Best of the vets

Every year, Veterans Day arrives and I get to give an honest opinion of my favorite war movies. Without a doubt, Steven Spielberg’s enthralling “Saving Private Ryan” (1998) still holds up to this day as a great achievement in both directing, storytelling and writing. I also admire what director Roland Joffé did with 1984’s “The Killing Fields,” Wolfgang Petersen’s “Das Boot,” director Kevin Reynolds’s tank tale, 1988’s “The Beast,” the Oscar-winning tale of a bomb disposal technician, “The Hurt Locker” and David Ayer’s Brad Pitt-led tank tale “Fury.”

1. “Saving Private Ryan” (1998) — How this one lost the Best Picture statue to “Shakespeare in Love” is anybody’s guess. The opening scene alone, involving the D-Day invasion on Normandy, is a sight to behold. A+

2. “Stalag 17” (1953) — One of my bona-fide heroes growing up was William Holden and his starring role in this was only part of the reason.  Like Morgan Freeman’s character Red in “The Shawshank Redemption,” Holden’s character of prisoner J.J. Sefton was one where wits and smarts kept him alive and on his toes.   Holden won his first Oscar two years prior for a role in the same director Billy Wilder’s“Sunset Boulevard.”  A+

3. “Patton”  (1970) — Talk about greatness!  This gem from director Franklin J. Schaffner (“Planet of the Apes,” “Papillon”) has all the makings of pure genius. George C. Scott won a Best Actor Oscar for his role as a general who never backed down from a fight. A

4. “Born on The Fourth of July” (1989) — Even though he took a Best Director statuette for 1986’s “Platoon,” Oliver Stone received another Academy Award for this fact-based story of paralyzed veteran Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise, who was also a Best Actor nominee in the movie). One of the best scenes involves him coming back home to see his mom (Caroline Kava, “Year of the Dragon”) for the first time after being wounded. A

5. “The Big Red One”  (1980) — Lee Marvin headlines this epic from director Samuel Fuller (“Shock Corridor”), where the viewer only gets to know his close-knit band of soldiers fighting in World War II.  

Marvin’s character is only referred to as the sergeant, who leads a group that includes Mark Hamill (“Star Wars:  Episode IV:  A New Hope”) and Robert Carradine (“Revenge of the Nerds”).

As with the aforementioned “Saving Private Ryan,” the battle sequences are intense enough to have one digging their nails into the chair they are sitting in. A-