If you're looking for the best military and war movies and shows on Netflix, we're here to help you stop the scrolling, move past the algorithm and find what you're looking for. Netflix has a massive catalog of movies and shows, and sometimes it's hard to find exactly what you want to watch. This list can help you cut through the war movie noise and get to the good stuff.
While the movies on our list are all focused on wars from one era of human history or another, we also listed TV shows streaming on Netflix that include military documentaries and spy stories.
There's enough military viewing here on Netflix to last most of us a long, long time.
"12 Strong" is the 2018 movie about the secret Army units that entered Afghanistan in October 2001 to lay the groundwork for the U.S. invasion of the country in the days after the 9/11 attacks. Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña and Marine veteran Rob Riggle star in one of the best movies about our 21st-century military conflicts.
All Quiet on the Western Front
This 2022 movie is the first German-language movie version of the 1929 Erich Maria Remarque novel about the horrors of World War I. The 1930 version of the movie won an Oscar for Best Picture, and this new one was nominated for nine awards, winning four of them.
Director and screenwriter Edward Berger widened the focus of the story to include more background about WWI while maintaining the heart of the story about the brutal experiences of German soldiers in the trenches.
As Egypt was forming a coalition of Arab countries to launch a surprise war to retake the Sinai Peninsula from Israel, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's son-in-law, Ashraf Marwan, was a close aide to Nasser's successor, Anwar Sadat. What neither Nasser nor Sadat knew was that Marwan was an asset to Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad.
Obviously, this was a disaster for the Arab coalition, as was the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Netflix's "The Angel" is based on the nonfiction book "The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel" and stars Marwan Kenzari ("Ben-Hur") as Marwan.
Beasts of No Nation
Idris Elba ("Thor," "The Suicide Squad") stars as a West African warlord known as The Commandant, leading a rebel battalion against government forces. As the rebels fight the falling government, The Commandant recruits Agu (Abraham Attah, "Spider-Man: Homecoming") as a child soldier.
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga ("No Time to Die"), "Beasts of No Nation" portrays the brutal realities of battle, combat in sub-Saharan Africa, the recruitment of child soldiers and the true human cost of war.
Black Hawk Down
This 2001 movie, based on journalist Mark Bowden's 1999 book, has everything anyone could want in a war movie. It has an ensemble cast that includes Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner and even Tom Hardy in his first role. They're all portraying real people reenacting what happened during the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu.
They're directed by Ridley Scott, who brought us the moody, deep instant classics "Alien" and "Gladiator." "Black Hawk Down" isn't just American troops kicking ass while deployed, it also explores the range of emotions experienced before, during and after combat -- while giving us some of the most quotable war movie lines ever uttered.
Blood & Gold
At the end of World War II, the remaining Nazi SS troops aren't interested in defending Germany in Netflix's latest story about the Second World War. They want gold, but the gold they're after is not only hidden, it's defended by a Wehrmacht deserter who isn't a fan of the SS. He and a local milkmaid will race the evil Nazis to find the gold and return to his long-lost daughter -- alive.
Born on the Fourth of July
After bringing the legendary character of Pete "Maverick" Mitchell to life, Tom Cruise played real-life Marine and Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic on the silver screen. Directed by fellow Vietnam veteran Oliver Stone ("JFK"), "Born on the Fourth of July" is based on Kovic's autobiography of the same name.
During Kovic's second tour in Vietnam, he suffered wounds that left him paralyzed from the chest down. After leaving the military, he became one of the most well-known, anti-war activists in America, being arrested at least 12 times before the end of the war.
Charlie Wilson's War
By now, we all know that before the Afghan Mujahideen was an American enemy, they were being equipped with U.S. weapons to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The last film by Director Mike Nichols' ("Catch-22," "Biloxi Blues") stars Tom Hanks ("Saving Private Ryan") as Congressman "Good Time Charlie" Wilson, who makes it his personal mission to get more help to the Afghans, especially in the form of the FIM-92 Stinger missiles that could bring down Soviet Hind helicopters.
Wilson's help was enlisted by real-life CIA officer Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Moneyball") and led to Operation Cyclone, which funded the Mujahideen until 1992. "Charlie Wilson's War" was adapted by Aaron Sorkin ("The West Wing") from the 2003 book "Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History," by author George Crile III.
Da 5 Bloods
Director Spike Lee offers a Vietnam War-era twist on the WWII heist story of "troops who hide Nazi gold and plan to go back," with a group of Black soldiers coming across a CIA plane loaded with gold earmarked to fight the Viet Cong.
