Christopher Nolan is bringing us back to World War II this summer.
The Interstellar director is returning to the box office July 21 with Dunkirk, a WWII epic that focuses on the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beach during the early part of the war. If the explosive trailer put you in the mood for more from the war film genre, here are five (technically six) of our favorites that are available to stream or rent.
If you have time for a double feature: Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima
These two sibling films directed by Clint Eastwood, which both debuted in 2006, are some of the most surprising pieces of filmmaking from the director. The two films show the different sides of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima, and in particular, Letters, which tells the story from the Japanese side, humanizes frequent Hollywood villains with a quieter, more thoughtful approach to a war film. Paired with the more traditional Flags, the pair tells a familiar story in a new and exciting way.
If you want an exploration of modern war: The Hurt Locker
Kathryn Bigelow is still the only woman to ever win the best director Oscar, and she did it with this 2008 film, which also won best picture, about a bomb squad working during the Iraq War. Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Guy Pearce give excellent performances, but the tension and thrill of this movie come from Bigelow’s taut direction, especially in the bomb disarming scenes.
Stream it on Showtime.
If you want an older classic: The Great Escape
This 1963 film, though tragic, manages to find humor in the plight of its protagonists, Allied soldiers trying to escape from a Nazi prison camp in World War II. Starring Hollywood legends like Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough, the film is both heartbreaking and full of heart, as this motley crew attempts to pull off its titular feat.
Stream it on Starz.
If you want the best of the best: Apocalypse Now
The best war movies go deeper than the explosions, tragedy and camaraderie. They examine our relationship with violence, and none show its devastating effects on humanity better than Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film. An adaptation of the Joseph Conrad book Heart of Darkness set in the then-contemporary Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now is a searing indictment of warfare and the evils it brings out in its participants. It’s as heavy and devastating as its subject matter, but always worth viewing.
Stream it on Amazon.
If you want a parody: Tropic Thunder
The war movie genre is so prolific that one day someone was going to poke at it, and that someone was Ben Stiller in 2008. Stiller directed and co-wrote Thunder, a parody of Vietnam War films like Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter. Following a group of actors filming a Vietnam War movie that accidentally gets caught up in a real conflict, the movie lampoons not just movie tropes but Hollywood and celebrity culture, especially with a surprisingly hilarious Tom Cruise cameo.
Stream it on Netflix.
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