For Memorial Day, Part 3: Five Best War-Movie Deaths

Memorial Day is more than just a holiday to remember the over one million American men and women who have given their lives in service to their country. It's also a time to commemorate Hollywood's love of war. You'll have no problem finding marathons of Tora! Tora! Tora! and Sergeant York on TV, and to whet your appetite for cinematic military exploits, here are some of the best (American) war movie deaths.

5. Pvt. Daniel Jackson (Barry Pepper) -- Saving Private Ryan (1998) Not many people realize that Pvt. Jackson's inhuman ability with a sniper rifle was in fact Spielberg's sneaky attempt to prove that Oswald acted alone. Hollywood: always with the agendas.



4. Sgt. John M. Stryker (John Wayne) -- The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) Smoking kills. Not that you need to tell the five-pack-a-day smoking Duke that. It killed him in real life, taking a lung and his stomach before finally finishing him off, and in the movies. Humorously enough, the famously right-wing Wayne never served in the military, where lighting a smoke with snipers around isn't a mistake an actual sergeant would usually make.



3. Pvt. Trip (Denzel Washington) -- Glory (1989) "We didn't land on [Fort Wagner], [Fort Wagner] landed on us." And how. Trip's transformation from hate-filled former slave to soldier-with-a-purpose serves as excellent recruitment material for today's military. And as an added bonus, Matthew Broderick dies.



2. "Cmdr. Shears" (William Holden) -- The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Holden's character's unethical decision to impersonate an officer is offset by his bravery in sabotaging the bridge, embodying a distinctly American...oh, the hell with it. I just wanted to post Alec Guinness falling on the detonator.



1. Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) -- Platoon (1986) If it's true, as Rhah said, that the only thing that can kill Barnes is Barnes, then the only thing that can kill Elias is...also Barnes. And about a hundred VC troops.



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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar