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"Best portrayal of Napoleonic combat?" Topic

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Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 2:51 p.m. PST

I don't mean The Duelists here, but in the grand manner.

The Sharpe stuff isn't right. Even the cuirassier charge in Colonel Chabert is too limited and that they are unformed from the get-go disqualifies it.

De Laurentiis' 1970 Waterloo has to be up there.

I've just seen clips from Abel Gance's Austerlitz that aren't too bad.

And there are at least two version of War & Peace:
King Vidor's 1956 version with Audrey Hepburn but I remember being more amazed by the Sergei Bondarchuk epic from the late 60's making it my guess for the number one spot.

I see there are numerous other War & Peace productions I haven't seen.

What am I missing?

To put it in poll form:

a. Waterloo (1970)
b. War & Peace (1956)
c. War & Peace (1966-67)
d. Austerlitz (1960)

McWong7321 Jun 2013 3:07 p.m. PST

Master & Commander, though I don't think that is what you're looking for

45thdiv Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 3:26 p.m. PST

Horatio hornblower?

Personal logo vtsaogames Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 3:29 p.m. PST

C, hands down.

Personal logo Chalfant Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 4:09 p.m. PST


The Russian War and Peace had some nicely done battle scenes in it. That was probably the best for large scale combat.

Waterloo, had some fine non-combat, sometimes haunting scenes in it… the night before the battle, back and forth from Napoleon to Wellington (Stieger to Plummer), until the damp grey dawn… fantastic. Napoleon's mood change at breakfast… fantastic.

But I thought the charge of the Scots Greys dramatic slowdown sequence very overdone, for example.

But I like Waterloo better than the other movies on the list… and I love The Duellists, even though F'14 excluded it from the competition :)


Personal logo taskforce58 Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 4:44 p.m. PST

I remember seeing some clips of Eylau on YouTube that are pretty good, but I don't know which movie or TV series it is from.

Personal logo Rrobbyrobot Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 4:46 p.m. PST

I have a copy of the Russian version of War and Peace because I like the battle scenes. It's the only movie I have involving Napoleonic land warfare. I do like Waterloo, but not as much as War and Peace. Besides, I'm not ready or willing to start up with Napoleonics again.

mad monkey 1 Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2013 6:30 p.m. PST
wyeayeman Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2013 1:02 a.m. PST

Colonel Chabert!

Artilleryman22 Jun 2013 1:29 a.m. PST

A lot of the films are great entertainment and I love them, but few give a good impression of the reality. Not enough smoke, formations too deep, everyone moving too fast etc. etc. When I saw the question, funnily enough, two films came to mind, 'Gettysburg' and 'Master and Commander'. The latter is so realistic that someone called it 'Around Cape Horn with the Royal Navy Film Unit 1805'. And 'Gettysburg' despite being the wrong war, still gives one of the best impressions of horse and musket warfare I have ever seen.

Double G Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Jun 2013 9:26 a.m. PST

Waterloo is my all time favorite.

The mini series Napoleon has it's moments, specifically Eylau, which I thought was pretty good, the Waterloo sequence was awful, but not as nearly bad as Sharpe's Waterloo, good Lord was that brutal.

The Borodino battle in the Russian version of War and Peace is ok, way too confusing, but it is massive in scope.

I rented the British Masterpiece theater version of War and Peace off of Netflix as I thought it was pretty good as a kid; boy was I wrong, that was horrible…………

Chouan Inactive Member24 Jun 2013 6:41 a.m. PST

THe Borodino scenes in the Bondarchuk version of War & Peace has several scenes that were effectively remade in Waterloo, in particular the aerial view of cavalry lapping around squares. The other battle scenes are, to me, too much confused individuals running or galloping around, when my own feeling is that they were much slower and more ordered affairs. By which I mean that men would tend to stay in their units and formations, rather than fighting hand to hand all over the place.

The battle scenes in Gettysburg, as suggested, are very much better. The first couple of minutes of the charge at Eylau in Chabert are good, but only for a minute or two.

Ashenduke Inactive Member25 Jun 2013 9:44 a.m. PST

Not Napoleonic but The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a great representation of horse and musket era battles. ;p

ColonelToffeeApple Inactive Member26 Jun 2013 4:45 p.m. PST

It's the hours of battle scenes left on the cutting room floor that are sad. I read once that 5 hours of Waterloo was somewhere, and Bondurchuk's War and Peace must have had hours of spare scenes – the battle being represented in a kalediscopic montage in the movie which was fasionable at the time of making. I would also mention Kolburg, which I got off ebay a few years ago and is probably on Youtube, not because it is the most realistic, but it is worth having a look. For me Waterloo holds a special place since I first saw it on release in the cinema, so it would be my favourite (it has a lot to answer for!!).

Davout1972 Inactive Member04 Jul 2013 4:24 a.m. PST

I love all the films mentioned, but still too many explosions in Napoleonic warfare. How about that scene in "The Patriot" where the bounding British cannonball hits the American formation and takes off the head of one the colonists?

