The 15 best Memorial Day movies to watch this weekend


The 15 best Memorial Day movies to watch this weekend

Memorial Day weekend is commonly seen as the gateway to summer, and while there are plenty of films to see at your local multiplex, some of you may be looking for a film that better aligns with the holidays themselves. Stories honoring our fallen soldiers. Maybe an epic of war or something showing bravery in the face of danger.

From the Civil War to Afghanistan’s Vietnam War, the films on this list are perfect for any Memorial Day celebration as we remember the brave men and women who gave their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces. War sagas have been a part of cinema since its invention, and even today they are a great way to tell truly human stories of life and death. Award-winning directors such as Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Ridley Scott, Oliver Stone, Clint Eastwood and others have dabbled in these epics, as have icons such as Stanley Kubrick, Edward Zwick, Terrence Malick and Peter Weir.

Here are some fine films to consider if you’re trying to craft and create a Memorial Day binge from every different era of American (and world) history, telling tales of extraordinary action amidst absolute hell .

15 Best Memorial Day Movies to Watch

Note: Viewing information is based on data available at the time of publication.

Black Hawk below

Where to see: HBO Max, HBO Go, Max Go, Hoopla

Heard of accolades and two Oscars (for Best Film Editing and Best Sound), Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down still remains a solid, gripping look at soldiers caught in a seemingly impossible situation. Black Hawk Down chronicles the US military’s 1993 raid on Mogadishu, which turned from a quick mission into a night standoff and rescue, and features a large cast including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Tom Sizemore and William Fichtner, Sam Shepard, Jeremy Piven and Tom Hardy in his first film role.

Cash IGN’s review of Black Hawk Down.


Where to see: Fubo and rentable on other platforms

Edward Zwick’s Civil War historical drama Glory stars Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman and Matthew Broderick in the history of the Massachusetts 54th Infantry Regiment – one of the Union Army’s earliest African-American regiments. Glory was nominated for five Oscars and won three of them (including one for Denzel). Glory is a moving, powerful film that will take your breath away.

Check out IGN’s review glory.

courage under fire

Where to see: Amazon Prime Video and rentable on other platforms

Denzel Washington has reunited with Glory director Edward Zwick for a very different war and bravery story with Courage Under Fire. Using a Rashomon format, the film follows a Lieutenant Colonel (Washington) who has returned home from the Gulf War after a friendly fire incident and is tasked with determining if Captain Karen Emma Walden (Meg Ryan) is the first woman is said to be the one who receives the Medal of Honor after her death in battle. The individual stories of Walden’s crew are full of inconsistencies… so where’s the truth? Courage Under Fire – also starring Lou Diamond Phillips, Matt Damon and Seth Gilliam – is a captivating, haunted watch.

The soldier James Ryan

Where to see: Fubo and rentable on other platforms

A few years after Spielberg changed the course of cinema with Jurassic Park, he left an indelible mark on the realm of war drama with the instant classic Saving Private Ryan. A film with battle scenes so shocking and harsh that it was unlike anything audiences had seen before in a WWII film. From its D-Day opening to its gruesome climax, Saving Private Ryan and his all-star cast rarely lets you breathe. Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Matt Damon, Adam Goldberg and Jeremy Davies star in this journey to track down a paratrooper in northern France who has been nominated for a whopping eleven Oscars.

Check out IGN’s review The soldier James Ryan.

The thin red line

Where to see: Rentable on many platforms

The same year that Saving Private Ryan was released was another very different World War II film, The Thin Red Line, director Terrence Malick’s first feature film in 20 years. Centered on another arena of war, the Pacific Theater, The Thin Red Line functioned like a profound war poem, in true Malick style. The Thin Red Line was also an Academy Award contender and was nominated in seven categories. Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas and Ben Chaplin star in this fascinating meditation on life and death (along with other famous faces – like John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Jared Leto, John C. Reilly and John Travolta). – in smaller roles).

Check out IGN’s review The thin red line.

ways of glory

Where to see: Amazon Prime Video and rentable on other platforms

In this early Stanley Kubrick gem, Kirk Douglas stars as a World War I commanding officer who tries to defend his soldiers after they refuse to go on a suicide mission. Based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb, Paths of Glory is a thought-provoking tale of the horrors of war and the distant inhumanity that can be flaunted by those responsible. It is beautifully shot and expertly acted.

