My Top World War Two Flicks-
I have viewed 531 war films. This is my rank of the top ten for the Second World War. The list of films will continue to grow and this list can and will change as I continue to add to my number of films I have seen. I have ranked them as my favorite with regard to entertainment and historical value in cinema. All films listed have been certified as in the “war” genre by the Letterboxd site. This list is only one man’s opinion and nothing more. I have rated each film as a five star flick out of five stars on my Letterboxd review site.
A Bridge Too Far 1977 Directed by Richard Attenborough
Stands the test of time and I consider it one of the finest war/military films ever made. Historically correct, there is nothing not to like. Argue with me as of the length but if you are a war film buff, the length is just another strong point. The director used his actors in various set pieces and they all work. The battle sequences are thrilling and bring the war to you in a way that you believe you are there.
Letters from Iwo Jima 2006 Directed by Clint Eastwood
Eastwood has made his best war film in this look at the Japanese on Iwo Jima during World War II. A stronger film than the “Flags of Their Fathers” flick that were shot at the same time. Humanity of the Japanese soldier is profiled from the Nippon generals down to the grunts. Eastwood does not miss much here, allowing the film to focus on the Japanese soldiers and their thoughts through letters never got delivered to their loved ones. The Japanese warrior was a more complex individual than the American soldier and had to deal with hundreds of years of Imperial war brainwash. The acting is first rate, the battle action also. On my third viewing my feelings for this movie continue to escalate. Have the DVD. Former review: Eastwood’s direction of the Japanese side of the battle of Iwo Jima. A set piece on an island which is also a character in the movie with it’s sister film (shot together) A compelling film that shows that the Japanese were not only brave fighters, but also had the same human qualities as the Americans that fought this terrible fight for the island. Sure, the Japanese warriors were ruthless and such, but in war, as William T. Sherman said, “war is hell”.
Schindler’s List 1993 Directed by Steven Spielberg
The director’s masterpiece film. One of the greatest flicks ever made. With the Russian movie “Come and See”, the most intelligent look at WW2 and the Third Reich. This flick shows the evils of man and how bad the human condition can get as they kill other human beings. With the Nazi’s, it was a brutal world of death. The director shows it with the viewer in mind. He does not give you so much that you cannot take it.
Casablanca 1942 Directed by Michael Curtiz
One of the greatest drama flicks in cinematic history. Performances are as good as it gets. Screenplay has more than one memorable lines. Not an action war film, it is a love story set in a time and place we can only imagine. Bogart’s best film.
The Thin Red Line 1998 Directed by Terrence Malick
Along with Saving Private Ryan, the one of the two best war films of the decade. Malick does something that most directors have trouble doing, that is, making a film that you cannot compare with in time and place with another film. An art film that deals with war. The violence is present, the emotions are displayed, and the look of the battlefield is spot on. Nature can be an observer of human actions as Malick shows the viewer. A film that continues to grow on me.
Dunkirk 2017 Directed by Christopher Nolan
Best war film since Saving Private Ryan, but is more than just a war flick. As director Nolan has stated, more of a rescue and suspense film that anything else. See it on a big a screen as possible…IMAX was amazing. Tom Hardy was amazing. For film lovers, a flick for those that have a fucking brain. I was into this one in the first scene in the town as the soldier enters the beach.
Das Boot 1981 Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
(Director’s Cut) A five star film by Petersen. Not only one of the best films in cinema, the most intense submarine film ever made and one of the most realistic war pictures to boot. Started out as a German TV mini-series and has been cut various ways with various run times. I prefer the director’s cut. A near perfect, somewhat mundane film on and under the high seas of the North Atlantic during the second World War. Peterson puts you on a U-boat tour that displays the routine day-to-day work from all aboard, while preparing for battle which can happen on the surface as well as trying to sink Allied shipping while sneaking around a hundred meters down. A thinking man’s war picture that deals with the lives of men in jobs that the survival rate is almost nil. Peterson has allowed his actors to be nondescript in this one, no matter if the “named” lead, Jurgen Prochnow is well known not only in Germany but in America. The excitement of U-96 crashing along the waves as it skirts the ocean is as good as it gets. And no, these German submariners were not NAZIS. They were just like any other combatant in war. They had a job to do and staying alive was secondary to their mission. Right off, before the opening credits, the sound score you will hear is immaculate and going to be throughout. Klaus Doldinger knows his sound. He was finally honored for his work here 25 years later. An Oscar winner he should have been for this film. With 3 out of 4 U-Boats never returning to port during the war, the beginning of the film shows the debauchery of the men as they prepare for the seas with a total lack of civility. Peterson is spot on here, as the dangerous job of sub crewman, from the captain to the lowest sailor is never forgotten when in port. Get your fun when you can because it is probably the last time you will enjoy drink, smoke, and a woman. As the men prepare to leave port, the love of their leader, their country, and their job is ever displayed. These sailors are well trained and well versed in military procedure. That tight fit will be challenged in every voyage and this is the point of the film. Being on a U-boat is for a tough man as the various issues of being quartered with other men in cramped quarters for a long period of time can be and is not a perfect existence. Peterson has made a film every bit as intricate as Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. The men’s humor while on board the boat is crafted with a masters touch. Have the blue ray of the Director’s Cut.
