The 30 Best War Films You Can Watch Right Now

Updated July 18, 2024 • Staff

Whether it's World War II remains one of the most significant and poignant chapters in human history or the wars of today, these films bring their impact to life on the silver screen. Through powerful performances, stunning visuals, and immersive storytelling, these films pay homage to the countless lives affected by the war. Get ready to be captivated, moved, and profoundly impacted as we explore the best films that honour the enduring spirit and indomitable will of those who lived through one of humanity's darkest moments.

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30.

Swing Kids (2018)

When it comes to being a drama with a cohesive and understandable message, Swing Kids falters, and doesn’t make it clear whether or not the film advocates for either pro-capitalist or pro-communist ideas– understandably so, considering how to this day, the peninsula remains split in part due to foreign intervention. The film is a bit too long, and struggles to juggle multiple tones, being a violent war drama, slapstick comedy, and fun tap-dancing musical all at once. But, when the film revels in dance and celebrates the connections made through it, the film shines, creating an incredible sonic soundscape composed entirely of rhythmic taps and sweeping brass, with the five leads dancing in pure joy. Swing Kids is not perfect, but it has heart and it recognizes the waste and tragedy of the human side that is lost due to war.

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Drama, War
Actor: A.J. Simmons, Doh Kyung-soo, Hye-soo Park, Jared Grimes, Jeong-se Oh, Joo Hae-eun, Kim Kyu-baek, Kim Min-ho, Kim Min-jae, Kyung-soo Do, Lee Da-wit, Lee Kyu-sung, Matthew D'Arcy, Oh Gyeong-hwa, Oh Jeong-se, Oh Jung-se, Park Hye-su, Park Hyeong-su, Park Hyoung-soo, Park Jin-joo, Ross Kettle
Director: Hyeong-Cheol Kang, Kang Hyoung-chul, Kang Hyung-chul
Rating: TV-14
29.

Summerland (2020)

Named after the Celtic concept of heaven, Summerland is a rare queer period drama that feels hopeful rather than despairing. The film takes us to the countryside in World War II, where our protagonist, the reclusive writer Alice Lamb (Gemma Arterton), studies the folklore about Summerland. We know that her isolation wasn’t fully chosen; her refusal to marry causes adults to gossip and causes children to speculate that she’s a witch. But this all changes when a young evacuee is entrusted to Alice’s care.

Gemma Arterton shines as a reluctant guardian stifled by repressed grief, and she makes Alice’s dynamic with Frank (Lucas Bond) and her former lover Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) incredibly believable. And while it would have been lovely to see more of Vera, even just their first meeting easily captures that heady sense of pure enchantment with another person. It’s no wonder that Alice has to cling to folklore the same way we do. For many of us, it’s the only way we can express our hopes, fears, and dreams.

Our staff rating: 7.6/10
Genre: Drama, Romance, War
Actor: Amanda Lawrence, Amanda Root, Casper Allpress, Daniel Eghan, David Ajao, David Horovitch, Dixie Egerickx, Fergal McElherron, Gemma Arterton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jessica Gunning, Joshua Riley, Lucas Bond, Martina Laird, Nimmy March, Penelope Wilton, Rakhee Thakrar, Sally Scott, Siân Phillips, Thomas Coombes, Toby Osmond, Tom Courtenay
Director: Jessica Swale
Rating: N/A, PG
28.

Ethel & Ernest (2016)

When thinking about one’s family, we tend to remember our parents as parents, and rarely as people of their own. Ethel & Ernest, based on Raymond Briggs’ beloved graphic memoir of his own parents, instead focuses on two ordinary spouses in extraordinary times, sharing some of the day-to-day moments that show their affection, but is clearly marked by the times they’re in, materially and politically. The watercolor design is a cleaner, more modern update of the original illustrations, while Briggs’ handwritten speech bubbles still retain their character through Jim Broadbent’s and Brenda Blethyn’s voices. It’s just a loving, but still honest, depiction of one’s parents, one that makes you think about your own.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Animation, Drama, War
Actor: Alex Jordan, Brenda Blethyn, Duncan Wisbey, Gillian Hanna, Harry Collett, Jim Broadbent, June Brown, Luke Treadaway, Pam Ferris, Peter Wight, Raymond Briggs, Roger Allam, Simon Day, Virginia McKenna
Director: Roger Mainwood
27.

