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'Saving Private Ryan' Voted As Greatest War Film Ever

'Saving Private Ryan' Voted As Greatest War Film Ever

Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning effort is thought of as a genre-defining film.

Mark McGowan

Mark McGowan

When you think of war films there's probably certain titles that pop straight into your head.

Things like Full Metal Jacket, Platoon and Saving Private Ryan are all up there, with the latter unsurprisingly being voted the best war film ever on Ranker.

The 1998 film seems to find the balance between violence, gore, sentiment and drama quite brilliantly to create a fantastic story line.

For many people the film could well end within 10 minutes, as the opening scene is probably the most memorable. However, if we all switched off after the troops arrived on the shores of Normandy, we wouldn't get to see Private Jackson's bell tower scene, with one hell of a monologue, followed by his explosive death.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

It comes as no surprise that it's flown to number one, as voted for by the people. It was followed by Full Metal Jacket in second spot, then Apocalypse Now, Platoon and Band of Brothers, to make up the top five.

There is always the question of whether there's any genre in film that can evoke the entire spectrum of human emotions in 90 minutes quite as readily as a war movie. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll seethe with anger and you'll slump into your seat in despair. You'll cheer and you'll mourn, all in equal measures.

Saving Private Ryan is a film that does that, similar to Dunkirk, released this year, which drew comparisons from the 90s classic.

Sadly, though, with films like the two mentioned here, a lot of the story telling is inspired by something that actually happened.

Credit: Paramount

The plot of Spielberg's Oscar-winning effort revolved around the search for the sole survivor of four young brothers sent off to war, but decades earlier, a very similar story had already played out.

Fritz, Bob, Preston and Edward Niland were four New York brothers of Irish heritage who all served in the second world war and three of whom served over D Day.

Three of them were believed to have been killed in battle and so a search was launched for the last brother so that the boys' mother could have one son returned to her safely.

Edward Niland was reported missing in action when his plane was gunned down over the jungle in Burma. Meanwhile, his three brothers were landing at Normandy to participate in one of the bloodiest battles of modern times.

Credit: Andrew L. Bouwhuis Library

Lt. Preston Niland was killed leading a platoon of the Fourth Infantry Division and defending the wounded on Utah Beach and Robert Niland parachuted into France, but was killed in heavy fighting at the village of Neuville-au-Plain.

Fritz, the brother on which Private Ryan was loosely based, was the last of the four believed to be alive, but he had become separated from his troops and lost behind enemy lines. He eventually found his way to safety and after learning about the deaths of his brothers he was shipped back to his mother.

Incredibly, Edward Niland was also still alive and had been held in a Japanese POW camp in Burma. He was released and returned home in 1945.

In a heartbreaking letter from Bob to his mother during the war, read by his son, the sergeant said: "All of your boys will come home safe. Don't worry, this war will be over soon.

"Some night we will all be together again and it will seem like it was just a great big dream.

"At least no one can say that Mr and Mrs Niland's four sons were draft dodgers."

Featured Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

Topics: War, Entertainment, TV and Film, UK Entertainment, World War II, US Entertainment