Top 5 scenes from war films to watch this Memorial Day weekend
Memorial Day weekend is usually not complete without a war movie or two. Film can be a powerful medium for honoring the sacrifices and service of the men and women in uniform. To this end, we've created a list of the top five scenes for war films we think you'll want to put on your list for this weekend. Warning: there are spoilers within the scene clips.
#5. Full Metal Jacket's "The Jelly Doughnut" scene
There are plenty of iconic scenes that fill Stanley Kubrick's 1987 war film that follows a group of newly minted Vietnam-bound cadets as they maneuver basic training and make their way to the front lines. However, the film is best remembered for its first half, which features Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) trying to drill out the weakness of his new troops. The "Jelly Doughnut" scene is emblematic to Hartman's de-humanizing tactics as he focuses on his favorite target, Private Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence (Vincent D'Onofrio). Pyle's hardships will eventually prove too much and he soon turns the tables of the seemingly heartless Hartman.
Another one of Terrance Malick's masterpieces, The Thin Red Line (1998) marked the director's return after a 20 year absence. The Swing scene epitomizes Malick's languid and thoughtful style as he examines the personal struggles of the individual WWII soldiers in this film based on the novel by James Jones. In the scene Malick revisits his penchant for swings, voice overs and shots ending in high angles. We see and hear Private Bell (Ben Chaplin) and his epistolary ruminations over the origins of love accompanied with flashback images of his wife, giving the scene a profundity as strong as the larger-than-life score that supports it. The Thin Red Line is a must see film for Memorial Day Weekend and one that will leave you with an unsettling, yet still optimistic look at humanity.
The Deer Hunter is a gripping tale of the lives of a group of friends who leave their small Pennsylvania town for Vietnam. Mike, Steven and Nike make it through the hell of war and captivity within a NVA camp only to find the repercussions of their experiences too much to handle. The Russian Roulette scene is one of the most powerful moments in the film and documents Mike's attempts to bring Nick home by playing a game of Russian Roulette in an betting club. However, Nick is completely gone, mentally and physically, unable to cope with the tragedies he's witnessed. The scene is controversial for its sadistic portrayal of the Vietnamese people and the Russian Roulette game noted for its historically inaccuracy. Regardless of its authenticity, the power of Walken and De Niro's performance in this scene is sadly uplifting, showing that selflessness and hope are essential parts of friendship.
The "Omaha Beach" scene in Saving Private Ryan is seen by many as one of the greatest movie moments of all time. Praised for its realistic depictions of the events at D-Day, the scene was shot in Ireland, cost $12 million to produce and involved up to 1,500 extras. Much of the scene's visceral impact comes from its documentary style. This is not a scene viewed from afar, rather Spielberg keeps the camera close to the action. We view the war from every angle and every perspective. Shots of the faces of the advancing soldiers give us a intimate look at their emotional states. Shaky camera work, expertly rendered sound FX, and a muted color palette help establish a documentary realism that punches you like a hard right hand to the gut.
Iconic in every way, Francis Ford Coppola's epic war protest film was loosely based on Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness. Like Conrad, the film's director looks at the insanity and inhumanity that accompanies war. The film is a must see for not only it's examination of the dangers of imperialism, but for its beautifully conceived visuals. Who can forget the famous "Helicopter Attach" scene where Colonel Bill Kilgore's (Robert Duvall) unit attacks the small Vietnam village? Coppola highlights the detached quality of Kilgore's dreams of glory-through-war with a series of dissolves. Exquisitely composed images of helicopters flying in formation accompanied by Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries are juxtaposed with the serene Vietnam countryside and its peaceful inhabitants. A masterpiece if there ever was one.