The movie takes place in the present day with the group reuniting in Ho Chi Minh City to go on a mission to locate their horde. As they head out to search for the gold, the group is haunted by memories of their commanding officer (Chadwick Boseman), who was killed in a firefight back in the day. Delroy Lindo's character's son (played by a pre-fame Jonathan Majors) is also along for the trip.
The great thing is that "Da 5 Bloods" works both as a straight-up action picture with betrayals and gunfights while also telling a story about Black veterans of the Vietnam War.
Gary Oldman won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill in this drama about the early days of World War II. Churchill got a lot of blowback from his cabinet and the opposition when he refused to make a peace deal with Adolf Hitler, and the movie effectively dramatizes that crisis.
His administration survived a disastrous loss on the battlefields of France in 1939 and won over the people with the evacuation of troops from the beaches at Dunkirk. "Darkest Hour" ends with the prime minister's legendary "We shall fight on the beaches" speech to Parliament.
When a British warship explodes in the Persian Gulf, the world's eyes look toward Iran as the likely culprit. As the death toll mounts, the president of the United States sends a new ambassador to the United Kingdom, one whose specialty is more focused on trouble spots and less on the pomp of such a posting.
Keri Russell ("The Americans") stars as Ambassador Kate Wyler in Netflix's political thriller, which has already been renewed for a second season.
Dunkirk (June 12)
Christopher Nolan's 2017 epic about the 1940 Miracle at Dunkirk, where British Navy boats and civilian mariners on their personal watercraft rescued 338,000 soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force and a large number of Allied troops.
The movie is as unforgettable as its ensemble cast, featuring Fionn Whitehead, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branaugh and Michael Caine. It's a sure-fire must-watch.
Extraction 2 (June 16)
The highly anticipated follow-up to Netflix's "Extraction" hits the steaming service on June 16. When we last left Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth, "Thor"), he was presumed dead. Since he's clearly not, he returns to rescue the family of a Georgian mobster. Writer Joe Russo is an alum of the Marvel Cinematic Universe along with his brother, Anthony, directing "Avenger: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame," among others.
If you don't watch shows with subtitles, you've been missing "Fauda," an Israeli series that focuses on the leader of the Israel Defense Forces' counterterrorism unit. Netflix has aired four seasons of the show, which has generated controversy for its unwillingness to offer sympathetic portrayals of people on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
The show's tempo is relentless, and there's plenty for fans of tactical action to enjoy over the 48 episodes (so far) of "Fauda."
Five Came Back
"Five Came Back" is a WWII documentary series based on the book by movie historian Mark Harris. Hollywood movie directors John Ford ("The Searchers"), William Wyler ("The Best Years of Our Lives"), John Huston ("The African Queen"), Frank Capra ("It Happened One Night") and George Stevens ("Shane") all volunteered for service and made some of the most compelling films about combat during the era.
The series is both a war documentary and a history of the movies. Most of these men put themselves in harm's way in an attempt to give a true picture of the struggles that American military personnel faced in the Pacific and European theaters of war.
The Forgotten Battle
Few European countries experienced World War II the way Holland did. This Dutch film is centered on the 1944 Battle of the Scheldt, as Canadian, Polish and British forces attempted to capture and open the Port of Antwerp as a vital source of supplies in Europe.
After the failure of Operation Market Garden, the Dutch Resistance turned up the pressure on the occupying Germans as Allied forces moved closer to the Netherlands. The Germans, in turn, cut off supplies to the Dutch people, causing a famine and widespread anguish.
What better way could there be to learn about historical figures than by watching Roastmaster General Jeff Ross roast them -- with help from some of your favorite comedians portraying other historical figures?
If you enjoyed the roast of Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen or Justin Bieber, you might like the roast of Abraham Lincoln, Cleopatra or Anne Frank in this definitely not-safe-for-work comedy series.
How to Become a Tyrant
Dictators use a pretty consistent playbook to rise to power and hold on to it for decades. This fascinating docuseries describes each step in that playbook, using examples of real-life dictators like Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-Il and others while telling the stories of how they ascended to authoritarian power.
"How to Become a Tyrant" uses commentary from professors, officials and journalists who covered those stories. It illustrates them, using animated retellings of the most gruesome stories from the tyrants' rule, all narrated by actor Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones").
I Am Vanessa Guillen
Twenty-year-old soldier Spc. Vanessa Guillen disappeared from Fort Hood, Texas, in April 2020, leaving behind her car keys, ID card, bank card and barracks key at her workplace. Two months later, her dismembered remains were discovered near the Leon River.
