How to Evaluate War Movies


Adapted with permission from Media and the Gulf War: A Case Study by the Association for Media Literacy, Ontario, Canada

This article originally appeared in Issue# 56

Popular films articulate the desires, fears and aspirations of our culture. Analysis of recent war films can shed light on cultural beliefs about heroism, politics, the military and views of authority, justice, patriotism, family and gender relationships.

The following questions can be a starting point for analysis of such films as Rambo: First Blood Part 2, Top Gun, The Star Wars Trilogy, Red Dawn, An Officer and a Gentleman (pro-war) and Das Boot, Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Casualties of War (anti-war), or add your own ideas.

  1. Is high-tech equipment the star of the show? How do the characters who operate it relate to it?
  2. How is the enemy represented? Do filmmakers make use of stereotypes and demonization?
  3. Does the film present violence and aggression as the only way to solve problems or are other solutions portrayed?
  4. What are the main characters fighting for? Does the film affirm the dominant system and status quo or does it question it? Does it have a point of view on current social issues?
  5. What does the film say about what it means to be a male person? a female person? Are women foils for the male characters or real people?
  6. Is there a system of beliefs (myths) that characterize a particular class or group, such as men?

--Adapted from Media and the Gulf War: A Case Study by The Association for Media Literacy, Ontario, Canada.