The injured locker

Where to see: Fubo and rentable on other platforms

Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director after directing this intense, insightful film about a bomb disposal team in the Iraq War and their psychological reactions to the stresses of combat. Future MCU players Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie star in this gripping Best Picture winner that will leave you both exhilarated and jaded.

Cash IGN’s review of The injured locker.


Where to see: Amazon Prime Video and rentable on other platforms

If you’re looking for another war film that swept up at the Academy Awards, then look no further than Oliver Stone’s Platoon, which took home Best Picture, Best Direction, Best Sound and Best Editing. Charlie Sheen plays a US soldier serving in Vietnam while his platoon sergeant (Tom Berenger) and squad leader (Willem Dafoe) argue about platoon morale and the war itself. The first Hollywood film written and directed by a Vietnam War veteran, Platoon is a harrowing look at the violence of war and how men can become monsters amidst the chaos.

Check out IGN’s review train.

Where to see: Rentable on many platforms

Clint Eastwood directed Bradley Cooper in this vivid, sad account of the deadliest shooter in US military history, Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, and the heavy toll that accomplishment took on his personal and family life. Loosely based on Kyle’s own memoir, American Sniper features a stunning, beautiful performance from Cooper and a strong supporting cast of Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman and Kyle Gallner.

Cash IGN’s review of American sniper.

The big red

Where to see: Rentable on many platforms

One of the lesser-known films on this list, The Big Red One is independently produced and filmed for Very Little Abroad, written and directed by Tinseltown veteran (and WWII veteran) Samuel Fuller. The Big Red One stars action legend Lee Marvin as a hardened sergeant and World War I veteran who leads his infantry unit members from battle to battle across Europe in an attempt to survive World War II. A post-Star Wars Mark Hamill stars alongside a pre-Revenge of the Nerds Robert Carradine.

The Outpost

Where to see: Rentable on Netflix and other platforms

Directed by Rod Lurie (The Last Castle, Straw Dogs), The Outpost is an extraordinary blend of writing, acting and technical filmmaking. Based on journalist Jake Tapper’s non-fiction book, The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, the film depicts the months leading up to the Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan, where just over 50 soldiers were surrounded on all sides by hundreds of Taliban insurgents. It stars Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Orlando Bloom, Jack Kesy and Cory Hardrict.

Cash IGN’s review of The Outpost.

sole survivor

Where to see: Rentable on many platforms

Actor/director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, The Rundown) began his five-film collaboration with Mark Wahlberg in 2013 with Lone Survivor, a dramatization of the United States Navy SEALs’ failed counterinsurgency mission, Operation Red Wings. A tale of survival in the truest sense of the word, Lone Survivor is a dark, violent display of bravery, focus and fortitude. Co-stars are Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and Eric Bana.

Cash IGN’s review of sole survivor.


Where to see: Starz app, Amazon with Starz add-on, rentable on many platforms

This high-flying tale of Australian soldiers sent to the Gallipoli Peninsula during World War I is the epitome of Australian cinema – and one of the finest war films ever made. Peter Weir (The Truman Show, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) proved early on to be a patient and extremely talented filmmaker with this harrowing look at the innocence lost on the unforgiving battlefield. Yes, it’s the only film on this list that doesn’t focus on American fighters, but Gallipoli’s themes are evergreen and enduring.

Flags of Our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima

Where to see: Rentable on many platforms

This is where two films creep in at the end, both by Clint Eastwood and both featuring the Battle of Iwo Jima. In Flags of Our Fathers, Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford and Adam Beach deliver a searing salute to the American side of the conflict, while Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya and Tsuyoshi Ihara in the almost entirely Japanese (and stronger film) Letters from Iwo Jima ‘ which depicts the history of the Japanese soldiers.

Cash IGN’s reviews of flags of our fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima.

Do you have a favorite war movie that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments below…

Check out those too The best Memorial Day deals if you are looking for some holiday savings.

You May Also Like