Films on the Military

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The Power of Nightmares:
The Rise of the Politics of Fear

Documentary 2004 NR 180 minutes.  This three-part documentary explores the use of fear for political gain, given the lasting impact of 9/11 and with media sensationalism at an all-time high. This is not about nightmares, but instead about people in power who give us nightmares for their own benefit.  The first, “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” examines historical aspects of international threats. “The Phantom Victory” looks at how two disparate groups, radical Islamists and neo-conservatives, apply similar tactics. And “The Shadows in the Cave” asks the question, “Is organized terrorism an illusion?”  The facts revealed by this documentary series are very interesting and will change your perception of what they call the “War on Terror”.  See Full Review

Dirty Wars

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr 26m. A 2014 Oscar nominee for Best Documentary Feature, this film explores America’s controversial covert operations around the globe. It documents journalist Jeremy Scahill’s extremely courageous mission to look clearly at what the “war on terror” has actually produced and what that means for the future of the world. A key point that this guy makes is that there are unofficial/undeclared ‘wars’ led by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and they are doing ‘illegal’ things. JSOC’s primary mission is to identify and eliminate terror cells worldwide. JSOC killed Bin Laden in his home. This film brings to light US special operations that the everyday person may not know about – that’s good. It tells the truth about how a majority of our government leaders believe that killing of innocent civilians are just a byproduct of war that can’t be avoided. Much of this film shows emotion of people who have fallen victim to U.S. special forces attacks. Digging bullets out of murdered pregnant women to cover up their atrocities! The section on the killing of two Americans by drone without a trial gave me new insight into how Awlaki had been transformed from support to opposition, and I was shocked at picture of his 16 year old son assassinated two weeks later. Journalists protect this nation from abuses of power and Scahill’s work is a prime example of this. For Jeremy Scahill to have the desire to expose the secret operations that are going on all over the world so the public will be informed is a good thing. He is not criticizing the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend the nation, rather the people giving them the orders, and especially the complete lack of oversight of JSOC by the military and the government. The narrative tries to illustrate that the war on terror just breeds more terrorism. How is this different from the many “enemies of the state” killed by Stalin, and Hitler, the South American dictators, and other dictators worldwide throughout history? Even for someone who has decent familiarity with some of the questionable things going on in U.S. foreign policy, there will certainly be many new facts here. My issue is the “look at me!” way in which it is covered. It says something about a film, and the people making it, if the subject matter is given less screen time than the creators. Jeremy Scahill’s book (same title) is an engrossing but long slog through all the terrible things the U.S. government is doing, through our extremely expensive military might, to “keep us safe.” As expected, the book was much, much more thorough with a lot more information. The film should be viewed as a complement to the book, not a substitute.

Chalmers Johnson Speaking Freely

Lecture: Vol. 4 2007 NR 52 minutes. Writer and professor Chalmers Johnson warns of the dangers of American imperialism, a trend evidenced in the presence of U.S. military bases abroad, the passage of the Patriot Act and the executive branch’s use of military force.

The World Without Us

Documentary 2008 NR 1hr 21m. This provocative documentary probes what would happen if the United States were to suddenly remove itself from the world stage, giving up its self-appointed role as a global policeman and withdrawing into its own borders.

The Tillman Story

Documentary 2010 R 95 minutes. Pat Tillman’s family comes forward to tell the real story about what happened on April 22, 2004, in Afghanistan when the pro football player-turned-U.S. soldier was killed by friendly fire and not the Taliban, as first reported. Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary pieces together the Tillmans’ search for the truth, how they exposed a military cover-up that led to top-ranking officers and called to the carpet the likes of Donald Rumsfeld.See Full Review


Documentary 2010 R 1hr 33m. Author Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington spent a year embedded with the Second Platoon in Afghanistan, chronicling the hard work, fear and brotherhood that comes with repelling a deadly enemy in this Oscar-nominated documentary. See Full Review

Where Soldiers Come From

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr31m. This documentary tells the story of five friends from a small town who grew up together, join the military together, and then get shipped off to war together. These kids all signed up for mostly the same reasons many small town youths enter the National Guard — money, college, and to get out of a small town. But this tight-knit group of friends who join the reserves to get money for college are then deployed to the extreme opposite—active duty in the harsh desert of Afghanistan. The film shows the realities and daily struggles of their rural home lives as well as the time spent maturing over nine months in a foreign and stressful place. See Full Review

We Steal Secrets
The Story of WikiLeaks

Documentary 2013 R 2hr 9m. This documentary reveals how Julian Assange fired a global debate on secrecy when his web site, Wikileaks, published thousands of confidential documents. Taking no sides, Oscar winner Alex Gibney examines every aspect of the controversial event.

