Small Wars Journal

Watch a Great Movie or Series and Help SWJ to Boot (Updated)

Sat, 08/14/2010 - 10:25am
Our favorites via SWJ's Amazon Associates Program. Buy a great DVD here and we get some pocket change to help keep the lights on. Your favorite not here? Give us the title in the comments section below and we'll get the code and add 'em on. Help us build the SWJ "two thumbs up" movie and series list. *With a hat tip to "The Warlord Loop". They are building a similar listing and we, of course, stole the idea.



Sat, 07/19/2014 - 11:25am

The Way Ahead (1944) - A British movie with David Niven, Stanley Holloway and other notable British actors. It follows a group of British conscripts (draftees) through basic training, advanced training and then to combat in North Africa during WWII.

Yes, at heart it's a flag-waver but also it's a good look at how the Brits trained raw recruits and turned them into an effective infantry unit.

Days of Glory(Indigènes)

This movie pressured the French to finally give full rights and benefits to WWII vets from former French N African colonies


Fri, 06/17/2016 - 9:29am

In reply to by homeslice

Zero two thirty was a good book and a good movie however a large part of it has been debunked and in some cases by members of the SAS team that took part in the story. The real feat was how much ground they covered evading Syrian patrols. I enjoyed it very much nevertheless. And Hollywood didn;t really do a Desert Storm movie and has kept in the can two that I would have liked to see about Afghanistan and Iraq, Thunder Run and The Horse Soldiers.

I like movies like:
Pork Chop Hill
A Bridge Too Far
The Longest Day: I prefer to Saving Private Ryan
The Fighting 69th
The Lost Battalion
The Bridge over the River Remagen
The Devil's Brigade
The Green Berets
Hamburger Hill

I was surprised I liked Zero Dark Thirty and I'm not sure if that is a "War Movie"

I'm not sure what criteria is for a war movie.
I do know I don't think Hollywood has made any that are especially pro American.
Act of Valor was sort of made out of the Hollywood loop.
American Sniper has become a focus of hate for "truthers" and Venturo to rally behind as anti-war.
And Lone Survivor is a story about a "successful failure". Hollywood's depiction of the military in the Hurt Locker had a bizarre Hollywood ending as did We Were Soldiers, great Hollywood ending but totally fictional.
They should have an anti-war category as well as a war movie category.

Aren't some of your selections are documentaries? Good selections but are they war movies? They should have a category for those too.


Sun, 10/02/2011 - 12:42am

Focusing on Foreign War Movies people may not have seen. Off the top of my head, the ones I liked.

- Das Boot
- Downfall
- Gallipoli
- Letters from Iwo Jima
- The Rape of Nanking
- Days of Glory (average. about Algerian soldiers in WWII)

- No Man's Land

Russo-Finnish War
- The Winter War

- Tae Guk Gi (Brotherhood) - amazing

Chinese Civil War
- Assembly

- Blood Diamond (yeh i know.. its good though)
- Johnny Mad Dog (about child soldiers)
- Hotel Rwanda

Chinese Historical War
- Red Cliff (definitely worth watching)

Algerian Insurgency
- Battle of Algiers (duh!)
- L'Enemmi Intime (not a bad follow up actually)

- Mongol

Boer War
- Breaker Morant

Zulu War
- Zulu (decades later this movie > 99.99% of releases today)

Gulf War
- Bravo Two Zero

Arab-Israeli Wars
- Lebanon (nice cinematography but not great)
- Beaufort (nice cinematography, but kinda boring)

Pre-Meiji Japan
- 13 Assassins (so amazing)

- The Beast
- 9th Company

Brazil - not strictly war but anti-gang MPs
- Tropa de Elite (so awesome)
- Tropa de Elite 2 (more about corruption but still very very good)


"Gardens of Stone", "Once a Warrior King" and "The Mission (with Robert Di Nero).

When it comes out on DVD, "Of Gods and Men"


Mon, 08/29/2011 - 6:55am

In reply to by BK

Thanks BK, we will be updating this page in the near future and include the recommendations you all have provided. The Pacific certainly does belong on the list but had not been released at the time of our last update (which shows that an update is long overdue). - Dave D.

I will second "84 Charlie MOPIC" if it can even be found anymore, along with "Attack Force Z."

