You played it when you were a kid, and you imagine it just like the kids in I Declare War did (btw if you have not seen that movie I highly recommend it). Despite my tendencies toward being a totally non-macho wimp (guns freak me out and the thought of actually killing someone gives me nightmares), I love me a good war movie with some epic battles in it. From the mega battle scene in The Avengers to the gruesome and frightening battle between humans and bugs in Starship Troopers, battles sequences can be some of the most visually pleasing and thrilling parts of some of our favorite movies. I plan on experiencing that when I go to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies tonight. So, in anticipation of seeing that movie tonight and its wide release on Wednesday, we’re counting down the Top 5 Movie Battles.
A quick note about what is NOT on this list. Many of you sent in your suggestions when I petitioned for your Top 5 on Facebook. There were many that did not make it on the list, and that makes me sad, but there is one omission that I must mention as a curmudgeon of history and historical accuracy. The Battle of Stirling from Braveheart is NOT on this list because, despite it being one of my favorite battle scenes, it is NOT historically accurate in the least (thanks, Mel Gibson). First of all, the battle was known as the Battle of Stirling BRIDGE. However, due to the difficulty filming a bridge battle, the bridge was completely removed and the battle had more in common with the tactics and outcome of the Battle of Bannockburn, a battle William Wallace was not alive for. Second of all, the name Braveheart is actually a term given to Robert the Bruce, not William Wallace, and it can be argued that Andrew Moray, not William Wallace, was the real major hero at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Moray just happened to die from his wounds in the subsequent months and he is not remembered as much as Wallace, whose exploits outside of that battle are much more legendary.
Anyway, now that my historical rantings are done, on with the Top 5!
5) Saving Private Ryan – D-Day Invasion – Battle of Normandy
A battle that will change the way you look at combat and at World War II. We all know that the D-Day invasion was brutal, but this opening battle from Saving Private Ryan was controversial in showing how graphic and sacrificial this invasion was. Modern history hinged on this invasion and it is captured in its full terrible reality. To know that so many men willingly threw themselves into the line of fire and gave their very lives to secure the freedom of millions and push back tyranny, it is a monumental achievement in history that is filmed to cinematic perfection. Heroes were made and sons and fathers were lost that day and I am truly thankful that we have this movie to portray those sacrifices.
4) Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi – Battle of Endor
I will be honest with you that the Battle of Hoth is probably MY favorite Star Wars battle sequence. However, when Lucas was able to incorporate a lot of the advanced techniques his crew had been working on into Return of the Jedi, the scale and sheer magnitude of the Battle of Endor cannot be outmatched. The music is wall to wall amazing and the fighter sequences are fast-paced and stunning. And if that is not enough, from this battle we have received Admiral Ackbar’s famous three-word catch phrase that will live on into internet eternity.
3) The Last Samurai – Final Battle
Nothing beats a good, heroic charge in a movie. One of my personal favorites is in the final battle of the oft-forgotten Tom Cruise movie, The Last Samurai. In the aforementioned charge, Cruise’s character and the samurai’s charge at the Imperial Army only to be gunned down by prototype Gatling guns and repelled. The charge is done for glory, honor, and preserving an antiquated and sacred way of life for the Samurai class in Japan. Historical controversy and inaccuracy aside (all apologies to Braveheart for not removing this from the list, but this battle is not purporting itself to be historically accurate), the scene is emotional, heroic, and beautifully shot to pull at every bit of humanity and longing for something greater inside yourself. Like any good battle scene, it transcends the movie to take on a meaning and significance of its own that resonates with the hearts of soldiers, whether you are one or not.
2) Gladiator – Battle of Vindobona
What I love about this battle scene is not necessarily the emotion or the awesome fighting, but is more because of the historical accuracy of this battle. As a Social Science Major and History Minor, I took my fair share of history classes and one of them was on Roman History and Roman Military History. Gladiator does a magnificent job of portraying battles in the Germanic wilderness and the style of Roman warfare. From the phalanx formations to the military garb and the tactics they use, it is very, very well done. Even though you might not believe it, it was very typical of the Roman legions to use flaming everything to intimidate and kill their enemies. The catapults with flaming jars in them was very accurate as were the flaming arrows. They even nailed the dress, the war cries, and the disorganized savagery of Germanic war parties. So cool!
1) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – Battle of the Hornburg (Helm’s Deep)
Many of you might skewer me for not picking the Battle of Pelennor Fields from The Return of the King, but I don’t care! I might get goosebumps watching that, but the obvious Christ analogies and Eschatological analogies in the Battle of the Hornburg from the Two Towers make me ugly cry with anticipation for the coming of Christ. So many awesome scenes and beats within this battle and then of course when Gandalf shows up with the Rohirrim and charges on the enemy, I get goosebumps just typing this! It is so cool and so well done, it is Peter Jackson’s zenith in movie making in my opinion. Now excuse me while I go watch this scene again and cry like a baby…