9 of the Most Unflinching Anti-War Films of All Time (2023)

War movies aren't always anti-war movies by default. There's a strong argument for it being irresponsible to make a film that glamorizes war or even pulls punches when depicting its horrors. Sympathy for the characters caught up in the war itself is one thing, but making war seem too glorious or heroic can be dangerous.

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Thankfully, it's becoming less and less common, and most war films successfully make war look tragic or disturbing or pointless, or all of the above. Many films are exceptionally hard-hitting and unflinching regarding the wars they depict. They are heavy but powerful films that tackle the sorts of complex ideas and themes that come with the kind of destruction war brings, on scales both personal and international.


'The Deer Hunter' (1978)

9 of the Most Unflinching Anti-War Films of All Time (1)

One of the first mainstream films to tackle the controversial Vietnam War, The Deer Hunter only feels like a traditional war film for one-third of its three-hour runtime, as it depicts a group of American men's lives before they go to Vietnam while they're fighting in Vietnam, and then after they return (or fail to return) to America.

It's a decision that makes the film have tremendous power without showing much through combat or war scenes. The psychological toll of war - on a group of regular, previously happy young people - is brought home to devastating effect. It contains one of the most heartbreaking endings in cinema history, much of it thanks to Christopher Walken's iconic performance. It's a worthy Best Picture winner for 1978, to say the least.

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'Threads' (1984)

9 of the Most Unflinching Anti-War Films of All Time (2)

Threads is one of the most disturbing films of all time, without a doubt. The war it depicts is a nuclear one, so it's the rare war film that doesn't focus on a conflict that has happened. Instead, it looks at one that could happen, especially how the world would fall apart after a global nuclear conflict.

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Being released during the Cold War, there was a genuine fear that the destruction and dismay shown throughout all 117 minutes of Threads' traumatic runtime could happen. It's a fear that's never entirely gone away, plus the excellent low-budget filmmaking, realistic special effects, and surprisingly believable acting ensure Threads still contains a great deal of power.

'Waltz With Bashir' (2008)

9 of the Most Unflinching Anti-War Films of All Time (3)

Waltz With Bashir is an autobiographical animated war documentary where the film's director, Ari Folman, reflects on his involvement in the 1982 Lebanon War. Suffering from PTSD, he can hardly remember what happened, so he interviews those there with him to better understand.

The recollections from all the interviewees are themselves animated in surreal, often disturbing detail, and it all builds to a horrifying and appropriate climax. The film unpacks the psychological impact of war uniquely by making the animation itself a barrier to the "objective" truth. On top of that, it's also a fascinating and troubling look at the unreliability of memory and how trauma can permanently alter a person's brain.

(Video) Battle of Long Tan - Peter Harvey 60 Minutes - Vietnam War - Forgotten Heroes

'Apocalypse Now' (1979)

9 of the Most Unflinching Anti-War Films of All Time (4)

Released just one year after the similarly impactful The Deer Hunter, Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War movie might be the most famous of them all. Adapting the novella Heart of Darkness and setting it in Vietnam, it's a confronting and often nightmarish story about madness, murder, and losing one's humanity, among other difficult topics.

It's a film about how the human body and mind adapt (or, more often than not, don't adapt) to being in a warzone for months and months on end, where death could always be around the corner. The film's production was notoriously difficult and took a toll on most of the cast and crew, making the madness and mental destruction of war come across all the more vividly. It's an overall harrowing and difficult to shake experience about how conflict rages internally — inside one's mind — and externally — in one's surroundings — during a war.

'Gallipoli' (1981)

9 of the Most Unflinching Anti-War Films of All Time (5)

Through shedding light on World War I, Gallipoli depicts one insidious side of war that's less common nowadays, given there's more awareness about how awful war is. The story focuses on two young men from Australia who are convinced signing up to fight in an exotic locale will be an adventure but find the experience of fighting overseas in Gallipoli to be anything but.

