War movies first became popular in the years following World War I, with silent movies like Shoulder Arms, The Big Parade, and What Price Glory, followed by “talkies” All Quiet on the Western Front, and Grand Illusion. When the second world war started, the British and American started to use movies to carry propaganda. They told stories of heroism, not just on the battlefront, but also the bravery and sacrifices of civilians back home (such as Mrs Miniver).
In the years after World War II, many British films focussed on true stories from the war, such as The Dam Busters, Reach For the Sky, Dunkirk, and Sink the Bismarck! Hollywood movies were rather more spectacular, and this approach quickly became cliché-ridden.
So there are many, many old war films, and a lot of them have aged very badly, including a few of those mentioned above. However, there are some great war movies that have really stood the test of time, and we highly recommend checking them out:
Paths of Glory
Kirk Douglas stars in this powerful Stanley Kubrick classic, which tells a World War One tale of trench warfare, and a doomed attempt to go over the top.
From Here to Eternity
Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift star as two soldiers based in Hawaii in the days before the Japanese attack Pearl Harbour
Ice-cold in Alex
The exciting and inspiring story of a desperate attempt by the crew of a military ambulance to make it through hostile Nazi-infested African terrain, to the safety of Alexandria.
Sink the Bismarck
An exciting and true story from World War II. The Bismarck was a mighty German battleship that could have changed the outcome of the war. It had to be stopped.
It could be argued that Casablanca, Goodbye Mr Chips, and even Dr Strangelove are war movies, but for the purpose of this site, we have put them under romance, drama, and comedy movies, respectively.