The New American War Film

The New American War Film

Robert Burgoyne

A look at how post-9/11 cinema captures the new face of war in the twenty-first century

200 Pages, 6 x 9 in

  • Paperback
  • 9781517915445
  • Published: October 10, 2023
  • eBook
  • 9781452969732
  • Published: October 10, 2023
  • Hardcover
  • 9781517915438
  • Published: October 10, 2023


The New American War Film

Robert Burgoyne

ISBN: 9781517915445

Publication date: October 10th, 2023

200 Pages

24 black and white illustrations

8 x 5

"Robert Burgoyne offers here an essential reckoning with the changing affective contours of war representation in the twenty-first century. Eloquent and probing in equal measure, he invites us to confront the cinema’s emergent grammars of violence in the context of a forever war both intimate and remote, asking what is left—and what is possible—when the collective fiction of redemptive violence no longer coheres." —Jonna Eagle, author of Imperial Affects: Sensational Melodrama and the Attractions of American Cinema


"Robert Burgoyne’s perceptive and engaging new volume provides a roadmap to the contemporary war film in light of the changed nature of conflict today. He illuminates how American culture comes to grips with the impact of endless wars and new geopolitical landscapes, showing how traditional narratives surrounding heroism, military technology, and victimhood have broken down. The New American War Film offers a vital new history of war and media today." —Tanine Allison, author of Destructive Sublime: World War II in American Film and Media


A look at how post-9/11 cinema captures the new face of war in the twenty-first century

While the war film has carved out a prominent space within the history of cinema, the twenty-first century has seen a significant shift in the characteristics that define it. Serving as a roadmap to the genre’s contemporary modes of expression, The New American War Film explores how, in the wake of 9/11, both the nature of military conflict and the symbolic frameworks that surround it have been dramatically reshaped. 


Featuring in-depth analyses of contemporary films like The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, Eye in the Sky, American Sniper, and others, The New American War Film details the genre’s turn away from previously foundational themes of heroic sacrifice and national glory, instead emphasizing the procedural violence of advanced military technologies and the haptic damage inflicted on individual bodies. Unfolding amid an atmosphere of profound anxiety and disillusionment, the new American war film demonstrates a breakdown of the prevailing cultural narratives that had come to characterize conflict in the previous century. 


With each chapter highlighting a different facet of war’s cinematic representation, The New American War Film charts society’s shifting attitudes toward violent conflict and what is broadly considered to be its acceptable repercussions. Drawing attention to changes in gender dynamics and the focus on war’s lasting psychological effects within these recent films, Robert Burgoyne analyzes how cinema both reflects and reveals the makeup of the national imaginary.

Robert Burgoyne is author of Film Nation: Hollywood Looks at U.S. History, Revised Edition (Minnesota, 2010).



1. Embodiment and Pathos in the War Film: The Hurt Locker

2. Waiting for Terror: Zero Dark Thirty

3. Intimate Violence: Drone Vision in Eye in the Sky

4. War as Revelation: A Private War

5. Four Elegies of War: Restrepo,Infidel,Into the Korengal, and Sleeping Soldiers—single screen

6. American Pastoral / American Sniper