Which is in the ten worst war films ever made?

Just had the misfortune to turn on the TV and find the laughable “The Green Berets” on, which I’ve carefully avoided watching in the nearly half century since it was foolishly produced by people who think that some part of ?California? looks exactly like some part of Vietnam and that John Wayne is a credible example of tiger suited special force Americans destroying vast numbers of Vietnamese enemy by firing silly little smoke bombs at them, with no corresponding damage from the meagre rounds fired by the enemy with their magnificent muzzle flash eliminators while the clever Americans have brilliant walkie talkies which don’t require the operator to press any buttons or otherwise do anything to change from receive to transmit, etc, etc.

Actually, “The Green Berets” is very much more embarrassing than laughable, but still well up at the top of awfully bad war movies about any war, even allowing a huge discount for the usual American celluloid chauvinism and nauseating mawkishness with the predictable presence of a cute mop top Vietnamese kid who, if I was directing the film, I would personally have shot before filming started.

On the basis of the appalling cinematic idiocy I watched on “The Green Berets”, off and on over half an hour or so as our commercial TV channels can’t tell the time unless they’re broadcasting something they think is really important like the news or football games which they start to the exact second, I’m glad I didn’t waste any time watching it before.

It preceded what I wanted to watch, “Cross of Iron”, which was made about ten years later and is for its time and still a very much deeper and more complex film about war and those who fight wars, on any side. But a long way short of “Come and See” although about on the same level as the final episodes of the supposedly comedic “Black Adder”.

I’m offering "The Green Berets"as one of the ten worst war films ever made.

Of major popular films, I’d put “Platoon” not too far outside the top ten as rather facile but saved mostly by a good sound track (can’t go wrong with Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin and Percy Sledge) and “Apocalypse now” as not a contender as it was only vaguely connected with reality, never mind the war in Vietnam (Not least because it is based on a Conrad novel set well before WWI on a different continent, being Africa.). “The Thin Red Line” and especially “The Big Red One”, neither of which had great popular success, were better films than the former two.

Green Berets was pure Mellowdramatic propaganda,( even theDuke said so in an interview.) designed to win hearts, and minds of the citizenry, and hopefully raise the numbers of Green Beret candidates. It is however so syrupy in its delivery, it’s tough to watch. The same can be said for Platoon, though it proselytes for the anti war side (it could only have been more obvious had Jane Fonda been in the cast.) I wrote Apocalypse Now off as someones bad acid trip, or Laudenum nightmare. Big Red 1 was too formula, and the presence of Lee Marvin couldn’t save it Which leaves Cross of Iron as the only worthy candidate for legitmate war cinema I can’t definitely say that Sam Peckinpah’s unusual penchant for slow motion violence really added anything to the movie, it may well have been just as good without it. It did feel like the story was chopped off before it had a decent resolution though. I have seen a number of European productions that rivaled Ed Wood, and Roger Corman for corny slap-dash production. I can’t recall any titles, they were that bad, but in the Army, you watch whats showing that day…

I would put the the “The Battle of the Bulge” (starring Henry Fonda and Telly Sevalas) in that category based on it’s wholly inaccurate portrays of both U.S. and German armor as well as the fact there is almost no snow in the entire film despite the fact the battle in the Ardennes was fought in one of Europe’s coldest winters on record…

Here, some might M-47 Patt’…, er, Tiger Royales wait to smash their way through the American “Sherman-Chaffees” later in the film:

I would also put “Fury” up there as bad, maybe the top 20 despite actually using a functioning Tiger tank and realistic Sherman models…

Agreed, “Bulge” was terrible especially the scene where Telly Savalis’ Chaffee/ Sherman was hit by the 47/Tiger II and the top half of the turret was explosively removed while not seeming to harm the crew enough to put it it out of action. Fury while being visually impactful, is sadly lacking in authenticity of operations, its only saving grace was as you said, the use of real Vehicles, and putting them at some risk of damage, or breakdown of hard to come by parts. Bovington may deserve more credit than the Producers. I don’t remember how many M-47’s I shot up on gunnery ranges, after awhile they look like tank shaped lace. It was always somewhat gratifying to see the round hit, making chunks of stuff fly off of them.

