7 Powerful Movies to Watch on Remembrance Day
These classic films capture the valour and the sacrifice, the grit and the grace, of our brave men and women in uniform.
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Saving Private Ryan (1998)
When this Steven Spielberg masterpiece first premiered, the veterans who actually stormed the beach on D-Day said the movie got it right. Spielberg recreated the World War II beach battle so realistically that watching the movie was like living through history as it happened, giving civilians a small taste of what war is really like. The filmmakers aimed to reproduce historic details with painstaking accuracy right down to the tanks and weapons. Tom Hanks portrays Captain Miller, an English teacher by trade who’s tasked with finding and returning the last surviving Ryan brother home to his mom. After gut-wrenching battles, Miller tells Matt Damon (as Private Ryan) to “earn this.” It’s a message for us all.
Photo: Universal Pictures
The Academy Award-nominated hit takes place on the Western Front in northern France, and follows two British soldiers (played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) who are tasked with delivering an urgent message to an isolated regiment. Much has been written about 1917’s technical achievements—it utilizes long takes to appear as if it was shot in one single, continuous take—but the film’s true strength is its emotional power. – Robert Liwanag
1917 is also one the best movies on Netflix Canada, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
The Hurt Locker (2009)
Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director. Her Iraq war thriller, The Hurt Locker, also took the prize for Best Picture. The Hurt Locker gives a searing look at the lives of soldiers sent in to dispose of bombs and booby traps in Baghdad. Jeremy Renner’s performance personifies “grace under pressure.” He gives the impossibly tense ticking bomb scenes a human centre. In all, The Hurt Locker depicts the psychological costs of war as it repeatedly jolts the audience with tense explosions.
Don’t miss these powerful Remembrance Day stories from Canadian veterans.
George C. Scott’s opening monologue as General Patton, delivered in front of an enormous American flag, remains one of the most iconic images in film. Scott won the Best Actor Oscar for his riveting portrayal of the notorious general, but famously refused to accept the award. His performance is noted for capturing Patton’s passion and aggression. The opening speech, both rousing and controversial, suggests the difficult stakes faced in battle and the grit of fighting spirit. Both flawed and heroic, Patton epitomized the heart of war, and showed it was just as brave to fight as it was to be speak your mind unabashedly.
Find out how Cree code talkers from Alberta helped win WWII.
Courage Under Fire (1996)
Meg Ryan stars as the first female officer to receive a posthumous Medal of Honor in this drama about the Gulf War. Denzel Washington investigates her story and gets closer to his own battle scars as he tries to determine whether Ryan as Captain Walden deserves the honour. Poignant scenes include a visit to the daughter she left behind and Matt Damon’s portrayal of the toll of combat trauma. Courage Under Fire‘s multiple perspectives (we see Walden’s story from many different vantages) suggests that we can never really know what goes on in the heat of battle until we’ve been there ourselves.
This powerful gallery of poppy pictures shows how we remember.
Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)
As World War II Sergeant Stryker, John Wayne pushes his men to extremes because that’s the best way to save them. Misunderstood as brutal by the men he leads, Stryker’s harshness is actually meant to keep them alive. No slackers allowed. The tragic ending of Sands of Iwo Jima becomes even more moving when the men find Stryker’s letter home to his son. The iconic flag-raising scene of the battle of Iwo Jima shows the glory of finally winning the battle, while never losing sight of the genuine sacrifice it took to get there.
Find out what D-Day was really like.
Brad Pitt leads a crew of Sherman tank soldiers during World War II in this brutal, haunting depiction of camaraderie during wartime. The men band together for heroic feats during scenes of intensely realistic tank warfare. Despite the action sequences, Fury‘s heart is with the men, their friendships, and the idea that they will do anything for each other. We watch a young, conscientious objector (Logan Lerman) join their team as a replacement. At first, he can’t pull the trigger, but we watch as he learns to shoot and kill, not only for his own survival, but to aid the men who fight alongside him. Fury‘s scenes of devastating violence bring the meaning of sacrifice to light.
Next, check out these powerful Remembrance Day quotes to share on November 11.