War has long served up fast-paced plots and action heroes tailor-made for Hollywood. Now the Australian army has embraced the big screen so its soldiers can gain insights into wartime leadership and combat. The recommended reading list of the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, is to be released next month and will for the first time include films and feature-length documentaries, including a personal favourite, Three Kings, the satirical war drama once described by The New York Times as the ''most caustic anti-war movie of this generation''.
The army-sanctioned movie list also includes at least one Oscar-winner, The Hurt Locker, and blockbusters directed by Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola. The inclusion of film in the Chief of Army's traditional reading list recognises soldiers are increasingly sourcing information from digital technology, including film.
''While film cannot capture the reality of battle, it can illustrate some of the triumphs and failures of soldiers in combat, and of ordinary men and women placed in extraordinary circumstances,'' General Morrison said.
''Film can be both instructional and entertaining, and also resonates an immediacy and heightened sensitivity that can be difficult to bring to life through the printed word.''
Reading lists are assembled by military forces to help soldiers understand the history of conflict, develop critical thinking and navigate moral and ethical questions.
Apart from Scott's films The Duellists (1977) and Body of Lies (2008), the army has recommended Oliver Stone's World Trade Center (2006) and Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan (1998), along with cinematic classics Zulu (1964) and Apocalypse Now (1979) and independents such as Ken Loach's When the Wind Shakes the Barley and United 93 (2006).
The sole Australian production, Beneath Hill 60, tells of Australian tunnellers during World War I. While caricaturing British officers, the Chief of Army judged it a ''plausible and convincing presentation'' of war on the Western Front. Its director, Jeremy Sims, said he had always wanted the film to find a ''long-term place'' in the country's cultural consciousness.
Books are organised into themes - logistics, strategy, history, personal development - with a separate section on military-themed literature.
Military themed literature:
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
Starship Troopers by Robert A Heinlein
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Fields of Fire by James Webb
The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb
The Centurions by Jean Larteguy
The Winds of War/War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk
The Thin Red Line by James Jones
Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy
Fatherland by Robert Harris
The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker
The Matthew Hervey series by Allan Mallinson
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Bomber by Len Deighton
The Sharpe Books by Bernard Cornwall
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Eagle in the Snow by Wallace Bream
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Bugles and a Tiger by John Masters
The Field Marshal's Memoirs by John Masters
Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
The Duellists (1977)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Hamburger hill (1987)
Arn the Templar (2007)
Capitaine Conan (1996)
Days of Glory (2006)
Intimate Enemies (2007)
Beneath Hill 60 (2010)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Frontline (2011)
The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006)
Battle for Haditha (2007)
Blood Diamond (2006)
World Trade Centre (2006)
United 93 (2006)
The Hurt Locker (2009)
Three Kings (1999)
The Kingdom (2007)
Body of Lies (2008)
The Civil War (1990)
The War (2007)
The Great War (1964)
The World at War (1973)
The First World War (2003)
Australians at War (2001)
The Sorrow and the Pity (1969)