10 Best Anti-war Movies to Watch Right Now

10 Best Anti-war Movies to Watch Right Now

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How do you make an anti-war movie without accidentally glorifying it? It seems like an impossible task, considering you’d have to make blasts and executions look outstanding to make a mark. Consequently, many films regardless of the directors’ intent appear to be pro-war at times, inspiring a dangerous fervor among audiences. Jarhead, Full Metal Jacket, and even The Gladiator, for instance, are often accused of glamorizing warfare, despite their gruesome depictions that try to persuade people otherwise. 

That said, a good anti-war movie clearly shows the costs and futility of conflict without compromising craft and quality. It seems impossible, but the movies we’ve gathered below prove that it isn’t. Here’s our list of the best anti-war movies you can stream right now.

10. In This Corner of the World (2016)

7.0

Country

Japan

Director

Sunao Katabuchi

Actors

Barbara Goodson, Christine Marie Cabanos, Daisuke Ono, Hisako Kyoda

Moods

Depressing, Dramatic, Feel-Good

Prior to being defined by that fateful bombing in 1945, Hiroshima was like any other city outside of Tokyo; small but full, quiet but busy, and in the midst of a slow-but-sure journey to modernization. We experience the rich and intimate details of this life through the kind-hearted Suzu, who herself is stuck between the throes of old and new. She is an ambitious artist but also a dedicated wife; a war-wearied survivor and a hopeful cheerleader. 

Set before, during, and after the Second World War, the film starts off charmingly mundane at first, but it quickly gives way to inevitable grief in the second half. One stark tragedy follows another as it becomes increasingly clear how much we lose our humanity in war.

In This Corner of the World is the rare film outside of the Hayao Miyazaki canon that captures the latter’s heart for detail while still being graciously its own.

9. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (2015)

7.0

Country

Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Evgeny Afineevsky

Actors

Bishop Agapit, Catherine Ashton, Cissy Jones, Kristina Berdinskikh

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Intense

In 2013, following the Ukrainian government’s termination of an EU agreement (in blatant disregard of what its citizens have been calling for), a wave of peaceful protests start to crop up at the country’s capital. Things escalate when the police violently disperse the protestors, but the people of Ukraine are not so easily held down. They fight back, growing in number and conviction each time they do, until an all-out war finally breaks out. 

Winter on Fire documents this series of events, staying close to the ground and allowing bits of humanity to shine through its subjects. In between chilling clips of the clashes, we’re shown intimate interviews with people of all walks of life. They’re doctors, actors, students, bankers, lawyers, and clergymen, from various classes, races, religions, and genders. Despite their many differences, all of them share one hope: to secure a better future for the people of Ukraine. 

8. Kilo Two Bravo (2014)

7.3

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Director

Paul Katis

Actors

Ali Cook, Andy Gibbins, Benjamin O'Mahony, Bryan Parry

Moods

Raw, Suspenseful, Thrilling

Kilo Two Bravo (Originally named Kajaki) is a must-watch for anyone who likes war dramas. It tells the true story of British soldiers in the Afghanistan war who find themselves trapped in a minefield during a mission, with their rescue team coming in a helicopter that might set off mines if it lands. It’s a slow, dialogue driven film that is interested in taking you to the war zone more than it cares about entertaining you. Ultimately, it becomes an essay on the horrors of war, and an anti-war war film. Because of this and given the blood and gore, this movie is definitely not for those who would feel nauseated at sight of blood. Great setting, good cinematography, realistic acting and script all do justice to the true story. It’s a film that will grip your senses and keep you at the edge of the seat throughout.

7. Waltz with Bashir (2008)

7.5

Country

France, Germany, Israel

Director

Ari Folman

Actors

Ari Folman, Mickey Leon, Yehezkel Lazarov

Moods

Challenging, Dark, Depressing

In Waltz with Bashir, director Ari Folman grapples with the trauma and dehumanization of war by examining the role he played in the 1982 Invasion of Lebanon. But his memories are fractured, so in an attempt to piece them back together, he visits his comrades and has them recall the events for him. The result is both poignant and painful, a horrific tell-all of what happens on both sides of the battleground. The film is a documentary, chillingly honest and straightforward, but it’s also an animation gem that continues the legacy that Persepolis started and Flee continues. By combining the harshness of war with the lightness of animation, all three films effectively deliver their anti-war message with a much-needed human and personal touch. 

6. Porco Rosso (1992)

7.9

Country

Japan

Director

Hayao Miyazaki

Actors

Akemi Okamura, Akio Otsuka, Bunshi Katsura Vi, Hiroko Seki

As impressive as Studio Ghibli’s collection of films are, I am still stubborn to believe that Porco Rosso is its most underrated film. Porco Rosso, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, is the story of a World War military aviator-turned-bounty hunter who has mysteriously been transformed into a pig. 

