While 2022 has been filled with superhero sequels like “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and indie horror hits such as “X” and “Barbarian,” it should come as no surprise that it’s been just as big of a year for war movies too. Hollywood has always had a soft spot for making big, dramatic depictions of war and that has continued into 2022 with some must-see films that take audiences through the experience of battle.
War movies have consistently been some of the highest-rated and biggest box office draws, especially since Steven Spielberg’s 1998 film “Saving Private Ryan” — regarded as one of the best war movies ever made — totally reinvigorated the genre. Many of the biggest movies in this genre have represented massive conflicts that the United States has been involved in, particularly World War II, Vietnam, and the War on Terror. Within the past 20 years, films such as “The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and “Black Hawk Down” were all determined to examine the complex conflict of America’s interventions abroad.
In recent years, a handful of war movies struck a chord with audiences by portraying the struggle of everyday soldiers being forced to endure the chaos of combat, including “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Dunkirk,” and “1917.” In 2022 we have even more incredible war movies to watch with a wide variety of topics, settings, and situations. Read on to find out the hands-down best war movies of the year so far.
Netflix’s attempt to adapt the legendary anti-war novel by Erich Maria Remarque seemed to be a daunting task, but it is clear that director Edward Berger was up to the challenge. “All Quiet on the Western Front” is a German-produced war film that depicts the horrors endured by a German soldier towards the end of World War I. It stars Felix Kammerer as Paul Bäumer, a 17-year-old warrior on the frontlines of France who is stuck in the endless war machine of a senseless conflict. The film also sports a fantastic supporting cast of actors such as Albrecht Schuch, Devid Striesow, and Daniel Brühl (known for his work in “Inglorious Basterds” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Helmut Zemo).
Fans of literature will know that “All Quiet on the Western Front” is considered of the most famous and greatest pieces of anti-war writing ever made, so it was essential for the creators of this adaptation to take that message seriously. It could easily have been transformed into a spectacle that undermined the themes of the story, but luckily this was not the case. Critics have fawned over Berger’s interpretation of the text and its anti-war message while managing to maintain a compelling human story as well. “All Quiet on the Western Front” scored a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with multiple reviewers praising its cast, writing, and aesthetic production of a timeless classic.
While this is definitely a change of pace from some of the more serious films on our list, there’s no denying that “Top Gun: Maverick” is one of the best war movies of 2022. Tom Cruise’s legacy sequel to the original 1986 flick has absolutely demolished box office records, having made nearly $1.5 billion dollars worldwide and making it the highest-grossing movie of the year (and one of the highest of Cruise’s career). Because of this, the high-flying ace combat of “Top Gun: Maverick” definitely deserves to be talked about despite there not being an actual war as such in this movie.
“Top Gun: Maverick” follows United States Navy Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise) as he settles into a semi-forced retirement by his superior officers. Because he’s one of the best pilots around, he’s brought back into a teaching role at the Top Gun flight school to prepare the next generation of fighter pilots for an extremely dangerous mission on foreign soil. The details of this whole thing are intentionally kept vague, but it’s clear that Maverick and his team will have to slug it out with enemy pilots throughout the film as they attempt to destroy an illegal uranium enrichment plant on the ground. “Top Gun: Maverick” features a stacked cast alongside Cruise, including Val Kilmer, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, and John Hamm as various members of the United States Navy.
You may not have heard of this one, but it’s definitely a movie worth checking out if you love non-stop action and thrilling stories involving black ops soldiers working outside the lines. Tarik Saleh’s “The Contractor” stars Chris Pine as James Harper, a former Green Beret who is forced into private contracting work after being ejected from the military for drug use. After becoming a mercenary, he is pulled into a larger plot involving terrorism, intelligence groups, and betrayal along the way.
“The Contractor” is unique among other war movies on this list because it is not focused on a specific historical conflict, but rather on the clandestine operations that go on behind the scenes of the modern world. According to The Washington Post, nearly 53,000 contractors were hired by the U.S. military for deployment in the Middle East in 2019 compared to only 35,000 actual troops, with upwards of $370 billion in defense budget spending going towards these defense groups. So, in many ways, “The Contractor” is an interesting portrayal of what modern warfare actually looks like in today’s world by fully embracing the role of hired guns as soldiers. Despite an unflattering 45% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, this film stands out as having a more unique premise than most.