I'm surprised "The Pacific" did not make it on the list. I would also add:

- "Master and Commander" with Russell Crowe
- "The Kingdom" with Jamie Fox
- "Bat-21" with Gene Hackman
- "Flight of the Intruder" with Danny Glover
- "Gladiator" with Russell Crowe
- "Navy SEALs" with Charlie Sheen
- "Behind Enemy Lines" with Gene Hackman

Jane Gaffney (not verified)

Sat, 07/09/2011 - 10:01pm

The following is an annotated list of suggested films on war from various countries. All can be found for sale on Amazon or for rent at Netflix
[no rental for the Turkish film Nefes yet]

Gallipoli, The Front Line Experience: This 2006 documentary is by Turkish journalist and filmmaker Tolga Ornek and narrated by Jeremy Irons and Sam Neill and has been universally praised. Its director was given an honorary medal from the Order of Australia. The film makes use of letters, diaries and film footage from all available sources, Turkish included, and shows the horrors of that battle, including not just the carnage of battle, but the terrible ravages of disease. [English and Turkish versions on the DVD]

Letters form Iwo Jima: This 2007 Clint Eastwood film was made to accompany his better know Flags of our Fathers. It is based on what is known about the Japanese soldiers from the letters they wrote home but were never sent. The commander in charge, played by Ken Wantanabe, knows that the situation is hopeless for the relatively small contingent and that his men will either be killed or kill themselves. [Japanese with English subtitles]

Days of Glory [Indigenes]: This award-winning 2006 French film follows four North African soldiers in the French army fighting to liberate France from the Germans in WWII. The prize-winning film is considered part of a broader and long overdue tribute to the forgotten troops from the French colonies that fought and died in its wars. [French with English subtitles]

Prisoner of the Mountains: This 1996 film by distinguished Russian director Sergei Bodrov tells the story of the captivity of Russian soldiers who are held hostage in a Chechen village as part of a hoped for prisoner exchange and the relationships they develop with the villagers. It also explores the frustrations of ordinary Russians that believe that their government is not working hard enough to save their sons. Note: This takes place during the first Chechen insurgency. i.e., before the jihadis stepped in. [Russian with English subtitles]

Omar Mukhtar, Lion of the Desert: In this 1981 epic by Syrian-American filmmaker Mustafa Aqqad, Anthony Quinn plays the legendary Sufi leader of a tribal resistance force that fought off the army of Fascist Italy for twenty years before he was captured and hanged. Oliver Reed plays Gen. Grazziani, the infamous "Butcher of Benghazi" and Rod Steiger is Mussolini Todays Libyan rebels carry pictures of the white-haired old man and quote him in their chants. His octogenarian son gave his blessings to the revolt against the Qadhafi regime. Omar Mukhtar was from Darna, the Western Libyan hometown of a large number of young jihadi recruits who fought in Iraq. [English]

The Message: This 1976 film by Mustafa Aqqad, the director of Omar Mukhtar also stars Anthony Quinn in the role of the Prophet Mohammeds uncle Hamza. The film epic reenacts the early days of Islam, including the battles fought by the threatened Muslims against their Meccan enemies. It is an important film for the way in which it portrays Islam from the point of view of its adherents. Many jihadi websites carried bootlegged copies of these films for download. In a cruel coincidence, director Aqqad and his daughter were killed in the bombing of an Amman, Jordan hotel by supporters of Al-Zarqawi. [English]

Mustafa: This 2008 documentary about the life of the father of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, by Can Dundar, follows the nations founder from his birth and early years in Salonica through the various battles he fought in, from the Balkans and Libya to the Dardanelles and Anatolia and then the politics of the early Republic. Ataturk is treated as having human qualities, good and bad, a fact which made this film highly controversial among the successor generation of loyalists to his secular, authoritarian ideology that are now in the political minority. [Turkish with English subtitles]

The 9th Company: This 2005 Russian film by Fyodor Bondarchuk follows a group of recently enlisted soldiers through their harsh boot camp in Uzbekistan and from there into Afghanistan, where they must endure hellish conditions and fearsome Mujahiddin during the Soviet occupation of that country. It is based on a true story from the 1980s. [Russian or English versions]

Nefes [Breath]: This 2009 film by Levent Semerci about the Turkish military centers on the countrys long-running war against the Kurdish rebel PKK. A 40-man contingent faces certain death to defend a relay station in the region of southeast Turkey bordering Iraq. While the film has been praised for its convincing realness, it is controversial due to its timing. The film deals with a considerably earlier period in the conflict and the attitudes held in those times. Unfortunately, it came out at a time when a significant number of Turks have a better understanding of the nature of the conflict and support the current Turkish governments efforts to bring a peaceful end to the war. [Turkish with English subtitles]

Jane Gaffney (not verified)

Sat, 07/09/2011 - 1:34pm

Recommendation: There should be a direct link to this valuable list of films on the home page as there is for the book recommendations. As it is, you have to get to the book page to discover the page.

