While I was checking out Tom Ricks’ blog over at Foreign Policy this morning I ran across his take on a list of the 25 best British war movies ever, produced last year by the writers at ThinkDefence, a website dedicated to discussion of UK defense and security issues.
Their list is a more than a little idiosyncratic. Here’s how they describe the judging criteria:
We could argue all day about the definition of a British War Film and what the best means but for this entirely unscientific list, the definition of a British War Film is one that is largely British in character. They may have been directed by non-British directors, have non-British actors and may even have been made in Hollywood or elsewhere, but they retain that element of Britishness that we all understand. So no Das Boot, Saving Private Ryan, Apocalypse Now or other such great films.
The judging criteria do not include historical accuracy, whether the correct buttons and rank insignia were worn, or whether the film is a ‘visceral and worthy portrayal of the realities of war’ or some other such artsy bollocks, instead, it is simply enjoyability for a wet Sunday afternoon in. So, it is not a list for the film buff, historian or the yoghurt-weaving wheatgrass smoothy types for them to bemoan the inhumanity and pointlessness of war.
I’ve seen, and really enjoyed, more than half of the films listed. But that’s beside the point. Also beside the point, at least in this post, is that way too many of the films listed have more than a little whiff of racism accompanying their celebration of Britain’s heroic imperialist past.
The point is that “Zulu” takes the prize as the greatest British war film of all time, and I couldn’t agree more. This is a movie I saw for the first time as a kid while on our annual family summer vacation. Even on the 13-inch TV screen of a Holiday Inn hotel room, the movie was an impressive spectacle. And it fueled what has remained a lifelong fascination with history, military affairs, the rise and fall of empires, and other such things. Oh yeah, and my anglophilia.
Despite some nagging historical inaccuracies, this movie delivers. Here’s how ThinkDefence sums it up:
Zulu is a 1964 epic war film depicting the Battle of Rorke’s Drift between the British Army and the Zulus in January 1879, during the Anglo-Zulu War. It depicts 150 British soldiers, many of whom were sick and wounded patients in a field hospital, who successfully held off a force of 4,000 Zulu warriors.
Probably no surprise this is Number 1
Forget the outrageous slurs on the good character of Private Henry Hook (who was a model soldier and campaigning tee-totaller) and Commissaryy James Langley Dalton (who was the most experienced soldier at the mission station and widely credited with initiating the defence)
Forget British War Films, this is the best War Film full stop, in fact, forget War Films, Zulu is without a shadow of a doubt, THE best film ever made
The best bits are far too many to list.