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17 movies to stream during Military Appreciation Month

From WWII to Afghanistan, these are some of the best military movies online.

Left: To Hell and Aback; Right: We Were Soldiers Credit: Left: To Hell and Aback; Right: We Were Soldiers

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May is a much-anticipated month for multiple reasons—the weather is warming up, flowers are blooming, wedding season is in full swing, and Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer. But did you know that May is also National Military Appreciation Month? (I mean, it makes sense given the month culminates in a day designed specifically to honor those who’ve lost their lives fighting for our freedom and rights.) If not, now you do. And, if you’re looking for ways to pay homage to the month’s theme, we’ve got you covered. Ahead, you’ll find over a dozen military movies that offer something of a realistic glimpse into what war can be like.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: How would some lifestyle writer have any idea about that? Well, my dad served in the Vietnam War as a Staff Sergeant. Once his four years were up, he got out of the air force before enlisting in the army a year later. The reason for the switch? He wanted to re-enlist in the Air Force but the waitlist was so long that he didn’t want to wait to find a way to serve his country. After eight years in the army, he medically retired as a Staff Sergeant after surviving a catastrophic training exercise that left him 30% disabled.

Thanks to his years of service, my childhood (and adulthood) was filled with movie nights featuring everything from Battleship to all of the Rambo movies (if you haven’t seen Last Blood, do yourself a favor, but also prepare yourself for gore). While all of these movies remind me of my dad, they’re not all necessarily reminiscent of what life at war is really like (which he’s quick to point out). With that in mind, I asked him for his top picks—they’re what you’ll find, below.

1. Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan
Credit: Saving Private Ryan

You’ll notice a bunch of familiar faces in this World War II film.

Year: 1998
Notable Actors: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, and Vin Diesel

Saving Private Ryan tells the story of Captain John H. Miller (played by Tom Hanks), who leads his platoon in a mission to rescue a stranded paratrooper and liberate France during and after the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

Stream Saving Private Ryan on Apple TV

2. The Longest Day

The Longest Day
Credit: The Longest Day

John Wayne proves that he’s not just a cowboy in this D-Day timepiece.

Year: 1962
Notable Actors: John Wayne, Robert Ryan, and Richard Burton

The Longest Day tells the story of D-Day from both American (allied forces) and German viewpoints.

Stream The Longest Day on Prime Video

3. To Hell and Back

To Hell And Back
Credit: To Hell And Back

Audie Murphy played himself in this film, cementing himself as a war hero-turned-actor.

Year: 1955
Notable Actors: Audie Murphy and Marshall Thompson

To Hell and Back tells the true story of WWII war hero, Audie Murphy. Murphy is the most decorated soldier in U.S. history.

Stream To Hell and Back on Prime Video

4. We Were Soldiers

We Were Soldiers
Credit: We Were Soldiers

Grab the tissues, this one’s a particular tear-jerker.

Year: 2002
Notable Actors: Mel Gibson, Sam Elliott, and Keri Russell

We Were Soldiers tells the story of the first major American battle of the Vietnam War. Unlike some war movies, We Were Soldiers also shows the lives of the wives and family members waiting for news at home, making it particularly heart-wrenching to watch.

Stream We Were Soldiers on Apple TV

5. Uncommon Valor

Uncommon Valor
Credit: Uncommon Valor

The story of rescuing POWs during the Vietnam War.

Year: 1983
Notable Actors: Gene Hackman and Patrick Swayze

Uncommon Valor tells the story of a retired marine colonel father (played by Gene Hackman) searching for his son and other POWs, who went missing in the Vietnam War.

Stream Uncommon Valor on Prime Video

6. Heartbreak Ridge

Heartbreak Ridge
Credit: Heartbreak Ridge

Clint Eastwood shows his acting shops extend beyond the Wild West in this Korean War flick.

Year: 1986
Notable Actors: Clint Eastwood, Marsha Mason, and Everett McGill

Clint Eastwood plays marine sergeant Tom Highway, a Korean War veteran who takes command of a spoiled recon platoon leading up to the invasion of Grenada—much to his ex wife’s and superiors’ dismay.

Stream Heartbreak Ridge on HBO Max

7. Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down
Credit: Black Hawk Down

This film takes place during the Vietnam War.

