The 15 Best Memorial Day Movies to Watch This Weekend

Memorial Day weekend is often seen as the gateway to summer, and while there are plenty of movies to watch at local movie theaters, some of you may be looking for a movie that’s more in line with the holiday itself. Remembering the stories of our fallen soldiers. Maybe an epic of war, or something showing bravery in the face of danger.

From the Civil War to Vietnam and Afghanistan, the films on this list are perfect for any Memorial Day viewing as we remember the brave men and women who gave their lives while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. War saga has been a part of cinema since its invention, and to this day they remain an excellent way to tell real human life and death stories. Award-winning directors such as Steven Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Ridley Scott, Oliver Stone, Clint Eastwood, and Stanley Kubry Icons like Edward Zwick, Terrence Malik and Peter Weir have all tried these epics.

If you want to craft and create a Memorial Day bash from all the different eras of American (and world) history, here are some fine films to consider, telling stories of extraordinary action in absolute hell.

The 15 Best Memorial Day Movies to Watch

Note: Where to watch information is based on data available at the time of publication.

Black Hawk down

Where to watch: HBO Max, HBO Go, Max Go, Hoopla

Black Hawk Down from Ridley Scott won accolades and two Oscars (Best Film Editing and Best Sound Effects), and still maintains a firm, gripping take on soldiers caught in seemingly impossible situations . Black Hawk Down details the U.S. military’s 1993 raid in Mogadishu that transformed from what was supposed to be a quick mission to an overnight standoff and rescue operation, Black Hawk Down featured a large ensemble including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, Sam Shepard, Jeremy Piven and Tom Hardy in his first film roles.

Check What IGN Says About Black Hawk Down.


Where to watch: Fubo, available for rent on other platforms

Edwards Wick’s historical Civil War drama “Glory,” starring Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman and Matthew Broderick, tells the story of the Massachusetts 54th Infantry, the first African American in the Union Army One of the American regiments. Nominated for five Oscars and winning three (including one for Denzel), Glory is a moving, powerful film that will take your breath away.

Check out IGN’s review glory.

Courage under fire

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, available to rent on other platforms

Denzel Washington reunites with “Glory” director Edward Zwick for a very different war and a very different story of bravery from “Courage Under Fire.” In a Rashomon-esque format, the film follows a lieutenant colonel (Washington) returning home from the Gulf War following a friendly fire incident, tasked with identifying Captain Karen Emma Walden (Meg. Ryan) should be the first woman to receive the medal after she died in combat. The standalone story from the Walden crew is full of contradictions… so where’s the truth? Courage Under Fire – starring Lou Diamond Phillips, Matt Damon and Seth Gilliam – is a compelling haunted watch.

Saving Private Ryan

Where to watch: Fubo, available for rent on other platforms

A few years later, Spielberg changed the course of cinema with “Jurassic Park” and left an indelible mark on the realm of war drama with the classic “Saving Private Ryan.” A film featuring war scenes, shocking and grim, unlike anything audiences have seen from a WWII film before. From the opening of D-Day to its brutal climax, Saving Private Ryan, and an all-star cast, barely left you breathless. Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Matt Damon, Adam Goldberg and Jeremy Davis Star in this trek tracking down an 11 Oscar-nominated paratrooper in northern France.

Check out IGN’s review Saving Private Ryan.

thin red line

Where to watch: Available to rent on many platforms

Saving Private Ryan was released in the same year as another very different World War II film, The Thin Red Line, director Terrence Malik’s first feature film in 20 years. Focusing on the different stages of war, the Pacific theater, and operating in true Malik style, like a deep war poem, The Thin Red Line is also an Academy Award contender, finding itself nominated in seven categories. Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas and Ben Chaplin star in this fascinating meditation on life and death (along with other famous faces – like John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Jared Lay Thomas, John C. Reilly and John Travolta — in smaller roles).

Check out IGN’s review thin red line.

