Hollywood has a history of honoring the veterans and fallen of US wars, perhaps because most true war stories and heroes seem larger than life. And Hollywood’s true stories about feats of strength, unwavering loyalty in the face of adversity, and overcoming incredible odds are captivating. Trust us—once we compiled an incredible list of war movies based on true stories, we had trouble narrowing it down.
Our military men and women come from every corner of our nation, and each state has a favorite true war movie. Do you agree with your state’s favorite?
Because there are so many highly rated war films, we had to narrow it down. First, we took IMDB’s Most Popular War Titles list and chose those rated at least a 6.0 on IMDb or 60% on Rotten Tomatoes. Then we narrowed it down even further by including only those with verified ties to true war stories and real people. (Sorry, Forrest Gump and Pearl Harbor fans.)
Lastly, we plugged our final list into Google Trends to rank them by popularity on a scale of 1–100 for each state.
Finding the ties that bind us
We noticed some states’ favorite war movies seemed to stem from a local connection. Here are a few interesting facts we uncovered.
Massachusetts, Saving Private Ryan:
US Army Ranger Captain John H. Miller and his men are tasked with an almost insurmountable challenge: scour the battlefields during the chaotic Allied invasion of Normandy to find Private First Class James Francis Ryan, the last survivor of four brothers.
So what ties it to Massachusetts? Turns out Matt Damon, who played Private Ryan, was born in Boston. He also won an Oscar for writing the screenplay of Good Will Hunting, in which he played a janitor with an uncanny knack for mathematics who worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Coincidence? We think not.
New Hampshire, Flags of Our Fathers:
One of the most iconic moments of WWII in the Pacific was the raising of the US flag atop Mount Suribachi after the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima. Flags of Our Fathers retells the story of how five Marines and one Navy corpsman inspired the nation by raising their country’s flag against all odds.
One of the three survivors of the group of six who raised the flag was Corporal Rene Gagnon, who just so happened to be born in Manchester, NH.1
North Carolina, Fury:
This bold and brutal film retells the final days of WWII as the 2nd Armored Division pilots their M4 Sherman tank, nicknamed “Fury,” through the hellish landscape of late-war Nazi Germany.
The film is based on true stories retold by WWII veterans, including Ray Stewart, who was a tank gunner and driver in the Battle of the Bulge. Stewart, who lives in Gastonia, NC, got to meet Brad Pitt and the rest of the cast. His first-hand experiences of having two of his tanks destroyed by bazooka fire, mortars, and 88 mm antiaircraft, anti-tank guns apparently left them all flabbergasted.2
This favorite comes as no surprise, since the famed Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg is located in Pennsylvania.
And did you know that in 2014, then-President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to First Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing, the 64th Medal of Honor to be awarded to Union troops?3 Though Cushing was severely injured, he refused to leave his post during an attack by 13,000 Confederate troops on the last day of the three-day battle at Gettysburg, an assault known as “Pickett’s Charge.”
Wyoming, American Sniper:
This film, based off an autobiography of the same name, immortalizes the service and acts of heroism by US Navy SEAL and sniper Chris Kyle during four tours in the Iraq War. Kyle is known as one of the deadliest—if not the deadliest—marksmen in US military history. He’s said to have 160 confirmed kills.4
Tragically, Kyle was murdered in 2013 by a fellow veteran at a shooting range near Chalk Mountain, TX. Wyoming artist Vic Payne was asked to design the sculpture of Kyle that’s on display at the Chris Kyle Memorial Plaza in Odessa, TX. Payne’s sculpture depicts Kyle holding an American flag overhead, an image inspired by stories of how Kyle would hang up a flag to draw fire from hidden enemies and allow the decorated sniper to pinpoint their locations.5
Is it also a coincidence that Wyoming was one of Kyle’s favorite places to hunt?6 You tell us.
From the birth of our country to more recent battles in locations thousands of miles away from home, our country’s veterans and fallen have inspired vivid depictions of their selfless acts of courage throughout the years. And we the people have fallen in love with the stories they bring home.
Did your favorite true war movie make our list? Or is there a war movie inspired by true events you think should be mentioned here? Let us know in the comments.
- New England Historical Society, “The Tragedy of the Iwo Jima Flag Raising”
- The Charlotte Observer, “WWII Veteran From Gastonia Shares War Stories With ‘Fury’ Star Brad Pitt”
- US Army Center of Military History, “Medal of Honor – 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing”
- The Hollywood Reporter, “’American Sniper’ Co-Author Defends Chris Kyle’s Military Record Over New Controversy”
- The Powell Tribune, “Chris Kyle Memorial Sculpted by Heart Mountain Artist”
- My Country 95.5, “Taya Kyle, ‘American Sniper‘s’ Widow, Honors Husband With Wyoming Hunt”