Memorial Day Special: Pictorial Tribute to U.S. Soldiers in the Movies

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The final Monday of May is a Memorial Day holiday here, which is a day to remember the fallen men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. As a U.S. resident, I’m definitely grateful of the service of Military men and women. Freedom is definitely NOT free and the people serving in the various U.S. military branches – Navy, Army, Air Force and the Marines – risk their lives to protect their country and its citizens.

So today, as I reflect on their bravery and dedication, I thought I’d do a pictorial tribute to memorable portrayal of American soldiers in the movies from various era and genres. Obviously I have not seen too many war/military-themed movies so these are meant to only be a sampling of military roles represented.

So here are (roughly) 27 of them, simply to coincide with today’s date of May 27:

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Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) – ‘Independence Day’

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Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner) & Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) – ‘The Hurt Locker’

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Lt. Commander Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington) & Capt. Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) – ‘Crimson Tide’

Major "Dutch" Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) – 'Predator'
Major “Dutch” Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) – ‘Predator’

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Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) & Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) – ‘Captain America’

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U.S. Army Private Witt (Jim Caviezel) – ‘The Thin Red Line’

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Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) & Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise) – ‘Forrest Gump’

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Marine Sergeant Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise) – ‘Born on the Fourth of July’

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John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) – ‘Rambo’

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Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan) & Lt. Colonel Serling (Denzel Washington) – ‘Courage Under Fire’

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Gen. ‘Buck’ Turgidson (George C. Scott) – ‘Dr. Strangelove’

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US Army helicopter pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) – ‘Source Code’

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LT Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson), Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) – ‘A Few Good Men’

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Navy Commander Shears (William Holden) – ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’

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Major Archie Gate (George Clooney), Sergeant First Class Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Staff Sergeant Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) – ‘Three Kings’

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Gen. Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) – ‘Twelve O’Clock High’

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Sgt. Emil Foley (Louis Gossett Jr.) & Officer Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) – ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’

Now, I made an exception with this last pick. Even though I have not seen Saving Private Ryan yet, but everything I’ve read (including this fine review by good friend Mark) about this Steven Spielberg masterpiece suggests that Tom Hanks as Captain Miller is more than worthy to be included.

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Happy Memorial Day to my fellow Americans!


Now, which other U.S. military movie characters would YOU add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

Top 10 favorite Tom Cruise’s film/performance … and vote for your own top 3

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When people ask me who’s my favorite actor, I would always say without hesitation that Tom Cruise is my favorite. Then people would ask why or say that’s gotta tough liking Cruise. I respond back and say, why is that? He’s one of the most prolific leading men working in Hollywood today. But ever since the couch jumping incident on The Opera Show and his interview with Matt Lauer a few years back, it’s very fashionable to dislike him now. People tend to forget that many of his films in the 80s, 90s and early part 2000s were event films. In fact, studio would always release in films in either the prime summer or holidays season. Sure his box office power is not what it used to be now but he’s one of the few actors in Hollywood who can still convince any studio big wigs to green light a film if he’s involved in it. It took several years before Jack Reacher made it to the big screen and the reason why was because Cruise had agreed to star in it. In an interview with Reacher’s author, Jim Grant, he and the film’s producers tried many years without any luck to get the first Jack Reacher film into the cinemas. Finally Cruise got a hold of the script, he liked it and convinced Paramount to invest in the film.

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I feel Cruise never gave less than 100% in all of his films, even the bad ones, I thought he tried his best to give the film some life and that’s why I really like him as an actor. A good example was Knight & Day, a dreadful film but you can tell Cruise really tried hard to save that movie. You can’t say that to a lot of actors in his age group nowadays (Mr. Willis are you listening?) With his new film, Oblivion, opening later this week, I’ve decided to come up with my ten favorite films he starred in. I’ve seen all of his films except two, Rock of the Ages and Lions for Lambs. The criteria for this list doesn’t have anything to do with box office numbers or Oscar nominations but let’s face it, most of these films were either huge of office hits or received many Oscar nominations.

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10. Jack Reacher in Jack Reacher

I went into this movie with no expectations what so ever and was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. Yes Cruise’s not the Jack Reacher fans of the book wanted but I thought he was great in the role and without him, the film would’ve been just another average action thriller. (Note: I haven’t read any of the Jack Reacher books so I can’t comment on how good or bad Cruise was compare to his character from the novels.)