Year: 2001
Notable Actors: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, and Tom Sizemore

Based on journalist Mark Bowden's 1999 book “Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War,” the film tells the story of a group of elite U.S. soldiers who engage in an extremely lengthy (and deadly) firefight with militia soldiers in Somalia following the downing of two Black Hawk helicopters.

Stream Black Hawk Down on Hulu

8. Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor
Credit: Pearl Harbor

A realistic look at the event that ushered the U.S. into WWII.

Year: 2001
Notable Actors: Josh Hartnett, Ben Affleck, and Kate Beckinsale

Pearl Harbor tells the story of two best friends as they live through the events of Sunday, December 7, 1941—the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Like We Were Soldiers, Pearl Harbor mixes romance with war. In other words, grab the tissues.

Stream Pearl Harbor on Hulu

9. The Battle of Britain

Battle of Britain
Credit: Battle of Britain

An old-school WWII flick you can’t go wrong with.

Year: 1969
Notable Actors: Harry Andrews, Michael Caine, Sir Laurence Olivier

The Battle of Britain tells the story of the most iconic air battle of WWII, in which airmen launch into the skies to defend England against German invasion.

Stream The Battle of Britain on YouTube

10. Fury

Fury
Credit: Fury

Learn what it was like to go behind enemy lines during WWII.

Year: 2014
Notable Actors: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, and Jon Bernthal

Fury offers a realistic look into what it was like to traverse Germany in the middle of WWII. In the film, Army sergeant Don "Wardaddy" Collier (played by Brad Pitt) leads his crew behind enemy lines to face the Nazis head on.

Stream Fury on Prime Video

11. Battle of the Bulge

Battle of the Bulge
Credit: Battle of the Bulge

Another WWII flick for your viewing pleasure.

Year: 1965
Notable Actors: Henry Fonda and Robert Ryan

While Battle of the Bulge is considered to be a dramatization of WWII Nazi Germany, my dad says that it offers a realistic look into the last major German attack of the war, the one in which the Allies prevailed.

Stream Battle of the Bulge on Prime Video

12. The Green Berets

The Green Berets
Credit: The Green Berets

John Wayne shows off his military acting chops in this film, too.

Year: 1968
Notable Actors: John Wayne and David Janssen

Here we have another Vietnam War flick, only this time it focuses on setting up camp and kidnapping a North Vietnamese general.

Stream The Green Berets on Prime Video

13. Lone Survivor

Lone Survivor
Credit: Lone Survivor

The story of a group of navy SEALs up against Taliban forces.

Year: 2013
Notable Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, and Emile Hirsch

Lone Survivor depicts the real-life story of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell (played by Mark Wahlberg), who was the lone survivor during a 2005 Afghanistan mission.

Stream Lone Survivor on Peacock

14. Back to Bataan

Back to Bataan
Credit: Back to Bataan

John Wayne is back in war mode in this WWII flick.

Year: 1945
Notable Actors: John Wayne and Anthony Quinn

In this film, U.S. Army Col. Joseph Madden (played by John Wayne) is stationed in the Philippines in an effort to help create a local resistance against the Japanese. The only problem is, most of his military support has been pushed out of the area.

Stream Back to Bataan on Apple TV

15. Letters From Iwo Jima

Letters From Iwo Jima
Credit: Letters From Iwo Jima

The story of the battle of Iwo Jima, directed by Clint Eastwood.

Year: 2006
Notable Actors: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, and Tsuyoshi Ihara

Letter From Iwo Jima details the battle between U.S. marines and the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII, as told from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers who were a part of it.

Stream Letters From Iwo Jima on Apple TV

16. In Harm’s Way

In Harm's Way
Credit: In Harm's Way

As it turns out, John Wayne is equally as talented at portraying military members as he is cowboys.

Year: 1965
Notable Actors: John Wayne and Kirk Douglas

After being reprimanded following the Pearl Harbor attacks, Naval Captain Torrey (played by John Wayne) is demoted. Then, a dangerous mission comes up that gives Torrey a second chance at proving himself useful during WWII.

Stream In Harm’s Way on Prime Video

17. Patton

Patton
Credit: Patton

Yet another WWII film, only this time following controversial colonel, George S. Patton.

Year: 1970
Notable Actors: George C. Scott and Karl Malden

Patton follows the WWII happenings of General George S. Patton, a controversial American officer and military leader.

Stream Patton on Prime Video

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