A Second Knock at the Door

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 31m. This award-winning documentary offers a rare glimpse into the lives of military families dealing with the loss of loved ones to friendly fire.

Under Fire:
Journalists in Combat

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr 30m. Intense interviews with journalists from around the world shed light on the traumas faced by those who risk their lives to report from war zones.

The Invisible War

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 37m. The Invisible War exposes a rape epidemic in the armed forces, investigating the institutions that perpetuate it as well as its personal consequences. See Full Review

Remote Control War

Documentary 2011 NR 52m. Killer robots sound like the stuff of science fiction, but as an increasingly integral part of today’s technology-driven warfare, remotely controlled military devices are helping to save some human lives … and destroy others.

Semper Fi: Always Faithful

Documentary 2011 NR 76 minutes. This wrenching documentary follows Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, who lost his daughter to a rare leukemia, as he reveals how the Marine Corps has betrayed its soldiers and their families by exposing them to toxic water at a base in North Carolina.

Poster Girl

Documentary 2010 NR 37m. This documentary short follows Robynn Murray, who literally became the poster girl for women in combat, as she battles post-traumatic stress disorder.

Toughest Military Jobs

Documentary 2010 TV-PG 1 Season. This tough-as-nails series spotlights the armed forces’ most dangerous jobs, the people who take them on, and the technology that makes them happen.

Memories of a WW II Hero:
Captain Brown’s Story

Documentary 2014 NR 52m.  One of history’s greatest test pilots, Capt. Eric “Winkle” Brown recounts his many adventures flying dangerous aircraft and setting aviation records.  That this man is still alive is an absolute miracle. Naval Aviation is so dangerous. I lost so many classmates in training and combat–at least 75%, and I know my count is incomplete.  This man pioneered in so many things.  Most Americans are totally unaware of this man, unless they are in aviation, or hard core enthusiasts.  And I had never seen so much as an interview with him, until now.  Which is, to me…astounding.  Few Americans, because we as a nation are such egomaniacs, know that the Brits invented just about everything involving the modern aircraft carrier–and Capt. Brown was the one who tested it all out!  From beginning in the 1930s with bi-planes to finishing with jets, he flew a record 487 different aircraft types.  What a man; what a life!  What a breath of fresh air. I watch so much flotsam and jetsam, that a fine film like this makes up for hundreds of flops and misses. This is a first rate film, about a first rate man.  Highly recommended.  He says that he paid a great price in his family life, and I believe it.

Two Weeks in Hell

Documentary 2009 TV-14 2 Episodes. Green Berets are America’s unconventional warfare specialists. Go inside their hellish selection process, with tasks designed to break a man.

Modern Sniper

Documentary 2009 TV-PG 1 Season. This series looks at advanced training techniques that transform ordinary men into smart, inventive snipers trained to pick off enemy soldiers.

Shadow Company

Documentary 2007 NR 86 minutes. Warfare isn’t what it used to be. This fascinating documentary provides a look at the thousands of private contractors who work closely with the military to perform dangerous missions but whose role often goes unnoticed by the public back home. Are they mercenaries — or merely civilians performing military tasks? Filmmakers Nick Bicanic and Jason Bourque explore the myriad impacts of waging a new kind of war with a new kind of soldier.

Constantine’s Sword

Documentary 2007 NR 1hr 35 m. This documentary examines the history of anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church and the link between the U.S. military and the Christian right. From Constantine’s reign in the fourth century to today’s evangelical base at the Air Force Academy.

Taxi to the Dark Side

Documentary 2007 R 106 minutes. Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) directs this Best Documentary Oscar winner that uses interviews, news footage and firsthand reports to examine the Bush administration’s policy on torture. The film focuses on the case of an Afghan taxi driver who picked up three passengers and never returned home. Instead, he wound up dead at the Bagram Air Base, killed by injuries inflicted by U.S. soldiers.

