View Full Version : Greatest WW1 and WW2 War Films

Dylan Couper
November 11th, 2004, 11:29 PM
Obviously in honour of the day:

Greatest war films, not in terms of action, but in terms of the emotions and point of view they convey...

Saving Private Ryan is probably going to come up the winner, but my nomination is Hope And Glory.

Cannon Pearson
November 12th, 2004, 06:04 AM
"Paths of Glory" gets my WWI vote.

It may be the easy choice but I think that "Saving Private Ryan" would get my WWII vote, even though I thought that the beginning and the end were a little sappy.

I think that the realism of the action in SPR is what makes it emotionly affecting. You begin to really get a sense of what the soldiers were going through, that doesn't really come through in a lot of films. My grandfather fought in WWII and I was amazed to see all of the things that he used to tell stories about up on the big screen.

K. Forman
November 12th, 2004, 07:52 AM
I don't really get into the War genre of movies... Having said that, my vote goes to The Great Escape, or Stalag 13.

Imran Zaidi
November 12th, 2004, 08:19 AM
Well it's not exactly a bang-bang kind of movie, but I think The Thin Red Line really captured me because it was so incredibly personal. What's always interested me about war is what's going on in the heads of those that are there, not so much the explosions and rapid fire. And as a filmmaker I love the fact that Terence Malick tossed the idea of a standard war film out of the window and went headlong into something totally different.

One of the things that really stand out for me is how there'd be the occasional cameo, and shortly thereafter, those celebrities would die right alongside everyone else. It really took a step beyond the borders of the film and impressed the point personally to us that all die. Regardless of stature - all die.

But granted, Saving Private Ryan was an amazing technical achievement, and I don't recall ever seeing old veterans sobbing in the theater after the film ends before I saw this movie. It obvously touched a nerve.

Jeff Patnaude
November 12th, 2004, 08:39 AM
I think for a WWI movie (and because I'm a pilot maybe) I'd have to say "The Blue Max."

WWII - "Battle For Britain." Aerial photography was done by the James Bond crew-- highly underated. Probably Impossible to do today.

"Saving Prvt Ryan" is one of the best done.

Jeff P

John Sandel
November 12th, 2004, 10:23 AM
Boy, WWI ... I'd have to go with "Paths of Glory."

For a WWII movie, there are so many that were made by the victors, I'd nominate something by the vanquished: "Fires on the Plain (1959), directed by Kon Ichikawa. It's one of the most harrowing depiction of battlefield suffering I've ever seen.


Dan Uneken
November 12th, 2004, 11:53 AM
I: Paths of Glory

II: Band of Brothers

Yi Fong Yu
November 12th, 2004, 12:22 PM
all quiet on western front. i think it won '33 oscars?

John Hudson
November 12th, 2004, 03:37 PM
Good question and my favorites are (In no particular order):

Saving Private Ryan
Band Of Brothers
The Big Red One

Taking emotion and point of view out of play I also love:

The Great Escape
The Bridge on the River Kwai
The Dirty Dozen
Empire of the Sun
Force Ten From Navarone

Robert Mann Z.
November 12th, 2004, 04:40 PM
GALLIPOLI ... a great movie...

not a lot of folks liked;

'thin red line'

but that is one of my favorite movies period

war from another point of view... i really liked two hbo movies

"Conspiracy" and "The Gathering Storm"

Dylan Couper
November 12th, 2004, 04:45 PM
No one has mentionned Pearl Harbour yet.... <g>

Mathieu Ghekiere
November 12th, 2004, 05:16 PM
Although Spielberg describes it's more as a Holocaust movie, and Saving Private Ryan was his first 'real' war movie, I still think Schindler's List is one bang of a movie to.
(Especially the cinematography!!!)

Keith Loh
November 12th, 2004, 06:23 PM
Saving Private Ryan

But for content I prefer:
Paths of Glory

Best flying movie:
The Blue Max

There are a bunch I like from different eras and places.

Zulu, Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Last of the Mohicans, Ran, Kagemusha, Waterloo, Spartacus, Glory, Das Boot, The Beast.

Technically, I thought that "Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World" was the best Age of Sail movie ever made. But now a year later, I don't feel anything for that movie.