“Operation Mincemeat” is a British war movie that is directly inspired by a real event that occurred in World War II, during which the United Kingdom helped to keep the Allied invasion of Sicily a secret from both Italian and German intelligence. The film is directed by John Madden and features an all-star cast that includes Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Jason Isaacs, and Mark Gatiss who all play various real-life historical figures involved in this event.
World War II was one of the most devastating conflicts in human history, and as a result, it has inspired countless big-screen adaptations of specific episodes of the war. “Operation Mincemeat” puts the focus more on the espionage and deception required to orchestrate one of the most key invasions of the war. By tricking the Axis powers into shifting their focus away from Sicily, the Allies were able to successfully secure the island and later the entire Italian peninsula.
Not all war movies need to show intense combat or firefights. Some only require a focus on the individuals (both human and animal) who are subjected to battle for the sake of their country, like “Dog,” which is dedicated to the budding relationship between a U.S. army ranger and a military Belgian Shepherd who once belonged to a wartime friend.
“Dog” — also considered one of the best comedy movies of 2022 — is co-directed by Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin (both making their directorial feature debuts), while Tatum also stars as a war veteran named Jackson Briggs who suffers from PTSD after sustaining a serious brain injury in combat. He is tasked with taking a military dog, Lulu, to her owner’s funeral and then eventually to a designated location to be put down.
The actor told Yahoo! Entertainment in an interview that the idea for “Dog” was closely inspired by his own late pit bull Catahoula mix, which was also named Lulu, who was diagnosed with cancer. The film was also influenced by the stories of real-life military K-9s who serve in active duty roles alongside their human comrades. Overall, “Dog” proved to be a critical hit by clinching a 77% Rotten Tomatoes score with critics and an even higher 89% with audiences who loved the touching story and conscientious portrayal of veterans.
“Munich: The Edge of War” is unique among the films on this list because it’s actually focused more on the prevention of war, rather than the action of it. This film is centered entirely around the efforts of two diplomats (one British, and one German) as they attempt to prevent the inevitable conflict brewing in Europe during the late 1930s.
This film is directed by Christian Schwochow and is based directly on the best-selling novel by renowned historical fiction author Robert Harris (best known for his “Fatherland” series). It boasts an impressive cast of actors such as Jeremy Irons, Alex Jennings, George MacKay, and Jannis Niewöhner in roles based on actual people from this historical moment. Irons plays the role of infamous British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who became known in later years as a crucial figure in World War II thanks to his policy of appeasement with Nazi Germany. In this story, he is steadfastly dedicated to preventing conflict with Hitler’s fascist nation through diplomatic means, regardless of the realities of an impending war.
“Devotion” is another entry on our list that combines two familiar elements of war movies: the 1950s and aerial combat. This film is directed by J.D. Dillard and stars both Johnathan Majors and Glen Powell (who also features in “Top Gun: Maverick”) as two enlisted members of the United States Navy during the Korean War. They play hot shot pilots named Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner who go on to become some of the most highly celebrated pilots in Navy history thanks to their fearless actions during this conflict.
Using the Korean War as a backdrop, this film seeks to explore the nuances and friendship of two pilots who become reliant on each other during each mission. Brown and Hudner serve as one another’s wingmen, which in pilot terms means they support each other in combat in pairs of two. This is a dynamic that also comes up a lot in the other big dogfight-heavy war film of the year, “Top Gun: Maverick,” but in “Devotion,” it is more focused on camaraderie than competition.
“Devotion” proved to be a surprise hit and received a 77% Rotten Tomatoes score from critics and an impressive 96% from audiences. Additionally, Katie Walsh of the Los Angeles Times noted in her review how powerful the film’s story of wartime brotherhood felt for audiences, writing, “Tonally, ‘Devotion’ remains steady, never going for over-the-top emotion or sensation, simply seeking to express something authentically moving and human.”
