The Movieforums Top 100 War Movies Countdown

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Kurosawa is one of my favorite directors and RAN is one of his masterpieces. I have it on my top hundred but only Kagemusha was in serious contention for my ballot, much more representative of feudal Japan's art of war in my opinion. The Thin Red Line is my #69. Does this mean Spartacus is out?

SEEN 65/84
BALLOT 15/25

I like RAN quite a bit, but it didn't make my ballot.

The Thin Red Line was #11 on my ballot. I wrote a piece on it a while ago where I compared it to Saving Private Ryan, which I find inferior, but it looks like I never saved it. In short, I think the only area Saving Private Ryan beats Malick's film out is in action (even though the Omaha beach scene is the only combat scene I love). The Thin Red Line beats it in just about every singe other aspect.

My updated ballot:

5. To Be or Not to Be (#41)
6. The Battle of Algiers (#24)
8. The Best Years of Our Lives (#21)
9. From Here to Eternity (#30)
10. The Ascent (#33)
11. The Thin Red Line (#17)
12. Pan's Labyrinth (#54)
13. The General (#64)
14. Kanal (#61)
15. Red Angel (#100)
16. Underground (#43)
19. Barry Lyndon (#50)
23. Johnny Got His Gun (#97)
24. Night and Fog (#48)
25. The Deer Hunter (#25)

I've not seen Ran. I did watch The Thin Red Line in prep for the countdown. Here's what I wrote....don't hate me

The Thin Red Line (1998)
Director Terrence Malick

I watched this once before, almost a quarter of a century ago. At that time I was impressed and for the last 25 years I thought of this as a favorite war film, I even thought it was a lock for my ballot.

But after rewatching this I realized my movie taste have changed and I didn't care for it. I did love the look of the film, the way it was filmed and especially the shooting locations including filming on Guadalcanal. But what drove me crazy was the endless inner monologue narrative which is a staple of Malick's films. Just one of the many examples of this flowery philosophical narrative is:

'This great evil, where's it come from? How'd it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who's doing this? Who's killing us, robbing us of life and light, mocking us with the sight of what we might've known? Does our ruin benefit the earth, does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night?'

I just don't care to have a film preach Age of Aquarius type hyperbola at me and The Thin Red Line does this a lot!

Sean Penn was great in this as you might expect. I'm sure the multi ensemble cast was good too but Malick doesn't believe in character development or story, he believes in photography and poetry.

The Thin Red Line is the only Malick that has left me cold. But, I also think it was the first of his I saw, so I probably just wasn't acclimatized to his approach at the time. My feeling was that nothing happened in the film and everything was static, but considering this is what everyone wrongly says about all of the Malick's I like or love, people should just roll their eyes at me saying this and move along.

Ran is phenomenal. No battle scene in the history of cinema comes close to what this offers. It's so good I can hardly remember anything else in the film. Not like I'd have to though, since it's more than enough. It's more than most humans have ever accomplished in all of civilization. When Kurosawa is on fire, he puts everyone to absolute shame.

Thin Red Line was my 5. Malick speaks for himself. Either you dig it or you don't. He hits me on a spiritual level and the only other director I would say that about is Bergman.

Ran was my 6. Similar experience as putting Braveheart on. It didn't occur to me as war when I made my prelim list but at some point, "of course", and here we are. It's a banger. One of my all time faves period.

Ran is like The Pianist for me, in that they're great films, and I knew it while watching, but they did not make a significant impact on me.

The Thin Red Line is one I wanted to watch again for this countdown, and I'd still like to. I saw it many years ago, way before joining this forum. I didn't like it, but I wasn't into serious film as much back then.

I forgot the opening line.
20. The Cranes Are Flying - This curious Soviet film really uses it's cinematography in a precisely purposeful way - so many memorable shots that also help in framing an emotional context, a character's frame of mind, or just the general feel or mood of a moment. Really beautiful stuff. Their experience of World War II (or The Great Patriotic War for them) was unique, and if you travel through Russia today you see the scars everywhere, even though the war ended nearly 80 years ago - the trauma of nearly becoming a brutal German colony-state and virtually ceasing to exist, along with the millions of lives lost, also has a cinematic outlet in films like this. Amazing film - it ended up at #17 on my list.

