Film Reviews

War--What Is It Good For?

Recently I asked the director and screenwriter and several of the stars of Saving Private Ryan what their favorite war movies are. Their selections:

Steven Spielberg (director): "My favorite, favorite war movie is Battleground [MGM, 1949]. It's the story of the Ardennes, and the "Battling Bastards of Bastogne," directed by William Wellman, who I got to know toward the end of his life. As you know, he directed the first movie that ever won an Academy Award, Wings. My second favorite war movie is Lewis Milestone's A Walk in the Sun [Fox, 1946]. Tom Hanks and I looked at that one. We watched about 25 war movies, to avoid glamorization. The last thing I wanted to do was glamorize the Normandy invasions, because they were absolutely a sacrifice."

Robert Rodat, screenwriter: "If I had to choose four, they would be the Lewis Milestone movies, I think--A Walk in the Sun, Pork Chop Hill [United Artists, 1959], All Quiet on the Western Front [Universal, 1930]--and then, [Henry King's] Twelve O'Clock High [Fox, 1949]. I think those films, that were knowing and cynical and made by veterans, spoke to us more than the wartime propaganda films like Guadalcanal Diary [Fox, 1943] or Sands of Iwo Jima [Republic, 1949], or the films of the '60s and '70s that were made by people who hadn't served."

Tom Hanks, actor: "The war movies that I watched when I was growing up were The Dirty Dozen [MGM, 1967] and The Great Escape [United Artists, 1963], stuff like that. But in terms of the genre of war movies, I'm a big fan of The Longest Day [Fox, 1962], just because of the logistics that it took to make that movie back in 1962."

Tom Sizemore, actor: "My favorite war movie is The Deer Hunter [Universal, 1978]. I didn't watch any World War II films to prepare for this movie, because they're not real. I'd rather read, or watch documentaries."

Adam Goldberg, actor: "I'm not too into World War II films; the films from the '40s that I like are the noir films. I guess my favorite World War II picture is From Here to Eternity [Columbia, 1953]. For authenticity, though, it would have to be some Samuel Fuller thing." (Fuller's WWII films include Verboten! [1959], Merrill's Marauders [1962] and the masterful The Big Red One [1979]; he also made China Gate [1957], the first major fiction film about the Vietnam conflict.)

Edward Burns, actor: "I always liked The Great Escape [United Artists, 1963]."

Matt Damon, actor: "Bridge on the River Kwai [Columbia, 1957] and Stalag 17 [Paramount, 1953]."

Giovanni Ribisi, actor: "Saving Private Ryan [Dreamworks, 1998].

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M.V. Moorhead
Contact: M.V. Moorhead