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Best World War II Films

Discussion in 'WWII Films & TV' started by JCFalkenbergIII, May 26, 2008.

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  1. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Sunday, May 25, 2008
    Best World War II Films

    A compilation of movies about the world's bloodiest conflict

    By GARY A. WARNER
    The Orange County Register
    Comments 0| Recommend 1

    (Former Register military writer Gary A. Warner created this list in 1991 for the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entry into World War II. He updated the list in 2008 and added just three films – "Enemy at the Gates," "Saving Private Ryan" and "Letters from Iwo Jima." "Ryan" also allowed for the demotion of "The Longest Day," a star-studded 1962 take on the same D-Day battle. Warner is now the Register's travel editor.)

    From the classic "Casablanca" to the classically bad "Pearl Harbor," World War II movies have been Hollywood fare for over 60 years. Here is a subjective list of some of the better films dealing with World War II. Other films just didn't click for me ("Battle of Britain" and "The Big Red One" to name two) I'm sure there are many films that fans will find AWOL on my list. But for one military buff and film fan, these are the cinematic war stories that have held up over the decades. Presented in alphabetical order:
    "The Americanization of Emily"(1964) Sharp Paddy Chayefsky script drives black comedy about a self-proclaimed coward hailed as the first American to die on D-Day. James Garner and Julie Andrews star.
    "Battleground" (1949) Van Johnson and future US Sen. George Murphy head a strong cast in gritty telling of the Battle of the Bulge. There's cowadice, heroism and pointless death in this realistic postwar film.
    "The Best Years of Our Lives"(1946) More than six decades later, this tale of three veterans readjusting to home life resonates with humanity. Harold Russell, who lost both his hands in battle, is exceptional as a disabled vet. Best picture Oscar.
    "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957) David Lean's wide-screen saga is very long, but worth the sit. William Holden, Hollywood's favorite war cynic (see Stalag 17 below), is at his best as the reluctant hero. But Alec Guinness as the British leader in a Japanese POW camp is the film's linchpin - a study on the blindness of pride. Best picture Oscar.
    "Casablanca" (1942) It's basically a Humphery Bogart-Ingrid Bergman romance using the war as a backdrop, but for rousing war images you must remember this: Paul Henreid leading the jaded crowd at the Cafe Americain in the "Marseilles" and Claude Rains throwing the Vichy water in the waste can.
    "The Conformist"(1971) Hard-to-find Bernardo Bertolucci film is a tense character study of one man's descent into the Italian fascist police state. Outstanding for showing the duplicity of interior and exterior lives of Mussolini's prudish fanatics.
    "Das Boot"(1981) War from the other side. This sometimes self-serving German film overplays the ideas of Germans as inherently anti-Nazi. It nonetheless captures the claustrophobic, tense, dirty, terrorized world of underwater combat better than any movie before or after. Skip the English dubbed version, marketed as "The Boat. "
    "Forty-Ninth Parallel"(1941) Smashing story of sailors from bombed German U-boat attempting to make their way across Canada to the then-neutral United States. Emeric Pressburger won an Oscar for best story.
    "Enemy at the Gates"(2001). The story of two snipers – one Russian, one German – battling it out in the rubble of Stalingrad was just one of the plots of William Craig's harrowing non-fiction book of murder, deceit and cannibalism in the pivotal battle of World War II. For all its flaws (Ed Harris as the German sniper has a tough time submerging his broad American accent), the movie of the same title is a rare piece of worthwhile cinema about the bloodiest battleground of the war – the Russian Front.
    "From Here to Eternity"(1953) Overwrought but still compelling tale of Army life in Hawaii just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr's clinch on the beach is an iconic image from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Best picture Oscar.
    "The Great Dictator" (1940) Charlie Chaplin's wonderful send-up to Adolf Hitler. He plays a Jewish barber who is the spitting image of dictator Adenoid Hynkel of Tomania. Chaplain's ballet with a globe-shaped balloon is unforgettable.