Under the Shadow (2016)

Horror movies have always been creepier to me when they play on our fear of the “unknown” rather than gore. Under The Shadow does exactly that. The story is based around the relationship of a woman, Shideh, and her daughter, Dorsa, under the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq war. As widespread bombings shake the ground beneath their feet, the two grapple with a more insidious evil that is faceless and traceless, coming and going only with the wind. The movie’s dread-effect plays strongly on feelings of isolation and helplessness. The scares are slow and it’s obvious the director takes great care in making every single second count and in raising the unpredictableness of the action. Like the bombs, the audience never knows when or how the next apparition will materialize. The former is always on the edge of fear, wondering what is no doubt there, but is yet to be shown on the frame. In terms of significance, Under The Shadow features too many symbolisms to count and will most likely resonate with each person differently. But one thing remains relatively unarguable: this is a wonderful movie.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller, War
Actor: Amir Ranjbar, Aram Ghasemy, Arash Marandi, Avin Manshadi, Babak Anvari, Behi Djanati Atai, Bijan Daneshmand, Bobby Naderi, Hamid Djavadan, Hamidreza Djavdan, Houshang Ranjbar, Nabil Koni, Narges Rashidi, Ray Haratian, Sajjad Delafrooz, Soussan Farrokhnia
Director: Babak Anvari
Rating: PG-13
26.

Before The Rain (1994)

Before The Rain is a very intriguing and unique film, to say the least. Its cyclical narrative structure may not be for everyone, it will puzzle most, leaving some in wonder while others fume at the illogicality of it all.

While the film's general production values have not aged very well, its intercut story of war and romance is a timeless one, makes this film one that is essential viewing for all international cinema lovers, and serves as a great introduction to Macedonian cinema as a whole.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, War
Actor: Abdurrahman Shala, Aleksandar Mikic, Daniel Newman, Džemail Maksut, Gabrielle Hamilton, Grégoire Colin, Ilko Stefanovski, Jay Villiers, Josif Josifovski, Katerina Kocevska, Katrin Cartlidge, Kiril Ristoski, Labina Mitevska, Meto Jovanovski, Milica Stojanova, Mladen Krstevski, Petar Mirčevski, Peter Needham, Phyllida Law, Rade Serbedzija, Rod Woodruff, Silvija Stojanovska
Director: Milcho Manchevski
Rating: Not Rated
25.

Control Room (2004)

For the longest time, American media coverage was skewed to justify the presence of US forces in Arab states. Control Room unveils that bias by following Al Jazeera at the start of the Iraq War in 2003. One of the biggest Arab media outlets at the time, Al Jazeera dared to cover both sides of the war, but by doing so put a target on its back. It was vilified by both the US government, which called it an Osama mouthpiece and the Arab world, which called it a Bush ally. 

Control Room shows the difficulty (if not sheer impossibility) of achieving journalistic balance, objectivity, and integrity. Through interviews with Al Jazeera reporters and US military officers, we witness how lines are blurred, loyalties are tested, and purpose is shifted in a state of war. A seminal work on media bias and press control, Control Room is vital and enlightening, a must-watch to understand the inner workings of the fourth estate. 

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Documentary, War
Actor: Abdul Jabbar Al-Kubeisi, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Hassan Ibrahim, Josh Rushing, Muafak Tawfik, Nabeel Khoury, Omar Al-Issawi, Tom Mintier
Director: Jehane Noujaim

Free Watching Options:

Watch Control Room (2004) on Amazon Prime for free
24.

The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (2023)

The late, great William Friedkin’s final film is staged with all the military precision of its naval court setting. We never leave the courtroom from the moment we’re plunged into it — the first minute — meaning the contentious action around which the film revolves happens only in our imagination, spurred on by the competing accounts of Lieutenant Maryk (Jake Lacy) and Commander Queeg (Kiefer Sutherland). Maryk is accused of mutiny, but, as he tells it, he only seized command from Queeg during a typhoon because he feared that the Commander was experiencing an episode of mental instability that would endanger the lives of everyone onboard. 

