Deep down, we all have probably thought how awesome it would be to be a great general, knowing that you are 10 times smarter than the guy across the battlefield. Knowing that just by walking through your camp, you have their respect, whether it's because of love or fear or both. This list below is comprised of the best conquerors, strategists, and leaders in history. Some honorable mentions go out to Saladin, Douglas MacArthur, and Scipio Africanus.
War: World War II
Played by: George C. Scott
General Patton was the senior commander of the armored division in WWII. He led the way in introducing armored warfare into the U.S. Army and later proved to be one of the most outstanding front line commanders in WWII. Despite being controversial, arrogant, eccentric, and vain, Patton never suffered a major defeat. The opposing armies saw him as the perfect example of an American cowboy. My favorite Patton quote: "A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week."
7. Erwin Rommel - "The Desert Fox"
War: World War II
Played by: James Mason
The Desert Fox was a brilliant commander of the armored Panzer division. By the end of the French campaign, while suffering only 2,500 casualties and losing 42 tanks, Rommel's divison captured nearly 100,000 prisoners and destroyed more than 450 enemy tanks (but who doesn't beat up on the French?). Going from the plains to the African desert, Rommel still found success against a better equipped British armored group. His success faded when the Nazis focused their strength on supplies on Russia, and the arrival of the Americans was enough to force Rommel to surrender. He was eventually listed as a conspirator in the plot against Hitler (he did not participate, but was aware of it) and was forced to poison himself to protect the health of his family. The Desert Fox, known for his professional and chivalrous treatment of Allied POWs, was buried with full military honors. "“In the absence of orders, go find something and kill it.”
6. Robert E. Lee - "Granny Lee"
Nationality: American (Confederate)
War: the Civil War
Played by: Martin Sheen
With strategic genius and inspiring leadership, General Lee turned the Rebs from a hollow boast into a viable threat. He constantly defeated a larger and better equipped Union Army, earning more victories than anyone could have dreamed up in his situation. Despite his colossal blunder at Gettysburg, Lee's abilities as a general kept the Civil War going a lot longer than it should have, and actually gave them a shot at victory. He is still looked upon today as a figure of class and dignity in both the North and the South. "Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less."
5. Genghis Khan - The Conqueror
War: the Mongol invasions
Played by: Omar Sharif
The common misconception is that Genghis Khan, who only just united his people and conquered most of the known world, defeated is enemies because of the barbaric tactics of his horde. In reality, Khan won because of masterful organization and strategy. It was just made easy because of his huge army. It took him only a couple of decades to build the largest contiguous nation in history, stretching from Poland in the west to Korea in the east, and from Vietnam in the south to Russia's Arctic Ocean in the north. “It is not sufficient that I succeed - all others must fail.”
4. Napoleon Bonaparte - "the Little Corporal"
War: the Napoleonic Wars
Played by: Ian Holm
The 5 ft. 2 in. commander is probably the most influential general in history. He conquered almost the entire European continent, and his wild ambition put his sights on Russia as well, where he faltered. His tactics were speed and shock action, and even though he mostly just killed everybody he went through, he exported his techniques and knowledge to military and government figures all across the world. He wasn't innovative at all, mastering existing technologies instead of pioneering new ones, but his main strength was adapting to the situation and maximizing the strength of his army. It took a coalition of Russia, Prussia, Britain, and Sweden to bring down the little giant. "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."
3. Gaius of the Julii - "Caesar"
War: the Gallic War, the Roman Civil War
Played by: Ciáran Hinds
Julius Caesar would be near the top of many Top 10 lists (assassinations, dictators, Roman leaders); he is on this one because of his military prowess. He conquered Gaul and parts of Britain and Germany for the fledgling Roman Empire and crowned himself dictator for life. He then had to deal with Civil War, and his military masterpiece is the battle of Pharsalus, where he defeated Pompey Magnus (Rome's other elite general) despite being outnumbered 2 to 1. Not only is his ambition legendary, but so is his name. Caesar became the title for Roman emperors; the German Kaiser and Russian Czar are derivatives as well. As a general, he stressed proficiency and discipline, knowing that his well assembled and well trained army could defeat any number of disorganized rebels. He was also a fine engineer, utilizing boats and tunnels in battle. As a leader, he knew every one of his centurions by name and would even step to the front lines to raise morale and turn the tide of the battle in his favor. A superior organizer, motivator, and conqueror, Caesar's efforts resulted in an empire that lasted well over a 1000 years (Genghis Khan's empire lasted 200). "I came, I saw, I conquered."
War: the Second Punic War
Played by: Vin Diesel? Your movie better not suck.
No one has ever caused such destruction against the Romans as Hannibal did in the second of the epic wars between Rome and Carthage. His crossing of the Alps with elephants is one of the most monumental achievements in history-- to all of sudden drop down into Rome's backyard with an army capable of ending the Republic was pure genius. He's often called the father of military strategy. It's amazing how he was able to remain on Roman soil for 15 years and remain undefeated. His crowning achievements are three successive battles against a vastly superior forces. Each battle was won through Hannibal's cunning tactics, which I could write about for a hours and hours. To save, time, trust that he's a genius. Here's the numbers.
Battle of Trebia: Roman casuatlites - 20000. Carthaginian casualties - low 1000s.
Battle of Lake Trasimene: Roman - 40000. Carthaginian - 1500.
Battle of Cannae (greatest defeat in Roman history, greatest tactical victory in history): Roman - 131,000. Carthaginian - 6000.
Rome finally figured out that they could not beat Hannibal in the field, so they sent an army after his reserves in Spain. Then the Roman Army, led by Scipio Africanus, another military genius, attacked Carthage, forcing Hannibal back. After a final battle, Scipio defeats Hannibal at Zama. Hannibal is forced on run from his own government, and many years laters, poisons himself. His last words - "Let us now relieve the Romans of their fears with the death of a feeble old man."
1. Alexander - "The Great"
War: Alexander's Conquest
Played (queerly) by: Colin Farrell
A pupil of Aristotle, Alexander the Great is the most successful military commander in history, conquering most of the known world (as the Greeks knew it). In 11 years of fighting against forces who were mostly larger than his own, he never lost a battle. He integrated infantry, cavalry, and engineers with logistics and intelligence support in a manner never before seen or even thought of. Before Alexander, warfare strategy was unheard of, with the bigger force with better armor usually winning. Alexander changed the world. Even though he was a bit of a queer, and his empire crumbled immediately after his death, no one in history has influenced war like Alexander the Great. "There is nothing impossible to him who will try."