Best War Movies from the Last 10 Years

War movies have captivated audiences for many years. Unfortunately, war and its aftermath have impacted every country, and we continue to crave stories that help us make sense of it all. Some of the greatest cinematic storytelling takes place within war films, and it’s not the sweeping shots of battlefields or gory scenes that hook audiences — it’s the characters. Consuming stories about characters navigating tough, dangerous times restores our faith in humanity and also inspires hope that we can get through the struggles we face.


Not all war stories are on the front lines following soldiers. Some are about the effects on the friends and families back home, the veterans post-war, and people who help the effort in other, often covert, ways. Romance stories. Friendship stories. Survival stories. The war film genre has it all. But often, when searching for recommendations, classic films top the list. Yet in recent years, so many great directors, producers, and cast members have come together to add valuable films to this space. Here are the best war movies from the last 10 years.


10 Sand Castle (2017)

Sand Castle
Netflix

Young soldier Matt in Sand Castle should feel honored to be fighting for and defending his country in the Iraq War, but all he wants to do is go home. Getting money for college motivated him to enlist in the first place, but even that couldn’t urge him on during this chaotic time. He even injures himself in an attempt to get sent home, though that proves futile. One of the most important (and dangerous) missions he’s sent on is to repair the water system in a village. They have to go to the water pump, fill up on water, and deliver it to the villagers each day. Recruiting some of the locals could assist them, but they don’t want to help the American soldiers encroaching on their homes.

What Makes It Great

Despite the soldiers being the protagonists of this film, Sand Castle also highlights the points of view of the civilians. To some, it looks like the soldiers are “just trying to help” and the animosity the civilians aim toward them is unwarranted. At one point Matt says, “I don’t belong here,” and that is one of the main ideas the film is trying to convey. Whether their intentions are good or bad, the people in this village want their home back. The performances were top-notch, from Henry Cavill’s convincing Southern twang as Captain Syverson to Nicholas Hoult as the soldier in over his head.

Stream on Netflix

9 Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

hacksaw ridge

Hacksaw Ridge

Release Date
October 7, 2016

Director
Mel Gibson

Cast
Andrew Garfield, Richard Pyros, Jacob Warner, Milo Gibson, Darcy Bryce, Roman Guerriero

Rating
R

Main Genre
Drama

Genres
Drama, Biography, Documentary, History, War

Hacksaw Ridge is another biographical World War II film. This one centers on Desmond Doss, a combat medic with a set of rules he followed that made his position as a combat medic even more precarious. As both a pacifist and a Christian, he did not believe in using or carrying weapons, even if it meant putting himself at great risk. Doss’ religious beliefs make him somewhat of an outcast among his comrades, and they even attempt to get him discharged from the army. With so much torment he faces, viewers will question whether Doss will get broken by the system or if he’ll break the system.

What Makes It Great

A lot of the soldiers in war films start to blend together after a while. Many are underdogs who are overwhelmed by their circumstances and physically tossed around by their peers. Here, Doss has a bit of the underdog quality to him, but his devotion to his beliefs and his insistence that this is the moral way to be involved in war (if such a thing is possible) is intriguing. Getting glimpses into Doss’ upbringing and key life events helps us understand why he holds strong to his pacifist views.

Stream on Netflix

8 A Private War (2018)

Rosamund Pike in A Private War
Aviron Pictures

A Private War is a biographical war drama, though this time the central figure is a journalist. Marie Colvin covers wars around the world in her articles for The Sunday Times. While in Sri Lanka, she and those around her are attacked by the army. The attack is so brutal that Marie loses an eye. Despite these events, Marie is still passionate about bringing to light the tragic events happening around the world. The latest place to capture her attention is Homs, Syria, where she wants to inform the public about the innocent lives being taken. But if she’s not careful, she could be one of them.

What Makes It Great

Everyone knows war is dangerous. For those who are fighting in the armies and the civilians who are living in the impacted areas. What doesn’t get as much attention is the danger placed upon those dedicated to keeping us all informed. Marie goes above and beyond than most journalists, but the film still highlights the danger associated with airing out the truth. Rosamund Pike truly transforms herself to give a gritty portrayal of this iconic journalist.