The exploration of their ideals and naivety makes the violence and loss of life in the film's third act so devastating. Because while it's not the most brutal war movie, in terms of what's shown on-screen, it's one of the most emotionally brutal war films, highlighting the loss of countless young men exploited into signing up to fight because they didn't know any better.

(Video) Brutal Moments of the Vietnam War

'For Sama' (2019)

9 of the Most Unflinching Anti-War Films of All Time (6)

For Sama is one of the best documentaries of the 2010s and packs an impact as a depiction of war because all its footage is real. Waad al-Kateab films the struggles of living life in a Syrian warzone, authentically capturing the dangers around her and her family in vivid, often shockingly close detail.

It is an essential document of a recent conflict and depicts how life needs to go on for those who get stuck living in and around a combat zone. Because of how unflinching and personal it is, it's not an easy watch, but it's vital and brings attention to a modern-day conflict many people in the western world know little about.

'The Human Condition I-III' (1959-1961)

9 of the Most Unflinching Anti-War Films of All Time (7)

The Human Condition is one of the greatest war films made in Japan and one of the most important (and best) World War II films ever made. Spanning over nine hours and split into three parts, it follows the experience of a conscientious objector who finds himself inside a prison camp and then, eventually, on the frontline.

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Throughout the trilogy, he tries to uphold his morals and retain his sanity, only to find both get harder the longer the war rages on. It uses its epic runtime to show just how much war can change an individual, as the main character, Kaji, is almost unrecognizable (physically and personality-wise) by the end of the trilogy. The film reduces a likable, upstanding young man into a shell of his former self over nine agonizing and tragic hours. Its title suggests that if it can happen to Kaji, it could happen to any human being.

(Video) Paths of Glory

'Come and See' (1985)

9 of the Most Unflinching Anti-War Films of All Time (8)

Even amongst anti-war films, Come and See has earned a reputation for being one of the hardest to watch. It focuses on a young boy being swept up in the fighting of WWII and becomes more of a fight for survival than a traditional war movie, as he's propelled from one horrific situation to the next.

It's hard to put the experience of watching Come and See into words; beyond saying it feels like an awful nightmare you wake up from after nearly two and a half hours. It manages to feel surreal and almost otherworldly while containing scenes that seem so vivid and authentic is exceptional and makes Come and See a remarkably difficult — yet essential — viewing experience.

'Grave of the Fireflies' (1988)

9 of the Most Unflinching Anti-War Films of All Time (9)

One of the greatest films released by the famed Studio Ghibli, Grave of the Fireflies, is an upsetting and emotionally brutal movie set in Japan during the final days of WWII. Two children are forced to survive on their own after their mother dies in an air raid, and the fact it's animated doesn't make the sad story it tells feel any less real.

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It's regarded as one of the most upsetting films ever made, and for good reason. Part of what makes it so powerful and unflinching as an anti-war film is that it focuses on two children, making it plain that in war, not even the young are spared from violence, destruction, and death.

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What is the most disturbing war movie? ›

'Threads' (1984) Threads is one of the most disturbing films of all time, without a doubt. The war it depicts is a nuclear one, so it's the rare war film that doesn't focus on a conflict that has happened.

Is there no such thing as an anti-war film? ›

Anti-war films are films which may criticize armed conflicts in a general sense to illustrate that war is futile and a loss for all sides involved, while others focus on acts within a specific war, such as poison gas use or genocidal killing of civilians.

What was the first anti-war film? ›

Released in 1930, All Quiet on the Western Front was a reflection of the profound disillusionment with war in the post-World War I (WWI) era. It was the first significant anti-war movie, exploring the war's physical and psychological impact on a generation lost to war.

Who said there is no such thing as an anti-war film? ›

François Truffaut, one of the leading figures in the French New Wave, once said “there's no such thing as an anti-war film,” and while many filmmakers have attempted to denounce it, it remains the defining quote on the subject.