    "The Great Escape" (1963) Gripping POW drama with an all-star cast. Steve McQueen was immortalized as the "cooler king" who attempts to escape over the Swiss border by jumping a stolen German motorcycle over a barbed-wire fence.
    "The Harp of Burma" (1956) Slow but moving story of a Japanese soldier who become obsessed with burying the war dead. Kon Ichikawa's effort is one of the best anti-war films ever made.
    "Lacombe Lucien" (1974) Complex Louis Malle film tells the cautionary tale of a young boy who just wants to belong. When the French Resistance won't have him, he becomes a collaborator with the Gestapo - only to fall in love with a Jewish tailor's daughter.
    "Letters from Iwo Jima"( 2006). It's exceptionally rare to get a chance to see war from the enemy's point of view. The brilliance of Clint Eastwood's film is that it humanizes the Japanese defenders of the rock in the Pacific without soft-pedaling the brutality and mindless regimentation that drove nearly all to their deaths. It's odd to think this film was an afterthought to "Flag of Our Fathers," Eastwood's earnest if ultimately unsatisfying big budget epic about the American servicemen who "raised" the flag at Iwo Jima.
    "Lifeboat" (1944) Based on a John Steinbeck story, the survivors of a torpedoed ship wrestle with the moral questions of the war when they rescue a German from the ship that sank them. Alfred Hitchcock's taut direction makes this talkative film work.
    "Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" (1956) Gregory Peck is just right as Madison Avenue executive joining the rat race while wrestling with his conscience over the German soldier he killed and the Italian woman who bore him a son, who he left behind.
    "Mrs. Miniver"(1942) Showing the British stiff upper lip to the American movie-going public, this stylish film features Walter Pidgeon and Greer Garson as the perfect upper-crust couple struggling through the Battle of Britain. Best picture Oscar.
    "Open City"(1946) Powerful portrait of Roman partisans fighting the Nazis in the waning days of the war. Roberto Rossellini film is one of the best of the great period of postwar Italian films.
    "Patton"(1970) George C. Scott's towering portrayal of Patton is aided by Francis Ford Coppola's crisp, literate script. The film portrays the great tank commander as a heroic, neurotic mystic unashamed to savor the carnage of war. A rare sweeping epic with great individual performances. Best picture Oscar.
    "Sahara"(1945) This story of a lone American tank lost amid a hostile desert has been copied several times from the Western "Last of the Comanches" to "The Beast" about a Soviet tank stranded in Afghanistan. Humphery Bogart at his hard-boiled best.
    "Sands of Iwo Jima"(1949) Practically a Marine recruiting commercial, the film is watchable for a classic John Wayne portrayal as a crusty sergeant leading his men up in the bloodiest battle of the Pacific campaign. Intercuts real footage of the battle. Also rare: Wayne dies at the end.
    "Saving Private Ryan"(1998). The amazing D-Day invasion sequence is reason enough for this Steve Speilberg film to make the list. Tom Hanks is understated as the high school English teacher turned unit leader risking their lives to look for a soldier named Ryan tapped to return home because his three other brothers had already died in the war. The opening sequence and coda are hoary Spielberg sentimentalism at it's worst. But for what's in between, the movie "earns this," it's place on my list.
    "Stalag 17"(1953) William Holden again as the cynical GI everyman, battling suspicious fellow POWs who believe that he is a German plant. Holden won a well-deserved Oscar for this claustrophobic film, which spawned copy-cat scenarios and dialogue in everything from "The Great Escape" to the "Hogan's Heroes" television series.
    "They Were Expendable"(1945) Director John Ford's tale of the role PT boats played in the dark days after Pearl Harbor. Coming at the end of the war, Ford could allow for a more grim tone than earlier films because by then the audience knew it would all turn out OK.
    "Twelve O'Clock High" (1949) Air Force bomber group commander Gregory Peck is pushed to the limit as he must send men to sure death over the skies of Germany. Dean Jagger won a well-deserved supporting Oscar.

