War films allow viewers to observe military conflicts from a safe framework. In the process, each screen battle chooses its unique approach to captivate the audience. Whether it’s imposing action, touching horror, or the heroized battle between good and evil, the appeal of war films has many faces. As part of our selection today, find out which 25 war and military movies are most worth watching on the streaming service Netflix. As long as you have your steel helmet as well as the chip bag at hand, you’re good to go!
1st place: Sand Castle (2017)
Many war films are still black and white at their core, despite modern colorizations. The battle between good and evil usually knows no shades of gray, the inhabitants of the hostile nations are all evildoers who must be eradicated. The plot of “Sand Castle” touchingly shows us what traits the encounter between soldiers and civilians can take on in reality.
The film shifts its action to the Iraq war. Protagonist Matt Ocre, played by Nicholas Hoult, is tasked with repairing a destroyed water pipe in 2003. In the course of the work, American occupiers and Iraqi residents find each other and started helping each other out. However, this collaboration is a thorn in the side of the resistance fighters in the region.
“Sand of Castle” manages to create an omnipresent atmosphere of invisible menace, which gives the audience many goosebumps moments.
2nd place: American Sniper (2014)
The U.S. production “American Sniper” also chooses Iraq as its setting. Within Clint Eastwood’s film, we follow sniper Chris Kyle, portrayed by acting icon Bradley Cooper. As a sniper, the soldier plays a crucial role, taking out enemy posts and saving the lives of countless comrades. However, it doesn’t take long for Chris’s shooting skills to become known among the enemy ranks as well, putting the film’s protagonist directly in the crosshairs of his enemies.
The work covers the true life story of Chris Kyle, a U.S. citizen who made a big name for himself as a sniper with more than 160 confirmed kills. Eastwood manages to serve up a dramatically coherent, suspenseful film with “American Sniper.”
3rd place: Extraction (2020)
Chris Hemsworth tosses aside Thor’s massive hammer, picks up an assault rifle, and gets to work in Extraction. This Netflix shooter sees the Australian actor team up again with his former Marvel filmmaking colleagues Joe and Anthony Russo, who produced the project.
Joe Russo wrote the bulletproof screenplay based on the 2014 graphic novel Ciudad. Hemsworth’s gun-toting protagonist Tyler Rake may not have the superpowers of a comic book or the strength of a Norse god. Still, he can take a punch and keep on fighting – a trait that serves him well in rescuing and protecting the child of an Indian drug lord in this slick, driving thriller.
4th place: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi (2016)
Although terrorists attacked the American embassy in Libya in 2012, the U.S. troops stationed there received no orders to fight back. The protagonist Jack Silva, however, cannot stand idly by and watch the gruesome goings-on of the enemy fighters and decides, together with five comrades, to carry out a counter-attack, which is not officially sanctioned.
“13 Hours” is especially recommended to those viewers who like fast-paced action. While the political background of the events visibly recedes into the background as the plot progresses, the battles depicted are convincing in their unsparing realism.
5th place: Jarhead (2005)
In the early 1990s, the Second Gulf War ignites in the Middle East. While the U.S. soldiers fight their way through the sandy plains of the battlefield, the men are left with only a healthy dose of cynicism to make light of their horrible daily lives.
The approach chosen by the makers of “Jarhead” is refreshingly different. Instead of heroic super-soldiers, we see a troop of approachable people in the 2005 film, characterized in a multi-layered and believable way.
6th place: The King (2019)
Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and for Timothée Chalamet’s Henry IV., it is almost unbearable. There is a heaviness that sometimes permeates the 140-minute film to its detriment. Still, Chalamet’s portrayal of the young prince “Hal,” who must learn to navigate both the court and the battlefield, is fascinating to watch, surrounded by a strong cast and cinematography that deserved more time on the big screen.
The internal conflicts, based partly on Shakespeare’s plays, partly on history, and partly on Michôd’s own imagination, are as big as the Battle of Agincourt depicted in the war film. Although he prefers peace, he is persuaded by his advisors to attack France, and his former drinking buddy Falstaff is now his trusted lieutenant. It’s an epic tale of a reluctant king, a political betrayal, and a deadly war.
Ranked #7: The Hurt Locker (2008)
As we all know, a group is only as strong as its weakest link. It’s a shame when that weak link is at the head of the troupe and keeps putting his subordinates in mortal danger with reckless maneuvers. Indeed, the orders given by Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) to the soldiers of his bomb disposal squad in the Iraq War did not infrequently resemble a suicide mission. As William becomes more and more intoxicated by the horrific dynamics of war, the remaining actors try not to get lost in the turmoil of house-to-house combat.
The work comes with a massive suspense curve that leaves us with our mouths open.
8th place: Shooter (2007)
In “Shooter,” Mark Wahlberg takes on the role of Swagger, a sniper who becomes the victim of a devious plot. Those behind the false game lure the title character into a trap, suddenly causing Swagger to be mistaken for a politician’s assassin. From then on, the sniper tries to escape the pursuit of his adversaries and restore justice.
