Veterans Choose the Least Realistic War Movies

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G.I. Jane

G.I. Jane.

Crime: Gets all the details about SEALs wrong.

The reason for veterans' intense dislike of this film by veterans is simple: The film gets everything wrong about Navy SEALs. Why, when you're trying to make a serious drama about the first woman Navy SEAL, would you not get the simple details right?  From fictional training to a non-exist Navy SEAL boot camp in Florida, the film decides to put forward inaccurate details about the world it's attempting to represent.  A completely baffling choice, especially given that getting it right would have been so easy to do, and cost them nothing additional.  (Here's a list of the best and worst war movies about Navy SEALs.)

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Crime: Officers in charge of battleships don't get to also be screw-ups.

The screwup is one of the classic characters in war films. This is the character that is anti-establishment, makes wise-cracking jokes to the Drill Sergeant, and is always one step away from being put in the brig...permanently!  But normally this character is a low-ranking private. In Battleship, the character is the officer in charge of one of the battleships, and it immediately marks this film as being written for twelve-year-olds. One of the worst naval war films of all time.

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Three Kings

Crime:  A Special Forces soldier doesn't just take two lower enlisted men that he doesn't know and head off base to look for gold.

In the Best and Worst War Movies about Iraq, I called David O. Russell's Three Kings one of the best war movies about the country.  And I called it one of the best for a reason—there's a lot to like about this film: a talented director, two strong performances by Clooney and Wahlberg in the leading roles, and a wacky irreverent script that doesn't conform to the rules. But in our poll, veterans—especially combat arms veterans—couldn't get past one of the film's central plot points: that a Special Forces soldier would come upon a gold map and casually embark into the Iraq desert bringing a couple of lower enlisted soldiers in tow. As any war veteran knows, this is just not done.  Secretly leaving ​base and heading off into the country by yourself is the sort of crime that gets you 20 in Leavenworth and charges of AWOL, even if your intent was just to steal some gold and head right back to base. It's a clever film that unfortunately uses an absurd plot point, and consequently, it shows a military that no veteran can relate to.

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Crime: It's a war film that completely disregards any real-life facts about the Army Rangers.

Basic stars Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta as Army Rangers involved in war crimes. This is not a serious examination of the costs and penalties of war, but rather an action film that's intended to be intense and clever. The plot though is so incomprehensible that one can barely understand what's going on. When I actually sat through and plotted the storyline, I realized it simply didn't make any sense, that the film violated its own rules and that it was impossible to exist as the film suggests. It also gets everything wrong about Army Rangers from the uniform to the rank, to tactics, to well...everything. (The film has the soldiers saluting a noncommissioned officer, for instance.) They didn't even try with this one and veterans hate them for it. 

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The Thin Red Line

The Thin Red Line.


Crime: Soldiers and Marines don't speak in poetry-verse when they think to themselves.

Terrence Malick's three-hour war film about Marines in the South Pacific during the second World War is not a traditional war film. Yes, there are battles and violence.  But rather than having a 'Ra! Ra!' patriotism, the film is brooding and insular, with many shots of soldiers simply observing the destruction of war and talking to themselves in interior monologue.

The acting, camera work, and production values are all superb. But Marines don't speak in poetic dialogue! The film so infuriated me that I called it one of the worst war films of all time.  Veterans seemed to agree with my assessment.

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Your Citation
Rico, Johnny. "Veterans Choose the Least Realistic War Movies." ThoughtCo, Mar. 1, 2017, Rico, Johnny. (2017, March 1). Veterans Choose the Least Realistic War Movies. Retrieved from Rico, Johnny. "Veterans Choose the Least Realistic War Movies." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 23, 2017).