Felix Kammerer and Albrecht Schuch in "All Quiet on the Western Front."

30 great anti-war movies

Written by:
February 21, 2023

30 great anti-war movies

War is an unfortunate subject that continues to be relevant throughout history. When the dust settles and the bloody aftermath is tallied, and sometimes even before then, creatives give their views on the situation through outlets like music, literature, and film. Because, like war, human connection is also a practice as old as time.

Stacker researched the history of films with a heavy anti-war theme, tone, or sentiment and spotlighted 30 of the best. To qualify, the film had to have at least a 7.0 on IMDb or 70 Metascore and at least 1,500 IMDb user votes.

These films range from commentary on World War I just months after the fighting ceased to critiques of recent wars and modern views on historical events. These films show how directors have found different ways to pull at the heartstrings and convey their messages, using drama to portray the miseries of war or even leaning into satire or comedy. This list includes fictional stories, films based on real-life events, documentaries, animated movies, and even a musical, proving there are many ways to deliver a stance powerfully.

Scroll through to see what films have helped audiences remember the consequences of war and why peace continues to be an important goal.

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

- Director: Oliver Stone
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Metascore: 75
- Runtime: 145 minutes

"Born on the Fourth of July" is based on the autobiography of anti-war activist Ron Kovic, a former Marine Corps sergeant who was paralyzed while fighting in the Vietnam War. The film touches on his childhood, his time in the military and Vietnam, and how he became an anti-war activist. It's the second installment in director Oliver Stone's trilogy about the Vietnam War, including 1986's "Platoon" and 1993's "Heaven and Earth."

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

- Director: Stanley Kubrick
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Metascore: 97
- Runtime: 95 minutes

Stanley Kubrick chose a satirical approach to the topic of war while creating "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb." The iconic black comedy presents the Cold War fears of nuclear war through the eyes of unhinged U.S. Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, who orders a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, and the U.S. president as he and his advisors desperately attempt to stop the attack.

All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

- Director: Edward Berger
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 76
- Runtime: 148 minutes

Adapted from the 1929 novel of the same name, "All Quiet on the Western Front" shows the perils of war through the lens of a young German soldier named Paul Bäumer. The movie takes place during the final days of World War I and depicts the horrors Bäumer and his friends endure after being persuaded to enlist in the German army. Their views on war quickly transform from romantic heroism to simply trying to survive after they're deployed.

The Deer Hunter (1978)

- Director: Michael Cimino
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Metascore: 86
- Runtime: 183 minutes

"The Deer Hunter" boasts an all-star cast of Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and John Savage, who play friends Mike Vronsky, Nick Chevotarevich, and Steven Pushkov, respectively, that end up fighting alongside each other in the Vietnam War. The film explores not only the horrors soldiers face while at war, but also the lasting PTSD many suffer after coming home.

Come and See (1985)

- Director: Elem Klimov
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 142 minutes

"Come and See" is a Soviet movie that centers around the Nazi German occupation of Belarus during World War II. The story follows a Belarusian partisan teen named Flyora, who joins the resistance movement, and the atrocities he witnesses the Nazis inflict upon his people.

Waltz with Bashir (2008)

- Director: Ari Folman
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: 91
- Runtime: 90 minutes

"Waltz with Bashir" is an Israeli animated war documentary drama that explores director Ari Folman's time fighting in the 1982 Lebanon War. The film follows his journey as he struggles to remember his time at war after realizing he can't recall anything about his deployment.

J'accuse! (1919)

- Director: Abel Gance
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 166 minutes

Released just months after the end of World War I, "J'accuse!" is a French silent film that juxtaposes a romance with the horrors of war. It was filmed in 1918, and some of the extras were actual soldiers. "'J'Accuse' for me was not just a film," director Abel Gance said, mentioning that many of his own friends died in the trenches of WWI. "I had a feeling of frenzy to use this new medium, the cinema, to show the world the stupidity of war."

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

- Director: Isao Takahata
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Metascore: 94
- Runtime: 89 minutes

"Grave of the Fireflies" is a Japanese animated film that depicts the tragedies of war through the eyes of children. Its main characters, Seita and Setsuko Yokokawa, survive the bombing of Kobe in World War II, but unfortunately, their lives only become harder in the aftermath.