The action thriller from 2007 lives from its omnipresent threat. The story is transported at a fast narrative pace, creating an entertaining atmosphere that makes the 121 minutes of film fly by.
9th place: Defiance (2008)
The war breaks people. Surrounded by menacing enemies, many characters find it difficult to hold on to their own ideas and dreams. Jewish brothers Tuvia (Daniel Craig), Zus (Liev Schreiber), Asael (Jamie Bell), and Aron (George MacKay) find themselves in the very horror scenario as the Wehrmacht invades Poland and massacres its population. However, the will of the main characters is difficult to break. From then on, the protagonists go underground and decide to fight the invaders from ambushes.
The film tells the true story of the Bielski brothers. At the same time, the Holocaust theme is treated respectfully at all times, without heroizing the actors involved. Rather, “Unbeugsam” advances to an emotional, approachable work that turns the partisan struggle not into a glorified hero’s journey but into a bitter act of despair.
Rank 10: Da 5 Bloods (2020)
At first glance, the story sounds simple: four elderly black veterans, each with their own personal problems, return to Vietnam to recover the remains of their beloved squad leader Norman (Chadwick Boseman) and search for a shipment of gold they buried in the jungle decades ago. But Lee, who pushes the film in astutely funny and emotionally stirring directions depending on the demands of the scenes, refuses to tackle the Treasure of the Sierra Madre-like set-up straightforwardly.
Instead, the film oscillates between the MAGA-hatted present and the bullet-riddled past, using its older actors as their younger selves in flashbacks to underscore the inherent strangeness of the passage of time.
While some of the flashbacks test your patience, especially when the men discover the gold and argue about what to do with it, the powerful ending, which becomes a moving spectacle for the great Delroy Lindo, makes this film a long journey worth embarking on. Spike Lee’s compelling war epic Da 5 Bloods bristles with historical allusions, directorial finesse, and flashing battle scenes and is a film that embraces the inherent messiness of its subject matter.
11th place: Operation Finale (2018)
Many representatives of the genre end at the point where the defeated party lays down its arms and surrenders to the superior opponent. The film “Operation Finale” stretches the arc further and tells its viewers what rat-tails the actions of war can entail. The film centers on SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann, who absconded to Argentina after World War II to escape responsibility for his atrocities under a false name. However, an Israeli task force pursues the goal of tracking down the former Nazi officer and bringing him to justice.
The cat-and-mouse game quickly turns into an action-packed chase that keeps us glued to the screen.
12th place: The Siege of Jadotville(2016)
In “Jadotville,” we are introduced to a theater of war that otherwise receives little media attention. We accompany a group of Irish soldiers who set out on a peace mission toward the Congo. However, the troops, who were trying to protect the country’s civilian population, faced a sheer overwhelming force of resistance fighters. The battle for survival demands everything from the men, both psychologically and physically.
Once again, the oppressive atmosphere of a seemingly hopeless situation makes “Jadotville” a powerhouse worth watching.
Rank 13: Inglourious Basterds
Director and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino were never concerned with historical accuracy in this film. In “Inglourious Basterds,” the U.S. Army assembles a special unit of Jewish soldiers to mercilessly hunt down German soldiers in occupied France during World War II. The particularly high motivation of these men is beyond question. At the same time, Jewish movie theater owner Shoshanna, whose family was murdered by the Nazis, plots her revenge. The murderous drama culminates in a fiery showdown.
The reviews were mixed. Undoubtedly, “Inglourious Basterds” is a polarizing, superbly crafted film in which roles alternate between the hunters and the hunted.
Ranked #14: Beasts Of No Nation (2015)
The life story of Agu (Abraham Attah) resembles a horror scenario. In West Africa, the boy lives blamelessly with his family when suddenly civil war breaks out in the protagonist’s homeland. Agu loses his relatives and finds himself in the clutches of a cruel rebel leader shortly after. In the hands of the tyrant, the young title character is then molded into a robotic child soldier.
Due to the impressive acting performance of the cast, “Beasts Of No Nation” becomes a film that touches through and through. Thus, the work brings before our eyes a frightening subject matter, which in this form is not anchored in the broad consciousness of our Western hemisphere.
Ranked #15: Triple Frontier (2019)
The 2019 Netflix production “Triple Frontier” is one thing above all: action-packed entertainment that puts its viewers’ nerves to the test with its explosive suspense curve. The flick, starring Ben Affleck, revolves around a total of five soldiers who embark on a daring mission centered on raising a pretty pile of money.
The complexly drawn characters are repeatedly confronted with moral quandaries, the outcomes of which have serious consequences.
Rank 16: First They Killed My Father (2017)
Angelina Jolie directed this drama based on the true story of Cambodian human rights activist Loung Ung, who experienced her childhood under Khmer Rouge rule in the 1970s when her family was forced into a labor camp by the communist regime.
Jolie has created an intimate epic about a difficult war theme that probably wouldn’t have been made without her humanitarian influence and star power. First They Killed My Father is a much more solid film, even if a boring middle section keeps it from being great.