A little harsh on “Fury”, perhaps ? It was pretty well acted in an intense sort of way. As regards its operational authenticity - I think I have made the point elsewhere that the film is largely lacking in plot for its first two-thirds, which perhaps reflects the position of very many soldiers on all sides; they had little idea of what the Hell they were doing, and why, except fighting. When a sort of plot does kick in towards the end of the movie, it proves to be so ridiculous that it only makes matters worse. A “curate’s egg” of a movie, but hardly as dodgy as “Battle of the Bulge”. I am not the greatest fan of “Come and See”. Not exactly sure why. Perhaps its particular tone of “grim but worthy” does not resonate with me … Best regards, JR.

BTW - as for “Apocalypse Now” - I find it hard to categorise this movie as, indeed, I did Joseph Conrad’s novella “Heart of Darkness” when I first read it in my youth. Both the novella and the movie adaptation are meditations on evil, corruption, greed, madness, and the thin veneer we call “civilization”. It contains many great scenes but the movie makes little pretense to straightforward realism or naturalism - even fewer than the novella, especially towards the end. Is it really a war movie at all ? I think marginally, at most. I like it very much, anyway but not as a conventional war movie. Best regards, JR.

I would place Apocalypse Now in the same basket as Inglorious Basterds, works of Cinematic Art rather than portrayals of historic events. I pan Fury on its inability, or unwillingness, to accurately portray the operations of U.S. Armored Units. The list of egregious faux pas is long. To me, it seems more a story interpersonal conflict Drama that just happens to have some Tanks, and fighting going on at the same time. The special effects are for the most part good,some few even great, but in places even these fall to a comic book level. A movie that should be seen, but not if it will cost you much to do so.

Back to bad war films - I nominate “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1936), starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, and directed by Michael Curtiz. This is quite a lively “adventurer”, and it is difficult not to enjoy it at a certain level. However, its title would now constitute an offence against the Trades Descriptions Act, and the movie as a whole is an affront to the noble art of History.

Oddly, most of the movie’s action takes place in ?India, or somewhere on the North-West Frontier. Flynn and a large contingent from Hollywood’s British contingent are with the (fictional) 27th Lancers - lips appropriately stiff - providing the garrison to the (fictional) city of Chukoti. Without going into too much detail, the British are betrayed by the treacherous, villainous Surat Khan, who takes advantage of the absence of the bulk of the Lancers to besiege Chukoti, where he massacres many British soldiers, women and children (an incident anachronistically based on the Cawnpore massacre during the Great Indian Mutiny). I will not speak of the love triangle between the Flynn character, his brother and De Havilland; no more improbable than any other movie love triangle, I suppose. About four-fifths of the way through the movie, the action shifts abruptly to the Crimea, where Flynn and his 27th Lancers are still dedicated to revenge Surat Khan’s treachery at Chukoti. They become aware (how ?) of Surat’s presence with the opposing Russian forces. In this fiction, Flynn changes the Regiment’s orders from the top, replacing it with an order to charge. The Regiment charges (being largely shot to bits in the process), but Flynn’s character does get to Surat Khan and lances him fatally at the cost of his own life. A string of surviving lancers ground their lances in the body of Surat.

As the producers realized, anybody with the most cursory knowledge of the history of the Crimean War (or, indeed, of the Great Indian Mutiny) would regard this as total tosh. They included a disclaimer of history in the credits.

Another point that really outrages me about this movie is the treatment of the horses in the eventual “charge”. 125 of the horses were fitted with a tripwire contraption that tripped them and brought them down at predetermined points. 25 horses (at least) were killed as a result of this treatment. Errol Flynn himself, who was a horseman and horse lover, was himself outraged by this, and nearly came to blows with director Curtiz as a result. One good outcome from this was the adoption of guidelines (later laws) to prevent the abuse of animals in movies.

