Best and Worst Tank Movies of All Time

There are hundreds of infantry war movies. There are even quite a few submarine war movies. And there are lots of fighter jet war movies. There are virtually no tank war movies. In honor of the release of Fury, one of the first war movies to focus on the war as seen from the perspective of a tank commander, we present the best and worst of tank war movies throughout the history of cinema.

01
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Patton (1970)

Patton

The Best!

Patton was one of the first films to show tanks in combat. It's relatively early in the film where Patton first takes control of American II Corps and faces off against Rommel at El Guettar. What follows is one of the largest, most ambitious battles ever put to film as dozens of American and German tanks trade fire while swarming with hundreds of infantry soldiers. There's also attacks from the air and artillery. Truly one of the more magnificent battle re-creations in the history of cinema. I've re-watched the film to ensure they weren't using models, and they don't. There are simply too many shots showing tanks next to actors; the tanks in this film are full service and operational. This means that the filmmakers of Patton effectively re-created a real-life battle to 100% scale. If that's not dedicated filmmaking, I don't know what is!  (Hint:  The Americans win!)

02
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Tank (1984)

Tank

The Worst!

This 1984 James Garner film isn't much of a war film. It's supposed to be a comedy, but it was short on laughs. The plot involves a local Sergeant Major (James Garner) getting into a feud with a local corrupt Sheriff. When the local Sheriff arrests his son in order to apply pressure to Garner's sergeant, Garner takes an Army tank from the base and busts his son out of jail. Then they hightail it to the state line, because you know...when you steal a tank, once you cross the state line, they can't arrest you anymore. Not sure who the audience was for this, but I imagine it was the same crowd that made Smokey & the Bandit a big hit. But hey, at least it's a tank movie.

03
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The Beast (1988)

The Beast

The Best!

The Beast is a Russian war movie set in Afghanistan inside a tank. Having been a soldier in Afghanistan, I can attest that there's a reason American forces didn't use tanks (something about mountains? Uneven terrain?) The Russians deal with death, survival, crazed commanders, and harsh conditions. This film is hard to find as it was never released in the United States, but it has become something of a cult classic.

04
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Tank Girl (1995)

Tank Girl

The Worst!

Not really a war movie. But it has a tank. Lori Petty is some sort of punk character in a dystopian future where there's ongoing battle over the last of the water resources. Tank Girl is called Tank Girl because she lives in a tank. She also has a half man / half kangaroo played by Ice-T. As you may have already inferred, it'd be entirely okay to skip this film if you were attempting to watch all the tank-based war movies.

05
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Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Saving Private Ryan

The Best!

One of the most popular war movies of all time ends with Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) and Private Ryan (Matt Damon) attempting to hold a small village named Ramelle with a very small contingent of U.S. soldiers. Which, they might have had a chance to hold if they didn't have to face off against a German Tiger tank. The finale - tank vs. human infantry soldiers - is exhilarating, violent, and intense. As shown in this film, tanks are rather durable and not easily destroyed.

06
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Fury (2014)

Fury

The Best!

This ultra-violent Brad Pitt film shows a Sherman tank crew behind enemy lines in the closing days of World War II.  The camera switches between the massive battlefield where tanks fire obliterating shells at one another, where a single hit can mean everyone dying, to the claustrophobic interiors of the tank which are filled with sweat and blood. The first war film to focus on tanks and the sorts of battles that they fought.