Worst War Movies

One of the first posts here that got any traffic was a Top Ten List of Best War Movies.

No Danger Room’s Spencer Ackerman turns that idea on its head- the Worst War Movies. His list features such classics as:

The Annihilators Barely Escape Annihilation

The Annihilators … wow. For those who’ve managed to forget it, it was a 1985 urban revenge fantasy about dealing with criminals like Vietnamese insurgents. The Annihilators, a U.S. commando unit, reconstitute themselves to take South Point, Georgia back from the thugs. But it’s a miracle they survived Vietnam in the first place.

You know what Adm. Bill McRaven, the Special Operations Command chief who masterminded the Osama bin Laden raid, never recommended in his book about successful commando missions? Running into a huge exposed clearing, with one guy as your perimeter security, to take your sweet time detonating a Viet Cong supply tunnel. Also: taking out dudes by putting them in sleeper holds or throwing knives at them. It’s a miracle only one Annihilator gets shot up during this massive Viet Cong assault. These are not going to be the guys you want policing American streets.


I’m not gonna go to the trouble of putting together a list. That’s what I have you for!


39 thoughts on “Worst War Movies”

  1. Passchendaele. Some solid combat scenes are ruined by ridiculous effects- like a machine gun tossing some guy 20ft. The battle is an early an afterthought, getting maybe 10 minutes of screen time. What follows is, to put it charitably, an awkward love story. But its the constant, endless, Canadian self-flagellation that makes it almost unbearable to watch. Think Windtalkers times a hundred, mixed with a season of Oprah.

    1. That’s why you should just watch it as the Iron Maiden video. Great music, all “combat” footage from the film. I’ll admit, it is corny footage, but a great soundtrack…

  2. Spencer’s list was pretty lame.

    Here’s 5 off the top of my head.

    Iron Eagle: Any and all of them. 1 through whatever number they got to…they all sucked.

    Firefox: An interesting senario, poor execution by Mr. Eastwood and company.

    Firebirds: Tommy Lee Jones was the only one in the entire bunch that approached appearing like a real Army aviator, otherwise this film was a complete and total waste.

    Platoon Leader: An 80’s movie about a Platoon Leader in Vietnam starring Michael Dudikoff and produced by The Cannon Group, need I say more?

    Bat 21: Not necessarially for what it was but for what it wasn’t. Having read the book Bat 21 and follow on treatments, this movie shortchanged all the things that made this such a compelling story and made it mundane. Way to go Hollywood the thing you are supposed to be good at, you strip right out of the story.

  3. That little clip had Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington from “Welcome Back Kotter” in it! Priceless! That’s teach him to be 26 in the tenth grade!

    Am I imagining things or did the VC look straight off the reservation? Running Bear Van Thok.

    I dunno which is the worst war movie, but Robert Ryan in The Battle of the Bulge is the worst faked phone call in the history of cinema.

    1. Admiral, good call on bad movie. Also, how about “In the Valley of Elah”? Perhaps followed closely by “Top Gun” which is more a military than a war movie. (Who knew the Rooskies had F-5s?)

  4. I don’t know if Battle of the Bulge is one of the worst war movies per se, but the distinct lack of snow on the ground throughout most of the flick makes me want to throw things at the screen whenever I see it.

  5. Spencer Ackerman’s unconvincing portrayal of the hero, an outraged pencilnecked blogger heroically defenestrating evil right-wingers, in “In the Footsteps of Stalin” was pretty terrible.

  6. Heh, Waterhouse. I was thinking the same thing.

    If there’s a war movie with a Republican’s head going through a pate glass window, that’s sure to be Ackerman’s favorite.

  7. My favorite War Movie is 12 O’Clock High. I liked Firefox, but it isn’t real high on my list. It was high enough for me to buy it, though. Liked Horse Soldiers (even if the bad guys get away), Father Goose, Operation Petticoat, Bridges at Toko Ri (although I hated the ending), Patton, Big Red One, They Were Expendable, Midway, MacArthur, Green Berets (Wayne took a ton of heat for this movie, but the critics were right about why he made the movie and they hated him for it).

    My least favorite was Apocolypse now. Full Metal Jacket is another pretty low on my list. I saw the first Rambo flick at Shelby during AT and disliked it. TOPGUN was done in an attempt to show the Navy in a good light, but the script was pretty sorry. Some of the music was pretty good though. I watched in response to discussion over at Lex’s place. I had to borrow it from my daughter.

    I don’t watch that many movies. Most of my list is from my youth. The newest is Rambo which I saw in ’86 when a couple buddies from my NG unit had nothing better to do so we and washed our BDUs then took in the movie at the camp theater. If I hadn’t run out of reading material I wouldn’t have seen it.

    1. I remember watching Top Gun and thinking if this guy (Maverick) existed in real life – he’d have managed to get a lot of his own people, killed.

      (Well, he did get his RIO killed.) Teamwork, people – didn’t you learn anything from “Patton?”

