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Military Movies We Love – One Man’s Trash…

July 31, 2023
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In terms of movies about different aspects of military life, or about different branches of service, there are a library of excellent films to choose from in most categories. Some are funny while others are irreverent, depending on your experiences and personal empathy with the situations the movie may cover. A few films, while not necessarily great, offer a surprising look under the hood of the groups they represent. I chose a few examples that I thought would best describe what I’m talking about.


In the Army Now – Army

I will start by saying that it should be acknowledged that some areas of this screwball comedy about slackers joining the Army didn’t age well. However, the general principles still ring true. In order to make some side money, a pair of slackers join the Army Reserves… Only to be immediately called up to active service after basic. They do what they consider their best to weasel out of it, but in the end resign themselves to their fate and perform admirably. Considering who they are, of course.

Often, we forget that while the military is an all-volunteer force, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is prepared to answer the call when things get rough. While problematic at times, the fact that in spite of everything, the boys are able to pull themselves together and accomplish their mission speaks to the fact that the Army Drill Sergeants must have known what they were doing.


Down Periscope – Navy

This movie, starring a great many actors you might recognize, puts Kelsey Grammar as the commander of an old diesel submarine, with a crew filled with misfits and rejects, in order to participate in a war game, the top brass is hoping will prove the older ships are obsolete and useless. As well as their motley crew. As one can imagine, hijinks ensue, but the brilliant commander is able to rally his fellow sailors and pull off a miracle win. Strike one for the good guys.

In addition to a great one-liner filled comedy, (“Lieutenant, you’re… almost out of uniform”) this goofball oddity is actually an excellent view of the American Navy. Consider for a moment what occurs beyond the slapstick and pratfalls. Given substandard, failing equipment, a crew who’s never worked together, and a mandate to fail, they pull together with training, cohesion, and a lot of jury rigging and duct tape. Even those considered the least useful are capable of greatness, not a bad message.


Major Payne – Marine Corps

Technically, aside from his commanding officer in the beginning of the film, Major Benson Winnifred Payne played by Damon Wayans is the only Marine in the film. Having been told by said commander that there was no longer a job for him in the modern Marine Corps since there wasn’t a war to fight, the Major briefly tries a stint at becoming a police officer (it fails spectacularly) before being offered the opportunity to take over an ROTC program at a private boarding school. Once again, the students are all shapes and sizes, but generally an uncoordinated bunch of miscreants. The arrival of the Major causes their lives to drastically change, while the Major himself meets a female administrator and begins changing a bit himself.

What makes this movie amazing is that its premise is simple, its one liners and jokes are goofy but perfect, and the Major reminds us of all of every troupe of the Marine Corps’ bleeding edge distilled into its most ridiculous form. We can all see ourselves having been those kids when we arrived at basic, being formed by a slightly crazy father figure into an effective and deadly fighting unit.

The Guardian - Coast Guard

The USCG only has one movie that I know of. That’s the Guardian. Despite my initial reservations about the movie, it turned out to be a great story with an amazing performance by the cast. Especially Kevin Costner. Much better than his other Coast Guard movie, Waterworld

Captain Marvel - Air Force

US. Air Force pilot Carol Danver takes flight in the CGI packed blockbuster. This movie really is the best support of their infamous TV slogan, "It's not science fiction; it's what we do every day." Actually, I’m not sure what they do everyday. Mini golf on Air Force One?  

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