best modern war movies
General Military Questions

20 Best Modern War Movies (2000 – 2022)

War is often a prolific subject matter and important genre when it comes to movies.

War films can reflect the best and worst of humanity, our history and our present, and the expansive art of movie making itself.

Of course, not all war movies have an impact on audiences or critics, but some are so innovative, memorable, and significant that they become almost instant classics.

Here are the 20 best modern war movies, from the years 2000 to 2022.

Related Article10 Best Navy SEAL Movies Of All Time

20. Letters From Iwo Jima

Letters From Iwo Jima is one of the best modern war movies
Image: Wikimedia.org

Letters from Iwo Jima is a 2006 war film directed by Clint Eastwood.

This film is unique in that it is an American film but takes the battle perspective of Japanese soldiers.

Letters from Iwo Jima is a companion film to Flags of Our Fathers (also by Eastwood), portraying the same battle from the American point of view.

These films were created back-to-back, with Letters from Iwo Jima being almost entirely in Japanese and with Japanese actors.

The film earned great critical acclaim and four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.

Letters from Iwo Jima is significant as an American war film in that it offers a viewpoint of this battle, and the complexity of war, from the “opposite” side.

Clint Eastwood ensured that this movie was carefully and authentically presented, and both American and Japanese audiences appreciate its value.

Where To Watch ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’

  • YouTube
  • Vudu
  • Amazon Prime
  • Apple TV 

19. To Be Of Service

To Be Of Service
Image: Imbd.com

To Be of Service is a 2019 documentary by producer and director Josh Aronson.

This film addresses the aftermath of war, following veterans who have recently returned from combat zones.

These veterans are paired with service dogs to help cope with their difficulties and hardships as they try to adjust to life after war.

To Be of Service showcases the complexity of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) experienced by service members.

As they are paired with professionally trained service dogs, their lives are changed, granting them feelings of safety, independence, moments of happiness, and hope.

If you’re looking for one of the best best modern war movies to watch, be sure to add this to your list!

Where To Watch ‘To Be Of Service’

  • Netflix
  • Apple TV
  • Amazon Prime

18. Lone Survivor

Lone Survivor is a great modern war movie about navy seals
Image: Wikipedia.org

Lone Survivor is a 2013 movie adaptation of the 2007 nonfiction book of the same title by Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson.

This biographical film is set during the war in Afghanistan.

It portrays the mission Operation Red Wings in which a Navy SEAL team of four men were tasked with tracking down Ahmad Shah, a Taliban leader.

The counter-insurgent mission was unsuccessful, as the movie depicts through its dramatic story and battle sequences.

Lone Survivor is significant in its realism and portrayal of actual events and people.

Where To Watch ‘Lone Survivor’

  • HBO Max
  • Hulu
  • YoutTube
  • Google Play
  • Apple TV
  • Vudu
  • Amazon Prime

Related Article20 Most Famous Navy SEALS Of All Time

17. Da 5 Bloods

Da 5 Bloods
Image: Wikimedia.org

Spike Lee directed, produced, and co-wrote this 2020 war film.

Da 5 Bloods is about a group of Vietnam War veterans who return to that country years later to search for the remains of their fallen squad leader.

The group is also in search of gold bars that they buried while serving in Vietnam.

Da 5 Bloods was released in 2020 by Netflix and received critical acclaim for Lee’s direction and cast performances.

Some of the movie’s themes include:

  • Consequences of war
  • Brotherhood
  • Greed
  • Race and racism

The movie was also the last of Chadwick Boseman’s films to be released during his lifetime.

Where To Watch ‘Da 5 Bloods’

  • Netflix

16. 1917

1917 best modern war movie
Image: Wikimedia.org

1917 is a modern war film by Sam Mendes, inspired in part by stories told to him by his grandfather about serving in World War I.

The movie portrays the mission of two British soldiers to deliver a message to call off an offensive attack that is set to fail.

1917 is set during Operation Alberich, after the Germans retreated to the Hindenburg Line.

In addition to receiving critical acclaim, positive reviews, and ten Oscar nominations, 1917 made innovative use of cinematography.

Long takes with elaborate camera choreography allow the movie to appear as two continuous shots, separated only by a cut to black in the story when one of the characters is knocked unconscious.

