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Categories: Features

From the beaches of Normandy to the plains of Africa, Avery T. Phillips counts off the most realistic combat scenes in movies.

Image Courtesy of Flickr

Throughout all the movies we’ve watched over the years, there have been some amazing fighting scenes — and some that made us question what the directors and producers were thinking during the production stages of the film. Like what do they look for in a set when considering projects, or what’s the toughest thing about getting the project done?  That said, the movie scenes below have been selected based upon how well they reflect real events.

Keep in mind: even though different forms of realism can be found in just about any movie we watch, this list will only focus on specific scenes found in combat movies related to real-life human conflict. Furthermore, this list will not include fight scenes from certain movie genres like fantasy and mythical movies — like Batman, Harry Potter, or Jurassic World. The list may also contain graphic scenes with lots of violence, so please keep that in mind as you read on.

With that in mind, here are five of the most realistic combat movie scenes:


1. Saving Private Ryan (D-Day Scene)

With the arrival of heavy tanks and the sheer intensity of the combat scene on Omaha Beach, fans were immersed in the war scenes depicted in the movie Saving Private Ryan. The director, Steven Spielberg wanted to make the movie show war combat in the most realistic form, and he did just that. The D-Day scene, in particular, included over 20 real-life amputees and more than 1,500 extras being present on the set during filming.

Spielberg also made it a point to pay close attention to detail as well. In fact, he went as far as making sure he used the right code names for different sectors of the beach, and wanted to display the harsh environments soldiers and troops were forced to navigate. He even included the famous “ping” noise that occurred when troops fired the last round of their clip. Before Saving Private Ryan was made, there had never been a combat movie that depicted war in such a realistic fashion. To this day, the movie remains the most realistic war film made, which is why it lands on the number one spot.


2. We Were Soldiers

The Battle of the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965 was the first confrontation North Vietnam had with the United States during the Vietnam War, and the movie We Were Soldiers did an outstanding job depicting that. In the movie, director Randall Wallace wanted to portray the chaotic and bloody battle, which reached its peak on the second day when Lieutenant Colonel Moore was forced to call in an airstrike. To make matters worse, the lieutenant had to call for the airstrike on his own forces since the North Vietnamese forces started killing off American soldiers.

Like Spielberg, Wallace paid close attention to detail, making sure the environment the actor troops fought in was accurate, and even made sure the right kind of weapons were used throughout each scene as well. American troops, for instance, were equipped with M16s — which are equivalent to today’s AR-15 rifles, radios, and aircraft. Meanwhile, North Vietnamese forces were equipped with rifles from fallen soldiers on the American side and camouflage clothing to disguise themselves in the jungle. There are few battle scenes in war movies that can successfully portray moments like this during the Vietnam War, which is why this movie and scene are so iconic today.


3. Apocalypse Now (The Beach Attack)

However movie fans view the rest of the movie, you have to admit that the scene with the beach fight involving Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore was perhaps one of the most memorable attack scenes in the movie. What made the scene so memorable?

The helicopters sweeping through the air, firing shots, the soldiers fighting on the ground, and the music playing in the background while all of this unfolds right in front of our eyes. As the music continues to play, troops on the American side manage to establish a foothold so their lieutenant and his men can enjoy the great weather to go surfing in. That’s right — surfing. Lieutenant Kilgore then finishes the scene with the most famous line in the movie: “Charlie don’t surf!”


4. Lone Survivor

Lone Survivor is essentially one long movie that documents the fighting between American Navy SEALs and the Taliban in Afghanistan. The position of the SEAL team is revealed at the 15-minute mark of the movie, and from that point on, the team has to fight their way out of the Taliban territory, which is the start of the hands-on fighting.

The movie involves some of the most active, intense, and craziest military combat ever recorded in a war movie, and, it was only fair to discuss the movie as a whole.


5. Zulu (The Ending Battle)

Filmed in South Africa, this movie tells the real-life story of how 100 British soldiers took on over a thousand Zulu warriors during the 1879 Zulu War. Since the movie was filmed in 1964, it contains no CGI special effects. Instead, all the special effects shown throughout the movie were done the old-fashioned way, which worked out in the movie’s favour, giving it a more realistic feel.

Throughout the film, the British soldiers managed to hold their own against the Zulu warriors’ countless attacks. That is, until the Zulu marshal orders one final attack — one that he thought would for sure dismantle the British army and all their forces. With their backs against the walls, however, the British army stands strong and starts singing Men in Harlech as the Zulu warriors sing their battle chants. What happens next as the two forces meet face to face becomes one of the most graphic battle scenes throughout the movie and tells the tale of how 100 soldiers fought hands-on with the Zulu warriors.


Posted on Nov 11, 2018

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