What to Watch with a Parent Who Has an Unhealthy Addiction to War Documentaries

By Marina Halbert

We’ve all been there before. You walk out to the TV room, hoping to put on some Gilmore Girls or The Office. Unfortunately, your parent has once again commandeered the television with their Civil War documentary that has seven 1.5 hour episodes, all chronicling Valley Forge. What a yawn, right? Luckily, I have the perfect solution to this generic, common problem that afflicts every household. 

You need to find common ground. A war movie with popular, famous actors perhaps. Or, a fictional action movie that chronicles the experiences of a Vietnam veteran. Even better, a genuinely entertaining World War 2 documentary (they actually exist, I promise). After all, you’ll never get the remote out of your parent’s hands, so you might as well settle in for the long haul with something enjoyable for the whole family.

I have 3 perfect examples of media that will please every member of the household: 

1) Hacksaw Ridge, 2h 19m, starring Andrew Garfield. Available on Netflix.

Everyone loves Andrew Garfield. Even if you absolutely cannot stand war movies, it’s easy to watch Hacksaw Ridge by simply pretending Andrew Garfield is still playing Spider Man. His character is, in fact, very much the same: a mild-mannered hero who lays his own life down to save anyone he can. The biographical movie chronicles the experiences of Desmond Doss, a real soldier from World War 2 who saved 75 lives in the Battle of Okinawa – without firing a single shot. As a conscientious objector, Doss refused to ever carry weapons, still running head-on into danger as one of the best medics in WW2. Although the movie may sound intimidating, it is genuinely the most meaningful and inspiring film I have ever seen, and will likely make the same qualification for you. Andrew Garfield is a superb actor and beautifully conveys the ridicule, trauma, and, finally, respect that Desmond Doss underwent as a pacifist soldier. 

2) First Blood, 1h 33m, starring Sylvester Stallone. Available on Hulu.

With a mind-twisting array of flashbacks and chase scenes, this heart-wrenching film will keep you on the edge of your seat. Not only is the plot engaging and interesting, Sylvester Stallone’s character captures a part of your heart and keeps it forever. A vietnam vet with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Rambo is simply a man trying to live a peaceful life and escape his terrifying past. However, a small town sheriff in Washington makes it his mission to subdue Rambo, and sets off a violent course of events wherein the hunters slowly become the hunted. “First Blood” will give you a new perspective on war veterans and their trauma, and elicit sympathy for the men who give their lives for our country, only to be met with disrespect and severe trauma. Not only will your parents be excited that you know movies from before 2000, but they will be happy to spend an hour and a half watching this exciting, emotional, tear-jerker of a movie.

3) Band of Brothers, 1 season, 10 episodes, 60m each. Available on Netflix.

I physically cannot recommend this show enough. It will capture your attention, your time, and, eventually, all of your heart. Following Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army, Band of Brothers is a biographical documentary, reconstructed from soldiers’ journals, letters, and interviews. Easy Company, a band of paratroopers, was one of the most involved companies in all of WW2, found at the front-lines of every major battle. You and your war-documentary obsessed parent will form quick bonds with the various men of Easy Company, from Bull, a fearless, cigar chewing man who survived overnight in the barn of a German encampment, to Doc, a courageous young medic who runs from troop to troop, ensuring their emotional as well as physical safety. Watching this show made war so much more real to me; something I think the modern generation could use. As soldier after soldier suffered moral wounds and severe emotional scars, I felt it in my heart and soul. I remember thinking “at least this didn’t really happen,” right after one of the men I had been personally invested in died. Then I remembered. Band of Brothers being a biographical show ensures its appeal not only to war-buffs like my father and me, but to a universal audience as well: any student would benefit from watching the entirety of World War 2 through a simple, bite-sized lens. It is undeniably a source of information, one that could be priceless for a, say, AP World History or AP United States History student. Genuinely, the only reason I understand the Battle of the Bulge is because of this superb show.

All in all, you don’t always have to fight your parents for control of the TV when they turn on their 10 hour Valley Forge documentary. Instead, try suggesting one of the above pieces of media, which I can personally guarantee will appeal to any parent who watches Civil War shows, and to any teenager who cares to educate themself on the real-life repercussions of war by watching shows and movies with engaging acting, moving characters, and informational plots.