The unrelenting presence of the camera as well as the narrative, acting, and directing enhance the audience’s experience of battle during the First World War.

Where To Watch ‘1917’

  • YouTube
  • Google Play
  • Apple TV
  • Vudu
  • Amazon Prime

15. Last Flag Flying

last flag flying
Image: Wikimedia.org

Another one of the best modern war movies is a little known film called Last Flag Flying.

This Richard Linklater film is based on a 2005 novel of the same title by Darryl Ponicsan (who co-wrote the screenplay with Linklater).

This 2017 movie is about three veterans of the Vietnam War who meet again after one of their sons is killed in the Iraq War.

The cast of Last Flag Flying balances humor with painful moments of parental grief and coming to grips with what patriotism means across time.

Interestingly, the novel Last Flag Flying is a sequel to Ponicsan’s 1970 novel The Last Detail which introduces the same characters earlier in their lives.

The Last Detail was adapted as a film in 1973, which makes the 2017 movie of Last Flag Flying a cinematic sequel of sorts.

Where To Watch ‘Last Flag Flying’

  • YouTube
  • Google Play
  • Apple TV
  • Vudu
  • Amazon Prime

Related Article20 Best Military Movie Quotes Of All Time

14. Restrepo

Restrepo is a great modern war film
Image: Wikimedia.org

Restrepo is a 2010 documentary about the war in Afghanistan created by Sebastian Junger (American journalist) and Tim Hetherington (British photojournalist).

These two spent a year in Afghanistan on assignment for Vanity Fair in the Korengal Valley.

They were with Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Army.

The outpost defended by this platoon is named after medic PFC Juan Sebastian Restrepo, killed earlier in the campaign.

Junger and Hetherington set out to capture the reality of soldiers deployed in this area of eastern Afghanistan at one of the most dangerous postings.

The documentary chronicles the experiences of these soldiers from their deployment to their return, revealing their challenges and losses.

Restrepo takes a hard look at combat, duty, brotherhood, death, and the aftermath of emotional distress due to deployment and war.

Where To Watch ‘Restrepo’

  • Apple TV

13. Lincoln

lincoln movie
Image: Wikimedia.org

Lincoln fits into the genre of war film as well as biographical historical drama, and is considered one of the best modern war movies of all time.

This 2012 movie is directed and produced by Steven Spielberg and features a strong ensemble cast including Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president in the last four months of his life.

The film was inspired and loosely based on the 2005 biography Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Lincoln addresses the complex crossovers between war and politics as it depicts the president’s focus in early 1865 to pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery.

This movie was a success with audiences and critics, nominated for twelve Academy Awards.

Daniel Day-Lewis won for Best Actor.

Where To Watch ‘Lincoln’

  • Google Play
  • Apple TV
  • Amazon Prime
  • Vudu 
  • YouTube

12. Gunner Palace

Gunner Palace war movie
Image: Wikimedia.org

Gunner Palace is a 2004 documentary.

The narrative is told by American troops stationed in Baghdad during 2003-2004 amid the Iraqi insurgency.

The documentary reflects the complexity and reality of war, along with its chaos and danger, experienced by 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.

The Forward Operating Base for the unit was a former presidential palace known as Adhamiyah Palace.

This location was known as Gunner Palace during its occupation until it was transferred to the Iraqi Army in 2005.

The operations of the soldiers stationed at Gunner Palace during the 2003-2004 timeframe are the focus of the documentary.

Where To Watch ‘Gunner Palace’

  • Amazon Prime

Related Article6 Best Navy SEALs Documentaries Of All Time

11. The Messenger

The Messenger movie
Image: Wikimedia.org

The Messenger is a 2009 war movie that depicts a different subject matter than most films in this genre.

The story portrays a soldier in his last three months of service after being combat wounded in Iraq.

He is partnered with an officer, and their mission is to personally inform loved ones that their service member has been killed in combat.

This movie depicts the agony of both delivering and receiving news about casualties of war.

The Messenger received several awards and earned two Oscar nominations.