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9. Dr. William Hartford in Eyes Wide Shut

This may have been the most un-Tom Cruise role he’d ever played. His character is someone who’s obsessed with sex and well the whole film was about sex. My favorite part in the film is when his wife told him she had a fantasy about having sex with another man and would leave him and their daughter just to be with this man. The expression on Cruise’s face was pretty darn accurate of how a man would feel if his wife/girlfriend would confess something like that to him.

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8. Charlie Babbitt in Rain Man

I think this is the role he’s born to play. A young selfish, arrogant and all around douchebag. The film came out during the prime of his career and it made over $170mil at the box office! I highly doubt the film would’ve made that much without him, yes Dustin Hoffman was still a big named star back then but I don’t believe the film would’ve been as successful without Cruise.

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7. Mitch McDeere in The Firm

Another film I believe wouldn’t have been as successful if not for Cruise’s involvement. The film was based on a hugely popular novel by John Grisham. When the film version was announced and Cruise got the lead role, Grisham was not too happy about it. In the book, McDeere was a tall, blonde and blued eyes; someone how looks more like Matthew McConaughey. Of course when the film came out and was a box office gold, Grisham changed his tone a bit and said Cruise did a great job.

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6. Lt. Daniel Kaffee in A Few Good Men

Okay I don’t like to repeat myself but without Cruise, this film wouldn’t have earned more than $140mil at the box office. No doubt the film’s a great court room drama and his scene with Jack Nicholson was truly a classic scene. But I guaranteed if the lead role was played by someone else, the movie wouldn’t have a huge hit.

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5. Cole Trickle in Days of Thunder

This film was one of most highly anticipated summer flicks of 1990 and unfortunately it tanked at the box office. It’s Cruise’s first box office disappointment but I still thought he’s great in the role. I used to watch this film constantly when I was younger, I just love those racing scenes and car crashes. I know it’s a silly movie and very cheesy but it’s a reunion of the crew of Top Gun, directed by Tony Scott and produced by the powerful team of Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson.

A little fun fact, the crew was also set to reunite again in the late 90s for Enemy of the State but because Cruise was stuck shooting Eyes Wide Shut with Kubrick, he had to back out. It’s too bad that he never got to do a movie with Tony Scott again.

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4. Stefen Djordjevic in All the Right Moves

High school drama was a quite popular genre back in the 80s and here Cruise played a high football star who’s desperate to leave his hometown. The writing and directing weren’t that great but I thought Cruise carried the entire movie even though he’s so young. I particularly like the scene when his team just loss a heartbreaking game and his confrontation with his coach played by Craig T. Nelson was quite excellent. If you’re a fan of Cruise, I highly you seek this movie out if you’ve never seen it.

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3. Ethan Hunt in all of the Mission: Impossible films

One of the most popular franchises in films and I felt Cruise always gave his best even for action genre. I mean who’s crazy enough to climb the tallest building the world without a stunt double? I don’t think many actors would do that. After the disappointment box office of the third film, many thought the franchise was dead but Cruise was smart enough to bring in Brad Bird to re-energize the franchise and M:I-4 was a big success. I’m looking forward to the fifth film.

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2. Jerry Maguire in Jerry Maguire

Another role that he’s born to play, an arrogant sport agent who’s all about the money. But I think the chemistry between him and Renee Zellweger that mad this film a fun watch. Of course who can forget the “Show me the money!” scene with Cuba Gooding Jr.

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1. Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July

I think Cruise should’ve won an Oscar for his performance in this film. It’s powerful and great performance, I don’t remember who were the other actors he was up against in that year’s Oscar but I thought he got robbed. I hope he’ll get to play a role like this again soon and maybe he’ll finally get that Oscar statue that he truly deserves.

– Post by Ted S.


Ruth’s note:

I agree with most of Ted’s picks here, but my top ten would definitely include these roles that aren’t on Ted’s list:

  • Vincent, Collateral
  • Chief John Anderton, Minority Report
  • Nathan Algren, The Last Samurai

Those are our favorite Tom Cruise’s films/performances, do share yours in the comments section. Of course if you’re a Cruise hater, then feel free to trash his films too. 🙂


Now your turn! Pick three of YOUR favorite Tom Cruise roles out of over three dozens of his feature films!