Still, Waterloo is the one for me. Too many bearskins in the War and Peace movie, mixed in with regular troops…

Timotheous23 Jul 2013 2:18 p.m. PST

I agree with those who say that the Bondarchuk version of War and Peace has the most convincing battle scenes, especially the earlier ones at Schoenbrunn (sp?) and Austerlitz where the troops actually keep formation.

^^^ +1 to Davout
I also enjoyed the battle scene in the middle of the Patriot with the ricochet cannonball, and Tom Wilkinson's portrayal of Cornwallis was magnificent. Mel Gibson was over the top, and of course we hate Tavington's/Tarleton's red uniform; I suppose the correct green uniform would have been too confusing to some audiences ('whose side is that guy on?').

arthur181524 Jul 2013 1:58 a.m. PST

Of course, a great deal depends upon whose perspective a wargame, or film, is intended to portray!
The BBC once did a short programme about Waterloo, using about twelve actors and a stuffed horse (for the CO to ride!) portraying the experience of a battalion at Waterloo.
It was very atmospheric and totally faithful, IMHO, to contemporary accounts by private soldiers, such as: I'll be hanged if I know anything about the matter, for I was all day trodden in the mud…'
There was another, similar one years earlier, about Culloden, using twelve actors and lots of smoke.
The bird's eye/low-flying deity view of battles in War and Peace and Waterloo is very like that of a gamer in a traditional face to face game, but bears no relation to the viewpoint of either a private or a general…

dibble24 Jul 2013 12:15 p.m. PST


YouTube link

Paul :D

TelesticWarrior Inactive Member29 Jul 2013 7:47 a.m. PST

The battle scenes in Barry Lyndon are brilliant. Wrong war, and not many scenes I know, but still amazing.

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP30 Jul 2013 8:51 a.m. PST

This one is pretty good, I think it's from Bondarchuk's War and Peace:

YouTube link

I particularly like the guy playing the Russian commander, who seems to be annoyed with the whole thing.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP04 Aug 2013 6:12 a.m. PST



J. P. Kelly

Don1962 Inactive Member15 Aug 2013 8:08 a.m. PST

Not to change the subject, but I've always wondered why no one has ever attempted a movie or TV series based on Arthur Conan Doyle's The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard stories.

christot02 Sep 2013 4:12 a.m. PST

there was movie made in the late 60's, all a bit tongue in cheek, with a lot of focus on Gerard's saucy exploits with the ladies.
Thought it was rather good, but then again, I was 11.


Oliver Schmidt02 Sep 2013 10:53 a.m. PST

For Gerard, here (a waste of time):

YouTube link

and here (a though sometimes a bit over the top comedy):

YouTube link

On of the best cavalry charges I ever saw in a by the way: really great movie, though 40-50 years too late:

YouTube link

(especially the squadrons moving forward in formation at 1:22 etc. – sorry for the noisy music, I didn't find another clip)

Chouan Inactive Member03 Sep 2013 11:16 a.m. PST

The charge is pretty good isn't it. I particularly liked the way they closed up after hits.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2013 11:52 a.m. PST

Waterloo Land
Master and Commander Sea
The Buccaneer Honorable Mention



Surprising how little there is, considering the length of the conflict, the interest in Wellington and Napoleon and the impact on world history.

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2013 12:59 p.m. PST

Surprising how little there is, considering the length of the conflict, the interest in Wellington and Napoleon and the impact on world history.

The world's film industry is centered in Hollywood, CA. Hollywood isn't good with history. Americans are only interested in their own history (if that much). There were no Americans in the Napoleonic Wars. Hence, no films about them. The Europeans occasionally trot one out, but they seem to pretty much stay in Europe.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2013 2:20 p.m. PST


Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP03 Sep 2013 2:50 p.m. PST


95thRegt Inactive Member06 Sep 2013 5:31 p.m. PST

The Patriot??? Seriously????


Grand Duke Natokina Inactive Member07 Sep 2013 10:26 a.m. PST

A&C I think.

Personal logo wrgmr1 Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2013 9:20 p.m. PST

A and C plus Master and Commander.

R D Burnett Inactive Member27 Sep 2013 2:03 p.m. PST

Yup--too few
Consider Sharpe--extras cost lots of money these days--and even in the days of the 1970 Waterloo, well, the logistics of those many extras wasn't neat nor cheap
So there are too many "Sharpie on a spy mission" episodes
Those exploding cannonballs and those bayonet fights--Hollywood--
It was only recently that Hollywood decided to show--more or less- the gruesomeness of WW2 combat--Napoleonic is just as bad--
And computer generated fixes are, well, too fake

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP27 Sep 2013 3:13 p.m. PST

Well they managed to do huge battles in LOR. CG or not they looked pretty good.

Keraunos Inactive Member01 Oct 2013 9:11 a.m. PST


You were 11 and it starred Claudia Cardinale

If you cannot put the two together, some thing is wrong.