Jane Gaffney (not verified)

Sat, 07/09/2011 - 1:30pm

The Four Feathers: It is the original 1939 film that is a must-see masterpiece, as it captures the spirit of a Britain that was still an empire, Sudan a part of it, and the memory of the Mahdi still vivid. Moreover, the movie contains some very authentic location shots, including the ethnic Hedendowa Beja warriors from eastern Sudan who were greatly feared by the British troops who dubbed them "the Fuzzy-Wuzzys." The romantic story of an officer accused of cowardice but who redeems himself in the eyes of his colleagues and his beloved through acts of extraordinary heroism is well worth seeing.

By contrast, the 2002 film and an American version made in the 1970s are dreadful. Their attempts to recreate the ethos of that distant era are oddly anachronistic, reproducing unquestioningly the colonial worldview, yet interjecting contemporary concerns such as southern Sudan. The fake location and fake Sudanese are just horrible. They arent good enough to be on this list.

Jerry Dougherty (not verified)

Thu, 02/24/2011 - 12:12am

I would add The Beast, based on the play Nanawatai by William Mastrosimone. The play has a more direct and powerful story than the movie. It is the story of a Soviet tank crew separated from their parent unit and the quest of the local mujaheddin to track them down and destroy the tank.

xenos (not verified)

Fri, 12/03/2010 - 1:14pm

Excuse me, the international title is like the danish: Flame and Citron (danish:
Flammen & Citronen).

xenos (not verified)

Fri, 12/03/2010 - 1:06pm

Well, what about ,,300" by Jack Snyder?
It is about the glorious defence of the Hellenic World by an elite unit from Sparta, against overwhelming Persian force, through their use of knowledge about complex terrain (Thermopylae!).

Also, I would recommend ,,Days of Wrath" (danish: Flammen and Citronen), a relatively recent (2008) Danish production about two Danish resistance fighters, who fight Nazis with methods that other freedom fighters have also employed (and that are employed by terrorists, although for vicious ends...). Based on a true story. The movie leads one to question the assumption that to fight (absolute) evil all means are justified.

Bill (not verified)

Sun, 09/05/2010 - 10:10pm

Maybe I missed them among all those titles, but what about Platoon and Dogs of War? Or Attack Force Z?


Mon, 08/23/2010 - 10:20am

I was a little disappointed by not seeing Disney's Operation Dumbo Drop on this list. A textbook example of COIN principles packaged with the comedic antics of Ray Liotta, Danny Glover and Dennis Leary. As a 7 year old I easily followed the guiding truths, that COIN is Elephasmaximuscentric, requires a mischievous child as a Public Affairs Officer and can be done in Hawaiian shirts.

If you all fail to see my logic on this, then can we at least agree on The Year of Living Dangerously and the documentaries, Taxi Cab to the Dark Side and Why We Fight?


Wed, 08/18/2010 - 6:53am

Some more proposals:

-The Bridge (German "Die Brücke" from 1949)
-In the Valley of Elah

Mary (not verified)

Sat, 08/14/2010 - 12:06pm

So many amazing films on your list. What about Three Kings with George Clooney and Marky Mark about Operation Desert Storm?


Mon, 08/09/2010 - 7:37pm

Please consider adding "The Gallant Hours," a docu-drama about Admiral Halsey & the Guadalcanal campaign?

RH (not verified)

Mon, 08/09/2010 - 2:18pm


1. To Hell and Back/Audie Leon Murphy (One of the most visited grave sites at Arlington. Not yet 21, Audie was the most decorated soldier of WWII)

2. 84 Charlie MOPIC (Perhaps one the best small unit films of Vietnam. Recon unit in RVN

3. Go Tell the Spartans/Burt Lancaster Anti-Vietnam war movie in a military context.

4. Defiance.. True story about several brothers fighting the Nazi's in Prussia..Great film

5. Rescue Dawn True story of US Skyraider pilot downed in Laos.

6.Hamburger Hill May of 1969/RVN

7. The Bridge Too Far..(Maybe this one is on the list..)

8 Paths of Glory/Kurt Douglas..great performance

9. Heros of Telemark/Kurt Douglas Based on true events in Norway.

10. Bridges at Toko-Ri/William Holden Korea

I believe most of these films are available through Amazon or other sources.

John (not verified)

Sun, 08/08/2010 - 4:43pm

What about "Hunger"? The 2008 Steve McQueen movie about Bobby Sands' hunger strike in N. Ireland.