Rank 17: My Honor Was Loyalty (2016)
In “My Honor Was Loyalty,” high-ranking SS officer Ludwig Heckel is confronted with the terrible truth about Nazism. Once an ardent supporter of Hitler’s ideology, the main character gains more and more clarity about the true horror that the Third Reich actually represents as the plot unfolds.
The 2016 production doesn’t turn German troops into a faceless mass blindly following the orders of a madman. Rather, the film succeeds in portraying its main character as a reflected human being who undergoes a credible purification through the differentiated confrontation of his atrocities.
18th place: Spectral (2016)
While many war movies want to present themselves as close to reality as possible, the story of “Spectral” from 2016 drifts into the fantastic. Instead of sneaky terrorist militias, the flick’s actors get to deal with a galactic threat descending upon our blue home planet.
The mixture of military film and science fiction successfully changes the well-known war scenes. The action-packed sequences offer a high show value and make the lavishly produced film an entertaining experience.
19th place: Neue Vahr Süd (2010)
To conclude our Top-20 selection, we would like to give you a slightly different tip for the road. “Neue Vahr Süd” is based on the novel of the same name by Sven Regener, which was released in 2004. In his work, the “Herr Lehmann” author portrays a phase of the protagonist Frank’s life that leads his title character directly to a North German barracks. In the film adaptation, Frank is portrayed by Frederick Lau. The protagonist, however, is willing to use any means to avoid the annoyance of military service.
Like the book, the film thrives on its bizarre situational comedy. In addition, it is refreshing for us viewers to experience the military theme from an unusual, dismissive point of view.
Ranked #20: Hostiles (2017)
This western might as well be your dad’s favorite movie, even if he hasn’t seen it yet. The year is 1892, and an Army Captain (Christian Bale) is tasked with returning a former enemy of the Native Americans (Wes Studi) to his people.
Black Mass director Scott Cooper’s film has something of “The Black Hawk” in its dark veins; during his mission, the captain encounters a woman (Rosamund Pike) who has lost her entire family to a vicious attack, which illuminates the existing tensions between the white man and the Native American. Gritty and topical, Hostiles is no “Dances with Wolves.”
Ranked #21: Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Those who took up arms during the Second World War primarily defended their homeland’s security violently. However, medical student Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) is driven by a different motivation. The protagonist in Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” sticks to his own values even in times of crisis, flatly refusing to carry a rifle in the ranks of the U.S. Army.
The lived pacifism means for the main character of the strip, however, not only a lot of ridicule by his other comrades but also a personal danger to body and soul. While fighting in Okinawa, Japan, Desmond is assigned as a medic and learns that trying to save the lives of his comrades turns into a battle all its own.
“Hacksaw Ridge” convinces us with its relentless radicalism and lets us experience the battles of World War II once through completely different eyes.
22nd place: Fury (2014)
The plot of the US-British joint production “Heart of Steel” takes us straight to the last days of World War II. In April 1945, the Third Reich lay in ruins. For the remaining defenders of Nazi Germany, however, this means only fighting the hated invaders more doggedly. Sergeant Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) receives explosive orders to take his armored unit deep into enemy territory and finish off the Nazi regime once and for all.
“Heart of Steel” shows us viewers the last and, at the same time, the bloodiest phase of the Second World War in an unvarnished version. Above all, the realistically depicted fighting makes us understand the horror of the battle credibly.
23rd place: Stalingrad (1993)
In contrast to many other productions, in “Stalingrad,” we get a glimpse into the innermost workings of the Wehrmacht. As the title of the film, released in 1993, suggests, we go to the Eastern Front and follow the 6. Army on their campaign through Russia. In 1942, no one seemed to be able to stop the German troops. However, this nimbus of invincibility crumbles with the moment the soldiers of the Wehrmacht are encircled in Stalingrad. Cut off from supplies and food, protagonists Fritz (Dominique Horwitz), Hans (Thomas Kretschmann), Rollo (Jochen Nickel), and GeGe (Sebastian Rudolph) end up in a veritable nightmare.
“Stalingrad” shows one of the most important turning points of the war from a personal point of view. The despair and hopelessness, which determine the everyday life of the troops, are tangible at every moment and also provide us viewers with an oppressive feeling in the chest.
Rank 24: We Were Soldiers (2002)
As Colonel Hal Moore, Mel Gibson takes us straight to the turmoil of the Vietnam War. The military captain is subordinated to an entourage of 400 men. The troops’ orders are to act as a spearhead against enemy forces in the Ia Drang Valley, eliminating all opponents if possible. But the heroic operation quickly turns out to be an ambush. U.S. Army troops are henceforth in danger of being worn down by an enemy superior force.
The story told in “We Were Heroes” is based on true events. Therefore, the production team also claims great authenticity and to have adhered exactly to witness testimonies. Although the 2002 flick is not without its fair share of “hurrah patriotism,” the work offers 137 entertaining minutes of the film for friends of the genre.
Rank 25: 6 Days (2017)
This brings us back to the end of our list. As always, we wish you a lot of fun with our featured films.