Clive Osborne Inactive Member10 Oct 2013 11:12 a.m. PST

It should come as no real surprise that both Waterloo and the Russian War & Peace were both directed by film genius, Sergei Bondarchuk. The Aerial pan-out shots were one of his speciality features. He did something very similar in a Russian film about Russian infantry in a WW2 film (in which he also acted)called "они сражались за Родниу" ("oni srazhalis za Rodniu" – They fought for their home country). In my humble opinion, the Waterloo Scots Grey charge in slow motion was fantastic and looks just like the famous Lady Butler painting.
Shame that there is a dearth of films on this.
BBC also did a War and Peace with Anthony Hopkins. Long time since I've seen it but remember battle scenes at Austerliz but do not remember much about battle scenes from Borodino, other than the Ahktyrski Hussars. Maybe worth a check ?

You could check out some of the documenatary films on Napoleonic wars, edited by the late, great David Chandler, distributed by Cromwell Films – they included soe clipos from older films omn Napoleonic wars and included Austerlitz, Borodino etc.

Shame they only made 1 film in style of Master and Commander – something like 25 books by the same writer and only 1 film. Ditto Patriot on AWI – even given the shortcomings of Mel Gibson's dubious take on history, but until they make 12 like that we will have to wait to discuss which one is best. In the meantime we have to make do with the very few we have, unfortunately.

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2013 2:22 p.m. PST

Shame they only made 1 film in style of Master and Commander something like 25 books by the same writer and only 1 film.

Wasn't the problem that Russel Crowe didn't want to get type-cast into the role, sort of like Johnny Depp and Captain Jack Sparrow? He didn't want to become "the other Captain Jack," or some such.

I know the original vessel they built for the movie is still kicking around somewhere.

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2013 2:31 p.m. PST

Has anyone ever seen this movie:

Apparently it's a drama about Hollywood, which isn't interesting except that a lot of it appears to be centered around the production of a movie set in the Napoleonic Wars, or so I gather from stills like these:

(image 27)


Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2013 8:37 p.m. PST

To answer my own question:

YouTube link

Some good uniforms, some bad uniforms, British heavy cavalry fighting like infantry. Still, at least one of the scenes is very Napoleonic-like – the wounded extra in a British uniform in a wagon.

Imperial Guard Miniatures Inactive Member09 Dec 2013 1:51 p.m. PST

Bondarchuks Waterloo and War and Peace are by far the best Napoleonic War movies. I have seen many napoleonic films and these have the best battle scenes hands down. It would be cool to see a modern Hollywood production of a napoleonic battle. Leipzig maybe. Using some good French, Russian or even Austrian actors to make it more realistic. You put a well known american actor in the production, it wouldn't seem right and would ruin it. Really, who would want to see Liam Neison as Napoleon…

My vote is C then A

Chouan Inactive Member10 Dec 2013 4:37 a.m. PST

Bondarchuk's scenes are just Hollywood on a grand scale, but made in Russia. All spectacle but little realism. He did the same scene of cavalry and squares in both films, for example, but little else that looked authentic. Loads of flames and explosions, loads of chaotic charging and dashing about, but little that resembles the descriptions of battles from the time.

Chouan Inactive Member10 Dec 2013 4:38 a.m. PST

Abel Gance's Austerlitz is just as bad…..

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP15 Dec 2013 12:54 p.m. PST

Dante's Inferno has various levels reserved for those who have transgressed…according to their degree of iniquity.

There is a level reserved for Sergei Bondarachuk, who was granted facilities any modern director would dream of and produced what can only be described as disappointing. I defy anyone to make sense of Borodino in W&P. His impressionistic style allows soaring music, frantic rushing around to no purpose and, of course, he casts himself in a most wooden role wandering around the battlefield.

In Waterloo, Steiger and Plummer both saved the day, with underrated acting I feel, but we learn little of the battle. Hougoumont is just a lot of smoke, D'Erlon's lads just vanish as the Scots Greys (solo) charge to no purpose. La Haye Sainte is captured by a cuirassier who is able to climb the roof with a flag (!). The French Cavalry charge is brilliant, until it degenerates into his trademark helicopter shots and the camera on a railway (he uses that In W&P and in Quiet Flows the Don…which is even worse). at least we are spared clouds over and over again in Waterloo……

I always lament what was lost on the cutting room floor from Waterloo. We know that Plummer met Blucher from a still picture. We get a glimpse of fighting at Hougoumont in the trailer… a very poor helicopter shot. Various folk are credited but never appear, as cut, eg Le Gros, Ewart. Brunswick and Orange are recognisable but never get to say a word…..

I do wonder what CGI could now do with d'Erlon or the cavalry attacks. We will certainly never see the real thing (humans and horses) acting this out again. God will forgive him. I cannot

marshallken Inactive Member15 Dec 2013 2:21 p.m. PST

Exactly, whoever did the cutting for Waterloo had no idea about the battle nor cared. However, it's still the best film about the Napoleonic era in my opinion with some fine scenes but could have been so much better.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP16 Dec 2013 4:32 a.m. PST

I agree,

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