The lack of flashbacks to this crucial moment places the burden of bearing out the truth on the cast, which includes Jason Clarke as Maryk’s lawyer, Monica Raymund as Queeg’s counsel, and Lance Reddick — the naturally authoritative late actor to whom the film is dedicated — as the judge. The film's lack of visual pizzazz is to its advantage, then, because it allows this excellent cast (and Friedkin’s searing script) to flex under the full, burning gaze of the spotlight. Clarke, in particular, emerges as the standout as the reluctant navy lawyer — a man caught between the impulse to expose one truth and conceal another.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, TV Movie, War
Actor: Dale Dye, Denzel Johnson, Elizabeth Anweis, Francois Battiste, Gabe Kessler, Gina Garcia, Jake Lacy, Jason Clarke, Jay Duplass, Kiefer Sutherland, Lance Reddick, Lewis Pullman, Monica Raymund, Stephanie Erb, Tom Riley
Director: William Friedkin
Rating: PG-13

Free Watching Options:

Watch The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (2023) on Fubo for free
23.

Hanagatami (2017)

While best known for 1977 cult horror classic House, Nobuhiko Obayashi first dreamed of adapting Hanagatami, a 1937 novella by Kazuo Dan, and it was only until the later end of his life that he got to fulfill that dream. It’s possibly the reason why Hanagatami feels like a surreal set of memories, with Karatsu’s seaside portrayed with theatrical sets and back projection, with scenes flipped and unflipped ever so often, with Bach looped and mixed with dissonant chords and children singing. And as the teenagers of Karatsu try to cling to their innocence despite the looming possibility of death, Obayashi remembers the lives cut short, not in nostalgia, but in an anxious bid for us to remember humanity’s biggest failure.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama, Romance, War
Actor: Hirona Yamazaki, Honoka Yahagi, Kayoko Shiraishi, Keishi Nagatsuka, Kiyotaka Nanbara, Masahiro Takashima, Mugi Kadowaki, Shinnosuke Ikehata, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Shunsuke Kubozuka, Takahito Hosoyamada, Takako Tokiwa, Takao Ito, Takehiro Murata, Tetsuya Takeda, Tokio Emoto, Tōru Shinagawa, Toshie Negishi, Tsurutaro Kataoka, Wakaba Irie, Yuriko Ono
Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi
22.

The Wind Rises (2013)

In what was originally intended to be his final film, Hayao Miyazaki is at his most lucid with The Wind Rises. Fluid and luminous, it cleanly moves between a grounded, historical reality and an intuitive, imaginative dreamscape. Here Miyazaki reflects on the process of creation and what it means to be an artist, drawing parallels between his own meticulousness as a filmmaker with Horikoshi’s immutable passion for flight and efficient design.

But questions of responsibility and duty arise, as Horikoshi—and by extension, Miyazaki—must reckon with the reality that even things as beautiful as aeroplanes can be destructive, and that even dreams can be violent. This meditative film does not offer any easy answers but it provides solace in its prevailing sentiment: The wind is rising, we must try to live.

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Animation, Drama, Family, History, Romance, War
Actor: Hayao Miyazaki, Hideaki Anno, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Jun Kunimura, Kaichi Kaburagi, Keiko Takeshita, Mansai Nomura, Martin Short, Masahiko Nishimura, Miori Takimoto, Mirai Shida, Morio Kazama, Sascha, Shinobu Otake, Stephen Alpert
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Rating: PG-13
21.

The Breadwinner (2017)

The Breadwinner is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. The animation is magical as it seamlessly jumps back and forth between Parvana's stark reality and richly detailed fantasy. It's a wonder to just look at, but it's a tapestry brought to life by the story at the center of it. 

Set in 2001, at the height of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the film follows Parvana, a young girl driven to desperate measures to keep her family alive. Because of the violent restrictions imposed on women (they’re not allowed to buy, sell, study, or practically do anything without a male chaperone), Parvana disguises herself as a boy so she can work for a living. The more she gets away with it, the bolder her attempts get. It's a story of survival and standing up, but it's also a sobering reminder of what fundamentalism is capable of doing (or more accurately, ruining). As long as cruel systems like this are taking place in the world, Breadwinner remains essential viewing for all.

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Animation, Drama, Family, War
Actor: Ali Badshah, Ali Hassan, Ali Kazmi, Kane Mahon, Kanza Feris, Kawa Ada, Laara Sadiq, Lily Erlinghauser, Noorin Gulamgaus, Nora Twomey, Patrick McGrath, Reza Sholeh, Saara Chaudry, Salaman Hamidkohzad, Shaista Latif, Soma Bhatia, Soma Chhaya
Director: Nora Twomey
Rating: PG-13

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