Films of War, Media, Politics and Controversy

Feel like stirring up a little trouble in the privacy of your own home? Fire up your rental card and head on over to the cheap aisle, where you can grab a little hullabaloo in a box.

1. "Bowling for Columbine" (United Artists, 2002)
Michael Moore's previous effort takes a look at America's gun culture and concludes that all we have to fear is fear itself. And nutcases. The (in)famous Oscar speech came later.

2. "Network" (MGM, 1976)
Director Sidney Lumet's surprisingly accurate send-up on network television in the 1970s feels par for the course in the early 2000s. Three Oscars were given for performances.

3. "JFK" (Warner Bros., 1991)
Prior to F911, JFK was the most recent film to stir up as much discussion for its weaving of facts and theories. Oliver Stone's "back and to the left" thriller isn't even completely ruined by the presence of Kevin Costner. Note the cameo by the real Jim Garrison, who plays Justice Earl Warren. Won Oscars for cinematography and editing.

4. "Natural Born Killers" (Warner Bros., 1994)
Now how in the world did Oliver Stone get on a list of controversial films twice? In this one, Stone purports to be saying something about the media, and violence, and the "crime of the week" mentality, but it's really just disturbingly violent itself. No trophies.

5. "Malcolm X" (Warner Bros., 1992)
Spike Lee does a good job of taking you through a hero's journey of a film that may or may not reflect the true Malcolm X, although Lee made it too long and inserts himself in the narrative as an actor. Denzel, who played Malcolm X was nominated for a statue; got robbed by Al Pacino.

6. "The Candidate" (Warner Bros., 1972)
Does this remind you of anyone? Bill McCay (Robert Redford)—the son of a famous, but retired senator of the same name—runs so hard to win that he forgets everything he once believed in. Watch for one of the most perfect final scenes in movie history. Won Best Screenplay.

7. "Apocalypse Now" (United Artists, 1979)
Francis Ford Coppola took years to film and edit this disturbing vision of a distorted universe of death, war and absolute power. Fun trivia—Martin Sheen's brother, Joe Estevez, voiced some of Sheen's character's narration, but was uncredited. Won Best Cinematography and Best Sound.

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More Films for your War Chest : 1) Grave of the Fireflies There are hardly any soldiers in this 1988 anime, but the stark story of two orphans fighting for survival in World War II Japan after the firebombing of Kyoto is one of the most powerful films we have ever seen. Its tender humanity produces not only tears but true grief that will haunt you for weeks. 2) Ballad of a Soldier A touching account of young Russian hero's furlough from the front and his long trip home to see his mother. He helps a one-legged man, misses his train, and meets the love of his life. This could be any country, any war, any man, any mother. The simple, straightfoward storytelling slowly gathers force for the film's emotional climax. 3) Grand Illusion Finely crafted masterpieces such as this come along only a few times a century, and once again, we find that the best anti-war films feature hardly any fighting and instead focus on the human side of the story. Jean Renoir's 1938 WWI drama is so warm and rich, so masterfully filmed and acted that it takes multiple viewings to begin catching its artful nuances. 4) Hearts & Minds By alternating skillfully between personal accounts of politicians, pilots, and bombed-out farmers on the ground, Peter Davis' stunning documentary about the Vietnam war achieves its effect. Controversial upon its release in 1974, the film is required viewing for anybody interested in putting faces behind the abstract images on CNN. 5) Sophie's Choice This harrowing film, based on the novel by William Styron, gives compelling insight into the lives of survivors of the Holocaust. Meryl Streep's performance is transfixing; Sophie's heartbreaking story gives one more angle to the twisted horrors of war. 6) Dr. Strangelove Stanley Kubrick's cold-war farce trumped the Marx Brothers' "Duck Soup" for the only anti-war comedy on this list. Almost 30 years old, the chilling tale of the "Doomsday Machine," starring the sublime Peter Sellers in three roles, is as pressing as ever. The funniest movie about nuclear annihilation you'll ever see. 7) Das Boot Forget "U-571," "K-19 The Widowmaker" and all the others: Wolfgang Petersen's harrowing and nerve-wrecking tale of a doomed German U-Boat is the only submarine movie that ever needed to be made. 8) The Fog Of War This chilling portrait of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara could not be any timelier. Set to the ominously hypnotizing score by Philip Glass, McNamara's career unfolds, beginning with his role as one of the architects of the WWII fire bombing of Japan. Errol Morris won the 2004 Oscar for Best Documentary. 9) All Quiet on the Western Front Released in 1930 and based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque about a gung-ho German soldier in World War I, this film is the timeless classic of the anti-war genre. 10) Three Kings In David O. Russell's "Three Kings," war is a surreal, almost hallucinatory state of being. Set in Iraq just after the Gulf War has ended, three soldiers discover a bunker stolen gold and treasure from Kuwait, but their dreams of wealth are set aside when they discover a population in need. George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube star in this subversive drama.



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