s also a more emotional story. We get to know its characters prior to the war parts, while in Flags of Our Fathers we’re dropped in almost immediately. It’s just a better format for storytelling.
Saving Private Ryan
If you like Call of Duty and haven’t watched Saving Private Ryan – or if you like movies and haven’t watched Saving Private Ryan – what are you doing? This is the movie that changed how war movies are made. It brought us closer to the action than ever before. Its opening “storm the beach” sequence is one of the most captivating ever. And then it goes and tells a great story after that. Go watch it now.
I know that there are some of you who want to ignore all of the bad stuff that happens during wars and just focus on shooting the baddies, but Shoah is an almost essential watch if you at all care about learning about the Holocaust. It’s a nine-hour documentary that’s pretty much all-encompassing. And, yes, you should watch all nine hours.
Son of Saul
If you can’t stomach nine hours of a holocaust documentary, maybe two hours of a narrative feature that takes you inside one of the concentration camps is more to your liking. Well, not “liking” in the sense that it’s enjoyable. Son of Saul follows a couple of days in the life of one of the working prisoners. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s a very good one. It won the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards, too.
The Thin Red Line
Director Terrence Malick is an interesting filmmaker. He doesn’t make particularly easy movies to watch, especially not nowadays, but he’s always challenging us and the medium. In 1998, he made a three-hour war movie called The Thin Red Line, which is polarizing. It’s beautiful but horrific, confusing but rather simple. Nobody makes movies like Malick – some try; they don’t succeed – and even if you don’t wind up liking a movie he’s done, at least you can generally appreciate the beauty and poetry.