Marshall (not verified)

Tue, 06/15/2010 - 4:15pm

recommend adding "The Siege of Firebase Gloria" if available and "The Lost Battalion".

slapout9 (not verified)

Sat, 06/12/2010 - 6:04pm

"Born Losers" Counter Terrorism

"Billy Jack" COIN/protecting the population

"Dark of The Sun" with Rod Taylor and Jim Brown loosely based on Colonel Mad Mike Hoare and the Belgian Congo.


Tue, 04/27/2010 - 4:12pm

Two movies

Michael Collins: One of the founders of the modern Irish State. His use of intelligence sources and methods was highlighted in this movie

State of Siege (French title: État de Siège):A fictionalized , somewhat anti-American story which closely follows the abduction and murder of a U.S.A.I.D. official in 1970's Uruguay by the Tupamaros Guerilla


Tue, 04/27/2010 - 11:27am

As far as I have seen nobody has proposed "Avatar" so far...


Mon, 04/26/2010 - 4:14pm

Great idea--here's one

Guns of Navaronne

Steve (not verified)

Mon, 04/26/2010 - 1:46pm

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. One of the better Indian Wars movies, and an interesting examination of the problems faced by the Army on the Frontier. All of John Ford's "cavalry westerns" are good, but this is the best of the lot.

Tim Haggerty (not verified)

Mon, 04/26/2010 - 9:27am

The Cruel Sea, Tora Tora Tora, The Enemy Below, Damn the Defiant, Khartoum, 55 Days at Peking, The Last Valley, Samurai Rebellion, The Bedford Incident, Seven Days in May, Lord Jim, Charlie Wilson's War, We Were Soldiers, Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Widescreen Edition), and Star Wars The Clone Wars: The Complete Season One

Cold Sea

Mon, 04/26/2010 - 7:35am

"Cuba" (1979) starring Sean Connery as a "privatised" COIN adviser to Batista. (You'll have to fast forward through about 15 minutes of the love-interest stuff, though.)


"The Ugly American" starring Marlon Brando. Probably the best COIN movie ever.

Robert Haddick (not verified)

Sun, 04/25/2010 - 9:45pm

John le Carre's best work "The Little Drummer Girl," a film about the Mossad penetrating a Palestinian IED cell.

comwom (not verified)

Sun, 04/25/2010 - 6:13pm

Although I've not seen it, "the Quiet American" is COIN related.

Inglorious Basterds?


Sat, 04/24/2010 - 11:24am

That was not my recommended movie but looks also ok.
My tip was "Peacekeepers" aka Warriors, with Damian Lewis. Unfortunately, it seems to be available only in a non-US Format Reg. 2).
I have some more: Green Zone, Brothers and Jarhead.

Cold Sea

Sat, 04/24/2010 - 9:09am

Guns at Batasi - "post-colonial" Africa Brit flick.

Anonymous (not verified)

Sat, 04/24/2010 - 8:33am

For our State Dept brethren: A Good Man in Africa. Also Hotel Rwanda.

My favorite: Farewell to the King. Young Nick Nolte brings the Borneo highlanders into the waning days of WW II as his "Commanches."

Cold Sea

Fri, 04/23/2010 - 6:00pm

Sorry that I keep adding to this list piecemeal, but I just thought of two more movies:

-The Boys in Company C (an underrated COIN movie)
-The Four Feathers (both the 1939 and 2002 versions)

P.Lee: I think "March or Die" is available on Netflix.


Fri, 04/23/2010 - 5:06pm

A propos Warriors: the film was called Peacekeepers in the US.

P. Lee (not verified)

Fri, 04/23/2010 - 4:13pm

March or Die, is that even available?

Cold Sea

Fri, 04/23/2010 - 11:09am

How could I forget one of the greatest COIN movies ever: "Burn!" with Marlon Brando. Kind of a riff on the Haitian revolt of Toussaint L'Ouverture and Vietnam.

Cold Sea

Fri, 04/23/2010 - 8:56am

Here are some of my favorite COIN movies:

-Duck, You Sucker! (Mexican Rev, st. James Cogburn)
-Utu (19th C. Brit COIN ops in New Zealand)
-Lost Command (France in Vietnam and Algeria)
-Go Tell The Spartans (Vietnam)

Samurai Trilogy, The Last Samuarai, The Hurt Locker and 30 Seconds Over Tokyo all added. Could not find the BBC series Warriors at Amazon.


Fri, 04/23/2010 - 4:15am

Hello everybody. I am new here. I am from Switzerland and would like some of my favourite movies to the list:

-Warriors (great BBC Production about Blue Helmets in Bosniain the nineties)
-The Hurt Locker
-The Last Samuarai