Veterans Day is a time for honoring those who have served and died for our country, and these movies exemplify that sacrifice. This top 10 list focuses on World War I and the men and women of that era. Courage, patriotism, and bravery are the key features in all of these movies about World War I. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
The epic tale of the life of T.E. Lawrence as portrayed by Peter O’Toole follows the man through several battles as he faces conflict over his allegiance to his own country and army and his feelings for the tribal Arabian people he has come to know. The movie is considered a classic and has a memorable soundtrack.
A youthful Mel Gibson is joined by Mark Lee in this movie about men who join the Australian Army during World War I and end up in Turkey during the Gallipolli Campaign. The film examines the romance of war and how the realities of it bear little resemblance to the dreams the men once held.
Paths of Glory (1957)
Kubrick put together a poignant and thought-provoking film based on the 1935 novel of the same name. Kirk Douglas gives a fine performance as Colonel Dax, an officer assigned to defend three French soldiers on trial for cowardice during World War I. Deception, cover-ups, and manipulation are at the heart of the charges, and Colonel Dax tries to prevent the men’s executions.
The Fighting 69th (1940)
With a stellar cast including James Cagney (one of my personal favorites of all time), Pat O’Brien, and George Brent, the movie follows the story of Jerry Plunkett (Cagney), a misfit incapable of fitting in. His misguided bravado and deep-rooted cowardice cost lives, and he is eventually court-martialed.
The African Queen (1951)
Humphrey Bogart and Kathryn Hepburn star in this romantic adventure based on the 1935 novel of the same name by C. S. Forester. Hepburn is a straight-laced, teetotaling spinster-missionary forced to seek passage on his vessel to escape the German occupation of the East African village where she has been working. Bogart is a rough character who appreciates a drink now and again. The pair decide to use the African Queen as a weapon and set off downriver to overtake and destroy a German gunboat that is blocking British vessels from assisting the Africans.
Sergeant York (1941)
“Sergeant York” starred Gary Cooper as Alvin York, the most decorated soldier of WWI. Cooper won an Oscar for his portrayal of the Tennessee hillbilly who, due to religious conviction, tried to avoid induction. His marksmanship earned him a promotion to corporal, and he soon found himself the highest ranking non-commissioned officer on the battlefield, where he made his decision to act in order to save lives.
Four Feathers (2002) The late Heath Ledger starred as Harry Faversham, a young British officer recently engaged to Ethne (Kate Hudson). Upon learning that his regiment will be assigned a dangerous mission, he grows fearful and resigns his commission, leaving his father to disown him and his friends to present him with four white feathers, the sign of cowardice. Faversham later learns that his best friend and their regiment are under attack in the Sudan, and he sets out to rejoin them and earn his honor back.
Tin Pan Alley (1940)
A musical entry on the list has two songwriters teaming up with a pair of sisters who sing just before the men are shipped off to war. The girls end up in London, where they are later reunited with the men. Betty Grable stars.
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) This is a musical account of the life of George M. Cohen played by James Cagney. Cohen was too old to enlist in WWI but was inspired by the patriotism of the soldiers and his countrymen. He penned two great songs, “Over There” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” The songs stirred such patriotism that Cohen was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, something no other entertainer had ever received.
A Farewell to Arms (1957)
Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones play the doomed lovers, he an American ambulance driver in Italy, she a nurse. Pretending that his knee injury is worse than it actually is, Frederick Henry is able to avoid going into service, and the pair marry and soon are expecting a child. Later, a head nurse discovers the pair’s secret and reveals it. He is sent to war, and she is left on her own. Henry and a friend help locals escape from the Germans, and their arrival at the army base is delayed, making them appear to be deserters. When his friend is executed, Henry flees and finds his wife. The two of them seek sanctuary in Switzerland.