No one returns from war unaffected, and the characters in these seven films are no exception. Be they dramas or melodramas, thrillers or even light-hearted musicals, these classic movies about veternas show their experiences coming home from a variety of cinematic angles.
RKO Radio Pictures
World War II has ended, and three previously unaquainted servicemen (Fredric March, Dana Andrews, and Harold Russell) bond while sharing transport back to their hometown. As they attempt to resume their everyday lives, the men grapple with the ways the war has changed them—and how things at home have changed. Winner of seven Academy Awards, including an Honorary Oscar for Harold Russell, a real-life veteran who lost his hands in combat.
“The most fabulous music-and-mirth show in motion picture history!” Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are Army cronies who’ve made a career out of entertaining the masses. After traveling cross-country in pursuit of beguiling blond sisters, the pair find themselves at a Vermont ski lodge, which just happens to be owned by their former commanding officer. But with no snow on the ground, the place is on the verge of financial collapse. What to do on a cold (but dry) Christmas Eve? Sing the title tune!
The harsh realities of war are explored in director Michael Cimino’s Oscar-winning masterpiece. Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and John Savage play friends who leave their jobs as Pennsylvania steelworkers to fight in Vietnam. Their experiences there continue to define their lives long after their return, deeply scarring their bodies, their minds, and their relationships with each other.
When he’s transferred from the front lines in Korea to a desk job in postwar Japan, Major Lloyd Gruver (Marlon Brando) is perturbed by his crew chief’s (Red Buttons) Japanese fiancé (Best Supporting Actress Winner Miyoshi Umeki). Marriage between American servicemen and Japanese women is frowned upon by the military, and by Gruver himself. But when he falls for a beautiful Japanese entertainer, Gruver must confront his own biases, and question his allegiance to his country. Based on James Michener’s novel.
5. ‘Coming Home’ – 1978Hal Ashby’s poignant and affecting human drama about a woman (Jane Fonda) who volunteers at a VA Hospital while her husband is fighting in Vietnam. As she becomes increasingly disillusioned with the war, she undertakes an affair with a wheelchair-bound vet (Jon Voight). When her husband returns home, the three characters must navigate their new feelings about each other, while dealing with the country’s intolerance towards returning soldiers.
A platoon of POWs return home from the Korean War with little memory of what they’ve been through, or why one of them (Laurence Harvey) is deserving of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Meanwhile, another of the returning soldiers (Frank Sinatra) has recurring nightmares that suggest their lauded comrade may be at the heart of a sinister Communist plot. Suspenseful and stunning even decades after the end of the Cold War.