Stream on Starz

7 American Sniper (2014)

american sniper

American Sniper

Release Date
December 25, 2014

Director
Clint Eastwood

Cast
Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, E.R. Ruiz, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Max Charles

Rating
R

Main Genre
Action

Genres
Action, War

American Sniper is a 2014 film directed by Clint Eastwood. It is based on the life and memoir of Chris Kyle, one of the most accurate and deadly snipers in U.S. history. Chris (played by Bradley Cooper) learned how to handle a gun from a young age thanks to shooting and hunting practice with his dad. After a breakup forces him to question his life, he enlists in the Navy. After the 9/11 attacks, Chris is sent to Iraq. If he thought his kills would be restricted to armed officials, he quickly learns otherwise.

What Makes It Great

Chris is back and forth between home, where he has a wife and growing family, and the different tours he’s sent on. And it becomes clear that he’s not the same man he was before enlisting. Often war films show the person’s life after a war has finished and they never go back, but Chris’ yo-yoing between these two lives is a unique take. The toll of war is far-reaching and the scenes with his wife and children resonate deeply with audiences. Even if viewers read the actual Chris Kyle memoir, there is still a lot to glean from Cooper’s performance.

Stream on Max

6 Fury (2014)

fury

Fury

Release Date
October 15, 2014

Director
David Ayer

Cast
Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, logan lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal, Jim Parrack

Rating
R

Main Genre
Drama

Genres
Drama, Action, Documentary, War

Fury follows an American tank crew in Germany months before the end of the Second World War. This crew has fought through many battles together and suffered great losses, including one of their own. When a new member joins their team, he is not welcome with open arms. This new young guy Norman isn’t as cynical and cutthroat as some of the other men, nor does he have the same level of combat skill as the others. The film is about the journey of the crew as they plunge further into Nazi-occupied Germany and have to work together when the end of this brutal time is within sight.

What Makes It Great

In many ways, Fury hits many beats you’d expect for a war film. There are several scenes where the uniform-clad soldiers are lurking through destroyed towns, weapons in tow. Yet there is a certain layer of authenticity to the film, particularly as viewers get to know Norman better. Perhaps this is due to writer and director David Ayer taking inspiration from firsthand accounts of soldiers involved in the war. Fury does not sugarcoat the gruesome bits and though it makes for a difficult watch at times, in the end, it’s worth it.

Stream on Starz

5 The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)

the zookeepers wife

The Zookeeper’s Wife

Release Date
March 31, 2017

Director
Niki Caro

Cast
Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Daniel Brühl, Timothy Radford, Efrat Dor, Iddo Goldberg

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Biography

Genres
Biography, Documentary, History

The Zookeeper’s Wife is a war drama based on a non-fiction book. The story recounts the extraordinary acts of Jan and Antonina Żabińska who helped hundreds of Polish Jewish people by keeping them hidden in the unlikely setting of a zoo. Both of them work at the Warsaw Zoo, which is threatened to be overrun by a zoologist and Hitler supporter from Berlin. This zoologist shows he is capable of intense cruelty, yet still, Jan and Antonina decide to hide Jewish people there. But with more frequent appearances by the Germans, getting them away from danger is increasingly challenging.

What Makes It Great

The unique premise is an instant draw for historical fans and the fact that it’s based on true events is even more fascinating. Antonina (played by Jessica Chastain) shone throughout the film, with her tenderness toward the animals and those she helped hide juxtaposed by the strength she had to display in the face of the Nazis and Nazi supporters.

Since the film called for the inclusion of many species of animals, it also served as a comparison to see the ferociousness and gentleness of the animals contrasted to that of the humans. Even if viewers feel burnt out on World War II narratives, this one deserves a chance.

Stream on Netflix

4 Dunkirk (2017)

Dunkirk

Dunkirk

Release Date
July 19, 2017

Director
Christopher Nolan

Cast
Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Harry Styles, James D’Arcy

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Drama

Genres
Drama, Action, Documentary, History, Thriller, War

Dunkirk is another Christopher Nolan film about a real event during World War II. Tommy is a British Allied soldier who is in a town called Dunkirk in northern France. After an attack leaving many dead, Tommy finds his way to a beach where other soldiers are awaiting evacuation. Getting away from Dunkirk is more difficult and dangerous than any of them imagined. Even when ships arrive, they either won’t accept them, the ships are attacked and sunk, or they face threats on land. The frustration and fear cause tensions to mount, and soon the soldiers who are fighting on the same side turn on each other.

