Today is Memorial Day in the USA, a day of remembrance that began as Decoration Day, a day freemen (freed slaves) decorated the graves of Union soldiers. The holiday eventually became a day to include remembrance of all who have died in defense of our country.
Most of us do not know first hand what soldiers face when they are sent into combat. We suppose their valor, their fear, their willingness to face enemy fire. We imagine it and recreate it in books and movies. I’ve certainly imagined battle for my Three Soldiers series.
Today seemed a fitting day to talk about my favorite war movies.
I’ll start with a Regency era one, of course.
Waterloo (1971) starring Christopher Plummer as Wellington, and Rod Steiger as Napoleon. The battle scenes in this movie are magnificent. Once scene almost perfectly recreates the painting by Lady Butler of the charge of the Scots Greys. The aerial photography of the French cavalry attacking the Allied squares was incredible. I loved how the important and memorable incidents from the battle were depicted.
The Longest Day (1962) from a book by Cornelius Ryan, a book I actually read! This movie tells the story of D Day, not with, perhaps, the graphic horror of the battle as in Speilberg’s Saving Private Ryan (which I have not seen), but a great movie for its scope of the battle and its ensemble cast including Henry Fonda, John Wayne (of course), a young not-yet-famous Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Eddy Albert, Paul Anka…and more. Like in Waterloo, important parts of the battle are shown and woven together to show how the victory was accomplished.
Zulu (1964), my favorite war movie of all time! Zulu is the true story of an attack in 1879 by 4000 Zulu forces on a small hospital and supply depot guarded by 139 Welsh infantrymen, many who were hospitalized. Narrated by Richard Burton and starring Stanley Baker, Nigel Green, and a very young Michael Caine, this movie shows true valor and celebrates, in the end, the respect all soldiers are due.
Zulu and The Longest Day are available on Netflix and other dvd vendors. Waterloo might be harder to find but is worth the search.
Notice all these movies were made decades ago. The distance in time helps me favor them. I have a more difficult time watching more recent depictions of war, especially if the movies involve Vietnam or Iraq and Afghanistan. Too close for comfort…
Here’s a Memorial Day video that literally made me cry. It was created by a 15 year old girl and is going viral on the internet.
What are your favorite war movies? Have you seen any of my three? What do you think of them? What did you think of the video?