This movie is originally in Spanish with English subtitles and is about a mercenary duelist named Diego Alatriste (Viggo Mortensen) who is portrayed as a womanizer and rogue. I did not watch this movie for the plot, but more or less just for the action scenes. The dueling scenes are some of the best I’ve ever seen and is pretty fast paced. The battle scenes were fairly limited, but the intro documents the dangers of being a sapper during the wars fought during Europe’s Imperial wars. The final battle depicted the horrors of pike combat, which portrayed formations of men just jabbing and stabbing at each other with pikes, while the duelists slash at their legs to cripple their formation; truly brutal.
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc (Mila Jonavich) was a female knight in the middle ages. Supposedly she had vision about God and her powers of divination allowed her to win many battles. If you are familiar with history, then you will know that eventually Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake as a witch; such was the fate of many women back in those days and the Catholic Church was just crazed back then. The Messenger had some fairly decent battle scenes and I’m sure a female protagonist would greatly appeal to women, especially since we see Joan of Arc wearing heavy armor and swinging a sword at enemy knights. The battle scenes were memorable for the era the movie was made in and the siege scenes were pretty well done and not as violent as other movies of the same genre so no one will really freak out over any deaths.
“Are you not entertained!?” – General Maxiumus
In the early days of the Roman Empire, gladiatorial combat was a very popular form of entertainment. The movie Gladiator depicted many brutal fighting scenes. The intro showed us how the Romans fought the Germanic tribes and how they were able to easily defeat them using the turtle formation with short sword and a complete shield wall. Other scenes worth mentioning are when Maximus (Russell Crow) was tossed into and forced to fight in the gladiatorial slave pits in some provincial Roman outpost somewhere in North Africa. Here we witness just how skilled Maximus is as he slaughters the other gladiators one by one without mercy. The final scene was a bit disappointing, but it showed us how much of a badass Maximus was when he went up against the emperor himself!
As one of the first historical action movies, I would say Braveheart pioneered the genre for movies featuring medieval warfare. There were a lot of mistakes in Braveheart, especially during the battle scenes where it shows William Wallace (Mel Gibson) drawing his two handed Claymore and then the next scene showing him charging forward without it (then the next scene has him drawing it yet again). As silly as all the mistakes may sound, Braveheart was the best action movie of the 90’s and even by today’s standards as all of the battle scenes were very convincing and very brutal and bloody; just how medieval warfare should be!
Enemy at the Gate
This must have been the movie Call of Duty (at least the PS2 version) took its inspiration from. The very first scene we are taken straight into the action as we follow the Russian conscript Vasily Zaytsev (Jude Law) into the thick of the first battle of Stalingrad. Vasily Zaytsev began his military career as a bullet carrier for the Russian infantry using bolt action rifles while the Germans had automatic machine guns. Needless to say, I probably do not need to elaborate on the outcome of that battle (Vasily Zaytsev makes it out alive in case you were wondering). As ridiculous as this tactic sounds, it probably made sense back then since the Russian army was too poor to afford weapons for all of the soldiers and their philosophy was to shoot any man who retreats. The Russian army fought their asses off during World War II and Enemy at the Gate provides a dramatic depiction of what they had to endure.
The American Civil war was an interesting combination of regimental warfare where rows of men just lined up and fired upon each other. After running out of bullets or as the advancing army drew near, one side would issue a bayonet charge and close combat melee would erupt. Glory was one of the better Civil War movies out there simply because the others seemed to have too much dialogue and less action. Glory was unlike other American Civil War movies because it followed Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) and how he led one of the first African American regiments into combat. Glory was basically a Skirmish movie and the battle scenes were only fought between Colonel Shaw’s regiment and smaller units of confederate troops as opposed to large scaled battles with more than one regiment. In spite of this, I believe it was able to depict the brutality of how combat was fought during the American Civil War quite well; instructions on how to defend against a bayonet charge included.
The Last of the Mohicans
I had not read the novel, but I do know that there was a novel written back in 1826 by some dude named James Fenimore Cooper (I’ll admit, I’m not a literary person, so I have no idea who this guy is outside of Wikipedia). Anyway, The Last of the Mohicans tells the tale of frontier settlers who are asked to fight for the British during the French and Indian War. The Last of the Mohicans was a movie filled with action and included scenes featuring several Native American fighting styles such as the tomahawk and knife as well as a guy who fought with a gunstock war club, which was a truly vicious weapon that was shaped like an ax and a rifle butt. There were several scenes of note, including a small siege of a frontier fort by the French, which lead to an ambush by a Huron War Party of the remaining British soldiers who were forced to march home after their surrender. The battle scenes were so well put together so dramatically that you could feel the hatred and emotion behind every kill.
As the name implies, this is a movie about Alexander the Great (Colin Ferrel) and his conquest of the Persian Empire and his push further into Asia, into the kingdoms of India. This movie had lots of sex and nudity in it, so I’m sure dudes will enjoy it more than chicks, other than this, it was just a soft core porn movie filled with drunken debauchery, but it wouldn’t surprise me if all of this stuff really happened back then. The battle scenes were also fairy impressive in spite of the hedonistic themes. The most notable battle scene depicting the Macedonian Pike formations and how impenetrable it was to Persian troops who were using weapons with less reach as well as the brutal war chariots used by the Persian army to counter the Pike formation proved how vicious the bladed wheels were as they just sliced through the legs of the Macedonian infantry; I watched this and cringed at all the severed limbs and how calm everyone looked.
Set in 1860’s during the Taiping Rebellion of Qing Dynasty China, The Warlords follows Qing Dynasty General Pang Qingyun (Jet Li) as the sole survivor of a brutal battle that depicted bodies piled upon bodies. He travels to a nearby town and recruits a group of bandits into the Qing Army. The entire movie is in Mandarin Chinese with English subtitles. The most notable battle scene was the Qing Army led by General Pang Qingyun confronts the Taiping rebel forces. This battle scene was pretty epic and depicts an entirely different type of battle. Compared to how battles were fought during the American Civil war during the same time period, the Chinese battles were fast and furious using looser troop formations meant to close in faster against the enemy (as opposed to marching and lining up in neat rows and just facing off against each other, blasting each other with rifles like they did in the West), using cavalry charges as well as fast advancing infantry with bows, melee weapons, cannons and rifles.
Kingdom of Heaven
Since Kingdom of Heaven came out in 2005, I had never seen a movie like it. I have always been a fan of medieval war and Kingdom of Heaven was the first movie I can think of that pulled it off so well. The siege scenes were just simply amazing and were actually done believably and though I’m no historian, I am a miniature gaming buff so I can verify that all of the siege tactics were pretty much accurate. The only thing that was unbelievable was when a section of the wall came crumbling down at the end and Orlando Bloom’s character miraculously survived the press of bodies and the front lines of melee combat with thousands of troops just pressing forward and back; neither side giving an inch to the other.