Lights, Camera, Reaction! – Veterans Day Films

By Sadie Alge and Meredith Carnahan

November 11th is Veterans Day, a federal holiday celebrating those who have served in the U.S. military. The day originated from Armistice Day, which was created in 1919 shortly after the end of World War I. Today, it is always observed on the 11th of November and celebrates military veterans as a whole. To honor our veterans, we’re reviewing some classic films related to the military branches.


Movie Poster of the 1986 film. Credit to IMDb.

Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is a naval pilot with a knack for reckless aerial maneuvers. When he’s sent to TOPGUN, a naval fighter weapons school, he clashes with Lieutenant Tom Kazansky in a fight for the TOPGUN Trophy. Through competition, heartache, and tragedy, Maverick realizes the importance of not always going solo. 

Genre: Action/Drama/Romance
Release Date: May 16, 1986

What made it so popular?

The cinematography of Top Gun is undeniably what made it shine in the 80s. The aerial action scenes and stomach-twisting shots made the movie-watching experience double in quality. The view from within the cockpit increased the audience immersion of the film, which was only bettered by the original soundtrack and Kenny Loggins’ song “Danger Zone”. On top of that, the 3D effects blended well with the action to create a riveting theater experience.

What did we think?

To be brutally honest, I felt as if I was watching a 110-minute music video, with 80’s tunes constantly playing. I found it to be a bit predictable and questionable how the cocky, arrogant character has little character development, but yet still impresses everyone and ‘gets the girl.’  Despite its flaws, Top Gun is regarded as a considerably entertaining picture, with swift planes, charismatic characters, and a dominant soundtrack, that I don’t blame people for admiring. . – Sadie

Top Gun can be epitomized in three words: action, soundtrack, and quips. The action is incredible, and it’s only made more exciting by the soundtrack. Maverick and Goose’s friendship is what shines for most of the film, and it offers the majority of the humorous dialogue and remarks. The main story took a backseat to the individual character moments. While the characters drive the plot, Maverick’s growth and relationships with other people is the focus of this film. I felt the romance was a bit forced, and its arc was undeserved given Maverick’s actions throughout the film. Regardless, Top Gun is thrilling and a highlight of the 80s.  – Meredith


Movie poster of the 1998 film. Credit to IMDb.

 The year is 1944, and Ms. Ryan is to receive the telegram she’s dreaded: three of her sons have died in battle. The United States Army Chief of Staff is given the opportunity to spare Ms. Ryan of even more heartbreak when he discovers the fourth son is somewhere behind enemy lines. Captain John Miller and his men are reassigned to a mission to save Private Ryan and get him back home.

Genre: War/Drama/Action
Release Date: July 24, 1998

What made it so popular?

 “It was a good movie and was as close as I’ve seen to the real thing,” said Gilbert Brightman, a WWII veteran and former member of the 168th Combat Engineers Battalion, according to an article published by the University of Duisburg-Essen. A number of other veterans share these sentiments regarding Saving Private Ryan, which is what made it such a unique and engaging film in 1998. The acting, sound effects, and gritty camera-work make for a genuine portrayal of the cruelties of war, turning Saving Private Ryan into a memorable war film.

What did we think?

 Saving Private Ryan truly brings the brutalities of war into the limelight. Being one of the most intense movies I’ve seen in a while, I felt as if I had my toes curled the entirety of the film. The battle scene near the beginning of the picture was especially challenging to watch because of the drawn-out camera shots and shaky camera movements. The grade A acting is what truly brought this heart-rending war film to life. Each of the soldiers had their own complex personalities, mindsets, and intentions. I usually find it difficult to keep track of the characters in movies where there’s a large team of people (sports movies, war movies, etc.) but I had no problem distinguishing the characters because they are all so dynamic. Saving Private Ryan is a very raw film that didn’t shy away from portraying the intensity of war.  – Sadie

Saving Private Ryan doesn’t have the most unique or interesting story to tell, in my opinion. It’s a standard WWII rescue mission with a predictable conclusion. However, it does have some great acting, gritty visuals, and immersive cinematography. The acting from each one of the squad members is what makes the movie so powerful, and when paired up with the cinematography, Saving Private Ryan becomes a heavy-hitting war movie. Long takes are used quite often, which adds more emphasis to the scenes and makes each moment build suspense. I appreciated much of the resolution, but once the film faded into the modern-day again, I think it dragged out for too long and detracted from the strength of the ending. Meredith

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