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Which War Gave Us the Best Movies? Vulture Does the Math

As Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg seek to remind us this week with The Pacific, another large-budgeted, ten-part HBO miniseries, World War II was truly the United States' greatest war — but has it inspired the best movies? We were curious, so for each notable prolonged American armed conflict, Vulture averaged the scores for every soldier-centric* movie we could find on Rotten Tomatoes (assuming that if a film hadn't been indexed on RT it had simply been forgotten forever, like the French and Indian and Spanish-American wars). As it turns out, even if The Pacific — whose first hour was just made available on HBO's website — does as well with critics as HBO's previous Hanks-Spielberg collaboration, Band of Brothers (90%), WWII still won't be our most critically acclaimed war. So which is? The answer might surprise you!

1. Civil War (Average: 83.8%)
Birth of a Nation (1915) : 100%
The General (1927): 92%
Gone with the Wind (1939): 97%
They Died with Their Boots On (1941): 80%
The Red Badge of Courage (1951): 89%
The Horse Soldiers (1959): 100%
How the West Was Won (1962): 93%
The Good, the Bad & the Ugly (1966): 98%
The Beguiled (1971): 90%
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976): 97%
Glory (1989): 93%
Dances with Wolves (1990): 78%
Gettysburg (1993): 87%
Ride with the Devil (1999): 62%
Cold Mountain (2003): 71%
Gods and Generals (2003): 8%


2. Korean War (Average: 82%)
The Steel Helmet (1951): 100%
The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1955): 78%
Men in War (1957): 80%
M*A*S*H (1970): 89%
MacArthur (1977): 63%


3. World War II (Average: 79.8%)
They Were Expendable (1945): 88%
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946): 97%
Sands of Iwo Jima (1949): 100%
From Here to Eternity (1953): 86%
Stalag 17 (1953): 96%
The Caine Mutiny (1954): 91%
To Hell and Back (1955): 100%
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957): 97%
The Longest Day (1962): 92%
The Great Escape (1963): 91%
The Dirty Dozen (1967): 95%
Catch-22 (1970): 88%
Kelly’s Heroes (1970): 83%
Patton (1970): 97%
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970): 69%
Midway (1976): 55%
A Bridge Too Far (1977): 67%
The Big Red One (1980): 91%
Memphis Belle (1990): 71%
Saving Private Ryan (1998): 90%
The Thin Red Line (1998): 78%
Enemy at the Gates (2001): 53%
Pearl Harbor (2001): 26%
Hart’s War (2002): 58%
Windtalkers (2002): 33%
Flags of Our Fathers (2006): 73%
Letters from Iwo Jima (2006): 91%
Valkyrie (2008): 61%
Inglourious Basterds (2009): 89%


4. World War I (Average: 76.3%)
The Big Parade (1925): 100%
Wings (1927): 96%
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930): 97%
Hell’s Angels (1930): 89%
A Farewell to Arms (1932): 86%
Sergeant York (1941): 83%
Paths of Glory (1957): 92%
In Love and War (1996): 12%
Flyboys (2006): 32%


5. Vietnam War (Average: 75.7%)
The Green Berets (1968): 25%
Coming Home (1978): 81%
The Deer Hunter (1978): 91%
Apocalypse Now (1979): 98%
Platoon (1986): 86%
Full Metal Jacket (1987): 96%
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987): 90%
Hamburger Hill (1987): 100%
Casualties of War (1989): 86%
Born on the Fourth of July (1989): 89%
Air America (1990): 17%
Heaven & Earth (1993): 50%
Tigerland (2000): 76%
We Were Soldiers (2002): 62%
Rescue Dawn (2007): 89%


6. Gulf War (Average: 75.3%)
Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993): 63%
Courage Under Fire (1996): 84%
Three Kings (1999): 94%
Jarhead (2005): 60%


7. Iraq War (Average: 55.6%)
Redacted (2007): 44%
Home of the Brave (2006): 23%
Stop-Loss (2008): 64%
The Hurt Locker (2009): 97%
Green Zone (2010): 50%


8. American Revolution (Average: 50.5%)
Drums Along the Mohawk (1939): 78%
1776 (1972): 54%
Revolution (1985): 8%
The Patriot (2000): 62%


9. War in Afghanistan (Average: 42.5%)
Lions for Lambs (2007): 27%
Brothers (2009): 58%

Think we missed a movie? Feel like making a math-based case for your favorite war? Let us know in the comments.

*Sorry, Holocaust movies.

Photo: Courtesy of HBO