War films aren''t always anti-war films by default. There''s a strong argument for it being unresponsible to produce a film that glamorizes war or even punches when depicting its horrors. However, making war seem too glorious or heroic can be dangerous.
It''s becoming more and more common, and most war films successfully make war look tragic or disturbing or pointless, or all of the above. Many films are extremely hard-hitting and unflinching about the wars they depict. They are powerful but powerful films that combat complex concepts and themes that arise as a result of the sort of destruction war brings, on scales both personal and international.
''''The Deer Hunter'''' (1978)
The Deer Hunter, a one-half of the three-hour runtime to tackle the controversial Vietnam War, is a traditional war film, which depicts a group of American men''s lives before they go to Vietnam while they''re fighting in Vietnam, and then returning to America.
It''s a decision that makes the film have a lot of potential without showing much through combat or war scenes. The psychological impact of war - on a group of regular, previously happy young people - is brought home to devastating effect. It includes one of the most heartbreaking endings in cinema history, mostly thanks to Christopher Walken''s iconic performance. It''s a distinguished Best Picture award for 1978, to say the least.
Without a doubt, Threads is one of the most disturbing films of all time. It''s a rare war film that does not focus on a conflict that has happened. Instead, it is a glimpse into one that might happen, especially how the world would crumble after a global nuclear conflict.
The real worry that the destruction and dismay exhibited throughout all 117 minutes of Threads'' stressful runtime would happen. It''s a worry that has never been addressed, as well as excellent low-budget filmmaking, realistic special effects, and surprisingly believable acting, Threads still contains a lot of potential.
''''Waltz With Bashir'''' (2008)
The filmmaker of Waltz With Bashir reflects on his involvement in the 1982 Lebanon War. He is suffering from PTSD, and he is difficult to remember what happened, so he interviews those who attended the meeting to get acquainted.
The recollections from all interviewees are animated in a bizarre and disturbing detail, and it all has a horrifying and appropriate climax. The film unpacks the psychological impact of war uniquely by making the animation itself a barrier to the "objective" truth. On top of that, it''s also a fascinating and troubling look at memory''s unreliability and how trauma can permanently alter a person''s brain.
''''Apocalypse Now'''' (1979)
Francis Ford Coppola''s Vietnam War film might be the most famous of them all, if it is inspired by the novella Heart of Darkness and set it in Vietnam, it is a tragic and often nightmarish tale about madness, murder, and losing one''s humanity, among other topics.
It''s a documentary about how human bodies and mind adapt (or, more often than not, do) to being in a conflict zone for months and months on end, where death might always be around the corner. The film''s production was notoriously difficult and took a toll on most of the actors and crew, making war so bad that it''s a general harrowing and challenging to shake the atmosphere. In the midst of a war, one''s body and mind are all affected by the conflict.
Gallipoli unveils one horrifying side of conflict that is less common nowadays, given the possibility of more understanding of how horrible war is. The story focuses on two young men from Australia who are skeptical of collaborating in an exotic area but find the experience of combating overseas in Gallipoli to be nothing short.
The violence and death of people in the third act of the film have been so depressing. Because while it''s not the most brutal war film, it''s one of the most emotionally brutal war films, which depicts the loss of countless young men who were recruited to fight because they didn''t know any better.
''''For Sama'''' (2019)
For Sama is one of the best documentaries of the 2010s and makes an impact as a depiction of war because all its footage is genuine. Waad al-Kateab filmed her struggles of living in a Syrian warzone and authentically capturing the dangers surrounding her and her family in vivid, often shockingly close detail.
It is an essential piece of history of a recent conflict and shows how life needs to go on for those who end up living in and around a combat zone. It''s not an easy to see what it is, but it''s vital and brings attention to a modern-day conflict.
''''The Human Condition I-III'''' (1959-1961)
The Human Condition is one of Japan''s most powerful war films and one of the most powerful (and best) World War II films. Over nine hours and divided into three parts, the film follows the experiences of a conscientious objector who is trapped inside a prison camp and then, ultimately, on the frontline.
Through its epic runtime, Kaji realizes how much it can (physically and personality-wise) change an individual. It allows for a likable, upstanding young man to fall into a shell of his former self during nine painful and tragic hours. Kaji''s title suggests that if it can happen to him, it may happen to any individual.
''''Come and See'''' (1985)
Come and See has earned a reputation as one of the hardest to watch. It focuses on a young boy being swept up in WWII and becomes more of a survival struggle than a traditional war film, as he is moved from one horrifying situation to the next.
It''s hard to put the experience of seeing Come and See into words, beyond saying it feels like a terrible nightmare you wake up from after nearly two and a half hours. It makes sense to feel surreal and almost otherworldly while containing scenes that appear so vivid and authentic is exceptional. Come and See makes a remarkably difficult yet crucial viewing experience.
''''Grave of the Fireflies'''' (1988)
Grave of the Fireflies, a renowned studio film, that features two children who survive on their own after their mother died in an air raid, is unveiled. The fact that the animated film does not make the sad story a little less more real.
It is considered to be one of the greatest entertaining films ever made, for good reason. Part of what makes it so powerful and unflinching as an anti-war film is that it focuses on two children, proving that in combat, not even the young are spared from violence, destruction, and death.
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