In honor of those who have served in the military, we've compiled a list of films to commemorate Veterans Day. These movies aren't necessarily about war per se, but rather focus on the hardships and sacrifices servicemen and women face, be it on the battlefield or back home in civilian life.
Jane Fonda and Jon Voight both won Oscars for their performances in the Vietnam-era drama, "Coming Home." Fonda stars as Sally, a married hospital volunteer who befriends and eventually falls in love with Luke (Voight), a paraplegic vet. Sally's husband (Bruce Dern) is stationed in Vietnam and soon returns with his own emotional scars from the fighting. "Coming Home" was released just a few years after Fonda's notoriously image-damaging trip to North Vietnam, which the actress herself would denounce decades later as an "unforgivable mistake." This film helped soften some of the public backlash against her.
Credit: United Artists
"Born on the Fourth of July," 1989
Based on the best-selling memoir of the same name, Tom Cruise plays Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, who also served as the inspiration for Jon Voight's character in "Coming Home." "Born on the Fourth of July" traces Kovic from his days as an idealistic Long Island teen to an ignored ex-soldier paralyzed from the waist down, eventually attracting notice as an anti-war activist. Oliver Stone, himself a winner of the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, wrote and directed the film. Stone drew inspiration during shooting from his own real-life experiences, just as he had done with his previous war-themed project, "Platoon."
Credit: Universal Pictures
"The Best Years of Our Lives," 1946
"The Best Years of Our Lives" won an impressive seven Academy Awards after it was released in the immediate aftermath of World War II. Frederic Marsh, Dana Andrews and Harold Russell portray three soldiers, all from different social backgrounds, returning home to their idyllic small town. They each have to deal with some sort of major setback upon their homecoming, reflecting the dilemmas millions of returning vets were facing at the time of the film's release.
Credit: The Samuel Goldwyn Company
"The Deer Hunter," 1978
Famous for its controversial "Russian Roulette" scene, "The Deer Hunter" takes a pointed look at the impact of the Vietnam War on an industrial small-town in Pennsylvania. Starring Robert De Niro and a young Meryl Streep in one of her first big-screen roles, the film won five Oscars, including best picture, best director for Michael Cimino and best supporting actor for Christopher Walken.
Credit: Universal Pictures
"The Messenger," 2009
Ben Foster stars as Army Staff Sgt. Will Montgomery, back in the U.S. following a deployment in Iraq, where he suffered critical injuries. At home, Montgomery begins an affair with the wife of a fellow officer and gets assigned to the local Casualty Notification Team, informing families about the death of a loved one serving in the Army. Lacking any grief counseling experience, he joins forces with seasoned "messenger" Capt. Tony Stone, played by Woody Harrelson in an Oscar-nominated performance.
Credit: Oscilloscope Pictures
"Flags of Our Fathers," 2006
Clint Eastwood directed this World War II era epic, about the six men who raised the American flag following the critical Battle of Iwo Jima. After an iconic photograph of the flag-raising taken by Joe Rosenthal turns into a national symbol, the surviving soldiers are sent back to the U.S. for a publicity tour, quickly becoming disenfranchised at the thought of being glorified as national heroes.
Credit: DreamWorks SKG/Warner Bros.
"The Hurt Locker," 2008
Winner of six Academy Awards, including one for best picture and another for director Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker" centers around Sgt. First Class William James, newly assigned to a dangerous bomb squad in Iraq. It's not long before James draws the ire of his squad mates, as they grow concerned over his brazen and risky behavior. Even after returning stateside to his wife and young son, James finds it difficult to forget about the war zone, highlighting the attachment many veterans have to military life.
Credit: Summit Entertainment
"Legends of the Fall," 1994
When the topic of veterans comes up, those who served in World War I are sometimes overlooked. "Legends of the Fall" shines a light on some of the struggles those servicemen and their families endured as a result of the Great War. Brad Pitt and Aidan Quinn play Montana siblings who take very different life paths once their youngest brother Samuel (Henry Thomas) is killed in action.
Credit: TriStar Pictures
"Saving Private Ryan," 1998
Steven Spielberg nabbed a best director Oscar for his work on the war epic, set during and after the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944. Tom Hanks plays the leader of a battalion sent to retrieve Private James Ryan (Matt Damon), whose three brothers have all been killed in the line of duty. "Saving Private Ryan" includes one of the most intense battle scenes ever filmed, a near 25-minute-long opening sequence depicting the Normandy invasion in stunning detail. Visuals aside, the film also shines light on those who've paid the ultimate price in combat. Private Ryan eventually becomes an elderly veteran, all too aware of those who died so that he could live.
Credit: DreamWorks SKG/Paramount Pictures
"Forrest Gump," 1994
As with "Saving Private Ryan," Tom Hanks also starred in "Forrest Gump," about a kind, but unintelligent man who takes part in several key historical events of the 20th century, including the Vietnam War. Gump makes for a fine soldier, winning the Purple Heart after saving several of the men in his platoon during an airstrike. While some may not necessarily see "Forrest Gump" as a film particularly about veterans, the relationships he forges with platoon leader Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise) and best friend Bubba (Mykelti Williamson) emphasize the camaraderie among those who serve.