Friday, August 17, 2018

Eight awesome war movies from the awesome 80s

I’m a child of the 1980s, and it was a good time to be alive. Madonna ruled the airwaves, I promised myself to have two female roommates after watching Three’s Company, Bill Cosby was the father that I wished I had, and a Hasegawa 1/48 F-4 was just $15 (and a Tamiya 1/35 Sherman for $8).

How times have changed. Madonna is no longer relevant; I’ve since learned that one female “roommate” (i.e., wife) is enough; Bill Cosby was, never mind; and models are nearing (and surpassing) the $100 price point. But I have good memories from that decade, including a flurry of remarkable war movies that are as enjoyable now as they were 30 years ago. That is, if you can suspend your disbelief long enough to endure bad acting and implausible plots.

Here are my eight favorites.

Top Gun

I can’t think of another movie that captured the imagination or interest of aviation enthusiasts more than Top Gun. It has a look, a feel, a spirit that I haven’t seen in any other movie about fighter pilots. Yes, the plot is simple and mostly predictable (even though — spoiler alert — Maverick doesn’t win the Top Gun trophy in his class), but the flying sequences are amazing thanks to the Navy’s cooperation. As for Top Gun 2...we shall see.

Iron Eagle

Absolutely terrible plot in every way imaginable, but like Top Gun, the flying sequences are breathtaking. The Cessna 150 scene at the beginning is worth the price of admission and ensures Iron Eagle will always be among my favorite aviation themed films.

Red Dawn

For those of us who grew up in the 60s, 70s, 80s, war with the Soviet Union was a very real possibility and always in the back of our minds. Red Dawn was a poor representation of what a Soviet invasion might look like, capturing that underlying fear we lived with.


Taps aired just around the time that I joined the Civil Air Patrol and AFJROTC, and it reinforced my interest in the military. The uniforms, the marching, the camaraderie…it all had great appeal to a young man looking forward to a future in the military. The cast was pretty great, too: Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn, a very young Tom Cruise, George C. Scott, and Ronnie Cox.


Platoon was one of a long line of movies through the late 70s and early 80s that portrayed the brutality of the Vietnam war. There's an obvious anti-war tone to the movie, but the directing and acting was exceptional, from the stars to even the extras.

Henry V

You probably didn’t expect to see this on a list of war movies, did you? You may not think that a 15th century battle is as compelling as one in the 20th century, but if you can indulge the Shakespearean language, the battle scenes in Henry V show the brutality of early face-to-face combat and much more intimate than in recent wars.

Full Metal Jacket

I have a thing for movies about basic training. I could watch FMJ for those scenes alone. I know you’ve all seen the movie, so you know Private Pyle; when I was in basic training there was a guy in my flight who reminded me of Private Pyle, though I’m happy to say he fared much better than Pyle.

The Final Countdown

The dialog is painfully bad, but time travel is always offers an intriguing plot. The dogfight between the F-14s and Zeros is a fun ride.

Missing the cut by just one year, and on my mind because I just re-watched it, Hunt for the Red October. I don't think I've seen Sean Connery in a more commanding role than as Captain Ramius.

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