In the course of the investigation, it was discovered that she had told her parents she was being sexually harassed by a noncommissioned officer. Unsatisfied with the Army's investigation, Guillen's family kept the pressure on Fort Hood, which eventually prompted the Texas Rangers and even Congress to get involved. "I Am Vanessa Guillen" documents that pressure and the fallout of the botched investigation.
The Imitation Game (June 26)
The Allies didn't crack the German Enigma code during World War II by accident. This 2014 film stars Benedict Cumberbatch ("Sherlock") as cryptanalyst Alan Turing, retelling the true story of how the brilliant mathematician built one of the earliest computers to unlock Nazi secrets during the war.
Many of us reading this can relate to the idea of joining the military because we got lost on the way to college, which was real-life Marine Anthony Swofford's answer to why he joined the Marine Corps. "Jarhead" was adapted from Swofford's 2003 memoir and recounts his life story and service in the 1990-91 Gulf War.
The movie was a box-office flop, but it captured the hearts of many veterans for its depiction of real life while deployed, even to a so-called "combat zone." It turns out real wars are full of readiness drills, boredom and a consistent stream of "Dear John" letters from unfaithful wives and girlfriends, before the war even starts. It doesn't make for the sexy action of "Black Hawk Down," but that's the reality of modern war.
In 2012, English journalist Alex Kershaw wrote "The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau," the true story of American Army officer Felix Sparks. Netflix's "The Liberator" is an adult animated adaptation of Kershaw's book.
Sparks and the 157th Infantry Regiment, made up of cowboys, Native Americans and Latinos, made four amphibious landings during World War II, fighting just as the book's name says, from Sicily to Germany over the course of 500 days.
In November 2008, terrorists from the Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out a series of coordinated attacks across the Indian city of Mumbai, killing 175 and wounding 300. Toward the end of the attacks, only the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel had not been secured, and hostages were being held all over its grounds.
"Major" is the Bollywood-produced story of Maj. Sandeep Unnikrishnan, commander of the 51 Special Action Group, who led the assault to rescue those hostages. He and his team evacuated hostages and killed terrorists for 15 hours. In the end, many of his men were wounded, and Unnikrishnan would give his life to protect the civilian hostages.
Medal of Honor
"Medal of Honor" should've been a long-running series for Netflix, but the streaming service made only one season with eight episodes, released in 2018. It's a great idea, telling the individual stories of Medal of Honor recipients in a compact form.
The series includes profiles of World War II heroes Sylvester Antolak (played by Joseph Cross, "Devotion"), Edward A. Carter Jr. (Aldis Hodge, "Black Adam") and Vito R. Bertoldo (Ben Schwartz, "Space Force"). We also get the Afghanistan War stories of Clint Romesha (Paul Wesley, "The Vampire Diaries") and Ty Carter (Jonny Weston, "Divergent"). We also get the Vietnam War story of Richard Etchberger (Oliver Hudson, "Nashville") and the Korean War stories of Hiroshi H. Miyamura (Derek Mio, "The Terror") and Joseph Vittori (Steven R. McQueen, "The Vampire Diaries").
The Islamic State captured Mosul, Iraq's most populous city, in 2014 with an estimated 1,500 Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters. There, the terrorists' leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared the ISIL caliphate. In 2016, Iraqi government forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga and a strange confederation of American, European and Iranian forces supported its liberation.
The 2019 film "Mosul" is set against the background of the 2016 operation to liberate the city, as a police SWAT team helps take down thousands of ISIL militants who are targeting the unit. Adam Bessa ("Extraction") stars as a Kurdish SWAT officer in this Arabic language film produced by the Russo brothers ("Avengers: Endgame") and based on the book "The Desperate Battle to Destroy ISIS" by Luke Mogelson.
"Narcos" is the drug war-era series about how the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the Colombian military managed to finally bring down the narco empire of Pablo Escobar, Medellin's notorious cocaine kingpin.
Wagner Moura ("The Gray Man") gives a stunning performance as Escobar while Pedro Pascal ("The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent") delivers as DEA agent Javier Peña. Honestly, I'm surprised you haven't seen this yet.
Ben Kingsley ("Gandhi") plays Nazi SS fugitive Adolf Eichmann, on the run and in hiding in Argentina, when Israel's Mossad discovers his location. A team led by Mossad operative Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) creates an ambitious plan to capture Eichmann and steal him away to Israel to stand trial.
Based on the true story of how Mossad captured the notorious fugitive, "Operation Finale" is a heist movie-meets-spy thriller that details just how much went into the effort to bring war criminals to justice.