Come and See 1985 ‘Иди и смотри’ Directed by Elem Klimov
I like war movies. I have seen most of them and have the DVD copy of most of the top 100 rated and many more that are not considered that great. Two years ago I selected a film on Netflix with the title Come and See (1985) by the Russian director Elem Klimov (1933-2003). The visual experience on a TV screen in standard definition (the DVD was not in high def) was nothing to write home about. The emotional experience was equal to films such as Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. You will never forget this film if you view it. And please don’t ever think this world is devoid of a God. To have evil so vile on earth God must exist to counter balance it.
A review by Rob Halpin from London, England sums it up: Come and See , well if you hate violence and brutality then you certainly wont want to see this. This Picture set in 1943 occupied Byelorussia is most probably the most true to life war movie ever, only Saving Private Ryan and Schindlers List can come close. What is amazing in this picture , is how the director uses a child’s perspective and view in circumstances that you can only describe as evil. The director pulls no punches in how bad times actually were for peasents and partisans alike as German and collaborators show the viewer how low and depraved a fascist military machine actually is.
I dont want to go into the plot , as this film is a MUST for anyone who considers themselves a film buff. Disturbing and terrifying scenes do not in anyway spoil the flow of the film , but when viewing this film , please desist from seeing this movie in the early evening , as you wont sleep.
The acting accolades of course goes to the main characters , but I wish to give a special mention for the Russian Partisan Commander , who was just simply , superb. Everything about him was what you’d expect a Red Army Officer to be. The looks , the attitude and the steely determination is simply a credit to the actor. The best scene involving the Red Army Commander was when they had captured an Einsatgruppen Unit , and the SS soldier , who knew they were facing death was allowed to speak , after there own Commanding Officer was pleading pitifully for his own life. The SS soldier tells his captors that they are sub-human and that there peasent belief in Marxism was grounds enough that they should be eradicated. The Red Army Commander then in just a few words tells his men , that they are not just fighting for Socialism , but also the right to exist.What happens after…well you’ll have to see.
Come and See is nothing short of disturbing, awesome, powerful and brutal. This is the best film I have ever seen regarding films portraying the Eastern Front 1941-1945 war. This film should be engraved in gold as the standard for any budding war film director. Only Saving Private Ryan and Schindlers List can be put in the same League table.
Reviewer Vlad B sums it up: The title, “Come and See”, taken from the frequently repeating lines of the book of Revelation, clearly dares the audience to assume the role of St. John, witnessing the Apocalypse, or rather one of the darkest periods in the history of humankind. What we are assaulted with, plays somewhat like a demented version of “Modern Times” transpiring across the panel of Brueghel’s “Trimuph of Death”, if such a combination is possible. The camera is consistently filtered through a murky, slightly unfocused gaze, and the sound is often heard through shellshocked ears. This tends to eirly distance the events, yet make them even more frightening and unsettling. Much of the dialogue lacks specific meaning or even concrete sentences – it is replaced by subhuman growling, wailing and other spine-chilling, gluttural sounds of the war. What the director prepares is something Spielberg would never even dream of – no sign of compromise with the audience.
Come an See is one of the most significant movies I have ever seen. Great movie by a great director.
The Best Years of Our Lives 1946 Directed by William Wyler
One of my all time favorite movies…..nothing to say except that it is a perfect film depicting the homecoming of US service men after WW 2. Always fresh Frederic March won the best acting Oscar and Russell the supporting award and a special Oscar, making the only actor to win two for the same role. Best Dana Andrews acting in his career.
Saving Private Ryan 1998 Directed by Steven Spielberg
Greatest war film this side of “Lawrence of Arabia”. War is hell as the old Sherman quote goes and this flick expounds on this as each death is individualized and not just war porn. Not for the weak stomach nor the bloody anti-war crowd. I thank God my Dad, a medic in the European theater of war for the United State’s army did not have to see this film. He would have understood it and would have brought back memories that needed to remain hidden. The opening invasion on Omaha Beach and the final battle in the town are the two greatest war scenes in the history of cinema in my opinion.
Notes: The series BAND OF BROTHERS AND THE PACIFIC were not included as they were not stand alone movies.