What was the most gruesome American war? ›

5. The American Civil War. Of all the wars fought by Americans, it was the one that saw the nation literally torn apart that had the most significant casualties. According to a 2012 study, approximately 750,000 soldiers from both sides were killed during the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Why there is no anti-war film? ›

Because they aren't. French director and film critic François Truffaut claimed “there's no such thing as an anti-war film.” The reasoning is due to these movies' appealing displays, the thrill of combat and the onscreen camaraderie.

Do war films glorify war? ›

Every film about war ends up being pro-war.” Every war film promotes going to war. People rave about the movie they watched, glorifying what they have seen, glorifying the war, the bloodshed, the pain.

Why did the anti-war movement fail? ›

The anti-war protesters failed to sway public opinion because of a variety of rhetorical factors. Some of these were under the control of the protesters, while others were inherent in their intended audience. KEY CONCEPTS War, Vietnam, protest, rhetorical strategy, audience analy- sis, demonstrations, social movements.

What was the name of the greatest anti-war novel ever written? ›

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is arguably the most famous anti-war novel of all time. Published in 1928, the novel was one of the greatest book successes of the first half of the 20th century.

Is Full Metal Jacket anti-war? ›

Full Metal Jacketis the brutal anti-war satire from Stanley Kubrick, set during America's war in Vietnam in the 1960's and 1970's. The film is divided into two halves. In the first half, marine recruits undergo an unrelenting boot camp in Parris Island, S.C.

How did the anti-war start? ›

The antiwar movement began mostly on college campuses, as members of the leftist organization Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) began organizing “teach-ins” to express their opposition to the way in which it was being conducted.

What movie was about faking a war? ›

Wag the Dog

What did Mark Twain say about war? ›

"All war must be just the killing of strangers against whom you feel no personal animosity; strangers whom, in other circumstances, you would help if you found them in trouble, and who would help you if you needed it."

What movie most accurately depicts war? ›

16 Most Historically Accurate War Movies
  1. 1 We Were Soldiers. Paramount Pictures.
  2. 2 Saving Private Ryan. DreamWorks Pictures. ...
  3. 3 Jarhead. Universal Pictures. ...
  4. 4 Full Metal Jacket. Warner Bros Pictures. ...
  5. 5 Black Hawk Down. Sony Pictures. ...
  6. 6 Lone Survivor. Universal Pictures. ...
  7. 7 Generation Kill. Home Box Office. ...
  8. 8 Dunkirk. ...
Jan 4, 2023

What movie has the most killing? ›

James Cameron's box-office breaking, Oscar-winning Titanic depicts one of the biggest disasters of the 20th century, and as such, it rather appropriately features the most on-screen deaths of any movie in that genre.

What is the craziest movie? ›

The 8 craziest movies in the world
  • The Mask 2. The first The Mask with Jim Carrey, it became a cult film and much cited, as well as having given even more success to the lead actor. ...
  • The killer tomatoes. ...
  • Godzilla against robots. ...
  • Robocroc. ...
  • Jack in the box. ...
  • The Boy in the Golden Kimono 6. ...
  • A mermaid in Paris. ...
  • Sharknado.

What are the most cringe movies? ›

  • 6.1 Heaven's Gate (theatrical version, 1980)
  • 6.2 The Apple (1980)
  • 6.3 Inchon (1981)
  • 6.4 Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981)
  • 6.5 Mommie Dearest (1981)
  • 6.6 Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (The Man Who Saved the World) (1982)
  • 6.7 Howard the Duck (1986)
  • 6.8 Ishtar (1987)

What state lost the most soldiers in the Civil War? ›

Out of all of the states that sent men to fight in the Civil War, New York suffered the most fatalities, losing nearly 40,000 men. The states with the next highest losses in the Civil War are a toss-up between Ohio in the Union and Virginia and North Carolina in the Confederacy, each losing just over 30,000 men.

