Finney’s 5: #MemorialDay weekend movie list

A low-grade depression clouds my thoughts. I don’t feel like digging deep for a meaningful column related to Memorial Day.

Anyway, it’s simple: Honor those who’ve sacrificed for our country. Honor those in your family who’ve died. Then go about your life as you see fit.

Also, don’t be the kind of fake patriot who spends time berating everyone who fails to social media about the sacrifices of our armed services.

Observe as you choose. Those who died in service of this country probably didn’t do it so we could be jerks to one another. Live. Let live.

That’s all I have to say about that.

I do have some suggestions of war movies that would be appropriate for the holiday weekend.

Here’s Finney’s Five best movies for Memorial Day.

“Hell is for Heroes,” (1962). Starring: Steve McQueen, Bobby Darin, Fess Parker, James Coburn, Bob Newhart and Nick Adams. Director: Don Siegel.

“Hell is for Heroes” may be my favorite war movie. The film successfully combines the drudgery of a soldier’s daily life with the intense action of an extended firefight. McQueen plays an unlikely hero and Bob Newhart makes his big screen debut doing one of his famous one-sided phone conversations to befuddle the enemy.

“The Best Years of Our Lives,” (1946). Starring: Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo and Harold Russell. Director: William Wyler

Released less than a year after World War II ended, “The Best Years of Our Lives” is the most insightful and accurate film to depict the human costs of war on those who lived. The film follows three vets who return home from service and the struggles they face returning to peacetime life. Though it feels sanitized by today’s war film standards, which seem fixated on recreating the most horrific and traumatizing events in history in acute detail, the story of Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), who lost both his arms in the war, learning to trust and love again will remind you just how much the sacrifice is.

“The Big Red One,” (1980). Starring: Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Bobby Di Cicco, Kelly Ward, Siegfried Rauch and Stéphane Audran. Director: Samuel Fuller.

“The Big Red One” watches more like a hard-boiled film noir than a war film. Director Samuel Fuller isn’t trying to tell you some deep meaning about war. It’s a story about men in a dangerous time, daily death, and bizarre coincidences, such as a Frenchwoman giving birth in a tank. The primary tension in the film comes not from combat with Nazis but bringing along replacement troops, whose greenness threatens the lives of experienced veterans.

“The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” (1956). Starring: Gregory Peck, Jennifer Jones, and Fredric March. Director: Nunnally Johnson.

Tom Rath (Gregory Peck) is another anonymous World War II veteran in a gray flannel suit trying to pretend that everything is normal after the things he saw and did in World War II. The churning anger inside Rath rattles his marriage and pushes his sanity. Such a raw look at the psychological consequences of war was almost non-existent in 1955 and is all too rare today. Plus, if you’re going to spend a couple of hours watching a movie, it might as well be with Gregory Peck.

“M*A*S*H,” (1970). Starring: Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall, Roger Bowen, Rene Auberjonois, and David Arkin. Director: Robert Altman.

The movie only shares a name with the beloved TV series, but the film deserves a view. The behavior of the doctors toward the nurses, especially Sally Kellerman’s “Hot Lips,” is unacceptable and perhaps rage-inducing through today’s #metoo lenses, but it still manages to speak to a level of savagery required of men — even healers — at war. “M*A*S*H” also makes a statement about the level of savagery we tolerate in daily life with a culminating football match between rival posts.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. 
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