Screening Room: War in Popular Culture

Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 09:58 AM

As part of our End of War series, we're having a conversation about the portrayal of war in popular culture. Here are some clips of the movies, theater and video games we discussed.

Got a war scene you want to add to the screening room? Post it in the comments page below, or

A Walk in the Sun (1943)

Born on The Fourth of July (1989)

Gears of War 3 (2011)

An Illiad (2012)


More in:

Comments [14]

Mike Popowich Jr from The Bronx

Full Metal Jacket is another great anti-war film. So sorry I missed this discussion. Recently, I have been upset at Lehman College for screening Act of Valor, as well as showing a film about women in the military for women's history month. There are so many pro war and pro military films. Aside from the regular war films, don't forget that a lot of these hostile alien films are also to encourage support for the military.

Mar. 30 2012 11:07 AM
Jo from lower Manhattan

My father, who had spent over 5 yrs. in the army during & just after WWII was or became a pacifist. It wasn't that he talked about it except to say that he had refused to have his brain owned any more, when MIT & the Rand Corp.offered him jobs in the weapons industry.
When I was 6, he & my mom took me to see "Duck Soup", which aside from being hysterically funny, is one of the great anti-war films. Later in my youth my father insisted we go to "The Mouse that Roared" which was an even more absurdist look at war. Next came my exposure to the German Expressionist painters (esp. George Grosz) which made me look at the causes of WWII in a new way. Finally I caught up with "Catch 22" which took the absurdity and pain of war to a new level.
Of course many films which depict Veterans and their families travails with great humanity and depth,have caused me to deepen my thoughts about the cost of war. I in no way believe war is an inevitibility. I believe in realistic hope - not optimism or pessimism, and within that matrix it is incombant on all of us to look at the hardest realities that exist, then have a vision of how transformations could happen, and THEN one must devise ways to put one's shoulder to the wheel !
Sound like a plan ?? Keep thinking and laughing!!

Mar. 22 2012 10:53 PM

Harve Presnell - as General Marshall. He was reading the letter after they informed him that a mother was getting three letters of condolence. Those were the three brothers Ryan lost. He then ordered for Ryan to come home.

Mar. 22 2012 12:03 PM
Soldier's Father from Pelham, NY

Brian: In "Saving Private Ryan", I believe the letter quoting Abraham Lincoln is real historical letter sent by General George Marshall to a real mother who lost several sons in WWII, read by the actor portraying General Marshall as he issues the order to find and save the fictional Private Ryan. It is not read by the fictional Captain portrayed by Tom Hanks (who does not survive). Also, the elderly man visiting the U.S. cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach in the moving opening and closing scenes is supposed to be the aged survivor Private Ryan, not the Tom Hanks character.

Mar. 22 2012 11:59 AM
Tom O'Hara from Malverne

Correction: the piece you played from "Saving Private Ryan" was actually General Marshall reading a letter from Abraham Lincoln to a mother who lost several sons in the Civil War.

Mar. 22 2012 11:55 AM

I don't believe that was Tom Hanks character reading the Abe Lincoln letter. It was a General or something.

Mar. 22 2012 11:54 AM
Mark Ethan Toporek from NY

There is a 1964 movie called THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY, which starred Julie Andrews & James Garner, directed by Arthur Hiller and dominated by a script by Paddy Chayevsky. This came at about the mid-point of Chayevsky's stage & film career, between his more humanistic plays like MARTY & MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, and his much more angry work in THE HOSPITAL and NETWORK. Chayevsky was a WWII veteran (as was Hiller), and the central thesis of the movie is an attack on hero-worship. The protagonist, played by Garner makes the point that "As long as valor remains a virtue, we shall have soldiers" and he makes the point that we perpetuate war by exalting the sacrifice. It is a wonderful, thought proviking movie and I urge people to seek it out.

Mar. 22 2012 11:50 AM
Gabriel from NYC

If we as a species eliminate war we'll never stop portraying it in stories. What's more dramatic than war?

To add to the list:
Dr. Strangelove
Paths of Glory
Slaughterhouse Five

Mar. 22 2012 11:46 AM
John A.

"Paths of Glory" should be seen by everyone. Has some irony for the "Occupy" crowd too, with the upperclass generals sipping tea while the troops die.

Mar. 22 2012 11:41 AM
Jon Pope from Ridge, NY

What about "The Deer Hunter"? What could that have possibly glorified?

Mar. 22 2012 11:38 AM
Jane Wilson from Brooklyn

Belorussian movie 'Come and See'. horrifying. the director couldn't make another movie after shooting this one...

Mar. 22 2012 11:37 AM
amanda from manhattan

Apocalypse Now and Galipoli have both traumatized me.

Mar. 22 2012 11:37 AM
Eric G from Brooklyn NYC

"Letters Home from Vietnam" came out when I was the same age as many of the letter writers. Empathy, and even an element of envy, made it a problematic, thought-provoking, emotional experience that still resonates.
Wesleyan class of '91

Mar. 22 2012 11:34 AM
Jay F.

Abel Gance's "J'accuse" and Tumbo's "Johnny got his Gun".

Mar. 22 2012 11:33 AM

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