9 Movies every military spouse should watch

by Amanda Palumbo
Stripes Europe

The life of a military spouse is no doubt unique. Deployments, life-changing and last-minute moves and that feeling like your isolated on an island are just a few reasons. Nobody truly understands until they’ve been through it. If you’re looking for movies you can truly relate to, here are 9 good ones.

“Casablanca” -  This is a movie that is on every “greatest movies of all time” list and for good reason. It’s definitely a movie everyone should see once. With a World War II backdrop, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) struggles to help his former lover (Ingrid Bergman) and her Czech Resistance fugitive husband escape to neutral territory. The selfless world-famous ending will have you reaching for the box of tissues. You’ll relate to Rick Blaine, as selfless sacrifice is nothing new to military families.

“Top Gun” - This movie birthed some of the most famous scenes of out of 80s cinema, particularly the very animated and shirtless volleyball match. The acting is not by any means “top-notch.” I personally consider it the “Point Break” of military movies where there is no logical explanation as to why you love this movie so much but it is so very good. If you’re not familiar with the plot: naval pilots Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and Tom Kasansky (Val Kilmer) vie for the coveted “Top Gun” award while training at Miramar Naval Air Station. 

“An Officer and a Gentleman” - The 80s were a good time for military love stories. Zack (A very young Richard Gere) starts his schooling at the Aviation Officer Candidate School where he meets the tough-as-nails Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley (Louis Gossett, Jr.) who pushes him to the brink of DOR (drop on request). It’s spurred the famously quoted scene where Foley is in the midst of trying to break Zach who shouts, “I have nowhere else to go!” Gossett, Jr. would pick up an Oscar for his role, making him the first African-American man to win Best Supporting Actor. There is also the touching and heartbreaking relationship Zack has with Lynette (Debra Winger).

“Saving Private Ryan” - This is not the traditional military love story but no doubt a love story in its own right, as a group of U.S. soldiers led by Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) go on the dangerous mission to pull paratrooper Private Ryan (Matt Damon) out of combat after his brothers were killed in combat, making him the family’s only surviving son. I put this movie on the list because my late great uncle, a World War II veteran, once told me it was the closest movie he had ever seen as to what it was like to serve during that time. The movie received Oscars for Best Director, Cinematography, Sound and Editing. It was nominated for Best Picture and Hanks was nominated for Best Actor. 

“South Pacific” - This 1958 movie was adapted from the 1949 Broadway musical composed by Rodgers and Hammerstein. I like this movie because it actually shows how many women served during World War II. The plot follows the blossoming romance between a young Naval Nurse (Mitzi Gaynor) and a French ex-patriot (Rosanno Brazzi) who is being courted by the Navy for a dangerous mission. The film is a bit of a mess but still worthy of a watch. It was a Golden Globe best picture nominee, along with a nod to Gaynor for best actress. Make sure you watch the 1958 version and not the disaster that was remade in 2001.

“American Sniper” - The movie is loosely based on the memoirs of Navy SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper). This is a story so many military couples can relate to as servicemembers return home from combat deployments struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and adjusting back to daily life. The movie depicts all of Kyle’s heroic and heartbreaking tours but this movie differs from other military films. The credits do not roll after the last big battle or when the servicemember returns home, embraced by their loving family. It instead focuses on the very strong reality many military families face as combat veterans struggle to cope with life after war. It gives families hope has they watch Kyle receive treatment for his PTSD and helps remove the stigma of mental health help for servicemembers and veterans. Kyle tragically died in 2013 while attempting to help a fellow veteran with PTSD and emotional issues.  The man shot and killed Kyle along with Kyle’s long time friend, Chad Littlefield, at a gun range.

“We Were Soldiers” - This is another great film that shows how war not only affects those fighting but those back at home. Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) trains a battalion that would fight the first major battle in the American phase of the Vietnam War. Moore’s wife, Julia, (Madeleine Stowe) becomes a key supportive member among Army wives, even taking it upon herself to give next of kin notifications to families.

“The English Patient” - Not many movies with a World War II backdrop center around the role women played with jobs such as military medical service. Hana (Juliette Binoche), a young nurse, tends to a badly-burned plane crash victim (Ralph Fiennes) in the ruins of an Italian monastery. His past is shown in flashbacks, revealing an involvement in a fateful love affair. “The English Patient” won nine Oscars including Best Picture, Supporting Actress and Director.

“Independence Day” - Hear me out on this one because there are some parallels we’re facing right now. Aliens invade (or a certain pesky virus) and Capt. Steven Hiller (Will Smith) heads out to fight the good fight. What the movie shows is how often military spouses and partners have to face a disaster on the homefront while the servicemember is away. Jasmine Burow (Vivica A. Fox) goes into survivor mode to protect her son and the family dog until she’s reunited with Hiller. In our current real-life state of affairs, if your spouse is ‘mission essential’ or unable to telework, there is a good chance you’re having to juggle everything on your own. Plus, Randy Quaid and Jeff Goldblum are gold in this movie.

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