When people discuss their favourite war films, what comes to mind? Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket, All Quiet on the Western Front, Platoon? As good as all those might be, I’m here to shine a light on the newest of war films: Modern War. Looking at all films that show the tragedy and horror of war, the battle and the aftermath, please take a dismal and disheartening stroll through films of our bravest.


#10 – American Sniper

Top 10 Modern War Films Set After 1990

Clint Eastwood makes great films, war or not. American Sniper is capitalised by a strong performance by Bradley Cooper and a compelling and timely story. The film seemed almost more important than actually successful, or decent for that matter. Showing less the cruelty of war and more the superhero-like-abilities of Chris Kyle; this film was significant but hasn’t really stood the test of time, even just a few years later.


#9 – 13 Hours

Top 10 Modern War Films Set After 1990

When did it become a running gag to say that Michael Bay is a bad filmmaker? He isn’t, he’s actually an extremely talented action director and when placed with a compelling cast can make a truly moving film. 13 Hours Is a balls-to-the-wall film that is just as suspenseful as it as impressive. John Krasinski proved his ability to be badass and we were able to see what Bay can truly accomplish when humour, robots, and a PG-13 rating is stripped away.


#8 – Brothers

Top 10 Modern War Films Set After 1990

This is a list of the best films that deal with war, not the most “warie” films. Brothers doesn’t deal much with Tobey Maguire’s time in the field, but the effects of it are shown heavily and commendably. Maguire as well as his co-stars, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal, all give tear-jerking performances. This might not be an action-packed or battle driven film, but I’ll be damned if it’s not one of the most memorable on this list.


#7 – Zero Dark Thirty

Top 10 Modern War Films Set After 1990

I’m sure I’ll be getting flack for putting this film so low on the list, but this film isn’t so much about war and the effects of it as it is one woman’s quest to bring Bin Laden to justice. This is an extraordinary film but doesn’t leave me thinking about the horrors of war as it does in awe of an incredible story. What does give it merit to be seventh is the final half-hour. One of the greatest directed action sequences of all time; Seal Team Six’s raid on Bin Laden’s compound was astonishing and really showed director, Kathryn Bigelow’s ability to not just show a slow and moving drama, but also a realistic and intense invasion.


#6 – Beasts of No Nation

Top 10 Modern War Films Set After 1990

At no point did I establish this had to be an American war film. Beasts of No Nation is just as dramatic, heart-pounding, electrifying, and impressive as any movie on this list. Cary Joji Fukanaga followed up his helming of one of the greatest TV events (season one of “True Detective”) with a personal and emotional journey of a young boy’s hardship from an innocent citizen of an African country to a ruthless child soldier. Fukanaga’s one shots are impressive enough to deem this film unbelievable, but the performances of the young cast as well as Idris Elba’s helped Netflix make their first feature film a success.


#5 – Lone Survivor

Top 10 Modern War Films Set After 1990

The partnership between director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg is becoming a thing of pure beauty; going two for two with Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon (as well as Patriot’s Day down the road). The film’s quartet consists of Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, and Taylor Kitsch as they struggle through morality and bullets. This movie isn’t a ‘get shot once and you’re done’ film; these men go through hell to try and survive. This is a tough film. It doesn’t censor and it doesn’t downplay what these four men had to go through.


#4 – Black Hawk Down

Top 10 Modern War Films Set After 1990

Rarely do you see a film get Oscar nomination for best director without the accompanying best picture nod, and not only did Black Hawk Down achieve that, but it won. That fact as evidence, one thing you can say is that this is one damn well-directed film. Shot as though it is one long action sequence, director Ridley Scott took his young and soon to be amazing cast and had them show you first hand the horrors of war without talking about them, but putting you in them. The film is severe, graphic, and unrelenting; not because it wants to shock you, but because that’s how war is.


#3 – The Messenger

Top 10 Modern War Films Set After 1990

360’ing from the film prior, The Messenger is a tough and realistic drama that doesn’t even have a gun in it let alone a battle. Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster star in the film about a couple of recent war vets whose job it is to divulge to family members that their husband/son has been KIA. Both actors have some incredible and dramatic roles under their belt but nothing equates to the two sitting on a couch, telling horror stories, and then instantaneously breaking down to tears. Where the next entry shows the terrors of men and woman face during war, this one shows the terrors after.


#2 – Jarhead

Top 10 Modern War Films Set After 1990

Can anyone explain to me why Jarhead is regarded as one of Sam Mendes’ worst films? It’s incredible and has penetrated me deeper than most movies are able to. Jake Gyllenhaal was yet to be the vetted star he is now, it shows having this film and Brokeback Mountain released in the same year solidified his capacity. *Minor Spoiler* The main character’s line, “I never even fired my gun” near the end of the movie really justifies how excellent this film is. With almost no action at all, we see just how being in the middle-east during the Gulf War was torture enough. At some point, everyone in the film shows their breaking point and every time it gets harder and harder to endure. If there was ever a film to be branded a downer, this one is a worthy contender.


#1 – The Hurt Locker

Top 10 Modern War Films Set After 1990

Just to state facts, this is the only film on the list to win the best picture, and it beat Avatar to do so. Kathryn Bigelow’s second film on the list earns the top prize for no reason other than it is an incredible film. Where the other films focused solely on drama, or action, or intensity, The Hurt Locker has all three and doesn’t weigh on one more than another. Nearly unseen of during its theatrical run, the film garnered a cult following after it was nominated for nine Academy Awards. Many will disagree that this film is able to beat out the likes of the nine that preceded it, but I challenge anyone to watch this film and tell me it’s not as powerful as any film they’ve EVER seen.