The purpose of Memorial Day is to honor those who have died during active military service. While the holiday gives way to sales, discounts, parties, and vacations, it is also a time of remembrance. There have been some classic films over the years that Hollywood has produced to tell the stories (true, adapted and invented) of the men and women involved in the military. Here are 10 films to consider checking out in honor of the holiday and those who served.

The Hurt Locker

Who knew that two of the main stars of this film would go on to become members of Marvel's cinematic Avengers team as well?

This one features Jeremy Renner in the lead role and Anthony Mackie as one of his co-stars. Kathryn Bigelow directed this film as well as 2012's "Zero Dark Thirty," another great one to watch.

The 2008 movie "The Hurt Locker" tells the story of Sergeant William James (Renner) and his army bomb squad that are at odds with one another during the Iraq War. It features tense moments and a very high review score from critics and moviegoers. Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, and Evangeline Lilly round out an impressive cast.

Saving Private Ryan

Tom Hanks and Matt Damon were among the stars of this 1988 classic directed by Steven Spielberg. It takes a jolting look at the Normandy Landings and how U.S. soldiers team up to try to rescue a paratrooper after his brothers were killed in action.

This movie ultimately lost out on the Best Picture to "Shakespeare in Love," but its classic status amongst military films will stand the test of time.

Black Hawk Down

This 2001 war film was produced and directed by Ridley Scott ("Alien," "Blade Runner"). Josh Hartnett, Tom Sizemore, and Eric Bana are amongst its stars. It is inspired by and based on a series of articles from "The Philadelphia Inquirer" documenting the U.S.

1993 raid to capture faction leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid, as well as the Battle of Mogadishu. This one came away with two Academy Awards with Oscars for Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing.

Top Gun

If you haven't heard of or watched "Top Gun," you probably were born within the past few decades. Even so, this is another classic film that has stood the test of time and is considered one of the best early roles played by actor Tom Cruise.

In the 1986 film, he plays Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell who is a young naval aviator.

Maverick is selected for training at the Navy's Fighter Weapons School which was formerly in San Diego, along with his fellow pilot Nick "Goose" Bradshaw. The story, soundtrack, and visuals are great for its time. A sequel has been mentioned for years now, with diehard fans hoping it happens.

Apocalypse Now

Critically-acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola not only directed and produced this classic in 1979 but he also was a co-writer on the film. It takes the Joseph Conrad novella called "Heart of Darkness" and recreates its scenes as part of the Vietnam War. Martin Sheen stars as Captain Benjamin L.

Willard. His sole mission? To find and assassinate a renegade Army officer named Colonel Kurtz who is thought to be insane. If you haven't seen it, you should. It's hard to find a list of classic military or war films that doesn't include "Apocalypse Now."


In 1986, Oliver Stone's "Platoon" took home the Best Picture and Best Director awards at the Oscars. It was deserving as Stone created the film to tell about his own experiences as part of the U.S. infantry in Vietnam. It marked the first time that a Vietnam War veteran wrote and directed a Hollywood film. The movie stars a young Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, and Tom Berenger among others.


General George S. Patton was the senior officer leading the U.S.

Third Army in France and Germany after the Allied Invasion of Normandy during World War II. The man who was known as "Old Blood and Guts," was given a proper Hollywood depiction in this 1970 film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner.

This movie is yet another of the classic military films to have won multiple Academy Awards including the Best Picture and Best Director. Ironically, George C. Scott won Best Actor for his role as Patton but then refused to accept it as a message against the voting system and acting competition concept.


You may have seen "MASH" re-runs on television or a streaming service, and this is the film that started it all. The 1970 release has been preserved in the U.S.

National Film Registry based on its cultural significance. Just like the television series, this one brings the humor with it, so grab some popcorn and enjoy. Among its stars were Robert Duvall, Sally Kellerman, Donald Sutherland, and Elliott Gould.

The Great Escape

For those who enjoy all those great escape Movies out there, this one is an early classic to put on the list. The 1963 movie is based on the 1950 book by Paul Brickhill and stars Steve McQueen and James Garner. While certain details of the actual escape were changed in this movie, the characters themselves are based on real men giving an interesting depiction of British prisoners attempting to escape from a German POW camp.

The Dirty Dozen

In 1967, Robert Aldrich directed this classic which stars Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, and Jim Brown. Also based on a book and also about World War II, it's about the real-life group known as the "Filthy Thirteen."

The story involves a United States Army Major who gets the task of training a dozen convicted murders to go on a mission to assassinate German officers during the war. It holds a 91 percent rating overall on the Rotten Tomatoes movie site and is well worth checking out on Memorial Day for those who enjoy great war and military films.