What Makes It Great

The cinematic and storytelling decisions truly helped this movie sing. In pivotal scenes, dialogue is scarce and the actors (as well as the score) do a lot of the heavy lifting to translate the feeling to the audience. In the wrong hands, this choice could’ve left the film feeling flat and empty. Instead, it piled onto the emotional weight of the film. While the scenes with the soldiers facing outside threats are action-packed and exciting, the moments where the men have conflict with each other are the most memorable.

Rent on Apple TV

3 Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation
Netflix

Beasts of No Nation is about a boy named Agu, who lives in a West African country. He and his family are living during a tumultuous time, as their country is in the midst of a civil war. With word that rebels are soon to reach their town, his father must make the difficult decision to send Agu’s mother and the two smallest children to a safer town, while Agu, his father, and his brother stay behind. After traumatic events cause Agu to flee, he is soon forced to be a child soldier and commit acts that would be hard for anyone, let alone a kid.

What Makes It Great

It seems that most war films center on European countries during the First or Second World Wars. While those stories are important to tell, there are other wars that people still know little about or countries that contributed to those wars but are forgotten. Beasts of No Nation stands out with its focus on West Africa, even if the specific country doesn’t get named. It’s also not common to see the story of a child soldier. Agu has to commit grizzly acts and seeing his internal conflict will emotionally impact any viewer.

Stream on Netflix

2 Oppenheimer (2023)

Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer

Release Date
July 21, 2023

Director
Christopher Nolan

Cast
Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Gary Oldman, Josh Hartnett, Jack Quaid, Kenneth Branagh, Rami Malek, Alex Wolff, Matthew Modine

Main Genre
Biography

Genres
Biography, Drama, History

Read Our Review

Christopher Nolan’s 180-minute behemoth of a movie, Oppenheimer had lots of attention during its summer 2023 release. This biographical film tells the story of real-life theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, whose skill and knowledge in the world of nuclear weapons had a great impact on World War II.

Oppenheimer at first struggles to get through his studies in Cambridge. Later, when he’s back in the States, he is asked to assist with the Manhattan Project, a key program to develop an atomic bomb. While getting involved can be dangerous and have lifelong consequences, several reasons push Oppenheimer to come aboard, one reason being his Jewish heritage.

What Makes It Great

Oppenheimer works well as a war film because it gives in-depth historical context and background to immerse viewers into the world without sacrificing character development. Oppenheimer is not a perfect man; he makes morally questionable decisions and is unfaithful to his wife, yet also struggles with anxiety and confidence.

Oppenheimer proves war films don’t have to take place mostly in battle scenes to be interesting or communicate the high stakes of the war. The film could’ve ended in 1945, but followed his story after. To see a once-celebrated man now having to defend himself in a court of law. How quickly the tides turned against him and witnessing how Oppenheimer dealt with both the destruction and good his involvement caused was very impactful.

Watch in theaters

1 All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

Release Date
October 28, 2022

Director
Edward Berger

Cast
Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, Daniel Brühl

Rating
R

Main Genre
War

Genres
Action, Drama, War

Read Our Review

All Quiet on the Western Front started as a novel published in 1929 and has taken on different lives: as an anti-war Elton John song and three screen adaptations. The 2022 film adaptation gives a fresh twist on the cherished story. Set during World War I, our protagonist Paul is just 17 years old when he enlists in the army along with a few of his friends. To them, fighting in the war is a true show of patriotism and courage. However, once stationed in France, they realize the dream of bravery they were sold is a lot bleaker than the harsh realities they encounter.

What Makes It Great

The story does a fantastic job of providing insight into how so many young people get roped into participating in war. The change in Paul’s personality when he witnesses the deaths of people he’s close to and others is heartbreaking to watch. To those unfamiliar with the source material, it’s unclear if Paul’s arc is a descent into an outright villain or if still holds onto his pre-war self. The moments where it can lean either way is a fascinating character study. The 2022 adaptation also adds in an additional subplot regarding the signing of the armistice, which provides more entertainment value to audience members who have seen the previous versions.

Stream on Netflix

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