Road to Glory

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, available to rent on other platforms

Kirk Douglas played a commander in World War I who tries to defend his soldiers after they refuse to carry out a suicide mission in Stanley Kubrick’s early gem. Based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb, Path of Glory is a thought-provoking tale of the horrors of war and the transcendent inhumanity that those in power can display. It’s beautifully shot, and the acting is spot on.

injured locker

Where to watch: Fubo, available for rent on other platforms

Kathryn Bigelow will become the first woman to win an Academy Award for best director after directing this intense film about the Iraq war bomb squad and its psychological response to the stress of combat. Future MCU players Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie will star in this riveting Best Picture winner that will leave you both excited and tired.

Check IGN’s review injured locker.


Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, available to rent on other platforms

If you’re looking for another war movie to make a big splash at the Oscars, Oliver Stone’s Platoon is the best picture, winning best picture, direction, sound and editing. Charlie Sheen plays a U.S. Army soldier serving in Vietnam as his platoon leader (Tom Berenger) and his squad leader (William Dafoe) clash over the platoon’s morality and war itself. As the first Hollywood film to be written and directed by a Vietnam War veteran, Platoon takes a harrowing look at wartime violence and how people become monsters in the chaos.

Check out IGN’s review Row.

Where to watch: Available to rent on many platforms

Clint Eastwood director Bradley Cooper gives a vivid and sad account of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history, and how that achievement has affected his personal and family life a heavy blow. American Sniper is loosely based on Kyle’s own memoir, with Cooper’s stellar performances and strong supporting cast including Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Jack McDormand and Kyle Garner.

Check IGN’s review american sniper.

Big Red One

Where to watch: Available to rent on many platforms

One of the lesser-known films on this list, Big Red One is independently produced and rarely filmed overseas, written and directed by tinseltown vet (and WWII vet) Samuel Fuller. The Big Red One stars action legend Lee Marvin as a tough sergeant and World War I veteran who leads his infantry unit in battle after battle across Europe, Trying to survive WWII. Post-Star Wars Mark Hamill co-stars with nerdy Robert Carradine’s ex-Vengeance.


Where to watch: Netflix, available for rent on other platforms

Directed by director Rod Lurie (The Last Castle, Straw Dogs), The Outpost is the perfect blend of writing, acting and technical filmmaking. Based on journalist Jack Tapper’s non-fiction book Outpost: The Untold Story of American Courage, the film depicts the months leading up to the Battle of Kandersh in Afghanistan, when just over 50 soldiers found themselves killed by Hundreds of Taliban surrounded. rebels. Starring Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Orlando Bloom, Jack Casey and Corey Hadrick.

Check IGN’s review outpost.

lone survivor

Where to watch: Available to rent on many platforms

Actor/director Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights,” “Broken”) kicked off his five-film stint with Mark Wahlberg and 2013’s Lone Survivor Collaborate, which is a dramatization of the unsuccessful U.S. Navy SEAL counterinsurgency mission “Operation Red Wings.” A true survival story, The Lone Survivor is a gritty, violent account of bravery, focus and tenacity. Co-stars Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and Eric Bana.

Check IGN’s review lone survivor.


Where to watch: Starz app, Amazon with Starz plugin, Available to rent on many platforms

This towering tale of Australian soldiers sent to the Gallipoli Peninsula during World War I is quintessentially Australian, and one of the best war films ever made. Peter Weir (“The Truman Show,” “Masters and Commanders: The Other Side of the World”) proved early on as a patient and gifted filmmaker who sees it this way Innocence lost on a ruthless battlefield. Yes, it’s the only film on this list that doesn’t focus on American warriors, but Gallipoli’s theme is evergreen and enduring.

Flags of the Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima

Where to watch: Available to rent on many platforms

Finally two movies sneak in here, both from Clint Eastwood, both depicting the Battle of Iwo Jima. Flags of Our Fathers, starring Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford and Adam Beach, pays homage to the American side of the conflict, while Ken Watanabe, Ninomiya and Naruto and Tsuyoshi Ihara star are almost entirely Japanese (and stronger films) Letters from Iwo Jima, depicting the story of Japanese soldiers.

Check IGN’s review our father’s flag and Letter from Iwo Jima.

Do you have a favorite war movie that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments below…

Also see Best Memorial Day Deals If you’re looking for some vacation savings.