Memorial day is an important day to remember and honor the men and women who have served in our military. Memorial day weekend is the last weekend of May every year and is a federal holiday.
Memorial Day is also a time for us to reflect on the sacrifice they made for our country and the freedoms we enjoy today. As we head into summer and you’re thinking about what sunscreens to buy and what trips to take with your kids, don’t forget special memories can be made watching movies too.
To help commemorate this special holiday, there are plenty of great movies that you can watch with your family!
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Here are some of the best Memorial Day movies for families:
1. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning World War II epic tells the story of a group of soldiers on a dangerous mission to rescue Private Ryan (Matt Damon), the sole survivor of his brothers who were killed in action.
2. Forrest Gump (1994)
Tom Hanks stars as Forrest, an innocent and naive man with a low IQ who rises from poverty to become successful and rich.
Despite his limited mental abilities, Forrest uses his street smarts and natural charm to befriend people from all walks of life, including a famous teacher (Sally Field), a Vietnam War hero (Gary Sinise), and the President of the United States (Michael Conner Humphreys).
This is probably one of the best Memorial Day movies for families because it does not depict many war scenes.
3. The Patriot (2000)
Mel Gibson stars as Benjamin Martin, a widowed father of seven who is reluctantly drawn into the American Revolutionary War when his son is drafted to fight against the British.
He then becomes an unlikely hero as he leads a ragtag militia in a series of daring attacks against his former British foes.
4. Glory (1990)
Denzel Washington stars as Trip, a freed slave who joins the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment to fight for the Union in the Civil War.
Led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), they face danger and despair as they battle for their freedom and to restore the honor of African-American soldiers.
5. Top Gun (1986)
Tom Cruise stars as Maverick, a hotshot Navy fighter pilot whose reckless attitude puts him at odds with his superiors.
To prove himself, he must outwit and outperform rivals in an intense, high-stakes air battle and overcome his own fears.
This war movie is perhaps one of the most well-known. It also won many academy awards. It’s another one of the best Memorial Day movies for families because of how notable it is.
6. Band of Brothers (2001)
HBO’s miniseries follows the story of Easy Company, a group of U.S. paratroopers who fought in World War II’s European theater from D-Day to VE Day. Based on the book of the same name, it chronicles their journey through courage, loyalty, and bravery.
7. Red Dawn (1984)
A group of high school students band together to fight off an invading Soviet army in their small town.
The teens, led by Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen, must use guerrilla warfare tactics and ingenuity to take back their home from the enemy.
8. Patton (1970)
George C. Scott stars as General George S. Patton, a tough but brilliant WWII commander who leads Allied forces in North Africa and Europe.
It follows his journey from a brilliant but egotistical leader to a larger-than-life hero of the war.
9. The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Lee Marvin stars as Major Reisman, a U.S. Army officer assigned to lead a group of convicted criminals on a suicide mission behind enemy lines in WWII France.
With the help of his ragtag team of misfits, he must destroy an important German fortress and prove that redemption can come even for the worst of men.
10. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Mel Gibson directed this powerful biopic of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), an Army medic who refused to carry a weapon into battle because of his religious beliefs.
Despite fierce opposition, he bravely saved the lives of 75 wounded soldiers during the Battle of Okinawa.
11. The Great Escape (1963)
Steve McQueen stars in this epic WWII adventure set in a Nazi POW camp.
A group of Allied prisoners plan an elaborate escape to freedom, but their daring plan quickly derails when they’re pursued by ruthless German forces.
12. Letters from Iwo Jima (2007)
Clint Eastwood’s powerful war drama tells the story of Japan’s WWII defense against invading U.S. forces on the island of Iwo Jima from two perspectives—that of General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) and his troops, and that of the American soldiers.
The film is a portrait of courage, friendship, and sacrifice on both sides of the battle. This is perhaps one of the most iconic best Memorial Day movies for families to watch together.
13. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Tom Hanks stars as Captain John Miller, who leads a daring mission to save Private James Ryan (Matt Damon), an Army soldier whose three brothers have been killed in combat during WWII.
