21 of the Best Military Movies to Binge-Watch Now (2021 Edition)
As 2020 winds down, our daylight is shorter and many folks are spending more time at home — to stay warm and to ward off COVID-19. Whether the hustle of the holidays or the stress of the whole year has you needing some R&R, watching the best military movies can take your mind off reality for a minute. Microwave some popcorn, curl up on the couch and check out this list of 21 of the best military movies (and a few TV series) available to stream right now.
Military Movies on Amazon Prime
While there is no specific military discount for Amazon Prime services, members of the armed forces and veterans can sign up for the free, 30-day trial of Amazon Prime Video with no strings attached.
1 hour, 48 minutes — R
Settle in for a story that perfectly captures the absurdity of battle during the peaceful Christmas holiday. In this World War II drama set in December 1944, a U.S. intelligence unit holed up in a chateau forms an unusual, yet human bond with a small group of Nazi soldiers in the woods near the German border. The ensemble cast of GIs includes Ethan Hawke, Peter Berg, Kevin Dillon, Arye Gross and a “pre-Lt. Dan” Gary Sinise. Keep the tissues handy for a heartbreaking twist and a somber plan for escape.
1 hour, 47 minutes — PG-13
Director Christopher Nolan sets a desperate tone through limited dialogue but an enormous atmosphere in this thrilling drama, which has been called one of the finest World War II films ever made. The historic evacuation of Allied troops from France in 1940 is told via combat in the air, land and sea by a British cast including Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy and singer Harry Styles. With eight Academy Award nods total, the movie took home awards for best film editing, best sound editing and best sound mixing. Hans Zimmer provides the Oscar-nominated original soundtrack.
2 hours, 50 minutes — NR
Set in post-World War II middle-America, this emotional drama follows the complicated lives of three veterans and the challenges of integrating back into their families and the workforce. The popular film swept the Academy Awards the following year, nabbing honors for best motion picture, best director, best actor, best screenplay, best film editing and best scoring of a dramatic or comedy picture. Harold Russell, who was not a professional actor, won both a best supporting actor Oscar and an Academy Honorary Award for his incredible performance as a disabled Navy vet.
2 hours, 41 minutes — 13+
Helmed by acclaimed director David Lean, this World War II drama about British POWs forced to build a bridge for their Japanese captors in Burma won seven Academy Awards. Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins and Sessue Hayakawa star in the complex story that tackles the treatment of enemy officers and ultimately pits British pride against an Allied plan to blow up the bridge. Though the plot plays loose and fast with some historical facts, the edge-of-your-seat tension until the movie’s epic finale is 100 percent real.
2 hours, 48 minutes — R
Known for its raw and realistic depiction of the Normandy invasion in 1944, this story follows a group of GIs who are tasked with finding and retrieving Pvt. James Francis Ryan, whose three other brothers have all been killed in WWII combat. Tom Hanks is the captain leading a squad played by Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg and Jeremy Davies as they search for Ryan, portrayed by Matt Damon. This box-office hit won five Academy Awards — best film editing, best cinematography, best sound, best sound effects editing and best director for Steven Spielberg — and is widely credited with reviving recent interest in films depicting the second World War.
1 hour, 49 minutes — R
Oscar-nominee Goldie Hawn stars as the title character in this fish-out-of-water comedy about a wealthy Jewish woman who abruptly — and naively — joins the U.S. Army after her husband dies on their wedding night. Eileen Brennan is the adversarial Army Captain and Hal Williams is the no-nonsense drill sergeant who put the charming Hawn through her paces and ultimately mold her into a strong, independent woman.
2 hours — R
This popular “dramedy” set in Saigon during the Vietnam War stars Robin Williams as a controversial radio DJ for the Armed Forces Radio Service. Accompanied by a soundtrack of hits by James Brown, The Beach Boys, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas and Louis Armstrong, Williams is a comedic force, drawing the admiration — and ire — of colleagues played by Forest Whitaker, Bruno Kirby, Robert Wuhl and J.T. Walsh. As is typical of his genius, much of the humorous broadcasts by Oscar-nominated Williams were improvised while in character.
