War is hell but it sometimes provides the backdrop for great movies. The recent Blu-ray release of 1917, followed by the 50th anniversary, this week, of the Oscar-winning Patton, starring George C. Scott, is as good an excuse as any for cinephiles to hunker down in the trenches of an impromptu war movie marathon (especially if you’re stuck at home right now due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic).
With that in mind, here’s a mission for you, soldier: work your way through this chronological list of the best war movies of the last fifty years. “Best” is ultra-subjective, of course, but when you’re Alamo-ed up in a fort of pillows in your living room and there’s nothing good on television, few of these movies should disappoint.
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(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films that inspired George Lucas’ iconic universe. In this edition: Patton.)
General George S. Patton once said, “Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” And one thing I’m not cynical about is movies, particularly the old classics. The movie about the American general’s life, Patton, is one such classic.
Released in 1970 and directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, Patton came from a script by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund North that won them both Oscars. It won Best Picture that year as well, on top of five other awards. For his portrayal of the anything-but-cynical general, George C. Scott was awarded an Oscar that he refused to accept, stating that he didn’t feel like he was in competition with other actors. Patton tells the story of the general’s service during World War II, skipping over his early life and previous military career entirely. The film gets into the head of one of the most brilliant tactical minds who ever lived, but also examines the troubles that same mind had in the realm of the political. The film takes great pains to show the struggles of war and the toxicity required to construct ideas like “courage” and “cowardice” in the face of battle.
Talking to Lucasfilm Animation Supervising Director Dave Filoni over the years, he has revealed that Patton has been a big influence on his treatment of characters that feature prominently in Star Wars Rebels.
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