I watch a lot of television, movies, trailers, and trailer breakdowns for work, but here's the thing: I can't tell you or anyone else what makes a genuinely good military movie or show, especially if I haven't seen it yet. And I wouldn't call myself a "critic" in the classic sense. Then again what do they know; they said The Hurt Locker was a masterpiece.

What I do know, is that I get excited about stories that make an honest effort to achieve some measure of authenticity, whether it's a full blown dramatic reenactment of some major conflict, or seeing characters interact (even briefly) in a way you recognize, because you've had those conversations on base, overseas, or while you were drunk at one in the morning in the barracks.

At their best, military movies and shows focus on a character's service as more than a lazy plot device to explain why they're good with guns, have a high and tight, or shout out bits of military lingo at random moments; at their very worst, they may trot out the broken vet trope to add a little drama. And of course, there's the laziest of them where everyone's an operator — even lawyers, apparently.

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They Shall Not Grow Old

When it comes to war flicks and military shows, 2018 has been an interesting year.

There were some fun blockbusters, like Hunter Killer, which was essentially Olympus Has Fallen on a submarine, and The Predator, Shane Black's campy but entertaining sci-fi horror flick, which feels like what you'd get if The Dirty Dozen met the man-hunting alien from the original Predator.

The star-studded Afghanistan War drama 12 Strong wasn't bad, but felt out of touch with today's outlook on the 17-year-old war it depicts, as Adam Linehan noted in his review for Task & Purpose. Then there were the numerous cable television series, like the second season History's SEAL Team drama, SIX, which delivered on the dark tone its fans have come to expect.

All that said, the biggest standouts for shows and movies weren't major motion pictures or network military dramas. Instead, they were largely documentaries and a few non-military shows where the character's service was critical to their identity, but not the sum of it.

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