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10 of The Most Amazing WWII Movies

"The Thin Red Line" from 20th Century Fox.
WWII film “The Thin Red Line” from 20th Century Fox.

The Anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor always brings to mind the many countless World War II movies that have graced our screens over the past 70+ years. Filmmakers and historians have been fascinated by this period in history since before the conflict was even officially over, and the impact of that fascination is still evident today.

Here are some of our favorite WWII films that you can stream this week.

Saving Private Ryan
Type: Action & Adventure, Drama, History
Release Date: 1998
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns
Rating: 93% RT, 8.6/10 IMDb

On a mission to find one soldier, Captain John Miller braves dangerous territory with his men in order to find Private James Ryan. This near-masterpiece by director Stephen Spielberg brought with it a sense of realism that changed the way modern war movies were made.

Schindler’s List
Type: Biography, Drama, History
Release Date: 1993
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes
Rating: 97% RT, 8.9/10 IMDb

Another look at WWII through the eyes of Stephen Spielberg, Schindler’s List is told from a different perspective. The true story of Oskar Schindler was unknown to many before the film’s release, and his heroism was brought to light in one of the most heart wrenching and necessary pieces of cinema to ever be produced.

Type: Biography, Drama, History
Release Date: 2004
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Starring: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Corinna Harfouch
Rating: 91% RT, 8.2/10 IMDb

While it may mostly be known for the hilarious meme that it inspired, Downfall is actually an astounding work of German cinema. In another daring move, filmmaker Oliver Hirschbiegel chose to tell the story of the loss of power of one of history’s greatest villains, Adolf Hitler, from within the Nazi regime.

Inglourious Basterds
Type: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Release Date: 2009
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz
Rating: 88% RT, 8.3/10 IMDb

While there will be no fairy godmothers or pumpkin chariots to be found, Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 Inglourious Basterds is for all intents and purposes a (completely fictional) fairytale set in the backdrop of WWII. Assassin soldiers and revenge plots carried out in the most dramatic and satisfying way possible make this worthy of our list.

Type: Drama, Romance
Release Date: 1942
Director: Michael Curtiz
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid
Rating: 97% RT, 8.5/10 IMDb

A bit of a departure from the rest of this war-torn list, Casablanca is the story of a man who protects an ex-girlfriend and her current husband from Nazis in 1941-era Morocco.

The Dirty Dozen
Type: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Release Date: 1967
Director: Robert Aldrich
Starring: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson
Rating: 91%, 7.8/10 IMDb

The Dirty Dozen is a movie that never gets old. Here, Lee Marvin portrays Major Reisman, a troubled soldier who finds one last chance at redemption by training a group of convicts to raid a conclave of Nazi officers.

 Letters from Iwo Jima
Type: Action & Adventure, Drama, History
Release Date: 2006
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara
Rating: 91% RT, 7.9/10 IMDb

One of Clint Eastwood’s best pictures, Letters from Iwo Jima tells the story of the battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of the Japanese. This unusual reversal makes this film one of the more unique, and results in positively stunning filmmaking.

The Thin Red Line
Type: Action & Adventure, Drama, History
Release Date: 1998
Director: Terrence Malick
Starring: Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel
Rating: 80% RT, 7.6/10 IMDb

There is something both lyrical and unsettling about all of Terrence Malick’s work, and that is no different here in 1998’s The Thin Red Line. This film is a surprisingly philosophical look at what it means to live, die, and kill as a soldier in WWII during the battle of Guadalcanal.

Hacksaw Ridge
Type: Action & Adventure, Biography, Drama, History, Romance
Release Date: 2016
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Vince VaughnRating: 86% RT, 8.1/10 IMDb

The true story of a pacifist medic during World War II was bound to be brought to the big screen eventually. With stunning battle sequences and touching and raw performance by Andrew Garfield as the film’s protagonist, Hacksaw Ridge was one of my favorite films of 2016.

Bridge on the River Kwai
Type: Action & Adventure, Drama, History
Release Date: 1957
Director: David Lean
Starring: William Holden, Alex Guinness, Jack Hawkins
Rating: 94% RT, 8.2/10 IMDb

This has always been one of my baby-boomer father’s favorite war movies, and the film still stands the test of time today. The story of English prisoners of war who are tasked with building a bridge to help the Japanese who imprison them is undoubtedly compelling, and really tells the story of a different kind of war.

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