10 Greatest Military Trial Movies of All Time

Paths of Glory (1957)

Paths of Glory (1957)

10 Greatest Military Trial Movies of All Time

10 Greatest Military Trial Movies of All Time

Two great genres together: The military/war movie and the courtroom drama. See a list of the 10 Greatest Military Trial Movies of all time. A few of the movies on the list cross the prison/POW line but they are all basically military men on trial. Once the list was identified the movies were ranked in order of the story they tell, the acting, and the overall realism of the plot.



In the Name of the Father (1993): 10 Greatest Military Trial Movies

In the Name of the Father (1993)

In the Name of the Father (1993) could rightly be put in the crossbar motel/prison genre but it is, in fact, a trial to free two innocent men from a prisoner during the IRA/English war. Daniel Day-Lewis leads a great cast in the intense drama.

In the Name of the Father (1993)


Rules of Engagement (2000): 10 Greatest Military Trial Movies

Rules of Engagement (2000)

Rules of Engagement (2000) while headlines by two great stars; Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t really give it the ump it needs. Jackson yells most of his lines. Surprise. The initial plot is good with the military being restricted in times of war is good but the cover-up and the secret twists seemed contrived. I would watch this movie once if it were free to do so.

Rules of Engagement (2000) on IMDB


A Soldiers Story (1984)

A Soldiers Story (1984)

A Soldiers Story (1984) had an outstanding cast consisting of Howard E. Rollins, Jr., Adolph Caesar, David Alan Grier, Robert Townsend, and Denzel Washington. Rollins’ character is sent down south to investigate a murder that seems racially motivated. While this is a very good movie it becomes very preachy at parts. But the investigations and the ending make it worth a look.

A Soldiers Story
(1984) on IMDB


Courage Under Fire (1996)

Courage Under Fire (1996)

Courage Under Fire (1996) revolves around the investigation of a female pilot death during a firefight in the Gulf War. It has a fine supporting cast that includes Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Moriarty, Matt Damon, Bronson Pinchot, Ned Vaughn and Scott Glenn. Moriarty is fantastic as the supervisor of the investigating team. But the real quality of this movie comes from the acting of the two leads, Meg Ryan and Denzel Washington. While Washington’s character investigates the death of Ryan’s character we are lead on a journey showing Washington’s drunkenness and Ryan’s true story. 

Courage Under Fire (1996) on IMDB

The list of 10 Greatest Military Trial Movies of All Time


Sergeant Rutledge (1960): 10 Greatest Military Trial Movies

Sergeant Rutledge (1960)

Sergeant Rutledge (1960) is the story of a top sergeant in a Buffalo soldier troop where former slaves under white officers were sent out west to fight the Native Americans. Rutledge played by Woody Strode is being court-martialed for raping and killing a white woman and for murdering her father who happened to be his commanding officer. Strode is great in this movie as the man who knows he is innocent but is at the same time very proud. Jeffery Hunter does a great job as a white officer with the job of defending the sergeant against a foregone conclusion.

Sergeant Rutledge (1960) on IMDB


The Dirty Dozen (1967)

The Dirty Dozen (1967)

The Dirty Dozen (1967) has an ensemble cast lead by tough guy actor Lee Marvin. All of the men are condemned to be hanged or have long sentences to serve. The entire movie is another trial for the men as they are subject to test after test that may return them to prison even before they have a chance to face the enemy.

This is a great movie with tons of action and enough story and hate for officers to keep it interesting.

The Dirty Dozen (1967) on IMDB


Breaker Morant (1980)

Breaker Morant (1980)

Breaker Morant (1980) is a great piece of Australian cinema. It is based on a true story that happened during the Boer War in Africa. As the peace treaty draws closer three lieutenants are court martialed for executing prisoners. However, for most of the war, this was accepted behavior and was allowed by their superiors. Edward Woodward and Bryan Brown are fantastic as tow of the Lts. that are being railroaded. Jack Thompson acts in the well-written court scenes and pulls every trick possible to get the men released. 

Breaker Morant (1980) on IMDB


Time Limit (1957)

Time Limit (1957)

In Time Limit (1957) Richard Widmark leads an all-star cast in the investigation of suspected traitor played Richard Basehart. Rip Torn is at the top of his game as a dramatic actor and key witness.  Dolores Michaels and Martin Balsam are great as the enlisted staff working with Widmark’ character. Khigh Dhiegh played the leader of the Korean POW camp five years before he would play a similar role in The Manchurian Candidate (1962).

The movie deals with the complex issue of what a man should be required to withstand while under torture and how much must be given for your country.


Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Anatomy of a Murder (1959) is about a murder trial and was directed by Otto Preminger. Ben Gazzara is totally believable as the military man claiming insanity for the murder he committed after his wife was raped. His wife, played by Lee Remick absolutely sizzles in this movie. The always dependable James Stewart plays the lawyer working every angle to free the man while trying to keep a lid on his wife.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959) on IMDB


Stalag 17 (1953)

Stalag 17 (1953)

In Stalag 17 (1953) William Holden‘s character is in a German POW camp during World War II. All of the other men in the camp think he is a rat because he trades with the German. During the entire movie, Holden’s character is on trial for his life. You won’t see the ending coming but I can tell you it’s my favorite scene in any movie.

This movie was directed by Billy Wilder and Otto Preminger is great as the sadistic camp commandment. 


A Few Good Men (1992)

A Few Good Men (1992)

A Few Good Men (1992) is the most modern of the movies on this list. Does it stand with the others? I can handle the truth – it does. Actors Tom Cruise and Demi Moore play lawyers selected to defend two Marines accused of murdering a third Marine. Jack Nicholson shows why he is one of the greatest actors of all time as the base commander. Kevin Bacon does a great supporting job as the prosecuting attorney. However, the legal and behind the scenes maneuvering is the real star of this movie.

A Few Good Men (1992) on IMDB

The Caine Mutiny (1954)

The Caine Mutiny (1954)


In The Caine Mutiny (1954) Humphrey Bogart plays the role of destroyer captain that is near the breaking point. Bogart really lays it down in this movie as he changes over time. His officers played by Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, and Robert Francis don’t come to his aid.

At the trial, José Ferrer is incredible with some of the best legal maneuvering seen in any movie. But the ending will leave you stunned. 

The Caine Mutiny (1954) on IMDB


Paths of Glory (1957)

Paths of Glory (1957)

In Paths of Glory (1957) Kirk Douglas decides to represent three men that have been selected to executed for the battalions failures. He is honest and fair but the cards in the courtroom are stacked against him.

The ending will surprise you in this first rate anti-war film.

Paths of Glory (1957) on IMDB


Judgement at Nuremberg (1961): 10 Greatest Military Trial Movies

Judgement at Nuremberg (1961)

Judgement at Nuremburg (1961) is not just a war movie or a trial movie. This movie takes on the ethical issues associated with the greatest mass-murder of the 20th century. Spencer Tracy leads an all-star cast as the senior American judge. Stars in this movie include: Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Maximilian Schell, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift, William Shatner, and Werner Klemperer. The list of stars doesn’t include the supporting cast which was in itself formidable. This movie should be top 10 on your list of must-see movies. The acting, the ethics, the drama, and the betrayal are all stunning well done.

Judgment at Nuremburg (1961) on IMDB

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I am a professional archaeologist, a bonsai guy, a classic movie reviewer, and database expert. Past exploits include Golden Gloves boxing, a 2nd Degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and an Eagle Scout badge.

One Comment:

  1. 2. Excellent job once again! Thanks a lot;)

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