Oh yes - and Michael Curtiz’s order to bring riderless horses on set supplied the title of David Niven’s second autobiography - “Bring on the Empty Horses”.

I suppose every cloud has a silver lining … JR.

Hold on, Marra - what about this guy?


Good to see that Britain remains connected to the rest of the internet world, despite Brexit. We thought you might have had your connection terminated for not paying your Euro electricity bill or something. :wink: :smiley:

I wouldn’t disparage the man as, from what I’ve seen from a quick Google search, he served his country well in uniform and in a theatre of war, although he might have got a bit carried away some years later when, on one version, he shot and killed his girlfriend’s former boyfriend.

As for his singing and lyrics, he is to military music what the Singing Nun was to religious music.

But, thanks to Google, here is how Sadler, after considerable but hugely successful cosmetic surgery, managed to make himself look just like John Wayne for an album cover.

Good to see that Britain remains connected to the rest of the internet world, despite Brexit. We thought you might have had your connection terminated for not paying your Euro electricity bill or something. :wink: :smiley:

I wouldn’t disparage the man as, from what I’ve seen from a quick Google search, he served his country well in uniform and in a theatre of war, although he might have got a bit carried away some years later when, on one version, he shot and killed his girlfriend’s former boyfriend.

As for his singing and lyrics, he is to military music what the Singing Nun was to religious music.

But, thanks to Google, here is how Sadler, after considerable but hugely successful cosmetic surgery, managed to make himself look just like John Wayne for an album cover. :confused:

Singing nun - is she the one in the porn movie you borrowed?

The Singing Nun ? AAARGH !!! I am old enough to remember her, and her “Dominique”. She was Belgian, wasn’t she ? Given the history of the country, I am a bit surprised that no-one invaded Belgium, just to shut her up !

As to the category of really bad war movies, I would nominate “The Patriot”, an American War of Independence black-powder bloodfest, starring Mel Gibson as 18th century Mel Gibson and a large cast of stereotypical cardboard characters. The plot is totally adrift, not attached to any definite feature or incident of the American War of Independence (except at the very end); the characterization is generally flimsy; most of the acting is pretty perfunctory in a high melodramatic style. Even military details grate. For example, in the climactic battle between the American patriots and the dastardly Brits, Mel’s militiamen appear capable of firing repeated devastating volleys from their muzzle-loaders from a prone position, without ever rising to their feet or even to their knees. Did anybody ask themselves, how did they manage to reload ? Also, the Brit cardboard cut-outs have a strange tendency to stand around and allow themselves to be slaughtered, rather than adopting the historically proven expedient of 18th century soldiers, once defeated (or even prior to defeat) of running away. I could go on …

Indeed I could. This movie may be faintly enjoyable on the level of a shootem’ up video game (at times at least) but, overall, it is deeply flawed both as a war movie and as a movie entering the space of serious history. Yours from Bunker Hill (or is it Benny Hill ?), JR.

Patriot was a stinker, aside from the 2 Dogs, (who did a rather better job of acting than Gibson) Jason Isaacs did a fine , if not Lucious Malfoy-esque performance as Tavington, based on Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton. Some good parts, but mostly little better than James Coburn in “Duck you Sucker” .

Saw The Patriot in Philadelphia, when it was released. Seemed to go down quite well with much of the audience.

“Duck, you Sucker” ? That was the spaghetti Western where Coburn joins Rod Steiger in the Mexican Revolution, wasn’t it ? In Europe known as “A Fistful of Dynamite”. Had something of a spoof of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly” about it. I suspect that Steiger’s Mex accent was no better than Coburn’s fake Irish drawl, as he takes on the role of an ex-Fenian bomber winning the Revolution largely by himself, using his skills as an IRA bomber. Has its amusing moments (notably around Steiger - a common bandit - and his frustration at being elevated to the position of Revolutionary hero through his association with the Coburn character). Also, some good explosions and shooting incidents. Not to be considered even a half-serious war movie, though. Yours from The Mountains, JR.