“The Greatest Beer Run Ever” is the first war movie on this list to focus on the more recent and controversial Vietnam War. The film is directed by Peter Farrelly – whose 2018 film “Green Book” won Academy Awards for best motion picture of the year and best screenplay – and stars both Zac Efron and Russell Crowe in leading roles. It follows the story of a former marine named John “Chickie” Donohue (Efron) who ambitiously decides to return to Vietnam to deliver ice-cold beer to his buddies out in the jungle.
It turns out that “The Greatest Beer Run Ever” is based on a mostly true story and Donohue was a real guy who actually did bring beer to his frontline comrades serving in Vietnam during 1968. According to HistoryNet, he was a victim of bad timing after being caught up in the devastating Tet Offensive, in which the North Vietnamese army and Viet Cong soldiers attacked the south unexpectedly. Luckily, Donohue survived this ordeal and was able to witness Efron’s performance of his daring beer run.
“Sniper: The White Raven” is a fascinating movie that depicts Ukrainian resistance against Russian aggression soon before a real-life invasion began in February 2022. Directed by Maryan Bushan, this film tells the story of Mykola (Pavlo Aldoshyn), a former pacifist turned icy warrior who is forced to defend the Donbas region of Ukraine from foreign invaders by becoming an elite sniper.
For obvious reasons, “Sniper: The White Raven” has gained significant attention worldwide for its depiction of Ukrainian resistance and heroism in the face of a threat that became all too real for the small nation. Interestingly, this movie began filming in the fall of 2020, well before Russia launched its attack on its southern neighbor. “Sniper: The White Raven” also features many actual Ukrainian military operatives in the film, such as members of the National Guard of Ukraine and the Rapid Response Brigade.
Thanks in no small part to Western support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia, The Guardian applauded the film for its “noble attempt to honor the resilience of Ukrainians.” On the other hand, some reviewers such as Tim Cogshell of FilmWeek noted that the story “is nationalistic, it’s propaganda, it has a point of view.”
“Black Crab” is an exciting action thriller that looks at a future post-apocalyptic war between various factions as a group of soldiers attempt to make a delivery that could finally secure peace. This Swedish production is directed by Adam Berg and features an excellent performance by Noomi Rapace in the leading role of hardened warrior Caroline Edh. Rapace is no stranger to intense roles, as she previously starred in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Prometheus” which both showed her to be a dominating physical actress.
As a war movie, “Black Crab” is full of the action and suspense one would expect from a post-apocalyptic setting in the genre. This film is full of shooting, stabbing, exploding, and everything in between as these soldiers traverse the frozen archipelago of Stockholm, Sweden. Despite having an interesting premise and talented lead, “Black Crab” didn’t seem to land with critics who wrote off the film as too familiar for its own good. It holds a 53% score on Rotten Tomatoes with critics and an even lower 36% with audiences. Nonetheless, this may still be a worthwhile watch for war movie fans scrolling through Netflix in need of some snowy action.
Set further back in history than any other war film on this list is Petr Jákl’s “Medieval” which takes place during the Hussite Wars of the early 14th century. “Medieval” is a Czech-produced film in English that stars big-name actors such as Ben Foster and Michael Caine as Jan Žižka and Lord Boresh respectively, who were involved in the religious conflict within Bohemia at that time.
For some historical context, the Hussite Wars were a series of conflicts preceding the protestant reformation where religious differences within what would become the modern-day Czech Republic fought against the forces of the Holy Roman Empire. This lesser-known event is deeply ingrained in Czech history and culture, so this film is a rare opportunity to see the devastating war that unfolded because of this event.
While portraying a unique piece of military history can be admired, “Medieval” failed to impress critics and garnered a meager 41% Rotten Tomatoes score overall. However, William Bibbiani of The Wrap argued that for what the film lacked in story cohesion, it made up for in exciting medieval battle scenes, writing, “‘Medieval’ struggles as a work of historical fiction, but when the action mounts, it’s immersive and exciting.”