World War 2 Movies
The Second World War of 1939 to 1945 was the greatest and most destructive conflict in human history. Literally millions of courageous men fought, bled, killed and died for their countries on all sides. Even today, the effects of the war can be seen and felt in politics, geography and cultures of the nations that fought in it. As the most glorious, most savage and most valorous moment in our past which brought out the very best and very worst of humanity, World War 2 has been and still is one of the most popular settings for books, films, video games and TV shows. Indeed, there are dozens of World War 2 movies out there today; quite a few are considered to be modern classics and will be remembered for years to come as some of the greatest media to depict the Second World War.
This article will list the World War 2 movies which are a must watch for any enthusiast of the war, history fan, military buff or lover of good films.
Top World War 2 Movies:
-Saving Private Ryan (1998) – Directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns.
I might as well start this list off with the film widely acclaimed to be one of the greatest World War 2 movies ever made: Saving Private Ryan. It tells the story of Captain John Miller, played by Tom Hanks, who must lead his squad through France in the midst of 1944’s Operation Overlord to search for the titular Private Ryan, who must be sent home because he is the only one among his brothers who has not yet been killed in action. The movie opens up with the iconic Omaha beach landing, which is extremely intense and graphic. As the film progresses, Miller and his squad roam around looking for Ryan, alternating between bloody battles against the Germans and quiet scenes of pondering their mission, their lives and the cost of the war. Saving Private Ryan is a far cry from the World War 2 movies of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s; there is no glorification of the American soldiers, no demonization of their German adversaries and the affair of war is shown to be both noble and horrifying at the same time. Stylistically, Spielberg’s camera work brings us very close to the action, using the “shaky-cam” technique and varying perspectives darting around the battlefields. This film delivers a realistic view of war and is truly one of Spielberg’s masterpieces.
-Stalingrad (1993) – Directed by Joseph Vilsmaier, starring Thomas Kretschmann, Dominique Horwitz
One of the few World War 2 movies to depict the Axis side, Stalingrad is probably the best one in that category. Set on the Eastern Front as Hitler’s forces try to take the titular city, the movie follows a group of young German soldiers as they fight through the hellish urban environment and murderous cold of winter 1942. Like the American soldiers of Saving Private Ryan, the German landsers of the film bond and fight together as comrades, express their doubts and fears about war and care for both their friends and their enemies.The movie ends on a tragic note; the German forces are surrounded, with the Russians slowly closing in and the weather getting even worse. The only choices left for the protagonists are to surrender and face an unknown fate, fight the Soviets and die or freeze to death with their comrades. Again, this film is not like the World War 2 movies of the past. The Germans are rightly portrayed as regular young men fighting for their country, who are just as scared and suffer from the same hardships as the Soviet antagonists. With gripping battle scenes, a grim feel and a touching, human view of the “other” side of the war, Stalingrad is a fine example of German cinema and is an excellent war flick in its own right.
-Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) – Directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Ken Watanabe and Kazunari Ninomiya
Yet another one of the few World War 2 movies to show the Axis side of the war, this time from the Japanese perspective. Letters from Iwo Jima and its companion piece Flags of Our Fathers which gives the American side of the battle, show us the American invasion of Iwo Jima in 1945 through the eyes of a reluctant Japanese conscript, his friends and his commander, the famed General Kuribayashi. Unlike many of the Japanese Imperial Army officers in the film and in history, General Kuribayashi refused to allow suicidal banzai charges, opting instead for a strategy of guerrilla warfare and flexible defense. His tactics, shown faithfully in the movie, delayed the Americans for months when they had expected to take Iwo Jima in less than a week. Along with Stalingrad, this film gives an image of the Japanese not as murderous war criminals but as common everymen seeking to defend their country. The film is also notable for showing compassion, humanity and war crimes from both sides. There are American soldiers who execute their prisoners and Japanese officers who fanatically commit ritual suicide with their men. However, in the film the Japanese also care for a wounded American prisoner and Americans care for the protagonist after he surrenders. It is quite rare in most war films to show that both good and evil exist on all sides. For a simultaneously poignant and brutal depiction of the World War 2 Pacific campaign, look no further than Letters from Iwo Jima and its companion piece, Flags of Our Fathers.
These three World War 2 movies are truly some of the greatest. What ties them all together is that their lack of jingoistic propaganda are the films that our fathers and grandfathers enjoyed. They truly show that war brings out both the best and worst in humanity, and that with horrific death, despair and evil come selflessness, sacrifice and heroism. Of course, their cinematic value, directing, special effects and acting also contribute to their greatness.
Category: World War 2