The Thin Red Line (1998)

- Director: Terrence Malick
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 78
- Runtime: 170 minutes

"The Thin Red Line" is a film without being overtly political. The movie tells the fictionalized story of the soldiers that comprised C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, and 25th Infantry Division, and their experience at the Battle of Gifu during World War II. Through its all-star cast of Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas, Ben Chaplin, and more, director Terrence Malick focuses more on the hearts of each character, opting for a soulful look into the terrors of war.

Paths of Glory (1957)

- Director: Stanley Kubrick
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Metascore: 90
- Runtime: 88 minutes

Another film directed by Stanley Kubrick, "Paths of Glory" is set during World War I. It tells the story of Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) as he tries to defend his soldiers from charges of cowardice after they refuse to continue a suicidal mission.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

- Director: Francis Ford Coppola
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Metascore: 94
- Runtime: 147 minutes

Set during the Vietnam War, "Apocalypse Now" is a wild ride of a film that depicts the savageness and absurdity of war. Interestingly enough, director Francis Ford Coppola hesitates to call it anti-war, though.

"No one wants to make a pro-war film, everyone wants to make an anti-war film," he said in 2019. "But an anti-war film, I always thought, should be like 'The Burmese Harp'—something filled with love and peace and tranquility and happiness. It shouldn't have sequences of violence that inspire a lust for violence."

The Burmese Harp (1956)

- Director: Kon Ichikawa
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 116 minutes

"The Burmese Harp" is a World War II movie told from the Japanese perspective. It tells the story of soldiers who fought in the Burma campaign. When one of their comrades goes missing after the war, the other soldiers set out to see if he survived and, in the process, find a harp-playing Buhhdist monk who resembles their friend.

The Cranes Are Flying (1957)

- Director: Mikhail Kalatozov
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 95 minutes

Set during World War II, "The Cranes Are Flying" is a movie that explores the harm war inflicted on the Soviet psyche. The story begins on June 22, 1941—the day Germans invaded Moscow—and depicts how two lovers, Boris and Veronika, weather the consequences of conflict.

Turtles Can Fly (2004)

- Director: Bahman Ghobadi
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: 85
- Runtime: 98 minutes

"Turtles Can Fly" is a Kurdish movie that tells the story of four refugee children on the Iraq-Turkey border as they await the Americans to invade Iraq and take down Saddam Hussein. It was notably the first film to be made in Iraq after the fall of Hussein.

The Battle of Algiers (1966)

- Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Metascore: 96
- Runtime: 121 minutes

"The Battle of Algiers" depicts the events of the eponymous campaign led by the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale against the French government during the 1950s. The film focuses on revolutionary fighter Ali La Pointe, and director Gillo Pontecorvo recruited mainly nonprofessional actors who lived through the actual battle.

Joint Security Area (2000)

- Director: Park Chan-wook
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: 58
- Runtime: 110 minutes

"Joint Security Area" is a mystery-thriller that depicts the frozen conflict between North and South Korea. The story centers around a fatal shooting in the Korean Demilitarized Zone and the investigation of the murder.

Starship Troopers (1997)

- Director: Paul Verhoeven
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 52
- Runtime: 129 minutes

"Starship Troopers" may be a movie based on a fictional intergalactic war, but its anti-war themes have been praised (after people realized it was a satire). The film was actually panned by critics upon its initial release—who thought that it was promoting fascism—when in reality director Paul Verhoeven's goal all along was irony.

Threads (1984)

- Director: Mick Jackson
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: 92
- Runtime: 112 minutes

The BBC television film "Threads" tells the horrific hypothetical story of what could happen during a nuclear war. Set in Sheffield, England, the movie shows the catastrophic damage done after a nuclear bomb is dropped, including plummeting temperatures of a nuclear winter. Its chilling tagline says it all: "The closest you'll ever want to come to nuclear war."

The Fog of War (2003)

- Director: Errol Morris
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Metascore: 87
- Runtime: 107 minutes

"The Fog of War" is a documentary about the life of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who served under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. In the film, he discusses his views on modern warfare and his roles in the Cuban missile crisis and the Vietnam War. In addition to making tough decisions as secretary of defense, McNamara also served in the air forces during World War II.

