The films on our best Netflix war movies list have the most difficult task: taking one of the most destructive and horrific things on the planet, and making it compelling and entertaining. While the reality of these battles isn’t something any of us wish to experience first-hand, it does make for some gripping and action-packed movies, and Netflix has a pretty big catalog of war movies to pore through right from your couch.
Whether you’re a World War II buff who’s interested in learning more about the smaller resistance movements and battles that led to the ultimate defeat of the Nazis or you’re more fascinated by recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Netflix’s selection of war movies has something for everyone that will likely teach you a few things you didn’t know before.
Our selections include The King, Medal of Honor, and Mosul, just to name a few of the films that helps keep Netflix’s spot on our best streaming services rankings. Our list also shares a pick with our best Netflix action movies list: the excellent Sand Castle.
The best Netflix war movies
The Siege of Jadotville
Back in 1961, a small group of Irish soldiers serving as part of the United Nations Operation in the Congo were set upon in the mining town of Jadotville by Katangese forces. The troops fought to hold off the attacks for five days as they awaited relief from other soldiers but were eventually forced to surrender and held as prisoners of war. The Siege of Jadotville shows the ugliness of war in all its brutality and proves to be an important remembrance of a significant historical event.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 74%
Cast: Jamie Dornan, Mark Strong, Jason O’Mara, Sam Keeley
Director: Richie Smyth
Part of what makes Sand Castle such an engaging watch is that it’s set in recent times, making it much easier to connect with. Matt Ocre (Nicholas Hoult) is a soldier with the US Army who’s assigned the task of restoring water to a small Iraqi village. What happens throughout that operation is at times frightening and other times heartening. Better yet, it’s based on real events, making it all the more harrowing.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 47%
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Henry Cavill, Glen Powell, Beau Knapp
Director: Fernando Coimbra
Tears of the Sun
You know you’re in for some top-tier action when Bruce Willis is the star of the movie, and Tears of the Sun doesn’t disappoint. The movie centers on a U.S. Navy SEAL team as they embark on a rescue mission right at the center of the Nigerian civil war. Can they reach Dr. Kendricks before the rebels do? You’ll have to watch to find out.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 69%
Cast: Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, Cole Hauser, Eamonn Walker
Director: Antoine Fuqua
You probably learned a bit about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria back in high school history class, and Sarajevo delves deep into the circumstances surrounding the historical event that led to the start of World War I. Originally aired on TV, Sarajevo dives deep into the shady world of politics while drumming up plenty of suspense. If you’re into world history, this is a must watch.
Rotten Tomatoes score: n/a
Cast: Florian Teichtmeister, Reinhard Forcher, Michaela Ehrenstein, Eugen Knecht
Director: Andreas Prochaska
This Arabic-language American war film brings a whole new perspective on the Battle of Mosul in 2016. Mosul depicts the war that saw Iraqi and coalition forces finally defeat ISIS after many years of battle. It’s anything but pretty, but goes a long way of showing what war is like from the perspective of the soldiers and civilians from the lands in which they’re fought. You’ll be on the edge of your seat throughout, and the ending is hopeful without being unrealistic.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%
Cast: Mohamed Attougui, Ben Affan, Thaer Al-Shayei, Hayat Kamille
Director: Matthew Michael Carnahan
Set during the summer of 2009, War Machine focuses on General Glen McMahon (Brad Pitt), a four-star general who heads to Afghanistan to work on a plan to end the war there. However, he’s forbidden from requesting more soldiers, which he does anyway. This decision has far-reaching consequences, particularly when a journalist writes an exposé that aims to completely discredit McMahon and jeopardizes his mission.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 49%
Cast: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hayes, Anthony Michael Hall, John Magaro, Emory Cohen, Topher Grace
Director: David Michôd
Matt Damon stars as Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller as he leads a team of inspectors on a mission to find weapons of mass destruction believed to be stockpiled somewhere in Iraq. While they don’t find any weapons, they do discover some pretty riveting information involving a cover-up larger than they ever would have expected. While there’s plenty of action here, Green Zone functions as a more cerebral war drama meant to provoke deep thought and encourage viewers not to take everything they hear at face value.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 57%
Cast: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan, Jason Isaacs
Director: Paul Greengrass
Set in the 1960s, World War II has ended 15 years ago, but there are still plenty of Nazi officers and others involved in the abuse and murder of millions of Jewish people scattered around the globe. Operation Finale sees a team of Israeli agents as they travel to Argentina to find one man in particular: Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi officer believed to have organized the transportation of victims to the concentration camps. As you can probably imagine, Eichmann won’t go down easily, and this creates plenty of drama as well as some real nail-biting moments throughout.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 64%
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Ben Kingsley, Melanie Laurent, Lior Raz, Nick Kroll
Director: Chris Weitz
The Photographer of Mauthausen