2 hours 37 minutes — 13+
Wash 2020 right out of your hair with this beloved romantic musical set on a U.S.-occupied island during World War II. Adapted from the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway hit, the film follows several stories, including an American nurse (Mitzi Gaynor) who falls for an expatriate French plantation owner (Rossano Brazzi), and a Marine (John Kerr) in love with a young Tonkinese woman (France Nuyen) — all set amid a backdrop of a secret mission that could turn the tide of the war. If nothing else, the film will have you humming to standards such as “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Bali Ha’i” and “There is Nothing Like a Dame.”
2 hours, 51 minutes — PG
Name a more iconic military movie image than George C. Scott delivering a rousing monologue as Gen. George S. Patton in front of an enormous American flag. Go ahead, we’ll wait. (Click to Tweet this)
This epic, biographic, WWII drama won seven Oscars, including best picture, best director, best screenplay, best sound and best actor for Scott, who declined to accept his award. Karl Malden deftly portrays Gen. Omar N. Bradley, who also features prominently in the historic film. One more unforgettable item: the eerie bugle echoes from Oscar-nominated composer Jerry Goldsmith.
1 hour, 34 minutes — PG
Make it George C. Scott double-feature with this comedy that’s darker than Santa’s coal. Director Stanley Kubrick delivers a humorous critique of the Cold War-era arms race in this critically acclaimed tale of a rogue, unbalanced U.S. general (Sterling Hayden) who orders an air attack on Soviet targets — which is complicated by a damaged B-52 bomber that can’t be recalled. Scott is a U.S. general attempting to mitigate the losses in the War Room while managing his mistress, and Slim Pickens is the major in a cowboy hat tasked with delivering the deadly cargo. Peter Sellers turns in three stellar performances as he transforms for three separate characters.
Honorable Amazon Mentions
- Top Gun
- From Here to Eternity
- An Officer and a Gentleman
- Memphis Belle
- The Deer Hunter
- The Great Escape
- Red Tails
- American Sniper
- Das Boot
- The Tuskegee Airmen
- Three Kings
- Master and Commander
- Starship Troopers
- Full Metal Jacket
- The Longest Day
- Apocalypse Now
- Miracle at St. Anna
- The Hunt for Red October
- Rambo: First Blood
- The Great Santini
Best Military Movies on Netflix
Netflix does not offer a military discount at this time, but anyone can sign up for a free, 1-month trial from the steaming entertainment service.
2 hours — R
Director and screenwriter Oliver Stone based this award-winning war drama on his own experiences while in Vietnam. Starting in 1967, the story stars Charlie Sheen as a young infantry soldier stationed near the Cambodian border. Two sergeants, played by Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe, represent the conflicting views of cynicism and idealism in the reality of battle. Keith David, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley, Forest Whitaker and Johnny Depp round out the ensemble cast in this movie which earned eight Oscar nominations and won four Academy Awards, including best sound, best film editing, best director and best picture.
2 hours, 2 minutes — R
This drama based on real events tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the Union Army’s first African-American regiment in the American Civil War. Matthew Broderick portrays Col. Robert Gould Shaw, with Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington as fictionalized members of the 54th. Nominated for five Academy Awards, the film took home three: best sound, best cinematography and best actor in a supporting role for Washington. After all the regiment’s struggles, its fate seems almost sealed as it prepares an ambitious attack on the Confederate-held Fort Wagner, the movie’s finale. “Give ’em hell, 54th!”
13. A Bridge Too Far
2 hours, 55 minutes — PG
This popular war history flick follows Operation Market Garden, the Allies’ risk-filled attempt, in September 1944, to hasten the end of World War II by driving through Belgium and Holland into Germany. The all-star ensemble cast includes Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Edward Fox, Elliott Gould, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Hardy Krüger, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O’Neal, Robert Redford, Maximilian Schell and Liv Ullmann.
14. Space Force
10 episodes, about 30 minutes each — TV-MA
Steve Carell is the first commander of the new U.S. Space Force branch in this deadpan, ensemble comedy original from Netflix. With a mission to get “boots on the moon” by 2024, Carell, John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, Diana Silvers, Tawny Newsome face a host of workplace challenges, from Congressional budget hearings to an angry space chimpanzee.
