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The Consensus Greatest 100 War Movies

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  • Originally posted by panther3485 View Post
    So you don't trust those sources anymore?
    Just curious.
    No critic is perfect. Except me, of course.


    • Originally posted by warmoviebuff View Post

      No critic is perfect. Except me, of course.
      Oh yes, without doubt!

      I don't think I'd rate Stalingrad as THE best war movie I've ever seen but if I was to use my simplest "blunt instrument" method (without much analysis as such - almost the opposite approach to yours) and divide all of them into two groups:

      Group A - Movies I'd be happy to see again sometime
      Group B - Movies I wouldn't bother to see again
      ... While there were some things about it that could have been better, Stalingrad would certainly still be easily within my Group A.

      The other obvious quick approach is an "out of 10" rating and I think I'd put it somewhere around 7 or 7.5.

      Just my opinion, naturally. I claim no special expertise here.
      "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)


      • Originally posted by panther3485 View Post

        Oh yes, without doubt!

        I don't think I'd rate Stalingrad as THE best war movie I've ever seen but if I was to use my simplest "blunt instrument" method (without much analysis as such - almost the opposite approach to yours) and divide all of them into two groups:

        Group A - Movies I'd be happy to see again sometime
        Group B - Movies I wouldn't bother to see again
        ... While there were some things about it that could have been better, Stalingrad would certainly still be easily within my Group A.

        The problem with that system is that for many (most?) people one's ratings for films change as one ages (or matures) There are films that when I was a callow youth I would be happy to watch several times but if they appear on the TV today I can't be bothered to watch and others that today I think good that my younger self wouldn't have time for.
        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)


        • Originally posted by MarkV View Post

          The problem with that system is that for many (most?) people one's ratings for films change as one ages (or matures) There are films that when I was a callow youth I would be happy to watch several times but if they appear on the TV today I can't be bothered to watch and others that today I think good that my younger self wouldn't have time for.
          Agreed, one's taste in movies tends to change as one grows older. My opinion of a significant number of movies has certainly changed over time, as we might reasonably expect.
          That said, I've noticed that the greatest changes seemed to occur between my childhood & teenage years on the one hand and, say, ages 30-40 on the other. Since about age 40 - and I'm now almost 66 - my opinions seem to have stabilized a lot and there is far less of that kind of "opinion shift" happening. Using the above-mentioned movie as an example - which I saw not too long after its release in 1993 and have seen several times since - my opinion of it has changed relatively little. Group A back in the mid 90's and still Group A today.
          Battle of Britain is a longer-term example. Close to the top of my Group A when I first saw it at the age of 17. Still in my Group A today but somewhat lower down.
          However, there are also some movies that I've had quite a big opinion shift on, since my youth. Definitely gone from one group to the other.

          Regardless, as it has always been my own "personal rating system" (and that's all it can ever be) I've already taken account of my own changes of opinion/perspective - such as they were/are - and I acknowledge them to myself and others. I understand the limitations so I don't see it as any kind of problem.

          warmoviebuff is doing an excellent job here, IMHO.
          Last edited by panther3485; 21 Mar 19, 04:54.
          "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)


          • Loving this discussion. In my case it mostly applies to movies I loved before middle age. For instance, I loved The Big Red One, but when I returned to it when I started my blog eight years ago, it did not hold up well. Not that it is a bad movie, just that it has flaws I overlooked when I just watched it for entertainment. Would ya'll agree that it is much less likely that you find a movie you disliked is now good?


            • Platoon_posters_86.jpg

              23. Platoon (1986)

              SYNOPSIS: "Platoon" is the fictional tale of a platoon in Vietnam in the middle of the war. The unit has plenty of dysfunction and is divided between the dopers and the boozers. It is also divided in allegiance between its two veteran sergeants. Barnes (Tom Berenger) is the hard-core warrior who is not above matching the enemy's atrocities. Elias (Willem Dafoe) is the disillusioned conscience of the unit. PFC Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) is caught between these two mentors. The tension builds to a night battle.

              BACK-STORY: "Platoon" is the semi-autobiographical account of Oliver Stone's experiences in Vietnam. It came out seven years after "Apocalypse Now" and was followed soon after by "Full Metal Jacket" and "Hamburger Hill". More than those other films, it impacted the movie-going public and Vietnam War veterans. It was cathartic. It became the definitive Vietnam War movie. The film was a big hit with audiences and most critics. Produced for only $6 million, it made $138 million. It was awarded the Best Picture Oscar and also won for Director, Sound Mixing, and Editing. It was nominated for Original Score and Cinematography. Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger got Supporting Actor nods. The movie is ranked #86 on AFI's Top 100 list. The shooting was done in the Philippines (the Pentagon refused to support the film) and took only 54 days. The film was shot in sequence and this began immediately after the boot camp for the actors. Stone meant the film to be a counter to John Wayne's "Green Berets".