Bright with humor, heart, and flight (Miyazaki is largely influenced and inspired by the art of aviation), Porco Rosso manages to also acknowledge and reckon with the horrors of war. It also boasts one of, if not the greatest, line in any Ghibli film: I’d rather be a pig than a fascist.

5. Frantz (2016)

8.0

Country

France, Germany

Director

François Ozon

Actors

Alice de Lencquesaing, Anton von Lucke, Axel Wandtke, Camille Grandville

Moods

Character-driven, Dark, Dramatic

It’s always fun to watch something that makes you second guess each move, that shifts seamlessly from one thing to another. Frantz is that kind of film, and as the deceptively simple premise unfolds—a widow befriends her late husband’s friend—you’re never really sure if what you’re watching is a romance, a mystery, or a sly combination of both. 

It helps that Frantz is also more than just a period piece, packed as it is with tiny but thoughtful details. When it is filled with color, for example, it does so in the muted palette of 1900s portraits, making each shot look like a picture come to life. When it talks about love, it goes beyond heterosexual norms and hints at something more potent and, at times, political. And when it takes a swing at melodrama, its actors ground the moment with enough restraint and reserve so that it never teeters on excess. All this results in a well-executed, gripping, and overall lovely film to watch.

 

4. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

best

8.6

Country

Japan

Director

Isao Takahata

Actors

Ayano Shiraishi, Hiroshi Tanaka

Moods

Dark, Depressing, Dramatic

Perhaps the most depressing but vital movie produced by animation giant Studio Ghibli, Grave of the Fireflies is a searing and sweeping drama that covers the horrors of World War II through the eyes of teenager Seita and his young sister Setsuko. Between the violence of war and the tragedy of loss, the siblings struggle to preserve not just their lives but their humanity. In typical Ghibli fashion, there are moments of gentle beauty to be found, but instead of conflicting with the overall stark tone of the film, they successfully underscore war’s futility and brutality, making Grave of the Fireflies one of the most important anti-war narratives ever told. 

3. For Sama (2019)

best

8.6

Country

Syria, Syrian Arab Republic, UK

Director

Edward Watts, Female director

Actors

Hamza Al-Khateab, Sama Al-Khateab, Waad Al-Kateab, Waad Al-Khateab

Moods

Depressing, Intense, Touching

This story of a filmmaker who stayed in Aleppo, Syria during the war, got married then had a child called Sama, is a mix of difficult and inspiring.

There are stories of unsurmountable loss, as the filmmaker’s husband is one of the 30 remaining doctors in Aleppo (a city of almost 5 million), and she films many of the victims that come to his hospital. But while this is happening, there are also uplifting stories of resilience and rare but profound moments of laughter and joy.

We’re growing too sensitized to violence in Syria, and this movie, possibly the most intimate account of the war, can stir back a much-needed awareness of the injustices that take place.

When things get really bad in the documentary, it’s hard not to wonder where the humanity is in all of this. You quickly realize that it’s right there, behind the camera, in Sama and her mother’s will to live.

2. All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

best

8.7

Country

Germany, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Edward Berger

Actors

Aaron Hilmer, Albrecht Schuch, André Marcon, Andreas Döhler

Moods

Action-packed, Challenging, Dark

All Quiet on the Western Front is a period epic that unflinchingly shows us the savagery and senselessness of war. Set at the tail end of World War I, it follows two main stories: that of German soldier Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer), whose boyish eagerness for warfare is diminished with each bloody step he takes towards the frontline, and that of Matthias Erzberger (Daniel Brühl), the real-life German politician tasked to negotiate a ceasefire between the French and German forces.

Grim and sobering, the movie will leave you nothing less than stunned after viewing. Like 1917 before it, All Quiet on the Western Front relies on the juxtaposition of raw brutality and peaceful quiet to effectively forward its anti-war message. The film is Germany’s official entry for the 2023 Academy Awards.

1. Persepolis (2007)

best

8.9

Country

France, Iran, United States of America

Director

Female director, Marjane Satrapi

Actors

Arié Elmaleh, Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni, Danielle Darrieux

Moods

Discussion-sparking, True-story-based

Persepolis is the true story of Marjane Satrapi, the writer and illustrator whose graphic novels of the same name the film is adapted from. It details in vivid animation the trials of growing up in war-torn Iran, but also, crucially, the joys of being raised by a loving family and the significance of forming one’s own ideals and identity. In between revolving dictatorships and tightening restrictions, Marjane comes into her own and discovers what it means to live a meaningful life.

It’s a testament to Satrapi’s many talents that Persepolis never feels too flat or cynical given its 2D style and bleak backdrop. The drawings impressively morph with Marjane’s every thought, as if the ink itself were alive, and her wit persistently comes through in sharp observations and dialogues. Equally impressive is the film’s commitment to portraying war and conflict in a nuanced manner. In an autobiographical tale that is about Marjane’s coming of age as much as it is about her country’s survival, it’s never been more true that the personal is political.

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