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Military Movies and Shows on Netflix: May 2017

sand castle netflix

Netflix continues its newfound commitment to original military-themed movies with a feature film about the early days of the war in Iraq and a documentary about the heroism of one soldier who was severely injured in Afghanistan.

1. Sand Castle

Army veteran Chris Roessner based his movie’s screenplay on his own experiences serving in Iraq with Civil Affairs unit of the 4th Infantry division. Nicholas Hoult (X-Men), Logan Marshall-Green (Quarry), Glen Powell (Everybody Wants Some), Henry Cavill (Superman Returns) star in a story that shows that all wartime service is dangerous. (2017)

2. Travis: A Soldier's Story

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills lost all four limbs after roadside bomb injured him during his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. He decided to help soldiers who had suffered combat injuries and started a foundation. This documentary follows his recovery, shows his relationship with his family and details his personal recovery. (2017)

3. Tropic Thunder

Director Ben Stiller made a ridiculous movie for everyone who likes to complain about how military movies always get in wrong. The race for most ridiculous character ends in a tie: Stiller’s Tugg Speedman is a clueless actor who thinks he’s doing Important Work and Robert Downey, Jr.’s Kirk Lazarus is such a method actor that, once he decides his character is black, he wears blackface throughout the movie. Jack Black, Steve Coogan and Danny McBride round out the cast. Keep an eye out for an almost-unrecognizable Tom Cruise in an outrageous, uncredited cameo. (2008)

4. Five Came Back

This three-part documentary details the World War II service of five legendary Hollywood directors (Frank Capra, John Ford, George Stevens, William Wyler and John Huston) and the films they made in support of the war effort. Based on an excellent book by Mark Harris, the three-hour documentary shows highlights from the films as it talks about the role movies played in the war effort.Netflix has also added eleven of the WWII films to the service, so you can explore more after you watch the documentary. Capra directed “Know Your Enemy - Japan, “Prelude to War” and “Why We Fight: The Battle of Russia.” Wyler directed “Thunderbolt” and “The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress.” Huston directed “San Pietro,” “Let There Be Light” and “WWII: Report from the Aleutians.” Ford directed “Undercover: How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines.” The selection also includes “Tunisian Victory” and “The Negro Soldier.” (2017)

5. USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage

The atomic bombs that the United States used to end World War II had to get close enough to Japan for a plane to deliver them to their targets and the USS Indianapolis was the ship tasked with the secret mission. After they delivered the payload, the crew had to travel to its next assignment without an escort and the Japanese navy sunk the ship. Nicholas Cage plays Captain Charles McVay, who was unfairly court-martialed for failure to take “proper evasive action.” He was eventually cleared of all charges after his death and this movie aims to convince audiences that McVay and his crew are true heroes of the war. (2016)

6. The Night Shift

NBC’s summer series follows a San Antonio hospital trauma unit staffed by doctors who learned their trade as military doctors and medics in Afghanistan. It’s found a loyal following for its treatment of veterans issues and Season Four premieres this summer. Season One and Season Two are now available to stream, so you can (mostly) catch up before new episodes air. (2014-2015)

7. The War

Ken Burns' 14-hour documentary was originally shown on PBS and it's very much like "The Civil War," only there was a wealth of actual film footage for him to use. There's not much of that "slow panning shot over a pile of photos" effect here and quite a few living witnesses to the events are interviewed on camera. Burns' great insight for this movie was to focus on the experiences of four American towns (Luverne, MN; Mobile, AL; Sacramento, CA and Waterbury, CT) and how the war affected each through the stories of the men and women who served around the world during the era. It's a great piece of history and a far better use of your time than spending a weekend re-watching a season of "The Walking Dead." (2007)

8. The White Helmets

This British film won the Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject) at the 2017 Academy Awards. The 40-minute film follows follows the daily operations of a group of volunteer rescue workers of the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets. It’s a powerful tale of hope and humanity in the face of that country’s ongoing civil war. (2016)

9. Chuck Norris Vs. Communism

This Cold War documentary reveals that thousands of bootleg VHS tapes were smuggled into Romania in the ‘80s by an enterprising black marketeer and were dubbed into Romania by translator Iris Nistor. All those schlocky Reagan-era action pictures undermined the Communist regime and taught the people about FREEDOM. (2015)

10. Last Days in Vietnam

This PBS documentary details the American withdrawal from Saigon in April 1975. As the North Vietnamese army closed in, the U.S. military had to evacuate 5,000 Americans and made efforts to rescue a large number of Vietnamese who had supported the U.S. during the war. (2014)

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