Another nomination - “Gods and Generals”, the American Civil War movie/mini-biopic based on Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. I say “mini-biopic” not because it is at all short, but because it focuses on a short period of Jackson’s life - from the start of the Civil War to his death.

This movie is a sort of prequel to the lengthy (4.5 hours) but largely excellent “Gettysburg” (1993), which presented a credible picture of the circumstances of that battle, and battle scenes that were credibly staged, even on a technical basis, and also includes effective psychological drama between the participants. “Gods and Generals” (2003) matches “Gettysburg” in length (4 hours standard release; 5 hours extended cut) and does have some of the same virtues, including well-realized battle scenes. No problem with that. Worth mentioning that the movie was viewed predominantly from the Confederate viewpoint. No problem from my point of view, although it was as a result criticized for the views expressed on slavery. The PC critics might have borne in mind that a movie realized from a Confederate point of view necessarily contained views on the subject that were, well, less than PC.

My main problem with the movie at least as a war movie is that a very large part of it is taken up with showing the contrast between Jackson’s home life and his approach to warfare and battle. Nothing wrong with this in itself. However, the “home” elements of this film are, well, lengthy, and are scripted and directed in a heavy, moralistic style. The unfortunate consequence is that the portrayal of the contrast is slow, heavy and infected with 19th century moralism that inclines the viewer to switch off or fall asleep at various points. Also, the admirable devotion to military authenticity can overflow into grating “researchism” - as when a visitor speaks to the dying Jackson about how they can be reasonably sure that he was killed by “friendly fire” because his wound was made by a smoothbore musket ball rather than a Union "minié ball from a rifle. Jackson, apparently, is supposed to be consoled by this. I do not know whether Jackson was killed by a smoothbore musket or by a muzzle-loading rifle. However, while most Union troops were armed with Springfield-pattern “Minié” rifles by the time in question, and a higher proportion of Confederates were armed with smoothbores, Union second-line troops still used smoothbores. So - the reference in question is both superfluous and inconclusive. Call me a pedant, but …

In the end, I suppose, I suppose I get back to the idea that a successful war movie should be entertaining as well as (if possible) “worthy”. “Gods and Generals” has good parts, but is severely weighed down with “worthiness”. A pity. The resultant box office failure of the movie seems to have derailed the possibility of a third movie in the projected trilogy, which might have been interesting. Yours from Cemetery Ridge, JR.

That’s the one JR, It was made by Sergio Leone who made all of Clint Eastwoods older westerns . I wondered why they changed the Title of it. As you say, it was spoof like in its plot. There was a separate series of western type movies featuring the “Trinity Brothers” which while not being associated with any war, was just about as spoofish as Duck You Sucker. (don’t hang around under any Bridges)

It is a pretty bad film that is sort of fun to watch in the vein of “Heartbreak Ridge”. I think I could sense that Mel Gibson becoming increasingly erratic in his onscreen persona. The history is complete bonk and while the American Revolution could be a rather bitter affair that was almost a civil war between Loyalists and Patriots, the barn burning seen casting the British and their Tory militia as Nazis is over the top and I don’t think anything remotely like that ever happened. A close approximation to real life cavalryman Lord Banastre Tarleton is apply played by British actor Jason Isaacs, but again, a bit overly ruthless although the real life Tarleton was known to kill prisoners. The Battle of the Cowpens is also inaccurately depicted as a caricature…

One other film I would add to this stew of bad Cinema is Wild Geese. though not about either world War, it deals with the small wars in Africa. (In my youth, after being discharged from the U.S. military, I was encouraged by unsavory sorts to sign up for “Ranch Security” in Rhodesia which I declined) Despite the stars being men of note, Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris (among others) it survives mostly on the firefights, and Harris’ Character’s somewhat comedic troubles with the local Organized Crime in England. Worth a look at if you’ve not seen it before, and don’t have anything better to do.