The disinformation effort to confuse Nazi Germany about where the Allies would land in France was wide-ranging, multifaceted and complex. Among the most ingenious and risky plans was depositing the body of a dead man who appeared to be carrying the secret invasion strategy in a way the Nazis would surely find it -- and make it convincing.
Actor Colin Firth ("1917") headlines a cast retelling the story of how the operation, codenamed "Mincemeat," came to be planned and carried out, despite extreme doubts about its ability to fool anyone, let alone German intelligence.
The Patients of Dr. Garcia
Set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and, later, World War II, this Netflix series follows Dr. Guillermo Garcia (Javier Rey, "The House of Snails") as he treats a spy, Manuel Arroyo (Tamar Novas, "The Sea Inside"), who is posing as a Republican diplomat. The two attempt to infiltrate a "ratline," a network of clandestine operatives helping Nazis and Fascists escape to Argentina.
Based on the book "The Patients of Dr. Garcia" by Almudena Grandes, the Netflix series is a spy thriller that leaves viewers guessing who to trust, who will survive and who -- if anyone -- ends up dead.
The Red Sea Diving Resort
In the mid-1980s, a mass migration of Ethiopians fled the widespread famine in their home country for refugee camps in Sudan. Among them were thousands of persecuted Ethiopian Jews. Israel, long known for its foreign policy of protecting persecuted Jews anywhere in the world, covertly evacuated these refugees to safety in Israel.
“The Red Sea Diving Resort” stars Chris Evans (“Captain America: The First Avenger”) and Michael K. Williams (“The Wire”), in a story based on this evacuation. To facilitate the rescue, Mossad sets up a cover business, a resort that gives evacuees access to the Red Sea.
The Siege of Jadotville
A force of 155 Irish soldiers was serving with the United Nations Operation in the Congo during a civil uprising in 1961. Rather than limit their attacks to the government forces, Congolese rebels from the breakaway State of Katanga attacked the Irish troops in a mining town known as Jadotville.
The Irishmen had to hold off a force of thousands of rebel troops while they waited to be rescued by Irish, Indian and Swedish troops from the U.N. mission. An Irish Army veteran, Declan Power, wrote the 2005 book, "The Siege at Jadotville: The Irish Army's Forgotten Battle" on which the movie is based.
Sacha Baron Cohen stars as real-life Mossad agent Eli Cohen, who worked undercover in Syria with the secret identity of Kamel Amin Thaabet and worked his way up to become the Arab country's deputy defense minister in the years leading to the 1967 Six-Day War.
If you've seen Cohen only in comic roles like Borat, Ali G or Brüno, you may well be surprised at how good he is in this dramatic role. The series is in English, so those allergic to subtitles have nothing to worry about.
When the limited series "Treason" premiered on Netflix just after Christmas 2022, it proved an immediate success around the world. Charlie Cox, best known for playing Daredevil in Marvel movies and shows, stars as Adam Lawrence, a British agent who's elevated to the top job at MI6 when his boss is poisoned.
He learns that an ex-lover is actually a Russian operative who's been pulling strings to advance his career. He's also being investigated by the British government and the CIA, who both have questions about his loyalty.
"Triple Frontier" is a heist movie, featuring an all-star cast including Oscar Isaac's ("The Last Jedi") Santiago Garcia, who recruits his fellow ex-Delta Force soldiers played by Ben Affleck ("Justice League"), Charlie Hunnam ("Sons of Anarchy"), Garrett Hedlund ("Mudbound") and Pedro Pascal ("The Mandalorian") to steal millions in cash from a Colombian drug lord.
They find far more money than they had planned for, and the excessive cash becomes troublesome as the crew attempts to escape from the jungles of South America.
Brad Pitt ("Inglourious Basterds") stars as four-star Gen. Glen McMahon in this satirical comedy based on the nonfiction book "The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan" by Michael Hastings. McMahon, a character based on the real Gen. Stanley McChrystal, is tasked with winding down the war in Afghanistan any way he sees fit.
But McMahon believes the war can be won, and does the one thing he was absolutely not supposed to do: Ask for more troops.
The Woman King
"The Woman King" is based on the true story of the Agojie, an all-female group of warriors who liberated women sold into slavery in the African country of Dahomey in 1823. Viola Davis gives an unforgettable performance as Gen. Nanisca, the leader of the warriors who will eventually be crowned king of her people.
This 2022 film should appeal to anyone who enjoys epic historical war movies like "Gladiator" or "Braveheart." The combat scenes are impeccable, and Nanisca is an unforgettable character who has earned her place as one of the great movie military leaders.
-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on LinkedIn.
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