What soldier has the most kills? ›

1st Class Dillard Johnson is officially the deadliest American soldier, and maybe the most humble with 2,746 confirmed kills. He fought as a commander of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle nicknamed “Carnivore” during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

What war lost the most lives? ›

By far the most costly war in terms of human life was World War II (1939–45), in which the total number of fatalities, including battle deaths and civilians of all countries, is estimated to have been 56.4 million, assuming 26.6 million Soviet fatalities and 7.8 million Chinese civilians were killed.

What countries are anti-war? ›

The IEP's findings mean that choices are slim if you want to live in a completely peaceful country. The only ones to achieve the lowest score for all forms of conflict were Switzerland, Japan, Qatar, Mauritius, Uruguay, Chile, Botswana, Costa Rica, Vietnam, Panama and Brazil.

Why do war veterans watch war movies? ›

War movies explore the fictional and real-life stories of soldiers. They provide a platform to discuss the challenges faced by service men and women and the sacrifices they make to overcome these challenges for a greater good. Watching war movies can be a great way for veterans to process their experiences.

Has Disney made a war movie? ›

Victory Through Air Power (1943) is one of the propaganda films Disney produced for air warfare. This film is an attempt to sell Major Alexander de Seversky's theories about the practical uses of long range strategic bombing.

Is there ever a good reason for war? ›

It has been argued that a nation will go to war if the benefits of war are deemed to outweigh the disadvantages, and if there is a sense that there is not another mutually agreeable solution. More specifically, some have argued that wars are fought primarily for economic, religious, and political reasons.

Do war movies romanticize war? ›

A large number of war films -- more than a dozen, sometimes two-dozen -- were released annually until the war's end, almost all of which glamorized and romanticized the battle against the Axis powers.

Is anything justified in war? ›

A war is only just if it is fought for a reason that is justified, and that carries sufficient moral weight. The country that wishes to use military force must demonstrate that there is a just cause to do so. The main just cause is to put right a wrong.

What ended the anti-war movement? ›

It concludes that the anti-war movement in America evaporated because Democrats — inspired to protest by their anti-Republican feelings — stopped protesting once the Democratic Party achieved success in Congress in 2006 and then in the White House in 2008.

How did the anti-war movement change society? ›

The anti-war movement did force the United States to sign a peace treaty, withdraw its remaining forces, and end the draft in early 1973. Throughout a decade of organizing, anti-war activists used a variety of tactics to shift public opinion and ultimately alter the actions of political leaders.

What did the anti-war movement believe? ›

The Antiwar Movement's agenda revolved around promoting pacifism and demanding an end to military intervention in Vietnam. SDS members refused to be drafted into the military and opposed the idea of military induction. The military draft resulted in mandatory enrollment in the American Army.

What was the first antiwar novel? ›

Often considered to be the first antiwar novel of World War I and a “success in contradicting wartime propaganda,”Le Feu by Henri Barbusse (1873–1935) first appeared as a serial novel in the daily L'Œuvre starting in August 1916.

What are the two novels that are written which dealt more on the horrors of war Name the two writers as well? ›

Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead (1948) and Irwin Shaw's The Young Lions (1948) were realistic war novels, though Mailer's book was also a novel of ideas, exploring fascist thinking and an obsession with power as elements of the military mind.

Why read all quiet on the western front? ›

Powerful anti-war novel All Quiet on the Western Front reveals the haunting reality of life for young soldiers during the First World War. “We are in camp five miles behind the line. Yesterday our relief arrived; now our bellies are full of bully beef and beans, we have enough to eat and we're well satisfied.”

Does the US military use Full Metal Jacket? ›

Most NATO militaries use only FMJ rounds. This is due to an international treaty that was signed many years ago that forbids the use of expanding rounds. However, the USA never ratified that section of the treaty, and the US Army just recently adopted hollow point ammo along with the new Sig Sauer® M17 pistol.

Is Full Metal Jacket about Marines? ›

Plot. During the Vietnam War, a group of recruits arrive at Parris Island to become Marines. Drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman uses harsh methods to turn the recruits into combat-ready Marines.

