5 Great American War Movies to Watch on Memorial Day

This Monday is Memorial Day, a national day of remembrance for the men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. While many people will choose to mark this solemn holiday with traditional commemoration activities, you can also remember the sacrifice that fallen military veterans have made by revisiting some of the great films that have been made about historical battles in which Americans have died fighting for their country. Here are five classic American war movies to mark this year’s Memorial Day.

1. Glory (1989)

Memorial Day actually evolved from “Decoration Day,” a holiday that commemorated soldiers who died in the American Civil War. With a story that is based on the real exploits of the Civil War era 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Glory is an especially appropriate movie to watch on Memorial Day. The film tells the compelling true story of a Union Army unit that was made up entirely of African-American men — although it was led by white officers. The film was critically acclaimed and garnered three Academy Awards, including a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Denzel Washington. The film currently has a 93 percent “Certified Fresh” rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.

2. Flags of Our Fathers (2006)

Based on a bestselling book of the same name, this Clint Eastwood-directed film tells the stories of the veterans depicted in the iconic “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” World War II photograph. As noted in the film, three of the men pictured in the photograph were subsequently killed in action over the next several days. Eastwood’s cinematic tribute to the men who fought on Iwo Jima was hailed by the critics and the film currently has a 73 percent “Certified Fresh” rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.

3. Black Hawk Down (2001)

Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down is based on a book of the same name about a real event that occurred during America’s military operations in Somalia in 1993. The film tells the story of a battle between U.S. forces and Somali militia fighters that resulted in the deaths of eighteen American soldiers. The film received mostly positive reviews from the critics and won two Academy Awards. Black Hawk Down currently has a 76 percent “Certified Fresh” rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.

4. Hamburger Hill (1987)

Loosely based on an actual battle of the Vietnam War, Hamburger Hill tells the story of a costly military operation to take control of Hill 937, also known as “Hamburger Hill.” Hamburger Hill is widely considered to be one of the more realistic films about the Vietnam War, and it currently has a 100 percent rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.

5. Sergeant York (1941)

This Howard Hawks-directed film tells the true story of Alvin York, an avowed pacifist who ended up becoming one of the most decorated American soldiers in World War I. The film was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and Gary Cooper’s portrayal of York garnered him an Academy Award for Best Actor. As noted in the film, York’s heroic actions were prompted by seeing his fellow soldiers being killed by heavy enemy fire during a battle in France’s Argonne Forest. Although more than seventy years old, Sergeant York has withstood the test of time and the film currently has an 84 percent approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.

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