Best 1960s War Movies, Ranked | Pretty Reel

The 1960s were an incredible year for cinema with the decade that released films like Cleopatra, Fistful of Dollars and Dr. No, and war movies were no exception. With the 1960s being only a few decades after World War II and a decade after the Korean War parody, there was enough hindsight and cinematic advancement to make more realistic and thoughtful films about the war. At the same time, Hollywood still had an idealism and patriotism that would be crushed later in the decade by the failures, atrocities and division of the Vietnam War. So the 1960s was a unique era for war film, and it was among the best of the decade.

8/8 Hell is for Heroes (1962)

Paramount Pictures

Hell is for Heroes is about a unit of American soldiers who must hold off an entire Nazi company for 48 hours until reinforcements can reach them. The film is directed by Don Siegel and stars Steve McQueen as Private John Reese. The film is a great black and white war film that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

7/8 Rat King (1965)

Pictures of Colombia

King Rat is about Corporal King (George Segal), an American prisoner in a Japanese POW camp during World War II. The film was adapted from James Clavell’s novel which was partly based on his own experiences as a prisoner at Changi Prison in Malaysia during the war. King Rat was written and directed by Bryan Forbes and is a true insight into the struggles of captured Allied soldiers during this era.

6/8 Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Pictures of Colombia

Lawrence of Arabia is one of the longest Hollywood films ever made, with a running time of 227 minutes, and is considered one of the best films ever made. The film, directed by David Lean, is an amazing example of a moving picture. Although the film is long, it’s hard to take your eyes off Freddie A. Young’s magnificent cinematography. Lawrence of Arabia is a great film about a meditative journey that stars Peter O’Toole and Alec Guinness. The film was nominated for 10 Oscars and won seven, including Best Picture and Best Director.

5/8 The Longest Day (1962)

20th century fox

The Longest Day is an epic war film based on the 1959 non-fiction novel by Cornelius Ryan about the D-Day invasion of Normandy. The film had one of the largest international cast of the time which included John Wayne, Sean Connery and Henry Fonda. It was directed by three separate directors: Ken Annakins for UK and French material, Andrew Marton for all US material, and Bernhard Wicki for German shots. The Longest Day employed several military consultants who were there on June 6, 1944, which really shows in the accurate depictions of the film. The Longest Day was nominated for five Oscars and won two.

4/8 Spartacus (1960)

Universal International

Spartacus is based on the 1951 novel by Howard Fast, inspired by the leader of a Roman slave revolt, Spartacus. The classic was directed by Stanley Kubrick and is one of the longest Hollywood films ever made. The film stars Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier and Jean Simmons and won four Oscars. Spartacus is considered one of the best groundbreaking portrayals in cinema and was adapted into a three-season series by Starz.

3/8 Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Pictures of Colombia

Considered one of Stanley Kubrick’s best films, Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a dark comedy about the Cold War. The film satirizes the fear of nuclear fallout between the Soviet Union and the United States as a USAF Red General orders the first nuclear strike on the Soviet Union.

Peter Sellers is hilarious in three distinct roles: band captain Lionel Mandrake, US President Merkin Muffley, and titular character Dr. Strangelove. Dr. Strangelove is not only considered one of the greatest comedies of all time, but is also considered one of the greatest films of all time and was inducted into the National Film Registry in 1989.

2/8 The Dirty Dozen (1967)


The Dirty Dozen is based on EM Nathanson’s best-selling 1965 novel which was inspired by real World War II demolition specialists called the “Filthy Thirteen”, whose job it was to go behind enemy lines and destroy Axis targets. In The Dirty Dozen, Major John Reisman (Lee Marvin) is tasked with taking 12 of the military’s worst prisoners and training them for a suicide mission to destroy a Nazi target just before D-Day.

The film was a box office hit upon release and has an incredible cast of characters, including Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland, and Telly Savalas. The Dirty Dozen was even slated for a remake helmed by Suicide Squad director David Ayer, but there hasn’t been much news from Warner Brothers about it.

1/8 The Great Escape (1963)

United Artists

The Great Escape is one of the best World War II films ever made. The film, although heavily fictionalized, is based on Paul Brickhill’s 1950 non-fiction novel about the mass escape of British POWs from the German POW camp, Stalag Luft III. The Great Escape was directed by John Sturges and features a long list of stars including Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson and James Garner. The Great Escape was one of the highest-grossing films of 1963 and is credited with having one of the best stunts ever.

Best 1960s War Movies, Ranked | Pretty Reel