Is a 7.62 Full Metal Jacket? ›

These . 30-caliber (7.62 mm) full metal jacket bullets show the typical jacket openings exposing the lead alloy core on the base of the bullet to illustrate that a full metal jacket may not completely enclose the core.

What was the biggest anti-war protest? ›

April 17, 1965 was the largest anti-war protest to have been held in Washington, D.C. up to that time. The number of marchers (15,000–25,000) was close to the number of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam at the time (less than 25,000).

What is anti-war called? ›

The term anti-war can also refer to pacifism, which is the opposition to all use of military force during conflicts, or to anti-war books, paintings, and other works of art. Some activists distinguish between anti-war movements and peace movements.

Who led the anti-war movement? ›

Two future presidents, Gerald Ford and John F. Kennedy, supported the anti-war organization on their college campuses, and aviator Charles Lindbergh and Father Charles Coughlin—who called for American neutrality even if Germany conquered Great Britain—became its most prominent advocates.

What movie is War Pigs? ›

'End of the Beginning' in This is the End

The most famous of which is certainly 'War Pigs', which plays out as the group try to board up James Franco's house.

Is there a movie Ghost Soldiers? ›

Ghost Soldiers (2002) - Turner Classic Movies.

Is there a movie based on war and peace? ›

War and Peace (Russian: Война и мир, trans. Voyna i mir) is a 1966–67 Soviet war drama film co-written and directed by Sergei Bondarchuk, adapted from Leo Tolstoy's 1869 novel War and Peace.

Did Mark Twain say God created war? ›

Mark Twain - The Innocents Abroad: “God created war so that Americans would learn geography.”

What did Thomas Jefferson say about war? ›

"I do not believe war the most certain means of enforcing principles. Those peaceable coercions which are in the power of every nation, if undertaken in concert and in time of peace, are more likely to produce the desired effect." --Thomas Jefferson to Robert Livingston, 1801.

What did Churchill say about war? ›

"We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.

What is the #1 movie in US history? ›

All Time Domestic Box Office
12015Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens
22019Avengers: Endgame
32021Spider-Man: No Way Home
56 more rows

What is the most brutal war movie? ›

15 Intense War Movies So Real, They're Almost Too Hard To Watch
  1. The Hurt Locker (2008) Director: Kathryn Bigelow. ...
  2. Saving Private Ryan (1998) Director: Steven Spielberg. ...
  3. Hacksaw Ridge (2016) ...
  4. Flags Of Our Fathers (2006) ...
  5. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) ...
  6. American Sniper (2014) ...
  7. Inglorious Basterds (2009) ...
  8. The Pianist (2002)
Jul 4, 2017

What is technically the best movie ever? ›

1. Citizen Kane (1941)

What movie has the most f bombs? ›

The 10 Most Profane Movies of All Time, Ranked by The Number of F-Bombs
  • Alpha Dog (2006) - 367 f-words. ...
  • Straight Outta Compton (2015) - 392 f-words. ...
  • Casino (1995) - 422 f-words. ...
  • Nil by Mouth (1997) - 428 f-words. ...
  • Summer of Sam (1999) - 435 f-words. ...
  • Uncut Gems (2019) - 560 f-words. ...
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) - 569 f-words.
Jun 2, 2022

What is the number one war movie? ›

15 Best War Movies of All Time, Ranked According to IMDb
  1. 1 'Saving Private Ryan' (1998) Image via DreamWorks.
  2. 2 'Life Is Beautiful' (1997) IMDb Rating: 8.6/10. ...
  3. 3 'Apocalypse Now' (1979) ...
  4. 4 'The Pianist' (2002) ...
  5. 5 'Casablanca' (1942) ...
  6. 6 'Grave of the Fireflies' (1988) ...
  7. 7 'Braveheart' (1995) ...
  8. 8 'Come And See' (1985) ...
Feb 8, 2023