15. The Patriot
2 hours, 45 minutes — R
This fictionalized, historic drama beginning in 1776 tells the story of a peaceful farmer drawn back into military service when the colonial conflict with the British becomes extremely personal. Mel Gibson stars as the elder farmer, a veteran of the French and Indian War, while Heath Ledger plays his son who joins the Continental Army. Both have a vendetta against Jason Isaacs, portraying a brutal commander in the British cavalry. The legendary John Williams provides the film’s Oscar-nominated soundtrack.
Honorable Netflix Mentions
Military Movies and Shows on Hulu
Hulu offers a military discount for new subscribers: Get one month free and 10 percent off each additional month ($7.99 before discount) for up to one year.
256 episodes, about 30 minutes each —TVPG
Relive the lighthearted laughs among the sometimes-deadly serious themes in this classic TV series inspired by Robert Altman’s 1970 film of the same name. The unforgettable ensemble cast portraying life in a mobile hospital during the Korean War includes Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, McLean Stevenson, Loretta Swit, Larry Linville, Gary Burghoff, Mike Farrell, Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr, William Christopher and David Ogden Stiers. One of the highest-rated shows in TV history, M*A*S*H spent 11 years telling stories of the Korean conflict, which itself lasted three years. The show culminated in the most-watched scripted series finale in television history — a record which stands today.
17. The Hurt Locker
2 hours, 11 minutes — R
Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Christian Camargo, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse and Guy Pearce star in this intense thriller about an Iraq War Explosive Ordnance Disposal team driven to the edge. Though the film is sometimes criticized by veterans for its portrayal of wartime conditions, it was nominated for nine Academy Awards; the film’s honors include best writing of an original screenplay, best film editing, best sound mixing, best sound editing and best directing for Katheryn Bigelow. To date, it remains the only movie directed by a woman to win the Oscar for best film.
18. Generation Kill
7 episodes, about 1 hour each, TV-MA
This seven-part HBO miniseries (available on Hulu through an add-on subscription) drops the viewer into the action just the like the story’s embedded reporter with the U.S. Marine Corps’ 1st Reconnaissance Battalion during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Actors Alexander Skarsgård, James Ransone and Lee Tergesen bring this tale — based on Evan Wright’s 2004 book — to life. Received positively by critics, the series was nominated for 11 Prime Time Emmy awards in 2009, including nods for outstanding miniseries, outstanding directing and outstanding writing.
2 hours, 15 minutes — R
2 hours, 21 minutes — R
These two feature-length films (available on Hulu through an add-on subscription), are critically-acclaimed companion pieces telling the story of WWII’s Battle of Iwo Jima. The U.S. part, “Flags of Our Fathers,” depicts the story surrounding the Marines and a Navy corpsman who were involved in raising the flag on Iwo Jima. The foreign-language companion film, “Letters From Iwo Jima,” tells the story of the battle from the Japanese side. The movies were shot back-to-back, and both are directed by Clint Eastwood.
Honorable Hulu Mentions
Military Movies on Disney+
Need a break from some of the serious streaming content? Marvel at these superhero blockbusters with plot links to the U.S. military.
2 hours, 6 minutes — PG-13
Few stories are more wholesome than the origin of super-soldier Captain America! Travel back to the 1940s as Chris Evans portrays the scrawny Army recruit Steve Rogers, chosen for an experimental medical treatment that gives him super strength and fighting abilities. During a mission to rescue his best friend (Sebastian Stan) from behind enemy lines in WWII, Captain America learns of the dreadful Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), another former experiment now working for the Nazis and evil organization Hydra. For a trilogy of red, white and blue action, check out the film’s sequels, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War. #teamrogers
21. Captain Marvel
2 hours, 3 minutes — PG-13
A present-day superhero searches her disjointed memories for clues to the origins of her incredible powers. Amid the backdrop of a galactic war between two alien races, Brie Larson stars as the mysterious fighter named Vers, and Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg and Jude Law are the ensemble cast that slowly reveals her past as a U.S. Air Force pilot.
With more streaming movies than you can shake a remote at, this list of the best military movies to binge should keep you entertained through the end of the year — or until it’s safer to visit movie theaters in person.
Was your favorite military-themed movie MIA from our list? Let us know so we can share your tips with our audiences.