Another movie based on true events, The Photographer of Mauthausen focuses on Spanish photographer Francesc Boix’s (Casas) attempt to collect and save evidence of the horrible truth of what happened to millions of innocent Jewish people inside the Nazi concentration camp in Mauthausen. Of course, there are plenty of people who would prefer to have it erased all together, so Boix’s job is anything but simple. It’s a moving and at times infuriating reminder of the horrific realities so many suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%
Cast: Mario Casas, Alain Hernandez, Macarena Gomez, Mac Rodriguez
Director: Mar Targarona
First They Killed My Father
If you ignored this movie for years because it was written and directed by Angelina Jolie, it’s time to give it a chance. First They Killed My Father tells an important and often-ignored story of the Khmer Rouge and the terrors the regime unleashed on the people of Cambodia in 1975. The four-year long reign cost nearly two million people their lives. To show the real human impact of this terrible time, the movie focuses on 5-year-old Loung Ung who’s forced to leave her home in Phnom Penh and made to train as a child soldier as her siblings are imprisoned in labor camps. Admittedly, this is a very hard watch, but perhaps the most important one on the list.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%
Cast: Sareum Srey Moch, Phoeung Kompheak, Sveng Socheata, Tharoth Sam
Director: Angelina Jolie
If there’s one war movie on this list that you’ve probably seen before or are at the very least familiar with, it’s likely The Pianist. It won several Academy Awards following its release in 2002, and for good reason. An adaptation of Wladyslaw Azpilman’s autobiography, The Pianist documents a changing Warsaw throughout the beginning of World War II and follows Szpilman’s journey into the Ghetto and around various hiding places as he attempts to remain undetected by the Nazis.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%
Cast: Adrien Brody, Maureen Lipman, Emilia Fox, Ed Stoppard, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay
Director: Roman Polanski
The 12th Man
While World War II is a popular subject for war movies, and while 12th Man is another of these films, it’s also one of the best. Norwegian resistance fighter Jan Baalsrud loses his 11 fellow soldiers during a failed anti-Nazi sabotage mission and is forced to try and escape the Gestapo by making his way through Scandanavia. It’s a story of courage and grit that will leave you inspired by just how much these brave men went through.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
Cast: Thomas Gullestad, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Mads Sjøgård Pettersen, Maria Grazia Di Meo
Director: Harald Zwart
The Death of Stalin
It seems odd that a war movie could be made into a comedy, but with Armando Iannucci at the helm, it somehow works. The Death of Stalin is a black comedy based on the French graphic novel La Mort de Stalin. It shines a light on the political power struggle that took place following Stalin’s death in 1953 and manages to find the absurd (and absurdly funny) in what was generally a time of extreme uncertainty and fear for many in Europe. If you need something with a little levity after watching many of the other entries on this list, The Death of Stalin should fit the bill.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Jeffrey Tambor
Director: Armando Iannucci
Taking a big leap back from the 20th century, The King is based on several different plays from William Shakespeare’s Henriad and centers on the rise of Henry V following his father’s death as he learns what it means to be a leader of his people. Chalamet is an unconventional Henry V but does a great job here of showing the trepidation the king had about taking power as well as the transformation into a truly formidable political figure.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Robert Pattinson, Dean-Charles Chapman
Director: David Michôd
Back before Daniel Craig was stealing hearts as James Bond, he was helping to liberate Jews during the occupation of Belarus by Nazi Germany in World War II. Based on Nechama Tech’s 1993 book of the same name, Defiance follows the Bielski partisans, four brothers who played a major role in saving many lives throughout the occupation. The conditions they and their rescued civilians experience while attempting to escape Nazi forces are tough and things get pretty bloody, but you can’t help but root for the strong resistance here.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 72%
Cast: Daniel Craig, Liev Schriber, Jamie Bell, Alexa Davalos
Director: Edward Zwick
The most recent release on the list, The Outpost, based on the 2012 nonfiction book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, really serves as a celebration of the strength of spirit of US soldiers during the Battle of Kamdesh during the war in Afghanistan. Many won’t escape alive, but these men refuse to give up in the face of adversity and are a true beacon of what it means to be a patriot.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 82%
Cast: Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Orlando Bloom, Jack Kesy, Cory Hardrict
Director: Rod Lurie
This 2018 drama, based on A Time to Die by author Robert Moore, tells the true story of the Kursk submarine disaster that took place in the Barents Sea in 2000. It’s clear from the beginning of the movie that things are going to go very wrong when Russian Naval Captain-Lieutenant Mikhail Averin (Schoenaerts) takes the Northern Fleet out for an exercise in the submarine, but things go from bad to worse faster than expected. There’s no happy ending to this one, but it still makes for a riveting watch.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 69%
Cast: Colin Firth, Lea Seydoux, Matthias Schoenaerts, Peter Simonischek
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Jarhead: Law of Return
Jarhead: Law of Return is admittedly somewhat light on plot but offers plenty of action to make up for it. After an accomplished Israel Defense Forces pilot is shot down while flying with the son of a U.S. senator while in Syrian airspace, all hell breaks loose. None of it quite makes any sense, but for fans of high-octane, adrenaline-inducing war films, it’s still a worthy watch.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 27%
Cast: Devon Sawa, Nicholas Aaron, Shanti Ashanti, Yael Eitan
Director: Don Michael Paul
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