“In honour of this week’s release of the 2017 Academy Award nominations, MilitaryHistoryNow.com is offering up a salute to Oscar-winning war films.”
DID YOU KNOW that the first Best Picture Oscar ever went to a war movie?
The 1927 drama Wings, starring Gary Copper and Clara Bow, was the story of two young American army pilots vying for the love of the same woman amid the tumult of the First World War. A textbook example of a ‘big studio epic’, Wings featured mind-blowing areal dogfight scenes using hundreds of stunt pilots and warplanes. And the authenticity didn’t end there — the film’s own director, William A. Wellman, was an actual veteran combat pilot himself. More than 3,500 extras were fielded for the film’s explosive climax – a recreation of the 1918 Battle of Saint-Mihiel. Audiences and critics alike were spellbound by Wings. Not surprisingly, it captured Oscar’s premier nod of approval, thus becoming the first in a select series of war movies to win such distinction.
In honour of the release of this year’s Academy Award nominees, MilitaryHistoryNow.com is offering up this salute to these Oscar-winning war films.
The Academy’s first Best Picture winner.
Starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, this beloved classic took home Best Picture in 1943. In the film, American expat café owner is swept up into a world of wartime intrigue when an old flame-turned-resistance fighter returns.
Servicemen adjusting to life after the war was the focus of this 1946 Oscar-winning drama. Starring Myrna Loy, Fredric March and Dana Andrews, the film ultimately took home a total of seven Academy Awards.
Alec Guinness turns in the performance of his career as an obsessive British officer in a Japanese POW camp in this 1957 epic.
This 1962 big-screen masterpiece follows misfit British army officer T.E. Lawrence, famously played by Peter O’Toole, as he helps mount a Bedouin rebellion against the Ottomans in the Middle East during World War One.
Oliver Stone’s own experiences in Vietnam inspired this often-troubling 1986 drama. Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger are supported by a cast that includes up-and-comers Forest Whitaker, Kevin Dillon and Johnny Depp among others.
A Canadian army nurse befriends a dying aviator in World War Two Italy in this 1996 drama based on the best-selling Michael Ondaatje novel. As the pair forge a relationship, the nameless flier reveals the details of his dramatic past.
BONUS FEATURE: The War Movies That Oscar Forgot
1932 – Farewell to Arms. An American ambulance driver and a British nurse fall in love in this adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s famous World War One novel.
1937 – The Grand Illusion. French officers in a First World War POW camp are the focus of this anti-war drama.
1940 – Foreign Correspondent. Pre-war Europe is the setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s espionage thriller.
1940 – The Great Dictator. Charlie Chaplin mocks Hitler in this relevant comedy.
1941 – Sergeant York. Gary Cooper plays the decorated World War One Doughboy hero of the same name. Rousing patriotic fare.
1942 – 49th Parallel. The stranded crew of a German U-boat try to make their way across wartime Canada for the safety of the neutral United States.
1942 – Wake Island. A garrison of Marines is surrounded and overrun by the Japanese in this Pacific War drama.
1943 – For Whom the Bell Tolls. The Spanish Civil War is the backdrop for a capable Hemingway adaption.
1943 – In Which We Serve. Noel Coward and David Lean team up for this British War Office-authorized film about the exploits of HMS Kelly during the Battle of Crete.
1944 – Henry V. Lawrence Olivier stars as the young English monarch who leads a small army to victory in France during the Hundred Years War.
1949 – Twelve O’Clock High. Gregory Peck plays the newly appointed commander of a slipshod American bomber wing stationed in England during World War Two.
1951 – Decision Before Dawn. U.S. intelligence recruits German POWs as the Third Reich collapses.
1954 – The Caine Mutiny. Humphrey Bogart plays the insane captain of a World War Two minesweeper who is usurped by his own crew. Psychological thriller meets courtroom drama.
1955 — Mr. Roberts. Henry Fonda stars in this war comedy about a U.S. Navy supply ship skipper who longs for some action in the Pacific.
1959 – The Diary of Anne Frank. A film adaptation of the tragic first-person account of the Holocaust from a teenaged girl who did her best to live through it.
1960 – The Alamo. Texans fight off a hoard of Mexicans in a century-old Catholic monastery.
1961 – The Guns of Navarone. British commandos infiltrate an Nazi-occupied Greek island to destroy two enormous cannons hidden in a mountain.
1962 – The Longest Day. A star-studded multi-national portrayal of the 1944 Normandy Invasion.
1964 – Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Stanley Kubrick’s satirical send-up of Cold War nuclear brinksmanship.
1966 – The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. The crew of a Soviet submarine blunders ashore near Cape Cod. Hilarity ensues.
1970 — M*A*S*H. Army doctors in a Korean War field hospital patch up the wounded while thumbing their noses at all things military in this Robert Altman comedy that inspired the long-running TV series.
1979 – Apocalypse Now. Francis Ford Coppola riffs on Heart of Darkness in this surreal Vietnam War film.
1984 – The Killing Fields. An American journalist and his translator report the fall of Cambodia and the rise of the Khmer Rouge.
1984 – A Soldiers Story. A black officer is sent to investigate a racial killing on a Louisiana army post during World War Two.
1989 – Born on the Fourth of July. A patriotic Marine ends up in a wheel chair after being wounded in Vietnam.
1998 – Life is Beautiful. An Italian Jew uses humour to shield his six-year-old son from the horrors of the Holocaust in this heart-warming comedy.
1998 – Saving Private Ryan. Spielberg redefines the war movie genre in this ultra-realistic combat masterpiece.
1998 – The Thin Red Line. American GIs battle their inner demons, along with the Japanese, on Guadalcanal in this slow-moving but visually stunning panoramic.
2003 – Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. A single-minded Royal Navy skipper chases a French privateer half-way around the globe in this beautiful Patrick O’Brian adaptation. Too bad they didn’t make any sequels.
2006 – Letters from Iwo Jima. The climactic battle of the Pacific War is seen through the eyes of a Japanese soldier.
2009 – Inglourious Basterds. Fame in wartime is the theme of this bizarre and entirely ridiculous Quentin Tarantino World War Two flick.
2011 – War Horse. An equine-centric big screen adaptation of the popular stage production of the same name – think Black Beauty goes to the Western Front.
2012 – Zero Dark Thirty. A thorough retelling of the decade-long hunt to find and kill Osama bin Laden.
(Originally published Feb 25, 2016)