What is a war film

Lexicon of film terms

War Movie

Collective term for one of the oldest genres that emerged as documentary war reporting, but which was ascribed great fiction worthiness as early as 1900: be it that a war is the plot itself, be it that it forms the situational context that has a lasting impact on the plot and the dramaturgy (as a drama, romance or as a prisoner of war or returnee film). Even if wars have always been waged, the term usually refers to films that deal with so-called “modern” wars that have been waged since the 19th century. The political ideological stance expressed in war films can range from pacifism to resistance to massive propaganda; the degree of enthusiasm for or rejection of the war that is conveyed depends on this. The most important war films are actually anti-war films that tell of the futility of what happened, of individual despair or mutilation, of the loss of cultural orientation and the like (think of All Quiet on the Western Front, 1930, The bridge, 1959, or Western Front 18, 1930).
Several stereotypical stories keep cropping up, forming the conventional core of the genre: (1) War as rescue from evil enemies - Stories of this type have a clear perspective and represent clear ideas of who is good and who is bad and who is a threat or aggressor. One example is the Vietnam propaganda film The Green Berets (1969), who leaves no doubt about the viciousness of the Viet Cong and the legitimacy of American intervention. (2) Bad war and good soldiers - mostly it is about the presentation and justification of the acts of individuals who go to war as fundamental victims, which they cannot influence themselves. Even under extreme conditions, the mutual demand for chivalry also applies in war. (3) War as a field of probation - The extreme situations of war reveal the true character of a soldier, they help to develop and test virtues such as loyalty, unconditional friendship, commitment and care for others; to that extent the war has the character of a "socialization authority"; is considered a typical film of this group The Dirty Dozen (1967, Robert Aldrich), in which a group of criminals is socialized and civilized under extreme training conditions, only to be almost wiped out in a military action in the end. (4) War as a stroke of fate - a very common variety for post-war German films. The individual is not responsible for the war, the latter comes upon people like a force of nature. Your own people suffer from the war just as much as your opponents, responsibility for or guilt for the overall event cannot be determined.
In all of these motifs it is almost exclusively about the exploration of male virtues - certainly promoted by the fact that the military is a male event, but also by the semantic opposition of the values ​​of the female to the complex of war.
The war film is often aesthetically ambivalent because it stages the events of the war as an aesthetic attraction, even if it attacks the war itself as morally reprehensible - a famous example is the helicopter attack in Apocalypse Now.

Literature: Butler, Ivan: The War movie. South Brunswick, New York: A.S. Barnes 1974. - Curley, Stephen J. / Frank J. Wetta: Celluloid Wars. A Guide to Film and the American Experience of War. New York / Westport / London: Greenwood Press 1992. - Kagan, Norman: The War movie. New York: Pyramid 1974. - Kester, Bernadette: Film Front Weimar: Representations of the First World War in German Films of the Weimar Period (1919-1933). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2003. - Rollins, Peter C. / O'Connor, John E. (eds.): Hollywood's World War I: Motion Picture Images. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press 1997.


American Civil War

Anti-war film

Combat movie

court-martial drama

Gulf War

War drama

Prisoner of War film

War romance


Military clothes

Pacifism in the movie

Mercenary film / mercenary in film

Spanish Civil War

Veteran film

Vietnam film

was drama


Article last changed on 10/13/2012

Author: HHMPB