Where To Watch ‘The Messenger’

  • Peacock (free)
  • Tubi (free)
  • Crackle (free)
  • FuboTV
  • The Roku Channel
  • Amazon Prime
  • YouTube
  • Google Play
  • Apple TV

10. We Were Soldiers

We Were Soldiers is another one of the best modern military movies
Image: Wikimedia.org

We Were Soldiers is a war film of 2002 based on the 1992 book We Were Soldiers Once … and Young by Retired Lieutenant General Hal Moore and reporter Joseph L. Galloway.

The movie is a dramatization of the Battle of la Drang, which took place in November of 1965.

Though the film does present many historical facts, it is not a completely accurate portrayal of the battle.

In addition, the film differs slightly from the book.

However, Moore himself praised the movie adaptation for being one of the few to get the Vietnam War “right.”

We Were Soldiers is easily considered one of the best modern war movies in existence.

Where To Watch ‘We Were Soldiers’

  • Paramount+
  • Roku Channel
  • Sling TV
  • Amazon Prime
  • YouTube
  • Vudu
  • Google Play
  • Apple TV

9. Occupation: Dreamland

Occupation Dreamland
Image: Wikimedia.org

Occupation: Dreamland is a 2005 documentary that focuses on a company of the 1/505 of the 82nd Airborne Division in Fallujah, Iraq.

The setting of the film is 2004, Camp Volturno, located on the outskirts of Fallujah and nicknamed “Camp Dreamland.”

The documentary features interviews with U.S. soldiers in addition to Iraqi civilians.

Footage is shown of the infantry squad on patrols, their searches, interrogations, and the dangers they experience during these missions.

The soldiers in the documentary discuss the Iraq war and people as well as their enlistment and transition to civilian life at some point.

Where To Watch ‘Occupation: Dreamland’

  • Amazon Prime

Related ArticleArmy Airborne School: Requirements, Length, Packing List, And More

8. Fury

Fury movie
Image: Wikipedia.org

Fury, 2014, is a war film about U.S. tank crews fighting in Germany during the final weeks of World War II in Europe.

American armored units suffered high casualty rates among tank crews in Europe during World War II.

The film’s storyline is fictional, though based on reported experiences of many real Allied tankers.

Fury adds a layer of authenticity in its use of uniforms, maps, and weapons accurate to the period of the war’s final months in Europe.

In addition, the movie contains working tanks of that era, including the last surviving operational Tiger I tank: Tiger 131.

Fury was widely praised by critics for its unique portrayal of subject matter.

Where To Watch ‘Fury’

  • Amazon Prime
  • YouTube
  • Google Play
  • Apple TV
  • Vudu

7. Tigerland

tigerland war movie
Image: Wikimedia.org

Tigerland is a 2000 war film that takes place in a training camp for soldiers who are being sent to Vietnam.

The word “Tigerland” was the actual name of a U.S. Army training camp as part of the Advanced Infantry Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in the 1960s and ‘70s.

The humidity and other conditions of this training area was thought to equal the environmental conditions in South Vietnam.

Though Tigerland addresses many of the familiar themes and subject matters present in Vietnam-era films, there is a grittiness to the depictions of infantry training at that time.

In addition, this movie reflects division over the escalating conflict, thousands of casualties, and impending knowledge of being sent to war.

Where To Watch ‘Tigerland’

  • Apple TV
  • Hulu

6. The Quiet American

The Quiet American
Image: Wikipedia.org

The Quiet American is a 2002 movie adaptation of Graham Greene’s 1955 novel of the same name.

There is also a 1958 film version of Greene’s novel, set in Vietnam long before the American war there.

However, the 2002 adaptation is true to the novel’s original ending and the main character’s morally compromised choice to arrange terrorist actions against the French colonial government and Viet Minh.

The film was released just before the 9/11 attacks, and then later re-released in 2002.

The Quiet American received critical acclaim and earned Michael Caine an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

Where To Watch ‘The Quiet American’

  • FuboTV
  • YouTube
  • Google Play
  • Vudu
  • Amazon Prime
  • Apple TV

5. American Sniper

American Sniper is one of the most popular war movies of all time
Image: Wikipedia.org

American Sniper is a 2014 biographical war film that is loosely based on Chris Kyle’s 2012 memoir of the same name.

This film is directed by Clint Eastwood and depicts Kyle’s story of being the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history across four tours in the Iraq War.

