Top 10 War Movies

Jeremy Renner in a scene from
Summit Entertainment / AP

These days, war is swell — at least for the Motion Picture Academy members who choose the Oscar nominees. Of the 10 films on the not-so-short list for Best Picture, two prime contenders, The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds, find their grittiest kicks in the spectacle of men at war: the suicidal heroism they display trying to defuse a Baghdad bomb, the patriotic sadism some American Jewish soldiers show as they scalp men in the Army of the Third Reich. You could say that Avatar is not just a war movie but a call to insurgency against the U.S. military; the long final act of James Cameron's epic prods audiences to cheer for the bloody victory of Pandorans over American mercenaries. The South African sci-fi adventure District 9 takes the side of illegal aliens — grotty extraterrestrials, that is — against the white humans who have herded them into camps.

The rebirth of war movies — there's another big one, Green Zone, coming out next week — set us to thinking about some important examples of the genre from the whole span of film history, from The Birth of a Nation in 1915 to Black Hawk Down in 2001. We picked 10; you have others. Shall we fight over it? — By Richard Corliss

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