The Best and Worst of Legal Thriller War Movies

The "Legal Thriller" war movie!  (It's definitely one of the odder genre combinations that exists within the archives of cinema.)  It combines all the linguistic sparring and judicial weight of a somber courtroom battle, with the literal battle of a front lines combat environment!  (I'm still waiting for the "Children's Cartoon" war movie.)  Usually, the courtroom antics spar over something that occurred during war time.
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The Caine Mutiny (1954)


The Best!

Humphrey Bogart stars in this drama about mutiny about a U.S. Destroyer during the second World War.  When the Destroyer receives a tough, discipline minded new commanding officer, certain junior officers aboard are relieved, hoping the new commander can reverse the slide in behavior exhibited by the sailors on-board.  But soon the new commander reveals himself to be slightly crazy, a mutiny ferments, and the film ends as a legal drama.

On Trial:  American Officers for Mutiny

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Paths of Glory (1957)


The Best!

In World War I, a French officer refuses to order his men out of the trench to die in what is certain to be a suicidal attack.  The officer (Kirk Douglas) and his men are tried for cowardice.  The film tackles an essential question to the nature of war:  Can soldiers disregard orders if they know they will die?

On Trial:  Soldiers for Cowardice

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Judgement at Nuremberg (1961)


The Best!

This classic film follows the Nuremberg trials, where the Nazi officer corps was tried for war crimes against humanity.  A fascinating film that explores the issue of following orders, and to what degree explaining that you were simply following orders can save you, and to what degree it can incriminate you.

On Trial:  Nazis for War Crimes

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A Few Good Men (1992)


The Best!

Do I really need to explain this movie?  This is one of those films that seems both universally recognized and beloved.  It's "You can't handle the truth!" line has probably been repeated several hundred million times in mock anger, since the film's released.  Cruise and Moore investigate a death at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Jack Nicholson is the hard charging Marine officer who covered up the killing.

On Trial:  Marines for Murder

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Rules of Engagement (2001)


The Worst!

Samuel L. Jackson is a Marine charged with mass murder, after he orders his Marines to open fire on a crowd of civilians, while performing an emergency evacuation of the American ambassador of Yemen.  The film though, is firmly an artifact of a pre-war era, when screenwriters could imagine opening fire on huge crowds of people to be a justifiable response to getting shot at.  It's always bad tactics to massacre 80 some people because someone in the crowd has a weapon.

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Hart's War (2002)


The Worst!

Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell star in this very busy motion picture, which features American military personnel imprisoned at a prisoner of war camp during the second World War.  Plot revolves around two African-American airmen who are charged with murder and the makeshift courtroom that tries them.  (All of which is cover for an I said, a very busy film!)  Unfortunately, there's simply too much going on.

Click through for the Best and Worst Prisoner of War Movies.

Click through for the Best and Worst African American War Movies.

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The Reader (2008)


A film that's both love story, and story of a Holocaust war criminal.  As a young boy, a man was seduced by an older woman.  Years later, she ends up in a criminal trial for the murder of her Jewish prisoners.  Her fate, and conviction, end up hanging on a very small, but very important detail.  A great film.

Click through for the Best and Worst Holocaust Movies.

Click through for the Best and Worst War Love Stories.

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Rico, Johnny. "The Best and Worst of Legal Thriller War Movies." ThoughtCo, Mar. 1, 2017, Rico, Johnny. (2017, March 1). The Best and Worst of Legal Thriller War Movies. Retrieved from Rico, Johnny. "The Best and Worst of Legal Thriller War Movies." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 22, 2017).