The problems experienced by returning soldiers have been well-documented on film, although "Return" (2011) may be one of the first to focus on a female. In this new film, Linda Cardellini faces the same problems men do in similar situations, including an inability to fit back into her old life and feelings of purposelessness. Here are some of the best movies to address the complex issues faced by soldiers coming home from war.
"The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946)
The first major Hollywood feature about soldiers coming home from war is still one of the best. It won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and an eighth award for World War II double amputee Harold Russell for his inspirational performance. There is nothing quite like seeing firsthand how a double amputee handles everyday tasks while keeping his dignity.
A second story line in the film focuses on Frederic March as he struggles to fit into his old job as a banker in a new world in which women work and his wife (Myrna Loy) has become more independent. March's colleague Dana Andrews, a former Air Force captain, fights to get a job at a soda fountain in a post-War depressed economy.
"Coming Home" (1978)
By the late 1970s, America was smarting from the loss in Vietnam and it was a major issue how the public treated returning soldiers. In this film, Jane Fonda's naïve Army wife volunteers at the local VA hospital and falls in love with a disabled vet played by Jon Voight. This touching movie helped viewers understand the almost impossible task wounded vets have of going back to a normal life and how, in the end, war changes everyone.
"First Blood" (1982)
By the early 1980s, no one found it unusual that Vietnam War vet John Rambo would be wandering around the Pacific Northwest, unable to put down roots. When he is hassled by a small town sheriff, his extreme training as a soldier in the Special Forces comes back to haunt him, turning into an epic battle between the lawman and the former soldier. In this first film of the Rambo franchise, Sylvester Stallone pulls off a complex character study of a returning vet who can't let go of the horrors of war.
Robert De Niro comes to visit his war buddy (Ed Harris) in this moving film about how difficult the road to recovery is after war. A drunken Harris does not approve when De Niro takes a shine to his sister (Kathy Baker) and hits the bottle even harder. All three actors are at the top of their game helping Harris relive the death of another buddy so he can begin to overcome his emotional damage from the war.
"The Lucky One" (2008)
A soldier (Michael Pena) home from the Iraq War misses his flight after he comes home due to a New York blackout, and ends up on a road trip with two other soldiers (Rachel McAdams and Tim Robbins). They travel across the United States to each one's destination and find their new friendship is more reliable than old ties. This is a charming and quirky movie that is both funny and serious at the same time, as it tells the story of soldiers who must readjust their perceptions of home and sometimes form new families.
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- Linda Cardellini