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Best War Documentaries Of All Time

Over the years, there have been plenty of documentaries about war—but only a few can be called the best war documentaries of all time.

By Donald GrayPublished 6 years ago 5 min read
Top Story - November 2017

There's something to be said about a good documentary—particularly if it's about the horrors of war. The right filmmaker and crew can turn history into a hard-hitting glimpse into the real hearts and souls of men who went to war.

Want to see history come to life? If you check out the best war documentaries, you'll soon feel the danger, fear, and awe that comes with being at war. Check out these picks next time you queue up Netflix, and you won't be disappointed.

Restrepo tells the stories of military members that were sent to build and defend a firebase called Restrepo, in full, gritty detail. When an Afghan man's son is injured, he is hesitant to get him to the hospital. And that's only the beginning.

The reason why this is one of the best war documentaries is because it's so honest about war. The platoon in Restrepo see danger around every corner, with many moments where they don't even know where to return fire. The uncertainty is palpable, and that alone makes it an impeccable film about the War on Terror.

Taxi to the Dark Side is one of the best war documentaries for people who want to see the darker side of the United States Army. This film shows an innocent Afghani taxi driver who picks up the wrong client, and ends up being detained and interrogated by American military groups.

Eventually, the taxi driver is tortured to death—and the incident is covered up. In war, no country is innocent, and they all commit atrocities. That's why this is a must-see movie.

The Vietnam War was one of the ugliest parts of American history, and is regularly cited as a pointless war that murdered millions of young men. Last Days in Vietnam is the story of what happened when America lost the war, and when the Northern Vietnamese armies ramped up to invade.

It's heartbreaking to see the South Vietnamese people panic, and unsettling to see the full extent of a war's loss. It's also inspiring to see how many people come together to reduce the loss of human life in those moments. If you've ever wondered what it'd be like to be invaded or feel the loss, Last Days in Vietnam is absolutely vital.

Iraq for Sale: War Profiteers is one of the best war documentaries to feature a serious look at the problem of war profiteering—and how it played out in the Iraq War. More specifically, this film tells the stories of actual Americans affected by corporations who decide to go to war.

This is one of the few films that is both an anti-war documentary and an anti-corporatist documentary. In a world that's becoming increasingly capitalistic and inhumane, Iraq for Sale: War Profiteers becomes ever more relevant.

It's worth pointing out that this documentary was so incendiary, it was banned in Congress.

Pat Tillman was an all-American good guy who played for the Arizona Cardinals. Then, shortly after 9/11, he joined the United States military. By 2004, he was killed in a recon mission while patrolling Pakistan.

Initially, his death was ruled a killing by enemy fire—but the problem is, details proved that he was, in fact, killed by friendly fire. The Tillman Story is one of the best war documentaries to show how deep American coverups can be.

Control Room is a war documentary that shows that there are two sides to every story. In this case, we get to see a sneak peak into the rooms of Al-Jazeera during the build up of the Iraq War. Could we have avoided war? Is there a reason why the Iraq War unfolded the way it did?

If you're looking for one of the best war documentaries that feature perspectives you don't usually hear about, Control Room is it.

The people who are most against war are the ones that have to fight it, and that's part of why so many people in the Armed Forces tried to end the war in Vietnam. Sir! No Sir! is the compelling (and suppressed) story about how GIs banded together in an effort to try to end the Vietnam War years before it was lost.

This is one of the best war documentaries when it comes to seeing the true attitudes of soldiers. Truth be told, no one knows that war is hell better than people who have been there. What will strike most people, though, is how far the United States went to suppress it.

Threads is one of the best war documentaries on a war that has never happened, and if you're reading that statement, you're probably wondering what that means.

Simply put, this is a documentary in which scientists and sociologists banded together to show what would happen if nuclear war struck. It goes from the build-up, to how people would die during the attacks, to the social impacts afterwards.

Due to its realism, it's considered to be one of the most frightening documentaries ever released. This BBC television-made movie continues to rattle audiences to this day.

World War II was one of the most devastating wars the world has ever seen, and it was also one of the most important wars in human history. It epitomized all that was evil and good in the world, with many marks permanently left on history.

The World At War is a series of films that show different aspects of World War II in full, gritty, and terrifyingly close detail. Whether it's newsreels, propaganda, or even just how the homefront lived, you'll never get closer to history than this set of documentaries.

That's why many people would say that some of the best war documentaries dealing with World War II can be found in this series—and why it's a must-see.

John Huston is the maker of one of the best war documentaries of all time, and it was completely accidental. The US government tasked Huston with collecting film of a live battle during the WWII as a way to create training material for new soldiers.

The problem? What he uncovered was so gut-wrenching, he couldn't stomach it—nor could the soldiers who were supposed to be trained by the footage! As a result, the US had to shelve his work and turn it into a documentary after the war had ended.

Today, the Battle of San Pietro footage is one of the most treasured historical films ever caught in the trenches, and is cited as one of the most classic war films of all time.

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About the Creator

Donald Gray

Politics may be a disgusting battlefield, but it is a necessary vice in our country, and a particular fancy of mine, like productivity and success. These are important facets in the modern world, and must be expounded upon.

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