Best and Worst Criminal Investigation War Movies

Criminal investigations in the military are a bit different than in the civilian world.  There are consequences to speaking as a witness when half the community's population outranks you.  Plus, it's a community filled with people who kill for a living.  Consequently, criminal investigations that take place in the military can be very thrilling and vastly entertaining to watch on film.  Or, depending on the filmmaker, they can also be really painful.  Here are the best and the worst criminal investigation war movies.  (For the best and worst movies on war crimes, click here.)

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A Few Good Men (1992)

A Few Good Men.

The Best!

A Few Good Men is both, a classic military movie and classic courtroom thriller, combining the best of both genres.  In this film, Cruise and Moore investigate Jack Nicholson's Marine unit, and the accidental murder of a private during a "Code Red" (where privates take it upon themselves to violently discipline one of their own).  Nicholson's growl is now infamous.  You say the lines, "You can't handle the truth!" and everyone knows what you're talking about.  And what is the truth?  That's what Cruise and Moore seek to discover.  The truth in the film is that Marines are tough and rough and punish their own.  Somehow this film manages to take what are fairly low stakes in the real world - a single missing private - and make them seem gargantuan.

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General's Daughter (1999)


The Worst!

This film attempted to start a whole film franchise, which would follow the adventures of John Travolta's Army CID (Criminal Investigations Division) investigating officer.  Fortunately, they only made one film.  In this first (and last) installment, Travolta investigates the murder of a prominent General's daughter, and then - in a bid to be as salacious as possible - the filmmakers throw everything they can into the film.  As it turns out, the daughter was actually attacked in a sexual assault reminiscent of the Tailhook incident.  And, as it also turns out, the daughter had a penchant for alternative forms of sex.  And, as it also turns out, she was raped.  And.  And.  And.  This film's desperation to be edgy becomes boring. 

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High Crimes (2002)

High Crimes.

The Worst!

Film summary:  Ashley Judd investigates Army officer who participated in a mass murder in El Salvador.  Cover ups, abound.

The worst thing about this film is that no one cared about it.  There seems to be no attached writer or director, or participant who wanted to create this film for reasons having to do with art or creative expression.  This was entirely, and fully, a product of corporate meetings.  In other words, this movie has no reason to exist.  Barely a decade later, and this movie is almost unrecognizable to the public at large.  If you said the words, "High Crimes" - no one would know the movie you're talking about.  And there's a reason for that.  Utterly forgettable, so you might as well skip it in the first place.

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Basic (2003)


The Worst!

This is not just one of the worst movies on this list, it's one of the worst war films ever made.  See my full review for a detailed list of its awful crimes.  Briefly, it's a film that wants desperately to be a complex thriller - one told through different witnesses, some of them unreliable.  However, I'm convinced that when you organize the story threads of the different stories, that the film actually makes no sense.  Moreover, I suspect that some of those involved with the film started to realize this but then simply gave up (how else to describe the lackluster performances?)  The ending twist is one of the most absurd I've ever seen in a film.  This is a film that actively hates its viewers.

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The Whistle Blower (2010)


The Best!

Rachel Weiz stars in this real-life story of an American divorcee and police officer who tries to improve her financial situation by taking a paid contract to offer police training in the Balkans under the United Nations flag.  What she discovers is a completely ineffective U.N. mission, rampant corruption, and worst of all, sex trafficking by U.N. personnel.  Weiz struggles to protect the young women being victimized and realizes she may have put herself in danger.  A fascinating (and enraging) story of corruption, crime, and one woman who couldn't let it go.  It's all the more disturbing of a film when you remember that this is based on a true story!

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Your Citation
Rico, Johnny. "Best and Worst Criminal Investigation War Movies." ThoughtCo, Nov. 17, 2015, Rico, Johnny. (2015, November 17). Best and Worst Criminal Investigation War Movies. Retrieved from Rico, Johnny. "Best and Worst Criminal Investigation War Movies." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 17, 2017).