As they battle their way across enemy territory, they come face-to-face with the horrors of war—and the unshakeable bonds of brotherhood.
I remember this movie coming out as a child and suggest it as one of the best Memorial Day movies for families, especially if you have teens.
14. The Deer Hunter (1978)
Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and Meryl Streep star in this Vietnam War drama.
It follows the story of three friends from a close-knit Pennsylvania steel town as they navigate their way through the horror of war and its aftermath—a journey that will change them forever.
15. Midway (1976)
This classic war drama tells the story of the Battle of Midway, one of the most important battles in World War II. With a rating of ages 16+ you’ll want to consider this for older children in your search for the best Memorial Day movies for families.
16. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Quentin Tarantino’s WWII-era revenge epic stars Brad Pitt as the leader of a team of Jewish American soldiers sent on a mission to kill Nazi officers.
With a motley team of assassins, they must infiltrate enemy territory and seek retribution against those responsible for the atrocities of war.
17. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Stanley Kubrick’s darkly comic war drama follows a group of Marine recruits as they train for combat during the Vietnam War.
It chronicles their transformation from innocent youths to battle-hardened soldiers, and the psychological toll that comes with it.
18. The Longest Day (1962)
This classic WWII drama chronicles the events of D-Day, focusing on the efforts of both Allied and German forces as they battle for control of Normandy’s beaches during Operation Overlord.
Featuring an all-star cast, it’s a comprehensive look at one of history’s most important battles.
19. Pearl Harbor (2001)
This sweeping epic tells the story of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, and its devastating aftermath.
Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett star as two US Navy pilots whose lives are forever changed by the Japanese air raid, while Kate Beckinsale stars as a nurse caught in the midst of war’s destruction.
This classic film is known as one of the best Memorial Day movies for families to watch together.
20. Fury (2014)
Brad Pitt stars as Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier, the grizzled commander of an American tank crew during the waning days of WWII in Europe.
As they battle their way across enemy territory, they must grapple with their own morality amid the horrors of war—and strive to stay alive until the end.
21. A Bridge Too Far (1977)
This classic war drama tells the harrowing story of Operation Market Garden, a failed attempt by Allied forces to end WWII by capturing bridges in Holland and crossing them into Germany.
With an all-star cast, it follows the operation from planning to execution and its tragic aftermath.
22. The Pacific (2010)
This miniseries follows the story of three U.S. Marines—Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale), Eugene Sledge (Joe Mazzello), and John Basilone (Jon Seda)—as they fight their way across the Pacific theater during WWII, coming face-to-face with some of the war’s most devastating battles.
23. Flags of Our Fathers (2006)
Directed by Clint Eastwood, this film tells the story of the six American soldiers who planted the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima during WWII and became national heroes.
As they grapple with their newfound fame, it paints a powerful portrait of courage, duty, and sacrifice in the face of overwhelming odds.
24. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
David Lean’s classic war drama tells the story of British POWs forced by their Japanese captors to build a railway bridge in Thailand during WWII.
As they struggle against harsh conditions and their own sense of duty, it becomes a powerful meditation on the meaning of loyalty and honor in times of conflict.
25. Lone Survivor (2013)
This film tells the true story of four Navy SEALs on a covert mission in Afghanistan during Operation Red Wings. When they find themselves ambushed by Taliban forces, they must fight for their lives against overwhelming odds in this gripping account of courage and survival.
This movie showcases the sacrifices that these courageous individuals make to protect our freedoms and way of life. With an all-star cast, it is a powerful tribute to heroism and bravery in the face of adversity.
26. Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood Of War (2004)
Set during the Korean War, this epic drama follows two brothers as they are drafted into opposing sides of the conflict.
As their loyalties are tested by the horrors of war, it paints a powerful portrait of brotherhood as they struggle to stay true to their ideals in the face of devastating tragedy.
27. The Great Raid (2005)
This film tells the story of a daring rescue mission during WWII, when American forces attempt to liberate nearly 500 POWs from a Japanese camp in the Philippines.
As they battle their way through enemy territory, they must overcome incredible odds in order to achieve an impossible victory.
28. Miracle at St. Anna (2008)
Based on a true story, this powerful drama follows the story of four African-American soldiers during WWII who become trapped behind enemy lines in Italy.
As they struggle to survive and make their way back home, it paints an unflinching portrait of the horrors of war—and its lasting legacy.
29. The Thin Red Line (1999)
Directed by Terrence Malick, this classic war drama tells the story of U.S. Army infantrymen stationed in Guadalcanal during WWII.
As they fight against the odds and grapple with their own morality amid the horrors of combat, it paints an unforgettable picture of brotherhood, courage, and sacrifice in times of conflict.
30. Born on the Fourth of July (1990)
Based on the true story of Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, this powerful drama follows his journey from an idealistic patriot to a disillusioned veteran.
Through his experiences, it paints an unflinching portrait of the devastating effects of war and its lasting legacy.
31. We Were Soldiers (2002)
what was this movie about? Directed by Randall Wallace, this war drama tells the story of the Battle of Ia Drang in 1965—the first major engagement between U.S. and North Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War.
As they fight against impossible odds, it paints a powerful portrait of courage and sacrifice on the battlefield.
32. The Hurt Locker (2009)
This gripping drama follows an elite team of bomb disposal experts stationed in Iraq during the height of the war as they struggle to survive amidst continuous danger and chaos.
With intense action sequences and sharp writing, this Academy Award-winning film is a must-watch for anyone interested in modern warfare.
33. Sergeant York (1941)
This classic war drama tells the story of Alvin York, an American soldier who single-handedly captures 132 German soldiers during WWI.
As he grapples with his newfound fame and the horrors of war, it paints a powerful portrait of courage and conviction in times of conflict.
34. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
This Best Picture winner tells the true story of T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole), a British Army officer sent to the Middle East during WWI.
As he leads an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire, it paints an unforgettable portrait of courage and heroism amid the chaos of war.
35. Black Hawk Down (2002)
Directed by Ridley Scott, this intense war drama tells the story of U.S. Army Rangers stationed in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope in 1993.
Drawing on real-life events, this gripping film captures the complexities and realities of modern warfare with relentless intensity and power. With a star-studded cast led by Josh Hartnett and Ewan McGregor, it is an unforgettable look at one of the most chaotic battles in U.S. military history.
36. Stalingrad (1993)
This epic war drama follows a group of Russian soldiers fighting for their lives during the brutal Battle of Stalingrad in WWII.
With intense action sequences and sweeping cinematography, this classic film captures the horrors of war and its devastating consequences with striking realism.
37. Tears of the Sun (2003)
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, this action-packed drama follows a team of Navy SEALs as they attempt to rescue a doctor from war-torn Nigeria.
With powerful performances and intense action sequences, it provides an unforgettable look at the realities of modern warfare and its devastating human cost.
38. Windtalkers (2002)
This war drama tells the story of two U.S. Marines assigned to protect Navajo code talkers during WWII.
With strong performances from Nicolas Cage and Adam Beach, it provides an unflinching look at the horrors of combat and its lasting effects on those involved.
39. Enemy at the Gates (2001)
Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, this powerful war drama tells the story of two snipers tasked with facing off against each other during the Battle of Stalingrad in WWII.
With intense action sequences and strong performances from Jude Law and Ed Harris, it provides an unforgettable look at one of the most brutal battles in modern history.
40. Flight of the Intruder (1991)
Based on a novel by Stephen Coonts, this action-packed war drama tells the story of a U.S. Navy aviator assigned to a dangerous mission in Vietnam.
With thrilling aerial sequences and an all-star cast led by Willem Dafoe, it captures the excitement and intensity of air warfare with riveting realism. It is a thrilling tribute to the bravery and courage of those who served in the Vietnam War.
41. American Sniper (2015)
Bradley Cooper stars as Chris Kyle, an elite U.S. Navy SEAL sniper sent to Iraq during the height of the war.
This gripping biographical drama follows his journey from a small-town cowboy to one of America’s most decorated soldiers as he battles PTSD and struggles with his newfound fame.
42. Empire of the Sun (1987)
Directed by Steven Spielberg, this epic war drama follows a young British boy (Christian Bale) as he experiences the horrors of WWII in Japanese-occupied China.
With powerful performances and beautiful cinematography, it shows how war can strip away innocence and leave its scars long after the conflict has ended.
43. Midway (1976)
Directed by Jack Smight, this action-packed war drama tells the story of the Battle of Midway during WWII.
With an all-star cast led by Henry Fonda and Charlton Heston, it captures the intensity and suspense of one of America’s greatest naval victories with stunning realism.
It is a thrilling tribute to American bravery and courage.
44. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
This classic war drama follows a group of German schoolboys as they enlist in the army and experience the horrors of WWI firsthand.
With powerful performances and a heartbreaking story, this timeless film captures the tragedy of war with remarkable poignancy and depth. It remains one of the greatest war movies ever made.
45. Platoon (1987)
Directed by Oliver Stone, this powerful war drama tells the story of a group of U.S. soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War.
With strong performances from Charlie Sheen and Willem Dafoe, it provides an unflinching look at the brutality and savagery of combat and its lasting effects on all involved.
It is a powerful and moving tribute to the courage of those who fought in Vietnam.
46. Into the White (2013)
This World War II drama tells the story of two German and British fighter pilots who are forced to take refuge in an abandoned cabin in Norway.
With strong performances from Rupert Grint and Florian Lukas, it provides a powerful look at the horrors of war and the unlikely friendships that can form even between enemies. It is a captivating tribute to those who served during WWII.
47. Paths of Glory (1957)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick, this classic war drama follows a group of French soldiers in WWI who are ordered to take an impossibly difficult mission.
With gripping performances from Kirk Douglas and George Macready, it captures the horrors of trench warfare with unflinching realism. It is a moving tribute to those who risked their lives during WWI.
48. Command Decision (1948)
Command Decision is a 1948 American war film directed by Sam Wood, starring Clark Gable, Walter Pidgeon, Van Johnson and Brian Donlevy.
The movie tells the story of an army commander who must decide whether or not to send his men on a dangerous mission to help turn the tide of World War II in Europe.
Faced with a difficult decision, he must weigh the costs of risking the lives of his men against the potential benefits for the war effort.
The film follows him as he confronts ethical questions, navigates politics and attempts to come to terms with his own conscience. Ultimately, Command Decision is a powerful drama about the human cost of war.
49. Casablanca (1943)
This classic romantic drama follows the story of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), two former lovers who are reunited in the exotic city of Casablanca during WWII.
With memorable performances and witty dialogue, it explores the themes of love, loyalty, and sacrifice amidst a backdrop of war and political turmoil. It is considered one of the greatest movies of all time.
50. Flags of Our Father (2006)
Directed by Clint Eastwood, this war drama tells the story of the six U.S. Marines who raised the American flag at Iwo Jima during WWII. Based on a book by James Bradley, it follows these brave soldiers as they return home and grapple with the realities of post-war life.
A Note on Memorial Day Movies
If you are viewing these movies as a parent with your children, keep in mind the ratings of them and what is appropriate for young eyes according to your family values.
As with our list of Earth Day movies, you’ll want to keep in mind what themes and messages you feel are appropriate for your family to watch.
There is no right answer for these but many of these movies depict gun violence, blood, and death.
Final Thoughts On The Best Memorial Day Movies For Families
Memorial Day is a time to honor the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives in service of our country.
Watching some of these movies together as a family can be an important way to teach children about the importance of respecting those who serve and honoring their memories. These films are not only entertaining, but they also provide powerful lessons about courage, loyalty, and sacrifice.
Even if you only have time to watch one of these movies this Memorial Day, be sure to choose one that resonates with you and your family.
Remember the courage and heroism of those who have fought for our freedom this Memorial Day – and find a fitting way to honor their memories together as a family.