The movie also addresses the burden of these tours of duty on Kyle and his family.

American Sniper set box-office records and is considered a worldwide success among audiences and critics.

It received six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor for Bradley Cooper.

Where To Watch ‘American Sniper’

  • Vudu
  • Youtube
  • Apple TV
  • Google Play
  • Amazon Prime

Related Article10 Best Sniper Movies Of All Time

4. Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge is a popular war movie
Image: Wikipedia.org

Hacksaw Ridge, directed by Mel Gibson, is a biographical war film that premiered in 2016.

It is based on a 2004 documentary called The Conscientious Objector.

Hacksaw Ridge is about Desmond Doss, serving as a combat medic in World War II.

Doss is a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian and pacifist, leading to his refusal to carry a weapon or use a firearm of any kind during his service.

As a result, Doss was the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor for service above and beyond the call of duty during the Battle of Okinawa.

The film shows real photos and footage of Doss being awarded the medal of Honor by President Harry Truman for his rescue of 75 soldiers at Hacksaw Ridge and his recounting of events just before his death.

Hacksaw Ridge was widely acclaimed and received many awards and nominations, including six Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and so on.

In addition, praise for Gibson’s directing of Hacksaw Ridge revitalized his career after some controversies.

Where To Watch ‘Hacksaw Ridge’

  • Vudu
  • Google Play
  • Apple TV
  • Amazon Prime
  • Youtube

3. Dunkirk

Dunkirk movie
Image: Wikimedia.org

Dunkirk, written, directed, and produced by Christopher Nolan, is a 2017 war film about the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II.

The story is told from three perspectives: land, sea, and air, and features a large ensemble cast.

In the movie, Nolan relies on cinematography and music to develop the plot and suspense rather than dialogue.

In addition to thousands of extras present in the film, period airplanes and historic boats from the actual evacuation are used.

Dunkirk is considered the highest-grossing film about World War II, and received wide acclaim for the following:

  • Screenplay
  • Direction
  • Musical score
  • Sound effects
  • Cinematography

Dunkirk was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Where To Watch ‘Dunkirk’

  • Amazon Prime
  • Google Play
  • Apple TV
  • Vudu
  • HBO Max

2. Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down is a great military war movie
Image: Wikipedia.org

Black Hawk Down is considered a unique film in the war genre in that the focus is more on realistic experiences of troops in combat rather than sensationalized content for entertainment.

This 2001 movie is based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Mark Bowden, published in 1999.

The subject of the book and movie is the 1993 raid by the U.S. military in Mogadishu, Somalia.

During the raid, 19 American soldiers died as well as over 1,000 Somalis.

Black Hawk Down is directed and produced by Ridley Scott and features a large ensemble cast.

Though this film received positive reviews from critics and audiences, there was criticism for some inaccuracies and controversy for the portrayal of Somalis.

Where To Watch ‘Black Hawk Down’

  • Hulu
  • Roku
  • Amazon Prime
  • Vudu
  • YouTube
  • Google Play
  • Apple TV
  • HBO Max

Related Article25 Best Military Books Of All Time (+ 12 Honorable Mentions)

1. The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker movie
Image: Wikimedia.org

The Hurt Locker is a 2008 war film directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal.

Boal was a freelance journalist, embedded with a bomb squad during the war in Iraq for two weeks in 2004.

Boal had previously collaborated with Bigelow and decided to use his experiences as a dramatization of real events to show the experience of soldiers during this conflict.

In the film, an American Explosive Ordnance Disposal team is targeted by Iraqi insurgents.

The movie addresses the stress of combat and the resulting psychological impact on soldiers.

The Hurt Locker was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning Best Picture (first for female director), Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.

The Library of Congress selected this film for preservation in the National Film Registry for its significance.

Where To Watch ‘The Hurt Locker’

  • YouTube TV
  • Google Play
  • Apple TV
  • Vudu
  • Amazon Prime
  • Netflix
Rob V.
Latest posts by Rob V. (see all)
New Military Movies

New Military Movies

4.7 out of 5 (29 Ratings)

Our list of the best modern war movies includes classics like Black Hawk Down, American Sniper, Lone Survivor, and more.

Originally posted on 10/10/22

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click and purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I have personally vetted. Learn more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *