Memorial Day: Scenes From Great Films that Commemorate the Day

May 19, 2017

As Memorial Day dawns upon us, it’s important to remember that this isn’t just a day of barbecues and pool parties. Memorial Day was established to commemorate the fallen soldiers of America’s wars. Our heroes are also enshrined on the silver screen.

Today, we commemorate Memorial Day by rounding up some excellent scenes from great films that bring the drama, danger, and heroism of our fallen soldiers to life.

Trigger Warning: may contain disturbing war scenes, as well as movie spoilers.


Omaha Beach, “Saving Private Ryan”

Named the best battle scene of all time by “Empire” magazine, this epic 20-minute scene doesn’t flinch from showing the sheer horror of the Normandy Landing. Pinned down by German guns, the soldiers who landed on Omaha Beach displayed incredible bravery in the face of inexplicable danger. Steven Spielberg paid great attention to detail, even putting his cast through military training so they would act like the young soldiers who landed on the beach that day. It’s an intense, grueling scene that allows viewers to truly appreciate the sacrifice that America’s soldiers made during World War II.

Delta Force Snipers, “Black Hawk Down”

This heart-wrenching scene shows the desperate rescue attempt of U.S. forces in Mogadishu, Somalia. Two Delta Force snipers are inserted by helicopter at the crash site of a Black Hawk, where they try to rescue the injured pilot. The snipers are killed while rescuing the pilot, and Somali forces led by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid overrun the crash site. In the last few minutes of the scene, an aerial view captures the horrific moment when the Somali militia parades the dead pilot’s body down the street. While the mission was widely regarded as a failure when it happened, the Battle of Mogadishu has now become an iconic symbol of the bravery of America’s Army Rangers and Delta Force soldiers.

Killing Bin Laden, “Zero Dark Thirty”

Hushed, muted, and tense, punctuated only by blasts and gunshots, this nighttime scene is a triumph that commemorates all who were lost in 9/11 and during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Shot with night-vision lenses and with no music in the background, the scene accurately portrays the entry of Seal Team Six into the Bin Laden compound in Pakistan. A complete replica of the compound, gleaned from CIA documents, was built for the film to ensure consistency. The scene was critiqued in “Esquire” magazine by one of the SEALs, who claimed that his team was far less noisy than actually portrayed in the film.

The Death of Sergeant Elias, “Platoon”

This famous anti-war movie about Vietnam, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1986, features one of the most heartbreaking scenes of all time: the death of the idealistic and morally grounded Sergeant Elias, shot by his own commander and left to die. As American choppers evacuate the camp, he staggers out of the woods mortally wounded and chased by North Vietnamese soldiers. Set to rousing strings, the sergeant — played by Willem Dafoe — throws his arms in the air as he is finally killed by enemy fire.

What are your favorite military films to commemorate Memorial Day? Let us know in the comments below.