‘Three Kings’ depicts the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, where four American soldiers — Archie Gates, Troy Barlow, Chief Elgin and Conrad Vig (essayed by George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, and Spike Jonze respectively) — plan a heist to steal gold that was stolen from Kuwait. However, upon arriving, they discover that the local civilians desperately need their help to survive. Directed by American filmmaker David O. Russell, the film is built upon the foundation of political commentary and an anti-war message.
For this article, I have chosen films which are set within the time of the war and have narratives that carry traits similar to this stone cold classic. Here’s the list of best movies similar to ‘Three Kings’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these movies like ‘Three Kings’ on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
10. The Great Escape (1963)
An epic war film, ‘The Great Escape’ is set during World War II, and follows the efforts of allied prisoners captured in a German camp who plan to escape. Directed by American filmmaker John Sturges, ‘The Great Escape’ does not showcase the atrocities of war, but is quite impish in its narrative. The characters of the film, essayed by Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough, do plan meticulously for the escape but also are seen to have a few laughs. Adapted from Austrian fighter pilot-turned author Paul Brickhill’s non-fiction book of the same name, which was published in 1950, ‘The Great Escape’ makes a few artistic changes to engage the audience with its world. The film was nominated for a couple of awards and was included in National Board of Review’s “Top Ten Films of Year”.
9. Platoon (1986)
Winning the “Best Picture” and nagging the “Best Director” for Oliver Stone at the Academy Awards, ‘Platoon’ is a deeply personalized look at the horrors of war, experienced first-hand by Stone. ‘Platoon’ stars Charlie Sheen as U.S. Army volunteer Chris Taylor, who is fighting in the war while his two sergeants, Staff Sergeant Bob Barnes and Sergeant Elias, essayed by Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe respectively, argue over the leadership of the “platoon”. Categorised as an anti-war film, ‘Platoon’ has a personal touch that no other war film has. The editing is also noteworthy as it creates the sensation of urgency and danger with command. The critical and commercial success of the film earned it the legacy of being one of the best Vietnam war films and has also been included in American Film Institute’s “100 Years … 100 Movies”.
8. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
An adaptation of Terry Benedict’s documentary ‘The Conscientious Objector’ (2004), this biographical war drama is the story of World War II American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, essayed by British American actor Andrew Garfield, who served during the Battle of Okinawa. The film follows his quest to become the first man in American history who refused to kill civilians and received the Medal of Honour with no kills to his name. Directed by American actor and filmmaker Mel Gibson, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is a gritty and unabashed commentary on the atrocities of war. The film was received with immense praise and many critics placed it among their lists of best films of the year 2016. In addition, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ went on to bag a number nominations, winning the “Best Film Editing” and “Best Sound Mixing” Awards at the Oscars, to name a few.
7. The Hurt Locker (2008)
Directed by American filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, ‘The Hurt Locker’ is the story of Iraq War Explosive Ordnance Disposal team who are targeted by revolutionaries. The film showcased their attempts to combat which resulted in psychological trauma and shock. Cited as the best film of 2009 by many, ‘The Hurt Locker’ is a tenacious and hard-edged piece of art commenting on the Iraq war. It is brilliantly shot, edited and scored, which resulted in an Oscar win for “Best Picture” coupled with five other wins. The film, although a dramatization, was met with praise and applause from war veterans, who considered the film to be an accurate portrayal of the stressful conditions of war. ‘The Hurt Locker’, like any well-crafted war film, does not sensitize the gore or the underlying themes for the audience, but showcase the brutality with truth and objectivity.
6. The Thin Red Line (1998)
A Canadian American epic war film, ‘The Thin Red Line’ saw American filmmaker Terrence Malick return to his directorial chair after a 20-year absence. Adapted from American writer James Jones’ book of the same name, ‘The Thin Red Line’ portrays the Battle of Mount Austen, which was a part of the Guadalcanal Campaign in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. A fictionalized version, ‘The Thin Red Line’ uses the emotional disarray of the soldiers to create a cohesive and haunting story. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, it was one of the most highly acclaimed films of 1998. A recipient of the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, ‘The Thin Red Line’ was termed to be “greatest contemporary war film” by American film critic Gene Siskel. Martin Scorsese also named it as one of his favorite films.
5. Das Boot (1981)
Written and directed by veteran German filmmaker Wolfgang Petersen, ‘Das Boot’ is a “submarine film” as it follows the claustrophobic WWII German U-boat, where the soldiers experience tediousness, disgust and sheer terror of the war. Adapted from German author and painter Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s novel of the same name, which was published in 1973, ‘Das Boot’ is set in the military campaign of Battle of the Atlantic. The film captures the phobia and the terror faced by soldiers through an intrinsic eye, credited to the well-designed claustrophobia of the submarine. Although the film did not receive big box office accolades, it was cited as one of the best films of 1981, and garnered multiple nominations at the Academy Awards and the BAFTAs. It has become a poster film of excellence in German cinema.
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4. Dunkirk (2017)
‘Dunkirk’ is perhaps the most different and unique film on this list. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, it chronicles the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II. Cited to be Nolan’s “best film” to date by many, ‘Dunkirk’ is an example of resolute filmmaking. Using the narrative of “hyperlink” cinema, Nolan employs a non-linear storytelling format to explore the three pillars of “sea, land and air”. With minimalistic dialogue and subtle character work, ‘Dunkirk’ is built upon the visionary works of sound design, editing and cinematography, all of which earned a tremendous reception from audiences and critics. The movie is not only cited as the best to be directed by Nolan but is also considered to be one of the best war films of all time.
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3. The Deer Hunter (1978)
Directed by Michael Cimino and written by Deric Washburn, ‘The Deer Hunter’ chronicles how deeply the U.S. Vietnam War impacts the people psychologically and physically in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania. The psychological structure within the narrative framework makes ‘The Deer Hunter’ quite a difficult watch. With Cimino’s extremely meticulous direction and the masterful performances of Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and John Savage and Meryl Streep, the film becomes a classic. A critical and commercial success, ‘The Deer Hunter’ has gone on to become a trademark in the genre of epic war dramas. In addition, the film won five Oscars and was also inducted in American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Movies”.
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2. Apocalypse Now (1979)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and co-written by John Milius, ‘Apocalypse Now’ follows Martin Sheen as Captain Benjamin L. Willard, a U.S. Army officer serving in Vietnam who is handed the operation of assassinating a apostate Special Forces Colonel, Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, essayed by Marlon Brando, who sees himself as a “god”. Adapting its narrative from Polish British author Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ (1899), this epic war film is – as Coppola famously said – ‘Vietnam’. This means that ‘Apocalypse Now’ is as gritty, realistic and haunting as it can get. The film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and won the prestigious “Palme d’Or”. Though it was met with surprisingly lukewarm reviews from mainstream critics, ‘Apocalypse Now’ went on to become a war classic and has established itself as one of the best films ever made. The film was also inducted preservation in the National Film Registry and has been listed in American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Movies”.
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1. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Often cited as the most “accurate war films” by war veterans, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is indeed a hard-boiled look at the mayhem and trauma of warfare. Directed by the great Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is an epic war film which is set in the Invasion of Normandy in World War II, where a group of U.S. soldiers, led by Captain Miller, go behind the enemy lines to rescue a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action. While the direction is firm and the performances brilliant, it is the cinematography by Janusz Kamiński that steals the show.
Winning an Oscar for his work, Kamiński perfectly captures the haunting ambience and engages the viewers to really contemplate upon the life of war veterans. Although ‘Saving Private Ryan’ was an instant classic among the ranks of critics and audience, it infamously lost out the “Best Picture” at the Academy Awards to the much inferior ‘Shakespeare in Love’ (1998). Nonetheless, the movie won Steven Spielberg an Academy Award for “Best Director” and is today regarded as one of the greatest war films ever made.
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