              TRIVIA: Wikipedia, imdb, Mental Floss, Tons of Facts

              1. Oliver Stone served in Vietnam and the film is semi-autobiographical. For instance, the scene where Taylor saves the girl from being raped was based on an incident involving Stone. The Taylor character represents Stone. Stone wrote a screenplay about his experiences after the war entitled "Break", but he could not get the financing for it so he went to film school. He had sent the script to Jim Morrison of the Doors and he still had it when he died. Stone saw Morrison in the Taylor role. Later, Stone adapted the original script into "The Platoon" and eventually got funding. Stone started with the premise of making a movie to counter "The Green Berets".
              2. It was the first Vietnam War movie written and directed by a Vietnam veteran.
              3. The movie was filmed in the Philippines because the Pentagon refused to cooperate with it (for obvious reasons). It was shot in only 54 days for an amazing $6.5 million.
              4. Many of the extras were Vietnamese refugees living in the Philippines. Some were tourists.
              5. Dale Dye put the actors through a two-week boot camp that included digging fox holes, long marches, and night ambushes. The actors were deprived of food, water, sleep, and bathroom facilities to make them angry, irritable, and exhausted. Tom Berenger lost 28 pounds.
              6. Dale Dye was the technical adviser and was in the cast as Capt. Harris. He also plays one of the helicopter gunners in the Elias death scene and he was in one of the body bags when Taylor arrives in Vietnam. He did most of the voices heard on the radios.
              7. Stone suffered an attack of PTSD on set during the village scene.
              8. Keith David saved Charlie Sheen's life when a helicopter suddenly banked and he almost fell out.
              9. Emilio Estevez was originally supposed to play Taylor, but funding fell through and when it was actually green-lighted two years later, Estevez was unavailable. Sheen had been considered too young at the time his brother got the part.
              10. Before the marijuana in the bunker scene, the actors got stoned and then felt bad when the cameras were rolling.
              11. Tom Berenger's scar took three hours in makeup.
              12. Lt. Wolfe is used as a how not to lead example in many military leadership courses.
              13. Mickey Rourke turned down Barnes and Nick Nolte turned down Elias. Denzel Washington campaigned for the Elias role. Kevin Costner turned down Barnes out of respect for his brother, who was a Vietnam veteran. Stone cast Berenger (usually a good guy) and Willem Dafoe (usually a villain) against type.
              14. Keanu Reeves, John Cusack, and Kyle MacLachlan turned down Taylor.
              15. The movie won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Editing , and Sound. It was nominated for Supporting Actor (Berenger and Dafoe), Cinematography, and Original Screenplay.
              16. It finished third at the box office in 1986 behind "Crocodile Dundee" and "Top Gun".
              17. It was #83 on AFI's list of greatest movies and #86 on the 10th Anniversary list.
              18. The actors chose how to decorate their helmets. Sheen put "When I die, bury me upside down because the world can kiss my ass!" Johnny Depp had "Sherilyn" after his current girlfriend Sherilyn Fenn. Mark Moses put a picture of Alfred E. Neuman with "What, me worry?"
              19. In Elias death scene, the bullet blood squibs did not go off (you can see Dafoe holding the firing device), but the performance was so powerful Stone decided to go with it.
              20. Stone had red dirt trucked in for authenticity.
              21. The movie poster showing Elias with his arm up in the air was based on an acclaimed photo by Art Greenspon from 1968.
              22. Stone had an actual RPG fired in the final battle for realism.
              23. The final battle was based on a battle that Stone and Dye (as a military correspondent) were involved in. Stone's 25th Infantry Division was surprise attacked at night by a large North Vietnamese force. Some of the enemy broke through. Air and artillery support were the deciding factors in the American victory. The U.S. lost 23 killed and claimed 348 enemy deaths. The battle is known as the New Years Day Battle of 1968. It has also been called the Battle of Firebase Burt and the Battle of Soui Cut.

              Belle and Blade = 4.0
              Brassey's = 4.0
              Video Hound = 3.8
              War Movies = 5.0
              Military History = #9
              Channel 4 = #6
              Film Site = yes
              101 War Movies = yes
              Rotten Tomatoes = #63

              HISTORICAL ACCURACY: The film does not claim to be a true story, although Stone made no secret of it being autobiographical in spots. Stone was a grunt along the Cambodian border in 1967. Taylor stands in for him. The narration reflects Stone's situation when he entered the service. The letters to his grandmother appear to be at least paraphrases of the young Stone's experiences and attitudes. The characters in his screenplay are supposedly based on several of his mates in the several platoons he was in. There are obviously some composite characters which is standard for a film of this type. Barnes and Elias were based on two of Stone's sergeants, but they were not in the same platoon. Stone did stop a rape as did Taylor and he was wounded in the neck in his first ambush, but the rest of the vignettes can be classified as based on incidents that happened to someone somewhere.

              The accuracy comes in the realism. Stone was very serious in getting the details right. For that reason, he brought in Dale Dye as his main technical adviser and Dye's input was impactful. Significantly, Dye tried to rein in some of Stone's creative license (ex. drug use in the field) - unsuccessfully by the way. I think "Platoon" was the first use of his boot camp method of training actors to realistically portray soldiers. With Stone and Dye working together, the film is a tutorial on grunt life in Vietnam. Here is a list of facts you can learn from the movie that will save you from reading the numerous books I have read on the war:

              1. Replacement soldiers (i.e. Cherries) were treated like dirt.
              2. Sergeants ran the platoons.
              3. Every soldier knew how many days that they had left in their tour.
              4. If a Vietnamese civilian ran, it was assumed they were the enemy and you could shoot them.
              5. Villages were burned if they were considered sympathetic to the Communists.
              6. Some soldiers injured themselves to get out of combat.
              7. Volunteers felt they were fighting for our society and freedom.
              8. Latrine waste was burned using kerosene.
              9. Drug use was common in rear areas.
              10. Young Americans sometimes committed atrocities due to stress or revenge.
              11. The Vietnam War gave some sociopaths an outlet.

              OPINION: I can still recall the impact "Platoon" had when it was released. Numerous articles examined the effect the film had on the Vietnam veteran community. Many vets claimed it was as close as anyone had gotten to what they had gone through. It was cathartic for many and caused many to open up for the first time. Most critics latched on to the film as the first true depiction of the war. "Platoon" became the first combat film to win Best Picture since "All Quiet on the Western Front". Add to this the effect it had on the public in general. The entertaining nature of the film made it the definitive portrayal of the war for average Americans. Since that initial onslaught, the film has had a polarizing effect and has strong detractors.

