Nobody deserves to live through the experience of war. All war is a hellish trial that too many end up enduring, and there's nothing quite like fighting a distant enemy across battlefields.
For some, war is a stark reality. For the rest of us, we only know about it from what we read in news articles and from what we see in movies, documentaries, and TV shows.
A skilled director is able to bring the truths of war to life on the screen, even if it's filtered through a camera lens for entertainment value. Over the years, there have been some fascinating TV shows about war that paint it in ways unlike any other show.
Here are my picks for the best war TV shows of all time and what it is that makes each one stand out above the rest.
5. S.A.S: Rogue Heroes (2022–Present)
The BBC's latest bit of bold output sees the rise of the SAS (Special Air Service)—along with the soldiers who formed it—go on several daring missions to free North Africa of the Nazi regime during WW2.
SAS: Rogue Heroes has standout performances from its leading trio, with Alfie Allen, Jack O'Connell, and Connor Swindells all putting in stellar work as renegade soldiers coming together as a special unit.
Meanwhile, Dominic West and Sofia Boutella provide perfect supporting characters that round everything out nicely.
What the show does best is demonstrate the lunacy that was involved in setting up the SAS, which would go on to form the basis of nearly every special forces unit around the world.
The cinematography is especially noteworthy, as it makes the desert feel like a vast ocean that only the SAS can navigate.
SAS: Rogue Heroes truly is the story of the SAS, told in such a skillful manner that it leaves us mesmerized by its sheer madness.
4. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008–2020)
For all that the prequels represented to Star Wars fans, The Clone Wars is among the best material to come from it. (We can thank the hordes of fans who complained about the prequel film trilogy's quality!)
The Clone Wars was a chance to follow Obi-Wan and Anakin through the years that took place between Episodes II and Ill, showing a wider world of Jedi—and everybody's favorite padawan, Ahsoka Tano.
With Obi-Wan and Anakin fighting through the galaxy and trying to find the enemy who seeks to destroy the Republic, The Clone Wars takes us on the best Star Wars adventure since the original trilogy.
Though it was made for a family audience, it stands up against any other TV show about war, plus it has the Star Wars lore behind it to make it even more attractive for geeky watchers.
In the end, The Clone Wars has both heart and unexpected quality, making it a gem of a show that many fans are still discovering.
3. The Pacific (2010)
The Pacific was HBO's follow-up to Band of Brothers. This one focused on the lives of a different group of men—ones who fought in the Pacific Ocean during the later years of World War II.
While The Pacific isn't as grand as its predecessor, it still packs a firm punch as the grim realities of war in the Pacific comes across the screen in all of its bloody beauty.
The work that went on behind the scenes to make the show look as vast as it does proves that HBO is matchless. Much credit goes to Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who produced the series.
While it lacks the togetherness that Band of Brothers had, The Pacific makes great use of its various locations, which set the tone for how battles come across on screen—battles which are vicious and have an edge that remains unmatched in television.
And the performances are outstanding, with James Badge Dale and Rami Malek both giving hardened performances in their leading roles.
2. Vikings (2013–2020)
Vikings is a show that got very bloody, very quickly. It had everything you could want from a show that focuse on the mighty Vikings and their quest to conquer as much of the known world as they could.
The performances are the real standouts here, alongside the incredible visuals that put us inside the world of the Viking warriors and the interconnected issues within their tribe.
The set design of Vikings deserves a mention, too. While recreation of any historical setting is never easy, it's certainly much harder to recreate a world like that of the Vikings from hundreds of years ago.
It's stunningly realized by the production team, which goes a long way toward suspending our belief and making the show that much better.
Few TV series will ever have the impact that Vikings had. In this show based on the numerous Viking invasions across Europe, war has never felt so testosterone-fueled.
1. Band of Brothers (2001)
Band of Brothers is the quintessential war TV show above all other war TV shows. To this day, it reigns as champion of the genre.
When it arrived on HBO in 2001, this miniseries had a profound effect on viewers as it told the true story of Easy Company, who fought their way through basic training and the European warzone during WW2.
Starring a litany of actors who would later become famous—as well as providing career-making platforms for Damian Lewis and Ron Livingston—Band of Brothers is everything that every other war series has tried to be: genuinely engaging.
The story captivates from the start, then swells into a crescendo of emotional resonance. We have no idea which characters will make it through to the other side and which characters we'll lose along the way.
It's shocking, it's tearful, it's bloody. But most of all, Band of Brothers is about the bond shared between Easy Company and the bond we share with them as viewers.
Decades later, Band of Brothers remains the highest rated TV show of all time on IMDb. Is it really the best TV series? It's certainly up there. Is it the best war TV show ever made? Absolutely, yes.