19. The Great Escape - Seen this a few times - as have perhaps most people. Great cast - Steve McQueen, Donald Pleasance, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, and that jaunty tune, which tells us immediately that this won't be about the wasteful slaughter that war is, but will instead be an exciting adventure. At least, until the end that is. What's at first confined to a prison camp for the first leg turns into an expanded multi-location chase as all of the escapees go their own way and try to reach the safety of Switzerland or anywhere beyond German reach. Who will perish? Who will make it? Who will be recaptured? What's so thrilling is it's like a dozen or so mini-movies after that point. Great movie of course, but didn't make my list.

18. Ran - Great Kurosawa film that I watched for the first time a couple of years ago. As is usual, it's intricate, visually stunning and emotionally moving. Based on William Shakespeare's King Lear, it explores family and jealousy on the largest scale possible - that of a Warlord and his sons during the great period where feudal lords ruled over Japan and often went to war with each other. It's another one of these war films that have impossibly great cinematography, set design, and art direction - you have to really see it to believe it. I'd need to see it again to be sure of voting for it, so unfortunately it didn't make my list.

17. The Thin Red Line - Yet another visually incredible film being revealed here - one of the most poetic and searching of war films I've seen. The Thin Red Line gives us the internal dialogue of the characters within it, and thus tells us a story from the inside looking out. I loved that aspect to the film - and I loved listening to the likes of Nick Nolte's (playing a Lt. Col. in this) thoughts and compare them to the more introspective inner dialogue we hear from Jim Caviezel's Pvt. Robert E. Lee Witt. Aside from that, the battles are intense and the score/soundtrack is so, so beautiful. A real juxtaposition to be held up and compared to the death and destruction, the music and cinematography, and it all makes this one of the best looking and sounding war films ever made. I love it - it made it to #11 on my list.

Seen : 62/84
I'd never even heard of :12/84
Movies that had been on my radar, but I haven't seen yet : 10/84
Films from my list : 11

#17 - My #11 - The Thin Red Line (1998)
#20 - My #17 - The Cranes Are Flying (1957)
#27 - My #15 - The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (1959)
#31 - My #20 - 1917 (2019)
#33 - My #2 - The Ascent (1977)
#34 - My #4 - The Human Condition III: A Soldier's Prayer (1961)
#38 - My #23 - Glory (1989)
#49 - My #24 - The Guns of Navarone (1961)
#51 - My #7 - The Human Condition II : Road to Eternity (1959)
#70 - My #14 - The Caine Mutiny (1954)
#74 - My #16 - Shoah (1985)

Overlooked films : Breaker Morant, Fail-Safe, Night and Fog
My movie ratings often go up or down a point or two after more reflection, research and rewatches.

Latest Review : Thieves' Highway (1949)

Barry Lyndon didn't show up on my ballot since it wasn't tagged as war on IMDb (the main site I was using to create my list), but it probably would've made my list if I came across it. Here's what I wrote on the film a while back:
EDIT: I just checked my ballot and Barry Lyndon did make my ballot after all at #19. Surprised I forgot about that.

RAN was #9 on the MoFo Top 100 of the 1980s and #19 on the MoFo Top 100 Foreign Films. The Thin Red Line was #28 on the MoFo Top 100 of the 1990s.
"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

Two on my list!

Ran is an epic, a complete must see for any fan of war films. It was my number 6. Kurosawa says that he made Kagemusha in preparation for Ran, and it shows as Ran is the better of the two films. There are many similarities from Kubrick's 'Barry Lyndon' in 'Ran'. Notably the battle scenes. I think Kurosawa took some inspiration from Kubrick this time.

The Thin Red Line was my #19. It's a misunderstood film, but one that is quite rewarding in my opinion. I like the story of Adrien Brody turning up to the premiere thinking he was the lead character....then seeing the film and realizing he was barely in it. Never change Terry Mallick.

For whatever reason, Ran didn't make a huge impact on me when I saw it. I recognize its quality, but something was missing. Most likely a me problem, to be fair. It'll get another shot someday. The Thin Red Line is good but landed just outside my top 25.

I think The Thin Red Line was my number 15 (if not, there abouts).
Um, I'm overall good with Mallick's sensibility. I think starting with Badlands and Days of Heaven helps with watching any of his late career stuff.

Ran didn't make that big of an impression on me, but my opinion of Kurosawa films are on the lower end of the spectrum than everyone else, so this isn't surprising. At some point, I might give this one another go, since I watched Throne of Blood not that long ago and it was at least, "okay."