Editor’s Note from June 2020: Originally written in 2017, all of these movies are now out and you can add them to your summer viewing list!
If you or your service member like military-themed movies, then you are in for a real treat this summer. There is a huge number of military movies coming out! Most portray the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, although there are also some featuring events from World War II. Grab some popcorn and enjoy these reviews.
1. Megan Leavy
This is the real-life story of a Marine corporal (played by Kate Mara) who goes to Marine boot camp, then becomes a dog handler during two tours in Iraq. She and her dog Rex were both injured in an IED explosion and helped each other through their recovery. The film has received high ratings and handles emotional situations well. The only criticism is that its portrayal of military life is too idyllic, especially for female service members.
2. The Wall
Two American soldiers in Iraq become pinned down by an Iraqi sniper. They find shelter behind a wall, where the majority of the movie takes place. One of them, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, acquires radio contact with the Iraqi sniper. His co-star is John Cena. The movie is directed by Doug Liman, of The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow.
In early World War II, as the German occupation of France was imminent, nearly 300,000 Allied troops from Belgium, Canada, and France were evacuated to England. They departed from the port of Dunkirk, where they fought a fierce battle to escape. The evacuation became a rally and turning point for the British during World War II. It features notable actors Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, and Harry Styles.
4. Legion of Brothers
In 2001, US Special Forces teams were some of the first military present in Afghanistan. Two Green Berets who were there at the time created this documentary to share their story. It is both an epic war drama and a cautionary tale about the impact of 15 years of war. The movie promises unprecedented access to the Special Forces.
5. War Machine
This film is part war movie, part satire, part drama, although critics agree that it doesn’t quite succeed in any of those categories. It portrays the political environment in Afghanistan, just after the election of President Obama. Brad Pitt plays Gen. McMahon, a satirical version of real-life Gen. Stanley McCrystal. When Obama wants to draw down the troops in Afghanistan, Gen. McMahon requests 40,000 more. Pitt has received a lot of criticism of his performance, but service members can relate to the frustration the film portrays about serving in a war that the government just wanted to end.
Churchill examines the historical events that led up to D-Day. Brian Cox plays Winston Churchill while John Slattery is Dwight D. Eisenhower. The movie departs from typical portrayals of Churchill by showing him struggling with depression, his memories of World War I, and his doubt that an invasion of the Normandy Beaches will succeed.
7. Camera Obscura
This horror film is about a war photographer suffering from PTSD. At first he suffers from guilt over what he saw during the war. When he receives a haunted camera as a gift, he starts to see death premonitions in his photos. He begins to go crazy trying to prevent the deaths he has seen. Although the movie did not receive good reviews, it may be interesting to those who enjoy dark horror.
In a remake of the Western movie High Noon, Victor Almanzar plays a Marine returning home from Afghanistan. After an honorable discharge, he returns to his hometown, where he is faced with the economic and violent struggles he originally escaped by enlisting. The brother of the drug dealer he shot is scheduled to arrive in town on the 11:55 train and Almanzar’s character has until then to find redemption.
9. Battle Scars
A veteran returns from Afghanistan suffering from physical wounds and PTSD. Zane Holtz plays the Marine who just wants to forget about the war, but his veteran father won’t let him. Holtz’s character isn’t prepared for the violence and drama he encounters at home.
10. Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS
If you want to know more about the enemy and why Syria has been so important in the news, this timely film explains the civil war in Syria and how it led to the growth of ISIS. It is jointly directed by Sebastian Junger, author of the book Tribe: Rethinking Homecoming, and Nick Quested.
11. Letters from Baghdad
Want to know what the Middle East was like before America got involved? The story of the real-life British adventurer Gertrude Bell was recently portrayed by Nicole Kidman in the movie Queen of the Desert. This film, narrated by Tilda Swinton, uses some of Bell’s actual letters and historic footage to portray the world of the Middle East as it was a hundred years ago.
Lizann Lightfoot is a Marine Corps spouse. She can be reached at [email protected]