In honor of the epic scope of hit film Tropic Thunder, I present you with a very run-of-the-mill list: the top war scenes in film:
10. Klendathu – Starship Troopers
Starship Troopers may have had little in common with the book it’s based on, but campy action films hardly ever get any better than this. After the bugs destroyed Buenos Aires, the earthling decided to retaliate by attacking the aliens on Klendathu. During this epic battle we see thousands of troops get ripped to shreds by monstrous aliens. They made one terrible mistake: they assumed their insect-like enemies weren’t intelligent. And it’s all awesome.
9. Thermopylae – 300
This battle consitutes almost the entire movie 300, but that’s fine because it’s surprsingly cinematic and very fun to watch. You see, this giant dude Xerxes had conquered much of the world, and he wanted Sparta. The Spartan king, Leonidas, wasn’t having any of that. But without the backing of his government, or something, he couldn’t send the whole country to war. So instead he takes 299 of his best dudes with him and holds of the Persian army for a long ass time. Guess what? It’s pretty sweet.
8. Hidetora’s Third Castle – Ran
“Ran” means “chaos” in Japanese, and in no scene is that chaos realized any better than in the intense destruction of Hidetora Castle. Hidetora had split his kingdom amongst his three sons, one of whom protested the idea and went into exile. Sadly, Hidetora’s sons treated their father as a burden and a threat when he stayed with them in their seperate castles. Hidetora then settles into his third castle, which soon comes under attack by the combined forces of his two sons. His soldiers die, his concubines kill each other, and Hidetora tries to kill himself, but cannot. Truly horific and awe-inspiring.
7. Germania – Gladiator
Gladiator starts on a high note when the Roman forces, led by General Maximus, take on forest-dwelling barbarians in the very first scene. We see plenty of brutal kills and intense fighting, as well as grounbreaking CGI. This film went on to bring back the epic genre, inspiring plenty of imitators. Hell, Ridley Scott himself tried to do it again with Kingdom of Heaven, which had a pretty sweet battle too. But there can be only one.
6. Final Battle – Seven Samurai
Kurosawa’s lengthy masterpiece is topped off by a grueling, multi-day battle between the samurai and the bandits. For 1954, this battle is really intense and violent. We see heroes and villains die all the way until the tragic ending, when Kambei’s claim to have never won a battle rings truer than we thought it would.
5. Stirling – Braveheart
A bunch of really manly men take on the British in the best, and most remembered, battle in Braveheart. Mel Gibson is very manly and cool here, which makes the violence all the sweeter. And who doesn’t feel something when he yells, “They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!”
4. Ride of the Valkyries – Apocalypse Now
Robert Duvall loves the smell of naplam in the morning. He also loves to surf. So he orders a bunch of helicopters to blow up a settlement on a beach so he can get his surf on. The level of destruction is immense and the insanity of the whole thing is insane. Work the Wagner music in there and you’ve got one memorable scene.
3. Helm’s Deep – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Thousands, hundreds of thousands of ork soldiers storm Helm’s Deep, the last stronghold in Rohan. The men stand, ready to fight to their deaths. Then a stray arrow takes one ork down and all Hell breaks loose. This is probably the best fight in Lord of the Rings, despite that battle in Return of the King being bigger. Gandalf is always better than ghosts.
2. Hoth – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Irvin Kershner’s masterpiece. When we left our heroes in A New Hope, we thought for sure they were unstoppable. The Empire’s best weapon was taken out by a small squadron of fighters, after all. Then there was Hoth. Giant walkers destroy the rebel base as the snow speeders are reduced to crazy tactics to have any hope at stopping them. The rebels retreat. The Empire wins. And we’re blown away.
1. Omaha Beach – Saving Private Ryan
The quintesential war scene. Few films capture so well the confusion, strategy, horror and brutality of a battle like this opening scene from Saving Private Ryan. This is arguably the most realistic WWII has ever been on film, save for maybe Band of Brothers. It even gave veterans flashbacks. If you watch this scene and don’t believe it when people say war is hell, you might have a mental problem that is irreparable.