Keith Loh
November 12th, 2004, 06:25 PM
<<<-- Originally posted by Dylan Couper : No one has mentionned Pearl Harbour yet.... <g> -->>>

Have you seen "Team America: World Police" yet, Dylan?

Keith Loh
November 12th, 2004, 06:33 PM
Sometimes the best way to criticize a phenomenon is to make fun of it.

The first half of "Full Metal Jacket" was superb for this.

"Paths of Glory" has some great moments of satire, especially in the exchanges between Col. Dax and his superiors.

"M*A*S*H" the movie and "Catch-22" were good.

Recently "Three Kings" caught the element of absurdity.

But the all time war satire is Kubrick's "Doctor Strangelove".

I wonder if today's audiences are sophisticated enough to deal with these kinds of satirical jabs. In today's war climate maybe it would be seen as unpatriotic.

Robert Mann Z.
November 12th, 2004, 06:49 PM
Keith ,

i think the topic was ww1 ww2 movies, with that said i think vietnam has inspired a lot of great films...

Dylan Couper
November 13th, 2004, 12:47 AM
Doh, how could I forget Das Boot! My all time favorite war movie!

Keith, haven't seen Team America yet, I think I'll wait until video though.

And yes, we're talking only WW1 and WW2 films.

Keith Loh
November 14th, 2004, 01:16 PM
Oops. I totally missed the thread title. Apologies everyone.

Rob Lohman
November 15th, 2004, 09:46 AM
I haven't seen much yet but thought Band of Brothers and
Enemy at the Gates where nice. Still need to see some of the
big ones like saving private ryan and such.

Jeff Patnaude
November 15th, 2004, 10:18 AM
I guess I love just about all of the movies you mentioned.

Rob Mentioned "enemy At The Gate," which was a great movie from the Soviet point of view.
I have to admit to a guilty pleasure- I bought the game "Call Of Duty" and it's amazing. There is a recreation of the scene from "Enemy at The Gate" where you are on a boat with other soviets, one gets a gun- one gets ammo.. very cinematic and visulally more realistic than anything I've seen in game-world before.

George Ellis
November 15th, 2004, 10:22 AM
I cannot believe that no one has mentioned Sargent York yet. Jeez. :)

Keith Loh
November 15th, 2004, 11:01 AM
Jeff, "Call of Duty" liberally takes from almost all of the good WWII films and shows, doesn't it?

Jeff Patnaude
November 15th, 2004, 01:44 PM
{Jeff, "Call of Duty" liberally takes from almost all of the good WWII films and shows, doesn't it?}

Yes, I'd say it does take from a lot of different war movies. A couple of times I had a motar round go off rather close, and I experienced the "Saving Private Ryan- Effect", where everything slowed down, blurred, and the audio muted frequencies.

A couple of the scenerios look to be straight from "Band Of Brothers"- such as the the action destroying the German cannons (name?) through the trenches that were pounding Omaha Beach. Also the Dutch city of Carentan was eerily similar.

I can't liken any of the British segments to films yet. Sorry.

Jeff P.

Keith Loh
November 15th, 2004, 03:13 PM
The expansion title also takes more from Band of Brothers. Like that attack on the town near Bastonge with the haystacks.

Joe Carney
November 17th, 2004, 03:00 PM
WWI? J'ACUSE, a french film made with actual soldiers that indicted much of the French leadership. Actually shot during the war either right at or just before the French Army muntinied.
Almost all the soldiers who played the ghosts later died in combat. creepy.
Sgt York.
Have seen paths to Glory, though I recently bought the DVD.

The Longest Day. Movie about D-Day. Even without the cussing and gore a better movie than Private Ryan IMHO. But I do like Saving Private Ryan just the same.

Catch 22. A WWI movie that was really more about modern late 60s america than WW2.
The Best Days of our Lives.
Dealt with the aftermath, when the GIs came home and tried to reintegrate into society. Many right wing types in Hollywood tried to get this one banned as unamercian. Wasn't unAmerican, just honest.

Michael Sinclair
November 17th, 2004, 04:04 PM
The dialogue is pretty funny.

Keith Loh
November 17th, 2004, 04:22 PM
<<<-- Originally posted by Joe Carney : WWI? J'ACUSE, a french film made with actual soldiers that indicted much of the French leadership. Actually shot during the war either right at or just before the French Army muntinied.
Almost all the soldiers who played the ghosts later died in combat. creepy.