              Stone can claim truthfully that he is a much better director now than he was in 1986, but this is still his opus. It was personal for him and the passion shows. You can fault the agenda, but not the craftsmanship. The movie had a low budget and no support from the Pentagon (no surprise there). It does not show. Dye made sure the details were correct. The gear is spot on and the behavior, language, and life of the men are realistic. Stone does not dilute the battle noises with mood setting background music. The three battle scenes are among the best in war movie history. Edge of your seat. The movie reminds of "Glory" by mixing the human interaction with great combat.
              "Platoon" on the surface seems to be your typical dysfunctional heterogeneous small unit movie. Stone does use the platoon to delve into the theme of divisiveness, but this is not a WWII or Korean War movie where each member represents an archetype. No one is from Brooklyn, Italian, a ladies man, a hick, etc. The dysfunction is created by the division between the dopers and the boozers. There is no bonding on the horizon. The acting is top notch. The ensemble is of up-and-comers and they show great promise. Sheen evinces the proper naivete and eventual loss of innocence. The showier roles of Elias and Barnes are nailed by Dafoe and Barnes (both of whom were nominated for Best Supporting Actor; both robbed by Michael Caine for "Hannah and Her Sisters"). Special mention to the two most loathsome characters: Dillon as the psychopath Bunny and John McGinley as the ass-kisser O'Neill.

              What sets the film apart from the standard war film is the metaphors. Stone is not subtle in his themes. Barnes and the boozers represent the right wingers in America during the war. Elias and the dopers represent the doves. Within this metaphor is Barnes as the win at all costs warrior and Elias is the disillusioned believer who now feels the war is unwinnable. Most of the platoon represents the lower class cannon fodder sent by rich people to fight their ideological war. Taylor stands out as the rarer idealistic volunteer fighting out of duty to American society. Much of this is heavy-handed, but Stone does not seem to care about making it subtle. For example, the boozers play poker (competition) while the dopers do singalongs (cooperation).

              The movie flows smoothly. This is partly due to the fact that it was shot sequentially. The plot moves from soldier life to combat in an ebb and flow manner. The dialogue is a strength and the soldier talk is not dumbed-down for the average viewer. "Snake and nape"? Anyone good at context clues should not be too lost.

              In conclusion, to do this review, I watched the movie (for the fifth time, at least) and Stone's commentary version and Dye's take on the film. Plus the making-of documentary and the other extras. All this confirmed my original view when I saw the movie in a theater in 1986. This is a great movie and still the best Vietnam War movie. This is coming from a reviewer who admires all the other serious contenders (The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket).

              I am aware that there are some ranters against the movie. Stone is partly to blame by making comments about it being the realistic depiction of the war, instead of a realistic depiction of the war. Some veterans and pro-war types took offense to the negative portrayal of the soldiers and their actions. They assume that Stone was implying the platoon was typical. Stone was not apologetic about that impression. On the other hand, anyone who has argued that the incidents and personality types did not exist in Vietnam is being nave. For instance, My Lai did happen and the incident in the movie was nowhere near the scale of that event. Besides, I do not feel the movie demonizes the American soldier in Vietnam. I cannot imagine people spitting on vets coming out of theaters. Empathy must have been the most common emotion.

              "Platoon" deserves to be in the Top 10, which it is in both Military History magazine and Channel 4. It was hurt by middling reviews from three of my four books. It does have a polarizing effect on critics.
              Last edited by warmoviebuff; 21 Mar 19, 16:43.


              • Originally posted by warmoviebuff View Post
                Loving this discussion. In my case it mostly applies to movies I loved before middle age. For instance, I loved The Big Red One, but when I returned to it when I started my blog eight years ago, it did not hold up well. Not that it is a bad movie, just that it has flaws I overlooked when I just watched it for entertainment. Would ya'll agree that it is much less likely that you find a movie you disliked is now good?
                Totally agree.
                As indicated above, my taste/appreciation of movies changed substantially between youth and middle age (let's say, from my early teens thru 20's and 30's, tapering off to about 40 or so). After that, it has changed relatively little. I don't expect it to change much more from now on.
                I also tend to agree on your last question. Movies I disliked in the past are, with few exceptions, still disliked today.
                "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)


                • The_Battle_of_Algiers_poster.jpg

                  22. Battle of Algiers (1966)

                  SYNOPSIS: "The Battle of Algiers" is about the Algerian independence movement set in the capital of Algiers. It chronicles the guerrilla warfare tactics and the French counterinsurgency efforts. Terrorist bombings lead to torture interrogations and a surge by the French Army.

                  BACK-STORY: "The Battle of Algiers" is an Italian/Algerian production released in 1966. The film was subsidized by the Algerian government. It was directed by Italian Gillo Pontecorvo in the neorealist style. He was nominated for the Best Director Oscar and the film also got nods for Original Screenplay and Foreign Language Film. It won numerous international awards. The movie was banned in France for many years and the torture scenes were edited for the U.S. (I must have seen one of the edited versions) and the United Kingdom.

                  TRIVIA: wikipedia, imdb

                  1. The director brought in Ennio Morricone (who scored all of Sergio Leone's films) to collaborate on the score. Pontecorvo had a melody in mind for use in the film and was humming it when he went to see Morricone in his home. When he arrived, before he could make his suggestion, Morricone proposed a very similar melody. Pontecorvo was elated at the coincidence and only later was told by Morricone that he had heard him humming the melody and had pranked him.