What is the most traumatizing horror movie? ›

15 Scariest Horror Movies That Are Too Disturbing To Re-Watch
  1. 1 'Hereditary' (2018) Image via A24. ...
  2. 2 'Midsommar' (2019) ...
  3. 3 'Goodnight Mommy' (2014) ...
  4. 4 'The Innocents' (2021) ...
  5. 5 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre' (1974) ...
  6. 6 'Annihilation' (2018) ...
  7. 7 'Sinister' (2012) ...
  8. 8 'Host' (2020)
Feb 20, 2023

What actor said the F-word the most? ›

It's Joe Pesci, who's said the F-word 272 times in his various movies. But check this out: 241 of those were from a single movie: “Casino”. Al Pacino is second, with 197, followed by Jason Mewes of Jay & Silent Bob fame and Jonah Hill with 183 apiece, Leonardo DiCaprio with 144, and Seth Rogen with 140.

What was the first F-word in a movie? ›

Then in 1970, Robert Altman's comedy M*A*S*H became the first major studio film to use the f-word, a passing comment during a football scene.

What actor has cussed the most? ›

When host Jimmy Fallon told Jackson that Hill is first on the list, The Banker star replied: “That's some bulls***.” Hill has used a total of 376 curse words in film history, followed by Leonardo DiCaprio who has cursed 361 times. Jackson came in third with 301 curses used throughout his career.

Who is the best war in the world? ›

15 Epic Battles that Changed the Course of History
  • The Siege of Orleans (1429) ...
  • The Battle of Vienna (1683) ...
  • The Siege of Yorktown (1781) ...
  • The Battle of Waterloo (1815) ...
  • The Battle of Gettysburg (1863) ...
  • The Siege of Stalingrad (1942) ...
  • Storming the beaches of Normandy (1944) ...
  • The Battle of Okinawa (1945)
Mar 13, 2020

Why do veterans watch war movies? ›

War movies explore the fictional and real-life stories of soldiers. They provide a platform to discuss the challenges faced by service men and women and the sacrifices they make to overcome these challenges for a greater good. Watching war movies can be a great way for veterans to process their experiences.

What is the movie where a woman tortures a man? ›

Hard Candy is a 2005 American psychological thriller film focusing on a 14-year-old female vigilante's trapping and torture of a man whom she suspects of being a sexual predator.

What is the scariest movie on Netflix that nobody can finish? ›

This film is none other than Raw – a 2016 coming of age horror film that's been upsetting viewers since its initial release.

What horror movie has the biggest jump scare? ›

The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia is far and wide the most 'jumpy' horror movie ever made with 32 jump scares to enjoy throughout the film. Set in 1993. Andy and Lisa Wyrick, along with their daughter Heidi, move into a rural home after receiving a deal from the bank.

What is the most realistic ww2 movie? ›

  • 'THe Dam Busters' (1955) StudiocanalUK. 1.09M subscribers. ...
  • 'The Longest Day' (1962) Danios12345. 12.3K subscribers. ...
  • 'Tora! Tora! Tora! ...
  • 'Patton' (1970) 20th Century Studios. ...
  • 'Das Boot' (1981) John Sam. ...
  • 'Band of Brothers' (2001) HBO. ...
  • 'Downfall' (2004) AMBI Distribution. ...
  • 'Letters From Iwo Jima' (2006) Warner Bros.
Sep 20, 2022

What is considered the best ww2 movie? ›

Here, in no particular order, is our list of the best World War II movies of all time.
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998)TOM SIZEMORE (L) and TOM HANKS. ...
  • THE GREAT ESCAPE, Steve McQueen, 1963. ...
  • Dunkirk. ...
  • Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) KEN WATANABE. ...
  • THE PIANIST. ...
Dec 12, 2022

What is called the greatest war in history? ›

Also called The Great War, World War I was one of the deadliest conflicts in history, and set the stage for another world war just 20 years later. ByErin Blakemore. Published April 11, 2019.


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