Your post reminded me of Le Grand Illusion, Jean Renoir's film which is a classic film period. For those who haven't seen it, it's a film about French POWs in WWI who have been imprisoned in a mountain top castle. Among them is an officer with aristocratic origins. The German commandant also is an aristocrat and he tries to bring the French officer on-side by appealing to their shared backgrounds (during peacetime they might have been colleagues or familiars). But the French officer refuses (even though they clearly are friends) and participates in an escape attempt with his fellow prisoners. What I like about this film is that it shows that people on all levels are humans although they are enemies or have differences. There is a conflict between not just the enemies but also between the men from different backgrounds. One of them is a Jew, one is working class and then there are the aristocrats.

Gints Klimanis
November 17th, 2004, 05:22 PM
Wow, a lot of good suggestions for war movies.

For WWII, I really liked the movie "Midnight Clear" with Ethan Hawke and Gary Sinise. It was more personal than the large scale attacks in the other movies.

Another awesome movie of the Soviet/Afghan invasion is "The Beast", with generous mood contributions by to the soundtrack by one of my favorite artists, Mark Isham. The movie stars Jason Patric and Georg Dundza, and even includes, chuckle, a Baldwin brother, Stephen Baldwin. Beautiful imagery insterspersed with thrilling action and tragedy.

Shawn Mielke
November 17th, 2004, 09:30 PM
The Thin Red Line !!!!

Imran, I agree and identify with your take on this film and war films in general. Mallick is, well, we are very lucky to have him with us.

Johnny Got His Gun was very important to me in my younger youth (I am only 28, after all). (wwi) Especially the book, but the film too.

I recently watched a slough of Nazi Germany related documentaries (thank you, Netflix). Several stood out, to be sure, but one called

Architecture of Doom

really gets into the head of Hitler and the party and therefore the war, or a portion of it. Amazing. If anyone is interested in other Nazi Germany docs, I'll rattle off a bit of a list of goodies.

Keith Loh
November 18th, 2004, 12:28 AM
The Wansee Konferenz - this is a film presented in 'real time', a docu-drama about the conference where various Nazi party officials, military and SS people determined on the disposition of the Jewish population. Chilling but great performances. In German.

Along the same vein, Mephisto, starring Klaus Maria Brandauer about a stage actor who gains the support of the Nazi party at the cost of his friendships and the lives of the people he is supposed to protect is wonderful. Also in German.

A rather strange but pretty interesting film is Aneigska Holland's Europa, Europa about a Jewish boy who tries to hide his true heritage by attending a school for Hitler Youth. This is only the start of his misadventures as he ends up fighting against the Russians and then for them. I forget what happens at the end.

I have a lasting affection also for Lars Von Trier's Zentropa, the post-war film about an American of German heritage who goes to post-war Germany to work as a sleeping car conductor but then becomes wrapped up in an anti-occupation insurgent group called the Werewolves. Very interesting production design with lots of rear projection and experimental digital and photographic effects.

Again in the fantastic mode, Map of the Human Heart is about a Canadian Inuit who eventually (after again lots of twists and turns) becomes a bombardier in WWII. Starring Jason Scott Lee and Patrick Bergin.

Speaking of bombardiers, doesn't anyone like Memphis Belle? It's only the best depiction of the big bomber battles on celluloid.

Yi Fong Yu
November 18th, 2004, 01:41 PM
i'll be catching la grand illusion soon, keith, have you seen the other renoir films?

Keith Loh
November 18th, 2004, 03:48 PM
No I haven't had that complete a film education. Especially with the French directors.

Matthew Kennedy
November 18th, 2004, 06:25 PM
Although it may not be a narrative film about fighting and planes and bombs, it's still WWII material:

Nuit et Brouillard
(night and fog)

I personally think it is 32 of the most powerfull minutes on film.

Eric Emerick
November 18th, 2004, 10:39 PM
You have all named many fine films, but, under the heading of American War Movie, I have to go with Patton, and The Deer Hunter, the latter of which i just enjoyed again on DVD. It is truly an amazing film, maybe not even a "war" movie, as the actual screen time for war violence is minimal. But no one can forget the russian roulette scene on the river. As for Patton, well, George c. Scott was fantastic, even if he wouldn't accept the Oscar.