                  2. The only professional actor was Jean Martin (Col. Matthieu). He had been in the French Resistance in WWII and then was a paratrooper in the Indochina War. As an actor, he was dismissed from the Theatre National Populaire for signing a manifesto opposing the Algerian War

                  3. The movie was banned from France for the first five years. The director received death threats.

                  4. It supposedly inspired the Black Panthers, IRA, and PLO.

                  5. The movie was screened at the Pentagon in 2003 in relation to counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq. The invitation mentioned "How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas".

                  6. It is one of the rare films to get Oscar nominations in separate years. It was nominated for Best Foreign Film in 1966 and Director and Screenplay in 1968.

                  Belle and Blade = 5.0
                  Brassey's = 5.0
                  Video Hound = 4.4
                  War Movies = 4.4
                  Military History = #24
                  Channel 4 = #64
                  Film Site = no
                  101 War Movies = yes
                  Rotten Tomatoes = #3

                  HISTORICAL ACCURACY: The movie is set in the Algerian War of Independence which lasted from 1954-1962. Algeria had been a French colony since 1830. The FLN (National Liberation Front) was created in March, 1954. It consisted of socialists, anti-colonialists, and Islamists. The movie was inspired by the memoir "Souvenirs de la Bataille d'Alger" by an FLN commander named Saadi Yacef (he basically plays himself as Djafar in the film). The war began with the Toussaint Rouge ("Red All Saints' Day" incident when the FLN launched thirty attacks on military and police targets. French colonists (colons) demanded retaliation. Colons conducted ratonnades (rat-hunts) to kill suspected FLN members and collaborators. In August, 1955 the FLN reacted with the massacre of French civilians in the town of Philippeville. Previously, the FLN had limited itself to military and police targets. The gloves were off now. A classic guerrilla war was underway. Tit for tat. Torture for torture. The French army attacked villages deemed sympathetic to the FLN. Villagers were relocated to strategic hamlet-like locations. Meanwhile, the FLN was conducting kidnappings and performing ritual murder and mutilation of French soldiers.

                  The Battle of Algiers began when members of a French militia planted a bomb in a Casbah apartment building resulting in the deaths of 73 Algerians. This is the incident depicted in the film. This led to the other historical depiction. Three Algerian female militants planted bombs in a milk bar, a cafeteria, and a travel agency.

                  The French government started a counterinsurgency campaign with a large increase in troops deployed to Algeria. The total peaked at 400,000 (including 170,000 loyal Muslim Algerians). Gen. Massau (the inspiration for Matthieu) was allowed to operate outside the legal barriers which means he could use torture methods to interrogate. The movie accurately portrays the success of his methods. The terrorist cells were rooted out and the insurgency collapsed in Algiers. Ironically, this victory sowed the seeds of the eventual French defeat as the French public began to question involvement in Algiers. This had some similarities to the aftermath of the Tet Offensive.

                  The French used search and destroy methods and raised units of loyal Muslim irregulars. You can guess what methods they used in what was essentially a civil war inside the war of independence. Sound familiar? The movie chooses not to reference the civil war aspect of the conflict.

                  In May, 1958, the colons and French army officers overthrew the 4th French Republic and De Gaulle returned to power. To their chagrin, DeGaulle decided to seek a peaceful solution to the quagmire. Eventually a referendum was held that allowed the Algerian people to vote in favor of independence.

                  OPINION: I was not too impressed at first, but the movie builds nicely. It does not take long to realize you are watching something special. The style is very similar to "Rome, Open City", but it is more polished. Both come from the neo-realist school popular in Italy at that time. "Battle of Algiers" has all the bells and whistles. Hand held cameras, grainy film, use of nonprofessional actors, the newsreel look, prominent roles for kids.

                  The acting is surprisingly good considering there is only one professional actor in the cast. Jean Martin plays Matthieu with gravitas. He is played as a reasonable villain. His lectures on counterinsurgency to his officers and his condescending interplay with the press are very military. He's a charismatic Westmoreland (the U.S, commanding general in Vietnam). One strength of the acting is you would not know that he was the only professional. The other main actors do not come off as amateurish. There are strong female characters and the boy Petit Omar is depicted as a valuable member of the FLN.

                  The themes are instructional on guerrilla warfare. The movie clearly portrays the escalation that is inescapable in a guerrilla war. Anyone conversant with the Vietnam War or the Filipino War for Independence will not be surprised with the dynamics of the film. The suffering of innocents caught in the middle of the conflict is another theme. Guerrillas being faces in the crowd and blending into the populace is another. Matthieu represents the "end justifies the means" approach often taken by conventional forces faced with an insurgency.

                  "The Battle of Algiers" is an important film that lives up to its billing. It supposedly inspired guerrilla and terrorist groups like the Black Panthers and IRA. In 2003, it was screened at the Pentagon during the Iraq War. It's a pity it was not required viewing at the Pentagon in 1968 during the Vietnam War.

                  In conclusion, "The Battle of Algiers" is justifiably lauded by critics as a classic movie. It reminds of movies like "Battleship Potemkin" and "Rome, Open City" in that respect. Normally, I don't put much stock into the term "classic". In this case, I think the movie holds up well. I especially give it credit for being an accurate account of a military event that is not well known, at least not in the U.S. I would not have it as high as #22, but it belongs in the top 100. There is no better movie on insurgency versus counterinsurgency.
                  Last edited by warmoviebuff; 24 Mar 19, 08:21.


                  • MASHfilmposter.jpg

                    21. MASH (1970)

                    SYNOPSIS: "M*A*S*H" is set in an Army surgical hospital in the Korean War. Hawkeye (Donald Sutherland), Trapper John (Elliot Gould), and Duke (Tom Skerritt) are three doctors who buck the system and deal with the stress through a cynical, prankster mentality. The movie is an anti-war satire.