The Road to Guantanamo

Docudrama 2006 R 95 minutes.  Director Michael Winterbottom presents the true story of three British Muslim men known as “the Tipton Three,” who were unjustly arrested and held for more than two years in the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Fahrenheit 9/11

Documentary 2004 R 122 minutes. Michael Moore’s hard-hitting documentary addresses the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, outlining the reasons the United States (and, in turn, thousands of innocent Americans) became a target for hatred and terrorism. The film not only criticizes President George W. Bush’s response to the attacks but also reinforces Moore’s theory that the Bush Administration used the tragic event to push its own political agenda.See Full Review

Inside Special Forces

Documentary National Geographic 2003 TV-PG 56m. National Geographic follows the brave men and women of the U.S. Army Special Forces as they infiltrate Afghanistan and Iraq on top-secret missions.


Documentary 2001 NR 56m. Director Jack Silberman presents a compelling documentary on an emotional topic: the tragic presence of millions of unexploded cluster bombs in the fields and jungles of Laos, long after the U.S. military deposited them there during the Vietnam War. An estimated 90 million cluster bombs were dropped on Laos between 1964 and 1973, and since the end of America’s “secret” war there, the lethal devices have wounded more than 12,000 people

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell
(One Man Mutiny)

Docudrama 1955 NR 100 minutes. This 1955 courtroom drama based on real-life events tells the story of General Billy Mitchell, who, in 1925, angered the military establishment by accusing the Army and Navy of negligence during World War I. Facing court-martial, Mitchell was nevertheless vocal about his views, foretelling an event eerily similar to Pearl Harbor. Otto Preminger directs; Gary Cooper, Charles Bickford and Elizabeth Montgomery (in her film debut) star.

The Panama Deception

Documentary 1992 NR 91 minutes. Filmmakers Barbara Trent and David Kasper explain the untold truths behind the United States’ 1989 invasion of Panama in this hard-hitting documentary that illuminates the complex relationship between Gen. Manuel Noriega and the CIA and U.S. government. Juxtaposing interviews with experts and eyewitnesses with historical media reports, the film shows how the press helped win the American public’s approval despite widespread condemnation abroad. See Full Review


Docudrama? 1986 R 122 minutes. Washed-up photojournalist Richard Boyle’s (James Woods) bad habits keep him from getting jobs, so he heads to El Salvador with his pal Dr. Rock (James Belushi) to find work amidst the country’s fledgling civil war. But he soon finds that the danger is more than he can handle. Boyle and Rock realize that they need to flee before the violence escalates, but Boyle doesn’t want to leave his new girlfriend (Elpidia Carrillo) behind. Oliver Stone directs. I see all responses and am amazed at how everyone is only concerned about the character played by James Wood and Beluchi and their portrayed behavior while missing the the rest of the humans involved in this story or missing the bigger picture. Specially our role (USA) in the salvadorean war. Ask yourself what reporter wanted to be in El Salvador at that time. Ask yourself about the people…their poverty…their needs..their suffering…etc. Maybe you’ve never seen a student get shot in the head, because of what they stood for…many times only because of a small mistake as not having a sedula with them at the time; But some of us have. Maybe you’ve never seen a desperate young woman who would do anything at the chance to marry a gringo at the time and get herself and hopefully her kids out of the forsaken war torn towns they lived in; But some us have. Maybe you’ve never been terrified by look or behavior of a person who has the power to kill you on the spot; But some of us have. Therefore I tell you…don’t be too critical of something you may not have much experience on, because some other human may have and your ignorance may be exposed. I lived this war and a lot of what is in this story is very real. I remember a lot of what is on this story as it happened in my life and the life of many other Salvadorean people. For those who are upset at how the characters were portrayed, I tell you that I’ve witnessed most, as it is told. And yes…Americans can behave as bad as any other peoples. Oliver Stone and James Wood did a very good job. This is the opinion of a Salvadorean-American who lived the war and events as portrayed in this picture “Salvador”. This is a film that everybody should watch, since most people still recall Reagan as a president with good intentions.

