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Steven Spielberg’s best movie was so realistic, it needed a helpline

Steven Spielberg is known for sentimental family movies, but he could certainly make harrowing cinema when he wanted to, and Saving Private Ryan is traumatic.

Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan

Steven Spielberg is best-known for his big blockbusters that feature sharks, dinosaurs, aliens and adventurous archeologists. But he has also made many historical dramas based on detailed research, and this can lead to them being so realistic, they can trigger powerful responses.

When Steven Spielberg made Schindler’s List in 1993, many assumed that he’d made the most upsetting World War II movie possible – and was unlikely to revisit the period. However, just five years later, Spielberg returned to the subject and outdid himself by making one of the most visceral and traumatizing, but also best movies of all time.

Saving Private Ryan opens with an astonishing 25-minute scene which depicts the D-Day landings on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, that took place in 1944. The sights and sounds of the scene absolute rattle the viewers’ senses, with the shaky camera, the constant noise and explosions, the level of blood and gore all contributing to one of the best war movies ever made.

But the thing that probably sticks with the viewer the most is the quieter moments from one of the best Steven Spielberg movies – such as soldiers drowning under the weight of their own gear and the rest of their panicked platoon. The scene highlights how instantaneous every split second is between life and death. Someone may be shouting instructions one moment, and have part of their head blown off the next.

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The scene is so extreme that in 1998, the US Department of Veterans Affairs set up a hotline, in case any Vietnam War, Korean War, Gulf War, or WWII vets experienced trauma as a result of the movie. Flashbacks and PTSD could be triggered by the movie, according to Deseret News.

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks took their experience from making Saving Private Ryan and used it for the series Band of Brothers, which has seen a recent resurgence in popularity after being added to Netflix.

Now, check out our guide to the best movies based on a true story.