7. Hell Is For Heroes (1962)
Steve McQueen, the “King of Cool,” started life as an aimless drifter before deciding in 1947 to join the Marine Corps. A rebel from the start, he was promoted and demoted seven times. Eventually turning into a model Marine, he used his money from the GI Bill to study acting. It was a good investment. He became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. In this gritty film, he plays a burned-out warrior in the waning days of World War II who redeems himself with one final and undaunted act of selfless courage.
6. Sahara (1943)
In 1918, Humphrey Bogart enlisted in the Navy. Other than being reported AWOL (and getting three days of solitary confinement) for missing a sailing, he had an exemplary record. Honorably discharged in 1919, he started acting in 1921. He was too old to enlist in World War II, but he played plenty of warriors in films, including this role an intrepid tank commander who defends a desert oasis from thirsty Germans.
5. Missing in Action (1984)
In 1958, after he graduated from high school, Chuck Norris joined the Air Force. He started studying martial arts which led to a number of championship titles and a career as an action star. In this film and two sequels, Norris plays Colonel James Braddock, a tough-as-nails veteran who refights the Vietnam War liberating forgotten prisoners of war.
4. Kelly’s Heroes (1970)
Clint Eastwood was drafted during the Korean War. After leaving the service, he bounced around Hollywood. His first credited acting stint didn’t come until 1959. In the 1960s, his career took off after starring in “spaghetti westerns.” He went on to play many military roles on film, including in this entertaining black comedy where an odd-ball collection of military misfits strike out to liberate a cache of Nazi gold during World War II.
3. The Big Red One (1980)
Lee Marvin enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942. He fought at the bloody Battle of Saipan and was wounded in action. Given a medical discharge, he took a job as a plumber’s assistant and started acting on the side. He had a long career in film and television, including starring in this movie about the storied campaigns of the 1st Infantry Division during World War II.
2. Lone Survivor (2013)
Marcus Luttrell, a SEAL, received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart for his actions in Afghanistan. In 2007, he co-authored a New York Times bestseller about his experiences. The book became the basis for the hit film (which the left hated but audiences loved). In the movie, Luttrell has a cameo role.
1. To Hell and Back (1955)
Audie Murphy tried to enlist in the military after Pearl Harbor but he was underweight and underage. In 1942, he joined the Army, lying about his age. He was the most decorated American soldier in the Second World War. Murphy made over 40 films in his postwar acting career, including this bio-pic where he plays himself.