By Tom Titus
Ten-hut. Here are the top 10 military-themed movies of all time, in this columnist’s humble opinion, starting at the base and ascending to the summit.
10. “Paths of Glory.” Kirk Douglas starred as a French commander in World War I forced to pick three scapegoats from his regiment to be court-martialed and executed.
9. “Take the High Ground.” Richard Widmark at his best as a hardened platoon sergeant preparing young men for a shooting war in Korea. With the solid Karl Malden, the ravishing Elaine Stewart and a young, athletic Russ Tamblyn.
8. “Battleground.” The Battle of the Bulge pits a combat-weary platoon against the nasty Nazis with Van Johnson, John Hodiak and James Whitmore leading the charge.
7. “Stalag 17.” William Holden won his Oscar for this prison camp drama which featured Peter Graves, Don Taylor and Otto Preminger. Powerful doses of drama and comedy (Harvey Lembeck and Robert Strauss).
6. “The Dirty Dozen.” Lee Marvin rounds up a squadron of condemned Gis for a mission behind the lines in World War II. He deserved the Oscar for that one, not for “Cat Ballou.”
5. “The Caine Mutiny.” Herman Wouk’s brilliant novel brought to the screen by a superb cast – Humphrey Bogart, Van Johnson, Jose Ferrer, Fred MacMurray and a young, short-lived Robert Francis. Tops also is Dimitri Tiomkin’s musical score.
4. “From Here to Eternity.” The best picture of 1953 stars Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift as soldiers based in Hawaii as World War II approaches. Oscars to Frank Sinatra and Donna Reed in splendid support.
3. “Patton.” This was the Oscar winner in 1970 but George C. Scott turned down his well-deserved “best actor” statuette. Karl Malden lends strong support as General Omar Bradley.
2. “A Few Good Men.” Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson face off in this masterful drama with the latter’s blast (“You can’t handle the truth”) living on in movie trivia annals. Aaron Sorkin’s words cut like a knife when employed by these two.
1. “Saving Private Ryan.” Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece (okay, one of several) about the search for a family’s survivor led by the great Tom Hanks. The first 20 minutes, the D-Day landing, are brilliantly captured. No best picture Oscar here; the award went to (are you ready?) “Shakespeare in Love.”
We’re almost ready to take the wraps off the best movies of all time (at least in my opinion). Stay tuned.
– tt –