When you try to make a list of the best movies in a particular genre, it’s hard to decide which ones to leave off. When you list the best firefighter movies, for example, you might wonder which movies are good and do the genre justice.
For a job that has been the subject of many TV melodramas, firefighting is one of those movie genres that hasn’t been used much. For something so scary, dangerous, and real, Hollywood hasn’t done an excellent job of showing it.
In an interview with GQ, FDNY firefighter Gregory Shepherd said about NBC’s Chicago Fire: “It had a good understanding of what we might do, but they added a little too much Hollywood.” The description seems to fit a lot of situations. Even though movies show what firefighters might do, they don’t always show what they do.
This might be because it is hard to film real fire or, at least in the past, because there were not enough VFX tools to capture digital flames. But both of these problems seem easy to solve now. And there is no shortage of intellectual property. There are a lot of scary real-life stories to tell on film, which may be why the best firefighter movies have been documentaries. Even so, Hollywood could do a better job.
Here are the best movies about firefighters that you can watch right now.
Only the brave (2017)
Only the Brave, a film loosely based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, should be at the top of everyone’s films on firefighters. It’s not just a terrific movie about one of the riskiest jobs in the United States; it’s also a damn good piece of narrative. The movie is about one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.
Burn is probably the closest that those of us who aren’t firefighters will ever experience what it’s like to do the job. Engine Company 50 of the Detroit Fire Department is the subject of the documentary. They are responsible for a region with some of the country’s highest incidences of arson.
When the first jet crashed into the World Trade Center in September 2001, French filmmakers Jules and Gédéon Naudet were in the midst of filming a documentary on a firehouse in Lower Manhattan called Engine 7, Ladder 1. What occurred next became some of the most comprehensive documentation of the attacks on September 11 and possibly the best firefighter documentary, movie, or film ever made.
Fire: Trapped on the 37th Floor (1991)
This television movie presents a fictionalized account of the fire that occurred at the First Interstate Tower in Los Angeles in 1988. The blaze was responsible for destroying five stories of the city’s highest skyscraper at the time. It’s possibly one of the best dramatizations of a real urban fire that Hollywood has ever produced.
Brave Are the Fallen (2020)
This latest video provides a detailed account of the life of Captain Tom Wall, a firefighter who was killed while performing his duties. The film is directed by Wall’s nephew, and it offers a personal perspective on the work that a single firefighter does.