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Can there be a good PG-13 war movie?

Posted July 23

Here are five war movies with a PG-13 rating that prove war movies don't have to be violent enough to earn an R rating to be considered "good." (Deseret Photo)

THE BATTLEFIELD — Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” is about to hit theaters and the new World War II film is receiving high accolades. However, there are still some skeptics out there. When “Dunkirk” received a PG-13 rating, many people took to social media to tell everyone that you can’t make a good war movie without an R rating.

Is that true?

Here’s the easy answer: no, it’s not true. Not only is “Dunkirk” proving the doubters wrong, but here are five other war movies with a PG-13 rating that prove war movies don't have to be violent enough to earn an R rating to be considered "good."

Memphis Belle

This 1990 film is about a B-17 crew’s last bombing mission over Germany before heading home. “Memphis Belle” is an intimate movie focusing mainly on the crew and their fight to get home.

There are hiccups along the way and this will not be remembered as one of the great war films of all time, but for the most part, it is well done and worth a viewing if you’ve never seen it. The film boasts a solid cast oozing with chemistry and some beautiful shots of old bombers flying over Europe.

Deseret News’ Chris Hicks wrote, “The film is sincere enough and the ensemble players talented enough that we feel for them more than the script would otherwise allow.”

Saints and Soldiers

Some of you may be rolling your eyes over this pick, but I’m standing by it. The locally-made “Saints and Soldiers” is, in my opinion, an incredibly well-made and thought-provoking look into war and the lives on both sides of the conflict.

Kirby Heyborne, Larry Bagby and Alexander Polinsky give solid performances, but it’s the poignant and sincere portrayal of Cpl. Nathan “Deacon” Greer by Corbin Allred that gives “Saints and Soldiers” its heart and power.

Director Ryan Little made magic with the budget he had and made the film a character drama that I still think is one of the best local films to date.

Legendary film critic Roger Ebert even gave the film high praise writing, “It has the strengths and the clean lines of a traditional war movie, without high-tech special effects to pump up the noise level.”

The Imitation Game

The first time I watched the “Imitation Game,” I sat in silence as the film faded to black. In many ways, it left me with a sick stomach and a reeling head (if you’ve seen the movie you understand) but I was also entranced by the powerful story and in awe of Benedict Cumberbatch.

One of the things you’ll notice from this list of films is that as long as you have great performances, you can make a really great PG-13 war movie and that’s exactly what we get from “The Imitation Game.” The supporting cast is all fantastic in their roles, particularly Keira Knightley, but it’s Cumberbatch who steals the show.

Regardless of your thoughts on Alan Turing or your interest in the story, this film is worth your time to see Cumberbatch’s performance alone. Jason Bailey of Flavorwire agreed when he wrote, “Cumberbatch helps elevate what could've been a rote boilerplate biopic into a film with the spark of a live wire.”

Hotel Rwanda

The Rwandan genocide is a brutal and horrendous page in the human race’s history book, so how can you tell one of the most compelling stories of that time in a PG-13 movie? By doing what they did with “Hotel Rwanda.”

Don Cheadle stars in this film retelling the true story of Paul Rusesabagina who tried to save as many human lives as he could by harboring them in his hotel. The movie is a taut and powerful narrative about our duty to care for one another and the courage that often requires.

“Hotel Rwanda” received positive reviews, earning a 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and this review from Washington Post writer Ann Hornaday: “The great strength of Hotel Rwanda is that it's not about superhuman heroism but simply about human decency.”

Rescue Dawn

The 2006 Christian Bale film “Rescue Dawn” can easily be characterized as a minimalist movie. There is not much dialogue and there are only two characters for a majority of the film, but that’s where so much of the film’s resonance and enthralling nature stems from.

The film recounts the true story of a U.S. fighter pilot’s fight for survival after he is shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War. The movie can be difficult to watch at times as the characters endure torture and unimaginable conditions while they inch toward freedom. But when all is said and done, the movie is a powerful testament to the human spirit and the lengths some people have to go to as they fight for our freedoms.

Nev Pierce of Total Film wrote, “A rough guide to survival in the cruel, cruel world, with a captivating central performance from Christian Bale. Gripping, emotional and, oddly, gloriously optimistic.”

To truly understand Long’s review, you need to experience “Rescue Dawn.”

What are your favorite PG-13 movies about war? Let us know in the comments.

John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. John also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome and it just so happens that these are the three things he writes about.

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