                    BACK-STORY: "M*A*S*H" is a Robert Altman film released in 1970. It is loosely based on the novel by Richard Hooker. The screenplay was by ex-blacklistee Ring Lardner, Jr. He was upset with the liberties (ex. improvisations) Altman took with the script, but still accepted the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Lardner was not the only one upset with Altman. Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould tried to get him fired because they did not like his gonzo directing style. Altman also had trouble with the suits. They wanted him to take out the graphic operation visuals, but backed down partly because they were distracted by their two big projects - "Patton" and "Tora! Tora! Tora!" The studio did succeed in insisting on references to the Korean War be inserted into the film so noone would mistake it for Vietnam. Mission not accomplished. 14 of the top 30 actors were making their movie debuts. The film was a smash hit as it tapped into the iconoclastic mood of the early 70s. It was nominated for five Academy Awards (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Editing, and Supporting Actress - Sally Kellerman). It won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy or Musical. It won the Palme D'Or at Cannes. It is #54 on the AFI list of all movies and #7 on the Comedy list.

                    TRIVIA: Wikipedia, imdb, TCM

                    1. It is based on Richard Hooker's novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors. However, director Robert Altman found the novel terrible and racist and used little from it. The screenplay was written by Ring Lardner, Jr. but it served as basically an outline because Altman encouraged improvisation and little of the dialogue ended up in the film. Lardner was upset about this, but he did win the Best Adapted Screenplay. He probably did not deserve it.
                    2. Altman got the job after the first fourteen directors (including Stanley Kubrick and Mike Nichols) turned it down.
                    3. It was nominated for Best Picture (losing to "Patton"), Director (losing to "Patton"), Sally Kellerman for Supporting Actress (losing to Helen Hayes for "Airport"), and Editing. It won what later was called the Palme d'Or at Cannes. It won the Golden Globe for Musical of Comedy.
                    4. The studio was going to insist on substantial rewriting until a test audience loved it. It did insist on a caption specifying that it was set in the Korean War, although the loudspeaker announcements made this clear.
                    5. Altman wanted a song called "Suicide Is Painless" and he wanted it to be stupid. When adults could not make it stupid enough, he turned to his fourteen-year old son Mike. Because the song was used in the TV show, Mike made over $2 million in royalties. His father made only $75,000 for the movie.
                    6. The table scene before Painless commits suicide was set up like Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" with Painless as Jesus.
                    7. It was #56 on AFIs 100 Greatest Films. It moved up to #54 in the 10th Anniversary list. It is #7 on the Laughs list. The song is #66.
                    8. In the famous shower scene, Sally Kellerman was always already on the floor when the side came down. Altman and Gary Burghoff came in the tent and dropped their pants to distract her for the take that made the film (and won her an Oscar nomination). That scene and Hot Lips subsequent meltdown in Henry's office caused Altman to insert Kellerman into additional scenes, like as a cheerleader.
                    9. Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland did not like Altman's directing style, especially the overlapping dialogue. They also chafed over too much attention going to secondary characters. They went to studio executives to get him fired, unsuccessfully. Gould later apologized and worked with Altman again. Sutherland didn't and didn't.
                    10. A lot of the announcements were added after editing began (they had to do some additional shooting of the loudspeaker) to give the movie more structure.
                    11. 14 of the top 28 billed actors were making their film debuts, including Burghoff and John Shuck.
                    12. The earlier "Battle Circus" starring Humphrey Bogart as a doctor was to be called "MASH", but the studio thought people would think it was about potatoes.
                    13. The only shot that is heard in this war movie is the pistol that ends the football game.

                    Belle and Blade = 4.0
                    Brassey's = 4.0
                    Video Hound = 5.0
                    War Movies = 5.0
                    Military History = #33
                    Channel 4 = #22
                    Film Site = yes
                    101 War Movies = yes
                    Rotten Tomatoes = #68

                    ACCURACY: The movie does not purport to be a true story, but the novel is semi -autobiographical so we can assume the operating room scenes are authentic. The episodes (ex. the football game, the trip to Japan) seem made up. The movie conforms to the book for the most part. All of the major episodes are in the book, but improved upon in my opinion. For instance, Painless Pole is suffering from a periodic bout of depression and does not have sex with a nurse to cure it. The movie also leaves out some of the weaker parts of the book so it is superior to its source. In the book, the trio are meaner drunks than in the movie.

                    OPINION: MASH is a movie that defies conventions. It mixes realism with dark humor. Much of the dialogue was improvised which you would not realize by watching the movie. Altman likes to overlap the dialogue, especially in the operating scenes. This makes the movie seem more intelligent than it is. The cinematography is also noteworthy. Altman uses a lot of fly on the wall shots. Some of these shots are long range and static. This is seen best in the "Last Supper" scene. We are put in the middle of the action in the operating room scenes. Action and dialogue swirl around the viewer.

                    The movie made a big splash with the Vietnam anti-war movement, but there is little in the dialogue that criticizes war. The movie is definitely anti-war in the operating room simply because the audience gets to see the results of combat. The insanity of war does come through. For the most part it is more of an anti-military film. All the negative characters are loyal to the Army and want to follow its rules. A corollary to that is the anti-authority theme. Most of the authority figures are incompetent and deserve to be taken down. Perhaps not surprisingly, Altman does not give the trio a competent foil. Contrast this with Col. Potter in the TV series. On the other hand, Hawkeye, Trapper John, and Duke are anti-heroes typical of 70s counterculture flicks. As a teacher (and not an incompetent one), I have had students like them and they are much more fun on a movie screen than in a classroom.

