9 war themed TV shows and movies to binge-watch

2018-07-20 13:21

Cape Town - These series and movies that feature gruesome fights to the death will keep you glued to the screen, whether they’re about real-life battles from wars long passed, or based on modern-day conflicts raging across the world.

They’re available to stream on internet TV this weekend.

1. Gunpowder (Showmax)

Kit Harington’s three-part miniseries about Robert Catesby, the Catholic rebel behind the plot to blow up Parliament and assassinate King James I on 5 November 1605, is jam-packed with action, including some harrowing scenes of execution and torture. It’s a riveting retelling of the Guy Fawkes myth, one that’s not for the squeamish. But scriptwriter Ronan Bennett holds a PhD in 17th-Century history, so you know that the violence is legit and a pretty accurate reflection of the ruthlessness of English society at the time. 

2. USS Indianapolis: The Legacy (Showmax)

This documentary about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis towards the end of World War II is only available on Showmax in SA, and tells the tragic story of the soldiers aboard the ill-fated ship in the words of those who survived. 

It was filmed over 10 years, and features 104 interviews with survivors about the five days they spent floating in the open ocean after their vessel was sunk by a Japanese torpedo attack. Surrounded by sharks, they had no food, no water and no hope of rescue. This might not be one of the most famous (or infamous) stories to come out of World War II, but it was undoubtedly one of the worst naval disasters in American history.

3. HBO’s Band of Brothers (Showmax)

This big-budget series developed, directed and written by Tom Hanks along with Steven Spielberg in 2001 was HBO’s most expensive miniseries ever produced at the time, costing about $12.5 million per episode. It follows the men of the Easy Company, part of the U.S. Parachute Infantry Regiment, on the front in Europe in World War II, and is based on historian Stephen Ambrose’s non-fiction book that collated veterans’ own accounts. 

Starring Damian Lewis as Major Dick Winters, the series’ main character, this 10-part show was described by CNN.com as “a profoundly intense experience that outshines any other World War II epic ever seen on television - or, for that matter, in any Hollywood feature film.”

4. HBO’s The Pacific (Showmax)

This companion piece to HBO’s Band of Brothers won eight Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Miniseries. Focusing on the experiences of three U.S. Marines serving in different battles, during the Pacific Theatre of World War II, from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima, this series brings home the reality of the utterly dehumanising, terrifying effect war has on ordinary human beings. The Marines suffered kamikaze attacks, a hostile natural environment and long-drawn out battles in the Pacific, hell on Earth, all of which this series brings to devastating life. 

5. HBO’s Strike Back, S1-4 (Showmax)

This wild ride of an action show follows Section 20, an elite group of terrorist hunters who track down the most dangerous people in the world to ensure global security. Seasons 1 and 2 were shot in South Africa, and Seasons 3 and 4 were not only filmed locally, but Mzansi features in the storylines too. In Season 4, Conrad Knox (Charles Dance), an undercover warlord, calls our country home while arming militia across the continent. Seasons 1 to 4 of this binge-worthy action series are currently streaming on Showmax, with Season 5 hitting DStv on 31 July.

6. Vikings, S1-4 (Showmax and Netflix)

Season 5 of Vikings arrives on Showmax next month (which is the only place you’ll be able to stream the latest season in SA), so catch up on the first four seasons of this gloriously violent, gritty show about Ragnar Lothbrock and his rampages through England in the 8th Century in the meantime. And if you’re after a little more realism with your Norse myths, check out the accompanying four-part documentary series Real Vikings, also on Showmax. 

7. Renegades (DStv Now)

A team of US Navy SEALS on assignment in the war-torn Bosnian capital of Sarajevo find out about a treasure trove of gold at the bottom of a lake, and set out to return it to its rightful owners. But then they’re detected by the enemy, and are left with only 10 hours to complete this daunting mission. The movie comes to M-Net on Sunday, 22 July, at 20:05, and will be available to stream live on DStv Now.

8. Sand Castle (Netflix)

In the early days of the Iraq war, a platoon of U.S. soldiers are tasked with restoring the supply of water to a city that was destroyed by a U.S. airstrike. This humanitarian task sits side-by-side with the slaughter, fear, terror and violence that characterise the war for Matt Ocre (Nicholas Hoult) and his fellow Marines. 

They’re put in an impossible position, tasked with helping a populace that is hostile to their presence in the country - and for good reason, with the U.S. invasion leaving their country in tatters. As Empire writes, the movie opens brutally, and goes on to illustrate in stark detail the “futility of the U.S.-led campaign” in Iraq.

9. Tropic Thunder (Amazon Prime)

And, for some comic relief, a movie about a war movie. Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) is an action hero who wants to break out of the genre, Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) is a comic who wants to be taken seriously, and Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr) is a method actor who takes things to the extreme to immerse himself in a role. 

They’ve been brought together by a big Hollywood studio to film a hugely expensive war movie, and end up thrown deep into the jungle so the movie can be filmed “guerilla style”. Look out for an incredible cameo by Tom Cruise as the truly gross studio exec Les Grossman.

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