Top 10 War Movies

Henry Walthall in The Birth of a Nation

The Birth of a Nation (1915, D.W. Griffith) — U.S. Civil War
So many superlatives for one picture: the first great feature film, the movie that established the Confederacy as the collective hero of any Civil War film, the biggest box-office hit before Gone With the Wind — and, in its demeaning depiction of American blacks, a racist screed of appalling ignorance and influence. (The film, originally titled The Clansman, helped spur the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan and led to a horrid spike in lynchings.) Put this asterisk next to Griffith's tainted masterpiece: it was the first great war film. Inventing the epic genre's visual vocabulary on the fly, he filled the screen with great, brutal battles, intercutting the galloping charges of the two armies for thrilling impact. The Birth of a Nation instructed generations of ambitious directors on the rules for splashing history onto celluloid. Griffith's achievement can be no more easily forgotten than his racial insensitivity can be forgiven.

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