Commemorate Memorial Day with Movies About Real-Life War Heroes
05.20.14 by BJSprecher
If you don't have plans for Memorial Day weekend, it will be a great time to tune in to REELZ. The weekend will feature not only a Bomb Girls marathon and the premiere of the REELZ original movie Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy, we'll also be airing the National Memorial Day Parade on Monday at 2p ET/ 11a PT. Of course if you need even more ways to commemorate the sacrifices of our nation’s veterans, it's a great weekend to watch some movies about real-life war heroes. Throw some popcorn in the microwave, turn on the A/C and check out our list of movies about real heroes making real sacrifices in defense of our nation’s freedom.
The VicMu Girls Are Coming Back
Alvin York (Gary Cooper) was a simple man from Tennessee who hoped to avoid action in World War I because of his religious beliefs. However, when the country asked him to serve, York answered the call. He earned the Medal of Honor after nearly single-handedly capturing 132 German soldiers in the Argonne Forest and would go on to become one of the most highly decorated soldiers of the war. Cooper won his first Academy Award for his portrayal of York and the movie also won an Oscar for Best Film Editing. It was nominated in nine other categories, including Best Picture and Best Director (Howard Hawks).
When John Bradley, Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, Mike Strank, Harlon Block, and Franklin Sousley raised the U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima at the end of World War II, they couldn’t possibly have known that the event, captured on film by Joe Rosenthal, would become one of the most iconic in American military history. Flags of Our Fathers, directed by Clint Eastwood and based on the book of the same name by John Bradley’s son, James, chronicles the incredible true story of those six American heroes and the many tragedies that befell them after the historic event.
In one of the most important battles of the Civil War, college professor-turned-military strategist Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels) and his exhausted, bordering on mutinous, Union Army of the Potomac held off Gen. Robert E. Lee (Martin Sheen) and the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg, preventing the Confederates from taking Washington. Meticulously faithful to the period, Gettysburg is the crowning achievement of writer/director Ronald F. Maxwell, despite the movie’s lackluster performance at the box office, which was hindered by its running time of 254 minutes (4 hours, 14 minutes). Gettysburg found its success on the home video market, where it became one of the highest grossing movies of all time, and as a staple of history classrooms around the country.
Ridley Scott (Prometheus) directed this gripping portrayal of the ill-fated attempt to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid by U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force soldiers, and 160th SOAR aviators that was first chronicled in a series of articles in The Philadelphia Inquirer by Mark Bowden. Nineteen American soldiers lost their lives in the operation, which saw two Black Hawk helicopters felled in hostile urban combat, including Two Delta Force snipers, SFC Randy Shughart (Johnny Strong) and MSG Gary Gordon (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who were inserted into one of the crash sites to protect the survivors. Shughart and Gordon were posthumously awarded Medals of Honor, the first issued since the Vietnam War.
George C. Scott delivers an unforgettable performance as Gen. George S. Patton in this classic movie about the brilliant, but controversial, military leader. Patton swiftly rose through the ranks by defeating Germany's Field Marshal Erwin "The Desert Fox" Rommel in North Africa in 1943. Patton’s fall from grace was even swifter than his rise, however; after berating and slapping a shell-shocked soldier in an Army hospital, Patton was stripped of his command. Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (Planet of the Apes), Patton won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Though often reviewed rather critically, To Hell and Back boasts a lead actor who was also a real-life war hero. Audie Murphy weighed just 110 pounds when he enlisted at 18, but his sleight build didn't stop him from becoming one of the most decorated soldiers of WWII, with 24 Medals of Honor and the Congressional Medal of Honor. Murphy plays himself in this movie adaptation of his autobiography of the same name, which portrays him as less courageous than he actually was because the producers felt that the truth was simply too unbelievable.
Images courtesy Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, New Line Cinema, Columbia Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, and Universal Pictures.