Platoon (1986)

- Director: Oliver Stone
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Metascore: 92
- Runtime: 120 minutes

"Platoon" is the first installment of Oliver Stone's Vietnam War trilogy and is based on the director's own experience in the war as a U.S. infantryman. While other war films make fighting seem fantastical and, in some cases, glamorous, "Platoon" shows the real, gritty nature of warfare and purposely doesn't have a standard hero.

The Grand Illusion (1937)

- Director: Jean Renoir
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 113 minutes

Released nearly 20 years after World War I, "The Grand Illusion" is a French film that explores class relationships among a group of French officers who are plotting their escape after becoming prisoners of war. The movie's title comes from a 1909 book of the same name that argued war did not make sense from a social or economic standpoint.

A Hidden Life (2019)

- Director: Terrence Malick
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 78
- Runtime: 174 minutes

"A Hidden Life" tells the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who refused to fight for the Nazis during World War II. A devout Catholic, Jägerstätter wrestles with the notion that his decision will most likely lead to prison and even death, but his faith in God helps him find peace.

Gallipoli (1981)

- Director: Peter Weir
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 65
- Runtime: 110 minutes

Set during World War I, "Gallipoli" centers a group of young Australian men who enlist in the Australian army. They get sent to the eponymous peninsula in the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey) to fight in the Gallipoli campaign, and during their time there, they begin to realize the truths of war.

Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)

- Director: Alain Resnais
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 90 minutes

"Hiroshima Mon Amour" is considered one of the most influential movies of the French New Wave for its uses of flashbacks and nonlinear storytelling. The story itself is told through intense dialogue between a French actress visiting Hiroshima to make an anti-war film and a married Japanese architect who fought in World War II. In addition to being an anti-war film itself, "Hiroshima Mon Amour" is also a romantic drama.

Hotel Rwanda (2004)

- Director: Terry George
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Metascore: 79
- Runtime: 121 minutes

Based on the Rwandan genocide, "Hotel Rwanda" tells the true story of hotelier Paul Rusesabagina and his wife Tatiana's efforts to save lives during the violent attacks. Rusesabagina heroically housed his family and more than 1,000 refugees fleeing the Interahamwe militia in Hôtel des Mille Collines.

Hearts and Minds (1974)

- Director: Peter Davis
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Metascore: 68
- Runtime: 112 minutes

Released shortly after the United States pulled out of the Vietnam War, "Hearts and Minds" is a polarizing documentary praised for its rawness and criticized for its heavy-handedness. Its title is taken from the Lyndon B. Johnson quote, "The ultimate victory will depend on the hearts and minds of the people who actually live out there," and despite its divisiveness, the film won the Oscar for Best Documentary at the 1975 Academy Awards.

M*A*S*H (1970)

- Director: Robert Altman
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 80
- Runtime: 116 minutes

Though set during the Korean War, the subtext of "M*A*S*H" is the Vietnam War, which was going on when it was released. The film used comedy to tell its story about a group of medical personnel running a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital and, at its core, portrayed the miseries of war. "M*A*S*H" was so successful that it was adapted into a television series that ran from 1972-1983.

Tigerland (2000)

- Director: Joel Schumacher
- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Metascore: 55
- Runtime: 101 minutes

Named after an actual U.S. Army training camp for infantrymen preparing to fight in the Vietnam War, "Tigerland" follows Private Roland Bozz (Colin Farrell), a draftee opposed to the war. During his time in camp, Bozz tries to find ways for his fellow soldiers to get out of the Army and inspires others to do the same.

Hair (1979)

- Director: Milos Forman
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 68
- Runtime: 121 minutes

"Hair" is a musical dramedy set during the Vietnam War. It tells the story of draftee Claude Hooper Bukowski, who befriends a group of hippies while en route to the army induction center. His new friends introduce Bukowski to drugs, unconventional relationships, and draft evasion.

The Great Dictator (1940)

- Director: Charles Chaplin
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 125 minutes

Known as his first true talkie, Charlie Chaplin condemns Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Nazis, fascism, and antisemitism in "The Great Dictator." In the satirical black comedy, Chaplin plays the roles of both a fascist dictator and a persecuted Jewish barber.

The movie was released at the onset of World War II, and in his 1964 autobiography, Chaplin lamented his decision to mock Hitler. "Had I known the actual horrors of the German concentration camps, I could not have made 'The Great Dictator,'" he wrote. "I could not have made fun of the homicidal insanity of the Nazis."

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