Top 10 War Movies
Napoléon (1927, Abel Gance) the Napoleonic wars
For the most powerful military figure in French history, filmmaker Abel Gance conceived the grandest of all silent-movie dreams: six features chronicling Napoléon's extraordinary life. He ran out of money and sponsors after just one film, but it's a beaut, whose restored versions run between 4 and 5½ hrs. Beginning with a snow fight involving the child Bonaparte (war by softer means), embracing his love for Josephine and his irresistible rise through the tumult of the French Revolution, and reaching its climax with the victorious Italian Campaign, Gance's biopic is as heroic and driven as its subject. The writer-director-producer used wildly swinging cameras to mime the milling chaos of revolutionary life and death, and for the final battle scenes, he sprayed the action across three screens Cinerama and CinemaScope a quarter-century before their time. Over the years, Napoléon was recut, mutilated and all but lost; film historian Kevin Brownlow devoted decades to reviving it at its original epic length and scope. Francis Ford Coppola showed one version in 1980, with a new score by his father Carmine, and Napoléon triumphed again. That it is not available on DVD in the U.S. is a crime against cinema genius.