    Entertainment: Best World War II Films | war, film, best, battle, german - OCRegister.com
     
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  2. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    I agree that all are good movies but "Enemy At the Gates". I would take the "Longest Day" over it anyday.
     
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  3. kingthreehead

    kingthreehead Member

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    I liked all of them but some i have not seen.
     
  4. diddyriddick

    diddyriddick Member

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    I liked all the ones that I have seen, but thought that Tora! Tora! Tora! should have made the list.
     
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  5. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Its nice to see all types of genre there on the list. Comedy,Drama,Foreign. Not just battle related.
     
  6. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Ставка

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    Foreign?? From what I see all the movies listed are American with a handfull of Western European ones.

    I have failed to locate a single Soviet or Easter European movie on this list. Where are the German and Japanese films?


    Doesnt look very foreign to me at all. ;)

    Also, I would love to see Entertainments criteria for war movies making the list.

    Enemy at the Gates over the German Stalingrad?

    No Tora! Tora! Tora!, "Come and See", The Longest Day or the famous Russia movie Liberation which has been hailed as superb by European critics??

    Bizarre.
     
  7. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Well sorry if there are no Eastern European ones :p LOL. No list will ever be acceptable to everyone. And I could have sworn that "Das Boot" was German and "The Harp of Burma" was Japanese ;).
     
  8. J.A. Costigan

    J.A. Costigan Member

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    My top 5
    1. Patton
    2. Letters from Iwo Jima
    3. Tora! Tora! Tora!
    4. Saving Private Ryan
    5. Downfall
     
  9. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    I could never have a top five but I would start the list out with: "Decision Before Dawn" w/ Richard Basehart, Gary Merrill, Oskar Werner, Hans-Christian Blech, O.E. Hasse, Til Kiwi and a very young: Klaus Kinski (as the whining soldier)

    Depending on what mood im in, favorites would range with: The Longest Day, The Enemy Below, Kelly's Heroes, Merrills Marauders, Red Ball Express, Twelve O'Clock High, Where Eagles Dare, The Great Escape, The Colditz Story, Tobruk, Dunkirk, The Battle of Britain, Sink the Bismarck, Halls of Montezuma, etc etc etc.
     
  10. J.A. Costigan

    J.A. Costigan Member

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    ^ It can be hard but I narrowed mine down fairly well I think.

    I still haven't seen the longest day, from what I hear it compels me to though.
     
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  11. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Ставка

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    You must admit though, that its hard to believe that there is only 1 good German and Japanese WW2 movie.

    As for the lack of Eastern European and Russian films... well thats just rubbish! :D
    Maybe due to a language barrier?

    I have to say for a country who saw most of the fighting during this bitter conflict to not even make the list is bizarre.
     
  12. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Bingo!!!! I can bet you that since this is from an American that overseas the list would be totally different.
     
  13. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    You may to look at what constitutes a "good" and what just constitutes "a" movie. There are probably many war movies made by other nations, but how "good" are they? Stilted acting, horrible dialog, pathetic costumes and make-up, poor cimetography and a bad story-line all combine to relegate a movie to a less than stellar class of movies, even when it concerns an interesting episode of the war. You've probably seen some of the Stalin-era movies, they are horrible, being more intent on telling the Stalinist view of everything than of the story at hand. Japan has had a thriving movie industry, but with their pacifist outlook following 1945, how many war movies have they made? The US could get the lion's share of "good" movies because the US movie makers have made the lion's share of movies to begin with.

    There are several movies in that list that should not be there, Casablanca being one. It is not a war movie just because the setting is during the war-it is a love story. If we judge movies by that criteria, then Star Wars is a war movie. After all, it is set during a war. Sahara? It was just an okay movie, even if it did have Bogey in it. The Americanization of Emily? Please. Enema at the Gates? Well filmed, etc, it was a "good" technical movie but from a historical perspective...
     
  14. Keystone Two-Eight

    Keystone Two-Eight Member

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    Nice to see Stalag 17 made it, but I have to agree; wheres "Stalingrad" "The winter war", "Alls quiet" or "Europa Europa"?

    I have to disagree though, I like "Enemy at the gates"....But it may just be because Rachel Weisz is in it.:D
     
  15. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Europa Europa, yes that one should have made it. Story of an interesting aspect of the war.
     
  16. Mats

    Mats Member

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    I also miss "The Longest Day" !

    And "Patton" is great but would in spite of that not take a place on my list.

    Mats
     
  17. mikebatzel

    mikebatzel Dreadnaught

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    Of course everyone will disagree on many aspects of what should or shouldn't be on the list. I agree with Jeff that Casablanca shouldn't be on the list though. Other than that it's a better list than many of what I've seen. I seen one once that put The Thin Red Line as the #2 WW2 movie ever made. Rubish!
     
  18. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    The movie that made Gregory Peck a movie star, should have been on that list. I THINK it's called: "The North Star" but not sure? Anyway, this movie has Peck as the leader of a Russian Guerilla unit somewhere in the USSR in WWII. It's not exactly a 10 of 10 movie but, it's a very important one.
     
  19. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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  20. Keystone Two-Eight

    Keystone Two-Eight Member

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    Granted, but what about Sahara?
    [​IMG]
     

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