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A salute to the best war cinema

Published Aug. 31, 2005

War, no matter the cause or locale, is hell, as demonstrated on the big screen recently in Civil War epic Gods and Generals and Tears of the Sun, set in modern-day Nigeria.

The subject may be a downer, but Hollywood has never shied away from it. Following are 10 of the "Top 50" war movies, according to a poll administered by the Internet Movie Database ( All are available on home video, with the exception of the Oscar-nominated The Pianist, still in theaters.

Schindler's List (1993) _ Steven Spielberg brings the horrors of the Holocaust to life, in this stark, emotionally intense black-and-white masterwork, filmed on location in Poland. Liam Neeson stars as the title character, a German businessman responsible for saving the lives of more than 1,000 Jews; Ralph Fiennes, as a Nazi, is the personification of evil.

Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) _ Peter Sellers, playing three roles, is amazing in this black comedy about the arms race, brilliantly directed by Stanley Kubrick. It's one of the best and funniest movies of all time, and the cast also includes George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens and James Earl Jones.

The Pianist (2002) _ Adrien Brody gives a first-rate performance as the title character, a Polish concert artist who miraculously escapes the clutches of the Nazis. Roman Polanski directed.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) _ British lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) helps the Bedouins fight the Turkish army during World War I in this magnificently photographed epic, directed by David Lean. Also stars Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn and Alec Guinness.

Paths of Glory (1957) _ A French military commander (Adolphe Menjou), during World War I, asks that three soldiers be executed for mutiny after his misguided attack on the German army results in disaster. Kirk Douglas is first-rate as the officer who battles to save the lives of the scapegoats. Kubrick directed.

Apocalypse Now (1979) _ An increasingly frazzled Army captain (Martin Sheen) takes a slow boat to Cambodia on a mission to kill a loose-cannon colonel (Marlon Brando) in this spectacular, controversial Vietnam War drama, reissued two years ago with additional footage. Francis Coppola directed, from a screenplay based on the Joseph Conrad novella The Heart of Darkness. Also features Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Sam Bottoms, Scott Glenn, Laurence Fishburne, Harrison Ford and Dennis Hopper.

Das Boot (1981) _ Jurgen Prochnow stars as the commander of a German submarine during World War II in this claustrophobic, terrifically suspenseful drama, directed and written by Wolfgang Petersen and adapted from a popular novel.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) _ William Holden is an escaped American prisoner of war conspiring to destroy a railway bridge being constructed by British soldiers held at a Japanese POW camp. Alec Guinness co-stars, and Lean directed.

The General (1927) _ Buster Keaton is a Confederate soldier bent on returning a train stolen by Union spies in this silent-era comedy classic.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) _ A trio of soldiers deal with complexities on the home front after doing battle in World War II. The all-star cast includes Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, Dana Andrews, Virginia Mayo and Harold Russell, who lost both his hands during the war. William Wyler directed.

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