                    The movie is episodic in structure. Altman arrived at the loudspeaker announcements as bridges to the new episode. This device works, but the announcements are overrated as humor. Speaking of humor, the movie does have some great one-liners. However, much of the humor is crass and mean. Some it would be considered politically incorrect today. You have characters named "Spearchucker" and "Dago Red" and a scenario where a dentist would rather be dead than gay. The movie is also anti-religion, but Father Mulcahy (Rene Auberjonois) comes off well. Many war movies would be better if remade because of the lowered constraints on language and violence. This movie is not one of them.

                    In conclusion, M*A*S*H is a unique movie. MASH is one of the great war comedies and an important one. It may be second only to "Dr. Strangelove". It certainly was unlike any other war comedy made before it. There are few war movies that concentrate on military medicine, much less of the dark humor variety.


                    • The_Great_Escape_%28film%29_poster.jpg

                      20. The Great Escape (1963)

                      SYNOPSIS: Shame on you, if you need this section. TGE is the true story of a mass escape from a German POW camp in WWII. This is done via a tunnel. The movie covers the construction of the tunnel, the escape, and then follows several of the escapees when they are on the lam.

                      BACK-STORY: "The Great Escape" is a WWII prisoner of war movie. It was released in 1963 and was a huge hit and has grown in popularity over the years. It is the most famous movie in its subgenre. The film was directed by John Sturges and is based on the nonfiction book by Paul Brickhill. Brickhill was a prisoner in Stalag Luft III and helped with the escape although he was not one of the escapees. His book and the movie are dedicated to the fifty escapees who did not survive. The main screenwriter was James Clavell who spent time in a Japanese prison camp and later wrote the screenplay for "King Rat". One of the tunnelers (Wally Floody) served as a technical advisor. Donald Pleasance was a prisoner in Stalag Luft 1 during the war. Steve McQueen insisted the motorcycle scenes be written in and did the stunts, not including the last jump (for insurance reasons).


                      1. Bartlett is based on Squadron Leader Roger Bushell who was Cambridge-educated with British parents, but he was born and raised in South Africa. He was a great skier and the scar that Attenborough sported was based on a skiing accident he had. He was shot down on his first combat mission.
                      2. The tunnels were dug 30 feet down to circumvent the German seismograph equipment.
                      3. The 200 penguins disposed of 130 tons of sand in 25,000 trips. When winter came and the sand could not be blended with the snow and hard ground, they put it under the floor of the theater the Germans allowed them to build.
                      4. Tom was discovered because they were rushing to complete it before the Americans were to be transferred to another camp. No Americans escaped.
                      5. Suspecting an escape attempt, the Germans at one point transferred 19 suspected ringleaders, but curiously not Bushell. They only netted six key members of the escape committee.
                      6. 600 of the total 1,500 prisoners played some role in the escape. When it was decided to get 200 out the priority was the first 30 would be prisoners who had language skills and other advantages, the next 70 were rewarded for their work, and the rest were chosen by lot.
                      7. Of the 50 prisoners who were caught and executed, all but seven were RAF. 22 were British, 6 were Canadians, 6 were Poles, and 4 were Australians.
                      8. 21 Germans were executed after the war for the war crime of executing the prisoners.
                      9. The wooden horse escape occurred one year earlier in the same camp. All three men successfully escaped which equaled the number in the Great Escape.
                      10. The prisoners convinced the Germans that "goons" was an acronym for "German Officer or Non-Com". The prisoners kept log books of goon movements. The Germans knew about this and at one point a German officer asked to see a log book to check up on his men.
                      11. The most valuable prop was milk tins provided by the Red Cross. They were used for shovels and for the ventilation ducts.
                      12. Charles Bronson had been a coal miner and had suffered from claustrophobia. During the shoot, he fell in love with David McCallum's wife Jill Ireland. He joked that he was going to steal her. When the McCallum's divorced four years later, Bronson married Jill.
                      13. Steve McQueen got caught by a speed trap set up near the set. McQueen was upset with his amount of screen time and at one point walked out. He was not happy that Hilts did not like the whole baseball and mitt thing.
                      14. Donald Pleasence had been a POW in a German camp. When he first gave director Sturges advice, Sturges told him to mind his own business until he found out his background.
                      15. McQueen attempted the big jump but failed. His friend Bud Elkins was brought in. Elkins managed a motorcycle shop in L.A. He later did most of the stunt work on CHIPS. McQueen did the stunt where the German motorcyclist ran into the wire. McQueen was among the Germans that chased Hilts in the final jump scene through the wonders of editing.
                      16. James Garner based his scrounger character on his experiences in the Korean War. The barbed wire was rubber and entwined by the cast and crew during breaks.
                      17. McCallum and James Leyton are the only survivors of the stars. Leyton was a pop star and recorded the opening theme with lyrics.
                      18. Goff's (Jud Taylor) line during the drinking scene "No taxation without representation!" was ad-libbed and took McQueen by surprise.
                      19. United Artists was worried about the lack of females. They wanted to have a buxom beauty cradle Ashley-Pitt when he was shot at the railway station. They suggested holding a Miss Prison Camp contest, but Sturges nixed the idea.
                      20. McQueen was paid $87,500, but Garner made $150,000.

                      Belle and Blade = 3.0
                      Brassey's = 5.0
                      Video Hound = 5.0
                      War Movies = 4.4
                      Military History = #44
                      Channel 4 = #3
                      Film Site = yes
                      101 War Movies = yes
                      Rotten Tomatoes = #45

                      HISTORICAL ACCURACY: The movie opens with the claim that it is based on a true story, but with composite characters and time compression. It boldly proclaims that every detail of the escape is true. That statement is too strong, but the movie is commendably close to the facts.