Seven Days in May

Thriller 1964 NR 118 minutes. Military aide Martin Casey (Kirk Douglas) stumbles across a plot by his boss (Burt Lancaster) to overthrow the U.S. president (Fredric March), who has just negotiated a controversial nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia. Casey’s dilemma: Follow orders and remain silent, or betray his boss. The story is said to have been influenced by the right-wing anti-Communist political activities of General Edwin A. Walker after he resigned from the military. An additional inspiration was provided by the 1961 interview that author of the political thriller novel Fletcher Knebel conducted with the newly-appointed Air Force Chief of Staff, Curtis LeMay, an advocate of preventive first-strike nuclear option. President John F. Kennedy had read the novel and believed the scenario as described could actually occur in the United States. Lancaster gives an effective performance in an unsympathetic role.

Point of Order

Documentary 1964 NR. Filmmaker Emile de Antonio’s intriguing documentary about the Army-McCarthy hearings serves as a fascinating historical record, compiling the televised footage that aired live for 36 days — from April 22 to May 24, 1954. During the hearings, the Senate Committee on Government Operations investigated the Army’s honorable discharge of Maj. Irving Peress, who had refused to fill out a Loyalty Board questionnaire.


Missile Wars

Documentary Frontline 2002. Following America’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, Frontline examines the reason why: the Bush administration’s determination to deploy an antimissile system. Supporters say national missile defense is essential to protecting America from a missile attack by rogue states. Critics argue that terrorist attacks like September 11 are a far greater threat than that posed by ballistic missiles. In “Missile Wars,” Frontline examines both sides of the missile defense debate. Through interviews with staunch proponents, skeptical scientists, and military and intelligence experts, the one-hour documentary investigates this multi-billion dollar–yet still unproven–weapons system, and explores how national missile defense fits into the nation’s military strategy after 9/11.

Give War A Chance

Documentary Frontline 1999. Frontline explores the bitter divide between military and civilian attitudes about where, when, and why America employs military force. In examining the gulf between what American diplomats want and what the military is prepared to deliver, correspondent Peter J. Boyer follows the inevitable collision from Vietnam to the Balkans between diplomat Richard Holbrooke and Admiral Leighton Smith. Their careers, and ultimate clash, represent the most vivid example of this critical foreign policy dilemma Special reports on Frontline’s web site include one examining the evolution of the doctrine on the use of military force and, a chronology of significant U.S. military interventions over the past 30 years. Also published on the site is an analysis of the new kind of diplomacy–‘nation-building’ backed by military might. Several top experts debate the pros and cons. The site also offers brief biographies of Holbrooke and Smith, parallel chronologies of their lives and careers, and, a selection of key readings on the issues examined in the Frontline broadcast.

The Arming of Iraq

Documentary Frontline 1990. Frontline examines how Saddam Hussein built Iraq’s massive arsenal of tanks, planes, missiles, and chemical weapons during the 1980’s. Correspondent Hodding Carter investigates the complicity of the US, European governments, and Western corporations in creating the Iraqi military machine the world is now trying to stop.

The American Way of War

Documentary Frontline 1985. Frontline examines the complex relationship between the US Army, its fighting doctrine, the American people, and the government in an effort to understand the army’s role in fighting modern wars.

Retreat from Beirut

Documentary Frontline 1985. They went to keep the peace. But 241 died-caught in a military and political cross fire. One year after the pullout of American Marines from Lebanon, Frontline correspondent William Greider examines the decision and asks: Where should Americans die, and what should they die for?

Return of the Great White Fleet

Documentary Frontline 1984. Frontline profiles Navy Secretary John Lehman and the growing debate inside the Navy establishment to build a multibillion dollar fleet which critics say may not be able to fight the kind of wars the nation would be most likely to fight.

Space – The Race for High Ground

Documentary Frontline 1983. Before President Reagan introduced Star Wars, Frontline examined how in the previous 25 years the US and the Soviet Union had gone from designing satellites to designing weapons to blast them out of the sky. The superpowers were converting space from an arena for communications, to a concept of space as ‘high ground,’ the battle area to control.

Pentagon, Inc.

Documentary Frontline 1983. Frontline investigates the power of the Pentagon as a business and economic force in the domestic economy. Politicians find themselves chasing Pentagon dollars for the jobs those dollars create in their districts; scientists and universities find themselves dependent on the military if they want to do research in many high-tech areas.

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