  8. Southern Comfort. It has the line: “Sometimes you have to put your principles aside and just do what’s right.” Heh.

  9. Thin Red Line
    Pearl Harbor
    Passechdaele (has anyone made a good WWI since Paths of Glory? Why not?)
    The Patriot (Would it have killed someone to take a stand and tell a true story. Francis Marion is a fascinating guy)
    Enemy At The Gates.
    Miracle at St. Anna (So bad I turned it off).
    Flyboys (Why oh why did I let that sneak onto my netflix queue?)
    Force 10 From Navarrone.
    Play Dirty (Michael Caine film from 1969)
    Behind Enemy Lines
    Inglorious Basterds (Tarantino’s version)
    Starship Troopers
    I’m sure there are others. I limited myself to ones I had actually seen. The worst offender I would have to say is U-571 with Pearl Harbor coming close. Although, I will say Mel almost had me rooting for the British to win the American Revolution.

    1. The Lost Battalion is a good WWI movie…made for TV…but it was good.

      Thanks for reminding me of the Thin Red Line, I almost walked out of the theater, what a waste of film.

    2. I had tried so hard to forget Starship Troopers, and here you remind me of that turkey. The Heinlein novel was good, but the movie was dreck beyond description.

  10. Inchon: stupid Korean War movie funded by Rev. Moon.

    Valley of the Wolves: Turkish movie, probably funded by jihadist money, about American troops in Iraq murdering civilians so Israeli doctors can steal their organs. (Never seen it. Will never see anything with Gary Busey again.)

  11. Casualties of War. Can’t get much more stereotypically anti-Vietnam War/Vet, plus the scene at the end where essentially an entire rifle squad closes in on the Vietnamese girl from both sides and cut loose without a single round missing her, or over-penetrating and exiting the 90 lb body and the guys go unscathed by this fusillade.
    But that clip you posted was bad. I liked catching a glimpse of the guy with his left index finger on the trigger of the M16 and his left thumb wrapped around the top of the upper receiver (under the carry handle) like it was wrapped around the stock, as if he has no idea what the pistol grip is for. Typical.

  12. Your first clue that this is going to be a bad movie is guys with grenades hanging off their web harness. The second one is a mission in a jungle and a) everyone is clean as a whistle and b) no one is sweating.

    My additions to great war movies…Hornblower…with Gregory Peck.

    1. There’s a pic of Ridgeway with MacArthur when Ridgeway first goes to Korea. Ridgeway, who was reputed to be the General who had seen the most combat, was wearing grenades on his suspenders.

    2. Prior to the introduction of the M-1956 web gear, finding a place to hang a grenade was a real problem. Hanging them from the harness was actually pretty typical. Nowadays, it’s frowned up.

      A lot of work went into trying to find a safe way of carrying grenades. If you look at Gregory Peck in Pork Chop Hill, he’s got a grenade carrier pouch strapped to his leg. Lots of them were made, but they were decidedly unpopular, mostly because it was really hard to roll over while wearing one.

  13. 1. Battle of the Bulge.
    Tank Battle.
    Because desert, palm trees and dust are common features of Belgium in December.

    2. To Hell and Back. Same thing. France in January 1945 was not known for ponderosa pine, balmy weather and dust. In the midst of battle, all the soldiers are shown with clean shaves and spotless uniforms complete with pant creases. The stunning thing is that this movie was about Audie Murphy and he starred in it. They had the ultimate technical consultant on site and still got it wrong.

    1. I am sure the problems with technical details in To Hell and Back had something to do with the Army giving support to the filming. By the way you didn’t say anything about the “German Army” fighting with M-41s.

      There are certanly many many many military themed films out there worse than To Hell and Back.

    2. Yeah, The German army using our tanks always took me out of these films. A shame, really – especially in films like “Patton.”

      Hopefully Spielberg’s work has put an end to filmmakers thinking they can get away with that.

      Incidentally, there’s a scene in the film, “The Dead Zone,” where the Germans were using a Stuart. A Stuart????

    3. It was hard to make WW2 movies using German hardware since certain unnamed people wrecked almost all of it. Kelly’s Heroes is the only movie I can remember (I’m sure there are more) that Tiger Tanks in it, and those were actually of East European manufacture, not German.

    4. Don’t believe Spielberg had any “real” German armor, either. I know he had his crew heavily modify some surplus Russian armor. Of course the Russian armor wasn’t available back then, either. AND he had some pretty hefty budgets to work with, too.

    5. As mentioned, it’s hard to come up with a lot of surplus German armor. Back in the day, you took what you could get. Which meant US armor.

      And while the Army was pretty willing to provide tanks and troops to support productions, they were pretty stingy about shipping them anywhere. So you either shot you film at Hunter-Liggett (or whereever) or you didn’t shoot your film.

    6. There’s always miniatures. Although it was difficult to convincingly blend live action with effects, back then – it wasn’t impossible. Having done some miniature tank work, myself, I can attest to its’ effectiveness (although it was sci-fi.) Especially if you can do it in a larger scale – 1/6 or better.

      Here’s a 1/4 scale Tiger – which could look very impressive – if they could just shoot it right 😉 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_3BIUborGc

      You could always shoot close ups of modified tanks for some live action integration.

      Okay, done beating this dead horse.

  14. I saw “The Red Barron” a while ago. What a dreadful film. Richthofen was DEFINITELY not a boyish maverick – he was a skilled professional soldier from a military family. Guess they decided to skip the huge amount of literature out there, not to mention Richthofen’s own writings.

    The dogfights were pretty good – even though it was all CGI.

    Can’t blame Hollywood for this one, though. The Germans made this one.

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