                      There was a Stalag Luft III and the Germans did put all their "bad eggs in one basket". The attempted escapes on the first day actually occurred in the way depicted. The "X organization" did plan an escape of 250 men involving the construction of three tunnels named Tom, Dick, and Harry. Weirdly, the movie changes the names around for no discernible reason. Harry was actually the one under the stove and Dick was in the washroom. (It was abandoned and used for dirt storage after the Germans cleared the area it was to pop out in.) Tom was discovered by ferrets, but not during a celebration of the 4th of July. There was a moonshine celebration on a different day.

                      All the activities surrounding the escape are accurate. The forging of papers, disposal of the dirt, making of clothing, creation of ventilation system, the singing of Christmas carols to hide the sounds of digging, the shoring up the tunnels with bunk bed boards, etc. The movie is extremely strong in depicting how the plan was put into effect.

                      The escape was essentially like the film shows. The tunnel was twenty feet short of the woods. There was an air raid that shut the lights down for a while. I could find no evidence that a rope was rigged up, but seventy-six men did escape before the exit was discovered by a sentry (probably not because someone fell). It is important to note that none of the seventy-six were Americans. The Americans had been moved to another camp before the escape. Gee, I wonder why the filmmakers decided to leave Steve McQueen and James Garner in the escape?

                      The third of the film dedicated to the main characters on the lam is substantially Hollywoodized. There was no theft of a plane or a motorcycle, for instance. The movie is close to the truth in its depiction of the success of Sedgwick (actually Dutchman Bram van der Stok) in reaching Spain (although the Resistance drive-by shooting is surely artistic license) and Willy and Danny (Per Bergsland and Jens Muller) stowing away on a ship to reach Sweden. The execution of fifty recaptured men is a fact, but they were not killed in a large group as shown in the movie.

                      Where the movie takes most of its liberties is in the characters, but it is up front in the composite nature of them. Some are close to a real person like Roger Bartlett representing Roger Bushell. Bushell was the leader of the X Committee and played an essential role in the escape. Ramsey was actually Herbert Massey and he did have a leg injury. Ives (the real Jimmy Kiddell) did die on the wire. Willy and Danny and Sedgwick were differently named and of different nationalities than their counterparts, but their escapes were true. The rest take some creative thinking to determine who they are supposed to be. The important thing is the roles they represent (scrounger, forger, manufacturer, etc.) were real and accurately depicted.

                      OPINION: I have to be up front about the fact that this was my favorite movie when I was growing up. This was back when I and my brothers got to see it once a year on network TV. That was always a great night in our house. I may have seen it more than any other movie (not counting movies I have shown in class for decades). Sometimes our childhood favorites do not hold up when we watch them through adult eyes. This is not the case with "The Great Escape". It was and still is one of the classic war movies.

                      The movie is an expert blend of suspense, action, and humor. The humor works very well. It is dry and used sparingly, but effectively. Some of the lines are memorable. For instance, the ferrets bust in to the washroom and narrowly miss the trap door to Harry being sealed. Danny hustles into the shower and when the guard asks Sedgwick what he is doing there he responds "Watching him. I'm the life guard."

                      The camp was constructed near Munich and accurately recreates a Stalag in layout, if not in atmosphere. The tunnel set allows for a cutaway view of the digging. The scenes are truly claustrophobic and the ever-present danger of cave-ins adds to the suspense. The scenes outside the camp are authentic-looking since the movie was filmed in Europe.

                      The movie does a great job in its structure. The buildup to the escape concentrates on character development and is tutorial on the work that went on. This could have been tedious, but the injection of humor and Steve McQueen keep the narrative flowing. The movie, to its credit does not have a prolonged denouement after the escape. The alternating getaways are deftly juggled and suspenseful. Hilts motorcycle capers dominate, but they are edited such that we have to come back to him at least four times before the famous climactic jump sequence.

                      The movie ends on a sober note with the murders and the question - was it worth it? However, if ever there were a war movie that is not anti-war, this is it. Life in the camp is portrayed like it would be if you went to a POW fantasy camp. It seems like fun, which it assuredly was not. This is the biggest factor in keeping the movie from being an A+.

                      Finally, the acting is stellar. Whoever did the casting gets a gold star. The mix of dependable British thespians with cocky Americans is stimulating. This is an actors' movie. In particular, watch Steve McQueen steal every scene with little eye-catching movements including shameful mugging. His co-stars either had sharing natures or were infuriated. Whatever, McQueen became a superstar based on his performance.

                      In conclusion, it is appropriate that it made the top 20. I would have it higher, but that's my opinion. It is a much better movie than the next on the list, for instance.It has everything that makes a war movie great. It is entertaining. It tells a story that deserves to be told. It teaches. It is accurate enough. It is realistic. Sometimes 14-year old boys are right. This is a truly great movie!


                      • Agree; The Great Escape is a truly great movie and is one of my favorites too. There are inaccuracies but far less so than in many other movies claimed as being "true stories".

                        I also agree that it stands the test of time very well. Not sure about its exact ranking for me (honestly haven't thought about it enough) but no question that it would easily be in my top 20 war movies and possibly my top 10. I'll have to give that some thought.

                        Never seriously ranked my favorite war movies yet and upon reflection I do surprise myself on that. Whey the hell haven't I, after all this time? At least 55 years of watching them!
                        However, Cross of Iron would almost certainly be somewhere in my top 20 as well.
                        "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)


                        • The Great Escape was preceded by The Wooden Horse ,of 1951 which gave a slightly more factual account of an escape from Stalag Luft III:- but not nearly so much entertaining.

