Archive

War Film

“Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way” (George S. Patton Jr.)

“There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs” (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

War films range from patriotic and heroic fighting stories designed to celebrate unity and self-sacrifice for love of country, to anti-war films that depict war crimes, the disillusion of the public towards the horrors of warfare, and the negative effects war injuries and psychological stress on soldiers and returning veterans.

“We can teach these barbarians a lesson in Western methods and efficiency that will put them to shame. We’ll show them what the British soldier is capable of doing…It’s going to be a proper bridge” (The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957)

While in a prisoner of war camp, British Col. Nicholson co-operates to oversee his men’s construction of a railway bridge for their Japanese captors. Sir Malcolm Arnold incorporated in his score for the film the march Colonel Bogey, originally written in 1914 by Kenneth J. Alford (The British March King). British prisoners whistled unaccompanied the theme several times as they marched into the prison camp. Colonel Bogey inspired Arnold’s original “River Kwai March.” He won an Academy Award for the film’s score.

“I assure you I had no intention of being either harsh or cruel in my treatment of the soldier in question. My sole purpose was to try and to restore him some appreciation of his obligation as a man, and as a soldier” (Patton, 1970)

The film narrates the actions of controversial war hero General Patton during World War II. Jerry Goldsmith composed a memorable, gripping and emotional score full of high-flying marches and reverberating trumpets.

“Well, that might not be living, but it sure as hell ain’t dying. And dying’s what these white boys been doin’ for going on three years now, dying by the thousands! Dying for you, fool! I know, ‘cuz I dug the graves” (Glory, 1989)

The tragic Civil War epic inspires a stunning and very moving score from James Horner. The music is full of honor, courage, tension, and mournful melancholia. As the film, the music is very emotionally charged and uplifting.

“What are you doing? These are mine. These are my workers. They should be on my train” (Schindler’s List, 1993)

German entrepreneur Oskar Schindler saves the lives of over one thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust. Itzhak Perlman‘s violin solos are one of the best examples of how much beauty can be contained in profoundly sad music.  This score is without doubt one of John Williams’ finest and most inspiring masterpieces.

“Captain Ramsey, under operating procedures governing the release of nuclear weapons we cannot launch our missiles unless both you, and I agree” (Crimson Tide, 1995)

A film about a young Navy Executive Officer who thinks and acts in preventing his submarine captain from launching nuclear missiles before confirming his uncertain orders to do so. “Roll Tide” is a wonderful march full of bravura and defiance. The gifted composer Hans Zimmer confidently used a large orchestra and an all male choir to gradually builds a victorious climax full of tension and thunder.

We may all have different feelings about war and its aftermath, but it is quite clear that in one way or another armed conflict will be with us forever. As the Greek philosopher Plato said, “only the dead have seen the end of war.”

War Bridge River Kwai

Notable War Film Tunes

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) – Hugo Friedhofer

Twelve O’Clock High (1949) – Alfred Newman

Halls of Montezuma (1950) – “The Marine Hymn” (1919) by L. Z. Philips – based on the Gendarmes’ Duet from Jacques Offenbach’s opera Genevieve de Brabant

Stars and Stripes Forever (1952) is a biographical film about late composer John Philip Sousa (The American March King). He crafted some of the most famous military marches including “The Washington Post”, “The Liberty Bell” (later used as theme for Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV series) “The Thunderer”, “El Capitan”, “Semper Fidelis” (Official March of the United States Marine Corps), and “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (National March of the United States of America).

Victory at Sea (TV Documentary originally broadcast in 1952–1953, it was condensed into a film in 1954) – Richard Rodgers & Robert Russell Bennett, includes “Guadalcanal March” by Robert Russell Bennet

The Dambusters (1955) – Leighton Lucas (based on the “Dambusters March”

by Eric Coates)

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) – Malcolm Arnold

Paths of Glory (1957) “La Marseillaise” (1792) by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle

The Guns of Navarone (1961) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Combat! (1962 TV Series) – Leonard Rosenman

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) “The Voice of the Guns” (1917) by Kenneth J. Alford

The Great Escape (1963) – Elmer Bernstein

633 Squadron (1964) – Ron Goodwin

Operation Crossbow (1965) – Ron Goodwin

Hogan’s Heroes (1965 TV Series) – Jerry Fielding

The Sand Pebbles (1966) – Jerry Goldsmith

The Rat Patrol (1966 TV Series)

Where Eagles Dare (1968) – Ron Goodwin

Devil’s Brigade (1968) – Alex North

Battle of Britain (1969) – Ron Goodwin & William Walton “Aces High March” “The Battle in the Air” (Walton’s music was composed with considerable help from Malcolm Arnold, who was responsible for producing the orchestrations)

Patton (1970) – Jerry Goldsmith

M*A*S*H (1970) – Johnny Mandel

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) – Jerry Goldsmith

Kelly’s Heroes (1970) – Lalo Schifrin

The Longest Day (1972) – Maurice Jarre

The Deer Hunter (1978) – Stanley Myers “Cavatina”

1941 (1979) – John Williams

Apocalypse Now (1979) – “Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner

A-Team (1983 TV Series) – Mike Post

Platoon (1986) – “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber

Empire of the Sun (1987) – John Williams

Full Metal Jacket (1987) – “The Marines Hymn” by Jacques Offenbach from “Geneviève de Brabant”

Glory (1989) – James Horner

The Hunt For Red October (1990) – Basil Poledouris

Schindler’s List (1993) – John Williams

Crimson Tide (1995) – Hans Zimmer

Saving Private Ryan (1998) – John Williams

The Thin Red Line (1999) – Hans Zimmer

Medal of Honor (1999 Video Game) – Michael Giacchino

Gettysburg (2000) – Randy Edelman

The Patriot (2000) – John Williams

Pearl Harbor (2001) – Hans Zimmer

Band of Brothers (2002 TV Series) – Michael Kamen

Defiance (2008) – James Newton Howard

The Pacific (2010 TV Series) – Hans Zimmer, Blake Neely, Geoff Zanelli

War Horse (2011) – John Williams