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War film

A war film is any film dealing with war, usually focusing on naval, air, or land battle, but sometimes focusing instead on prisoners of war, covert operations, training, or other related subjects.

Many of the dramatic war films in the early 1940s in the United States were designed to create consensus at the expense of "the enemy." In fact, one of the conventions of the genre that developed during the period was that of a cross-section of the United States which comes together as a crack unit for the good of the country.

War films produced during the Vietnam War era tended to reflect the disillusionment of the American public towards the war. Examples include Catch-22 and M*A*S*H.

War films (like films in any genre) tend to have a number of cliches associated with them: for instance, in many 1940s and 1950s war film, a small group of men will tend to be fairly diverse ethnically, but most of the characters will not be developed much beyond their ethnicity; the officer immediately ranking the main character will tend to be both unreasonable and unyielding; almost anyone sharing personal information--especially plans for after returning home--will die shortly after sharing the plans; and anyone acting in a cowardly or unpatriotic manner will either convert to heroism or die.

However, other films are quasi-documentary in nature, and reflect what the screenwriters feel were the thoughts, words, and actions of the participants in a battle. The American Civil War film Gettysburg[?] was based on actual events during the battle, including the defense of Little Round Top[?] by Colonel Joshua Chamberlain[?].

Many war films have been produced with the cooperation of a nation's military forces. The United States Navy has been very cooperative since World War II in providing ships and technical guidance. However, this strategy can backfire. The German Ministry of Propaganda, in making the epic war film Königsburg[?] in January 1945, used several divisions of soldiers as extras. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels believed the impact of the film would offset the tactical disadvantages of the missing soldiers.

If they do not cooperate, then another country's military may assist. Many 1950s and 1960s war movies, and the Oscar-winning film Patton were shot in Spain, which had large supplies of both Allied and Axis equipment. The Napoleonic epic Waterloo was shot in the Ukraine, using Soviet soldiers (and incidentally, helped scholars learn why Napoleon preferred the tactics in attacking in column. Saving Private Ryan was shot with the cooperation of the Irish army.

See also: propaganda, genre film theory

Table of contents

Notable War Films

French and Indian War

American Revolutionary War

Napoleonic Empire Wars

Crimean War

Texas War of Independence

American Civil War

Spanish-American War

Anglo-Zulu War

World War I

Spanish Civil War

World War II

Indochina War

Korean War

Algerian War of Independence

Vietnam War

Gulf War



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