                          "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
                          Samuel Johnson.


                          • Although highly entertaining the Great Escape didn't contain a few inaccuracies it had whole great chunks of made up stuff. I sometimes wonder how Donald Pleasance who had actually been in the camp at the time managed to play his part with a straight face - but then the man was a pro.

                            Edited - penalty of posting late at night - you get names wrong - fixed now
                            Last edited by MarkV; 28 Mar 19, 05:29.
                            Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                            Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)


                            • Colonel_Blimp_poster.jpg

                              19. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

                              SUMMARY: This very British film follows Clive Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey) from dashing young British soldier through WWI-weary general to doddering old Home Guard commander in WWII Britain. Along the way he has significant relationships with a German officer and three consecutive women (all played by Deborah Kerr). His play fair philosophy becomes outdated when the British face the Nazi threat.

                              BACK-STORY: "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" was released in 1943 and was directed by the legendary team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (The Archers). They also directed the respected "49th Parallel". It was the most expensive British movie made up until then. The movie was shot in vibrant Technicolor. It is about as British as you can get. Although the movie is usually said to be inspired by the comic strip character, in fact the idea came from a scene cut from The Archers' previous film ("One of Our Aircraft is Missing"). A character says "You don't know what it's like to be old". Film editor and future great director David Lean suggested a movie be constructed around that line.

                              Interestingly, Churchill tried to stop the film and did not allow the British military to cooperate. He felt it perpetuated the stereotype of Blimp-like British officers. Some suggest he was standing up for his peer group. The film went through anyway, but did not do well mainly because the British public in 1943 was not keen on a sympathetic German character.

                              TRIVIA: Wikipedia

                              1. The title comes from the comic strip, but the idea came from a line in Pressburger and Powell's previous film, "One of Our Aircraft Is Missing". An old man says "You don't know what it's like to be old".
                              2. Winston Churchill hated the premise of the film and tried to get it stopped. He may have seen Blimp as a parody of himself. He loathed the idea of a movie perpetuating the image of a Blimp-style officer. He prevented any kind of military cooperation, but Pressburger/Powell claimed that had enough connections to "steal" what they needed.
                              3. The producers wanted Laurence Olivier to play Candy, but Churchill caused the Fleet Air Arm to refuse to release him from active duty.
                              4. The movie was not seen in the U.S. until 1945 because Churchill put an export ban on the film.

                              Belle and Blade = N/A
                              Brassey's = 5.0
                              Video Hound = N/A
                              War Movies = N/A
                              Military History = #87
                              Channel 4 = #72
                              Film Site = yes
                              101 War Movies = no
                              Rotten Tomatoes = #29

                              ACCURACY: The movie is fictional, so historical accuracy is not really an issue. The one possible inaccuracy that stands out is - would the Home Guard have been practicing to repel an invasion as late as 1943? I doubt it, but it is possible. There were Germans who fled because they disagreed with the direction the Nazis were taking Germany, so Theo's immigration to England is plausible. I am sure there was a debate in England of how dirty to fight the Nazis. Obviously, the dirty-fighters won that argument as the movie implies by Candy's fall from grace.

                              OPINION: This movie has caused me some soul-searching. As a war movie lover, I have assumed that I know a good war movie when I see one. Granted, I did not go to film school, but I am intelligent and have seen many war movies. So why don't I "get" this movie? I actually read a critic saying this is the greatest British movie ever made.

                              This movie is not a "masterpiece". At least it would certainly not seem so to an American audience. I doubt many Englishmen under age 50 would argue that it is. It's not really a war movie. It is more of a social satire. It is a period piece. Blimp represents the snobby, uppercrust British officer class. In fact, you need to be British to get a lot of the cultural references (and to understand some of the slang). Most Americans will not "get" this movie. Our officer class has not been traditionally from the nobility, so most would not recognize Blimp as a stereotype.

                              With that said, it is not a bad movie. It is interesting to see the evolution of Candy from a young, impetuous lieutenant to an old, moss-backed general. However, some of this character evolution does not seem realistic. His pre-WWII sentiments of fair play belie his apparent conduct in WWI. The movie is well-acted, especially by Walbrook, but even his character contradicts himself. The first half of the movie moves along briskly, but after the trio breaks up it goes downhill. It is also a good example of a propaganda film with the message being that England should not be required to fight fairly against the Nazis. Give "The Archers" credit for having a sympathetic main character argue for the opposite. (The city of Dresden can tell you which argument won.) There are references to German atrocities in WWI and the stated fact that the British were the good guys in the war, albeit naively good. There is some humor, but it is very British.

                              My main complaint is the flashing back and forward skips over what should have been the most interesting parts of the movie. I know critics will chastise me for wanting to see the duel, but who's with me on this? We watch the negotiations for the duel, but not the duel itself? Are you kidding me?! I know you might want to leave something to the imagination, but when the actual scenes are action-free, why not substitute a scene that shows what Candy was doing from 1914-1917?

                              Oh, and by the way, for an alleged comedy, it ain't funny!

                              In conclusion, I don't see why critics love this movie. It is not a great movie and certainly is not a great war movie. It infuriates me that it is ranked higher than a movie like "The Great Escape". But that is just one example of one movie. There are many that are superior and yet ranked lower, or not at all. Due to the methodology of this list, it is clearly overrated because the only book that reviews it gave it 5 stars. It pains me that my system allowed it to get to #19, but it does prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that this list is not my opinion.


                              • Don't think I've ever seen The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.
                                Looks as if I haven't missed much.
                                "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)


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