By Cole Henry

1) Apocalypse Now (film, 1979) Apocalypse Now illustrates the horror, the absurdity, and the futility of war, but most important it portrays war’s damaging psychological effects. As it charts the characters’ descents into literal and metaphorical darkness and fog, the film suggests that war indulges the darkest, foggiest parts of human nature. 

Poignant and haunting imagery unsettles and challenges the mind throughout Apocalypse Now.

2) Paths of Glory (film, 1957)              Trench warfare during World War 1 was a literal hell. This film views that setting in terms of power, militaristic hierarchy, obeying/disobeying orders, being a pawn in a greater effort that may or may no be futile, and how all of that plays on the psyche of a commander and his troops. 

Paths of Glory epitomizes the statement that war is hell.

3) Men at War (book, 1942)                      War, from the dawn of man to the modern era (in the time that this book was written) always affects soldiers in different ways. It plays on one’s human condition differently, for better and for worse, and this book studies that through various stories told throughout different fields of battle. 

A necessary read for anyone interested in the human condition during wartime.

4) Spec Ops: The Line (video game, 2012) Insanity, power, absolute power corrupting absolutely. This game transcends the medium in which it is trapped in. Video Game stories, mostly, are inherently forgettable because they forget about the medium they are in and try to mimic filmic stylings. This game tells a horrifying story about the frailty of one’s mind after years of combat, and it emphasizes this effects through player interaction. As the player you are forced to do horrific things that at first seem right and in the end are oh so very, very wrong. You never quite know when the character you are inhabiting is hallucinating or not. This haunting effect hits most emotionally and angrily during an encounter in which white phosphorus is used in a combat encounter. The game is tough to sit through. It is unflinching in its execution yet that is what makes it so important. It’ll stay with you long after the ~5 hour playtime. 

Biblical imagery plagues the player’s psyche as they do the devil’s duty and deal with its repercussions in Spec Ops: The Line.

5) Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (film, 1983).                                                   Discipline, honor, and glory. War time fiction and nonfiction always studies these thematic points. Yet, this film studies it through a new lens. Racial tension, power, and the clashing of two cultures helps bring to light the false bravado of men during wartime. Taking place in a Japanese POW camp during the Second World War allows for the story being told to handle topics rarely seen in wartime fiction. It is a war film with a humanistic, beating heart. It is pure emotion. Substance over style. Rarely does a film capture the power of the human condition as well as it is captured in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. 

Two different armies may be battling during this film but the more important conflict is that of a cultural clash/challenging of one’s ideologies.

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