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Saving Private Ryan Turns 20: Top 5 Visceral War Scenes

FROM the rich collection of cinematic imprints Steven Spielberg has left in his legendary career, the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan has a claim to be the finest. A harrowing and ground-breaking depiction of the horrors of frontline war that holds up in its shell-shocking effects twenty years on from its release.

To mark this occasion, Close-up Culture has compiled a list detailing five of the most visceral scenes from war movies.

5. First Beach Bombing – Dunkirk (2017)

THE calm of soldiers lined up in orderly fashion and waves gently crashing onto the shore is interrupted by the ominous hum of enemy aircraft. Christopher Nolan’s expertly crafted scene escalates with desperately scattering men and Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) covering his ears on the ground as the explosions move closer and closer.


4. Brotherly Sacrifice – Tae Guk Gi (2004)

THE final battle scene in Kang Je-gyu’s Korean War film is ten minutes of enthralling action as the South Korean and US soldiers try to fight off waves of North Korean troops. The graphic, hand-to-hand fighting culminates in an emotional act of sibling sacrifice.


3. The Battle Of Crater – Cold Mountain (2003)

ANTHONY Minghella’s Cold Mountain’s depicts what General Robert E. Lee called ‘the saddest affair I have witnessed in this [The American Civil War] war.’ This battle sees Union soldiers charge into a crater, creating a mass of confused, crushed men and effectively leaving themselves easy targets for enemy forces. What plays out is a hard-to-watch scramble of desperate, trapped men scrapping for their lives in a crater filled with flinging mud, suffocating smoke and trampled bodies.


 2. Bunker Attack – The Thin Red Line (1998)

AS it came out in the same year as Saving Private Ryan, Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line often goes without its much deserved acclaim. In this scene, Private Bell (Ben Chaplin) and his men attack a Japanese bunker. What unfolds is a fluid and engulfing sequence as the US forces battle Japanese men hauled up in bunkers. This is some of Malick’s best work.


1. Omaha Beach Landing – Saving Private Ryan (1998)

OUT of the boat and into hell. The opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan uses handheld cameras, incredible sound design and hauntingly choreographed action to paint a brutally immersive picture of war.



      1. The Thin Red Line was actually the Thin Red Plot…probably the stupidest war movie I have ever seen.

  1. The choreography of the Omaha Beach landing is incredible. Haunting, as you say. The scene depicts such chaos, but the filmmaking is perfectly orchestrated. Spielberg’s finest hour I think.

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