Eric Emerick
November 18th, 2004, 10:42 PM
Oh, and on the lighter side ( if there is such a thing ), Kelly's Hero's never fails to entertain me.

Jeff Patnaude
November 19th, 2004, 11:51 AM
Just saw "Tora Tora Tora" again on TV. What the heck were the makers of "Pearl Harbor" thinking. Oh yeah- money. "Tora Tora Tora" is a way better movie- IMHO.

Jeff P

Keith Loh
November 19th, 2004, 12:49 PM
Not quite WWII or WWI movies for the first two:

THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER - This is one of the great flying movies about an American pilot played by Robert Redford who missed his chance at being a WWI flying ace and now makes his living as a barnstormer. After a tragic accident he loses himself in the midwest until he is recruited to be a stunt pilot for a film about a famous duel between two aces, an event he wishes he had taken part in. On the set he discovers that the real life German ace will be flying the opposite stunt plane (though he is being played by a younger, handsomer actor). This sets up the confrontation he had always dreamed about.

THE THIRD MAN - The classic post-war Carol Reed movie about a writer in post-war Vienna who becomes wrapped up in a search for his supposedly dead friend, a notorious black marketeer sought by the British authorities. One of the top films ever with a memorable end chase. Starring Orson Welles.

Orson Welles is in another sort of spy thriller called THE STRANGER. He plays an escaped Nazi who is hiding out in a small town as a teacher. Edward G. Robinson is the federal agent who is trying to sniff him out. The ending is a really wonderful almost Hitchockian setup. Welles directed this one.

This year THE BIG RED ONE was re-released after being restored as per Sam Fuller's script. It was written up in Film Comment but I never got a chance to see it (maybe it didn't come to Vancouver). I only remember it when I saw it as a teenager. Did anyone see the restored version? The film follows one unit of Americans from North Africa to the Italian campaign to the end of the war. There is also an interesting sublot involving a 'shadow' unit of Germans they keep tangling with.

No one also has mentioned Sam Peckinpah's brutal CROSS OF IRON which is about a veteran unit of German infantry who are fighting on the Eastern Front. It stars Lee Marvin as the cynical leader Steiner who has to help his men survive even as they are sent on suicidal missions by their superior played by Maximillian Schell.

Another overlooked WWII movie is THE BRIDGE AT REMAGEN, about the true battle for one of the last standing bridges over the Rhine which is protected by fanatical (though they are depicted as human) Hitler Youth and Volkskorp (third rate) soldiers. Both sides alternately try to save and blow up the bridge which becomes a symbol of futility.

Not as well made, though starring an assortment of stars was A BRIDGE TOO FAR based upon the Cornelius Ryan non-fiction book. I've read the book and it has an energy and flavour entirely missing from the film which nevertheless is full of good actors from Anthony Hopkins, Liv Ullman, Robert Redford, Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, Michael Caine and lots more I've forgotten. Although it was shot on location and uses lots of hardware, it pales in comparison in its depiction of urban warfare to Saving Private Ryan with a lack of gore and other realism that modern audiences expect. It also does not compare very well to the The Longest Day which is also based upon a Cornelius Ryan account.

Less well-known than Operation Market Garden is the story of a joint Canadian-American unit called THE DEVIL'S BRIGADE starring William Holden. It is the account of the precursor to today's special forces, the First Special Service Force, made up of mountaineers, lumberjacks, hard rock minors and other hard men recruited from all over North America to fight on mountain peaks and rugged terrain. I've read oral histories about these guys and they were tough. The movie "The Devil's Brigade" is all right - I don't really remember it that well. But it's a story worth telling because of its little known history. The real unit eventually earned the name "The Black Devils" from the Germans because they were the first large unit who trained to fight at night, often hand-to-hand. Although they were always outnumbered, they made up for it by patrolling aggressively and always keeping the enemy off-balance.

TOO LATE THE HERO is a zesty and surprisingly humane adventure starring Michael Caine who plays a British soldier on a Pacific Island split in two by Japanese and allied forces. Caine and an American played by Cliff Robertson realize that a passing convoy will come under attack by the Japanese and have to traverse the length of the island in order to destroy a Japanese communications station. I say humane because although the action is in close and brutal, it also questions the inhumanity of warfare. They question taking prisoners, the length to which they will go to complete the mission.