9 Classic Movies that Depict World War II

Guest blog by film enthusiast Craig Hunter.

World War II impacted people around the world, making an indelible mark in history. It inspired a long list of popular movies revolving around this pivotal moment in time. Many of these classic movies have both thrilled and educated movie enthusiasts, including films produced while the war was underway, shortly after it ended, and in recent years.

Most recently, World War II came back into the spotlight with the release of Oppenheimer. While you may have already seen this film in the theaters, many others take us back to those times. Here’s a list of WWII films that can’t be missed.

Get Ready to Settle in for Come and See

Soviet director Elem Klimov portrays the horrors of World War II in a raw and realistic manner with the 1985 film Come and See. When Hitler’s army invades Byelorussia, a young boy Florya (played by Aleksey Kravchenko) moves to the forest to join the Resistance Movement. He dreams of adventure and heroism in the process of fighting for his homeland. Instead, he is introduced to utter brutality and carnage.

Klimov’s use of intense camera work and sound make the movie something you will not be able to erase from your memory even days after watching it. You can catch this movie on The Criterion Channel.

Take a Break from the Present with The Great Escape

Steve McQueen shines in The Great Escape directed by John Sturges. Its star-studded cast includes Charles Bronson, James Garner, James Coburn, and Richard Attenborough. It is based on a non-fiction novel that revolved around an actual escape of soldiers from the Commonwealth of Great Britain from a Nazi war camp in Germany.

While creative liberties were taken for the film version of this historic event, it will take viewers on a great edge-of-your-seat ride.

Stream “The Great Escape” on DIRECTV STREAM, Tubi, Pluto, and Amazon Prime.

Marvel at the Heroism in Schindler’s List

Schindler’s List, directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, is a highly-acclaimed film that portrays real-life hero, Oskar Schindler. Schindler saved over one thousand Jewish people who would have been victims of the Holocaust. Schindler is a businessman who belongs to the Nazi Party. He comes to Krakow, Poland to increase his profits with a factory.

Schindler employs Jewish workers and eventually sympathizes with them when he learns of the Nazis’ intentions to exterminate them. Through his heroic efforts, over 1000 workers are spared a horrible fate in the concentration camps. One man’s determination to do what is morally right in the face of adversity is a shining example of the power of kindness in dark times.

Watch this classic Holocaust film on Apple TV, Vudu, Peacock, and Amazon Prime Video.

Become a Part of a Valiant Rescue Effort in Saving Private Ryan

Steven Spielberg comes through again in the director’s chair with Saving Private Ryan. Tom Hanks plays a captain who is charged with the mission of finding Private Ryan, portrayed by Matt Damon. Ryan’s family has lost three other sons. The general of the army orders Hanks to take a group that includes Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Vin Diesel and others to bring home the Ryans’ sole surviving son. They make a heroic effort to find the proverbial needle in a haystack as they face near insurmountable odds to find one man in a tumultuous time.

This film is streaming on Apple TV, Vudu, and Amazon Prime Video.

See the War Through a Child’s Eyes in Empire of the Sun

Steven Spielberg brings viewers back to World War II as he directs Empire of the Sun a film that is based on the true story of a child who becomes a Japanese prisoner of war. Viewers see Christian Bale’s debut as he plays a British boy who lives with his family in Shanghai only to be separated from his parents. He becomes easy prey for the Japanese invading China. Other notable actors include Ben Stiller, John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson, Nigel Havers, and Masato Ibu.

Empire of the Sun is available on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and Vudu.

Experience the Plight of a Jewish-Polish Musician in The Pianist

Roman Polanski, a survivor of the Krakow Ghetto in World War II, directs a film that hits close to home as it offers another view of the Holocaust in The Pianist. Władysław Szpilman, played by Adrien Brody, is a talented musician in Warsaw, Poland. When the Nazis invade, he and his family are confined in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Much worse will happen in this film based on a true story, including the looming threat of extermination camps. Notable actors include Thomas Kretschmann, Ed Stoppard, Emilia Fox, Jessica Kate Meyer, and Frank Finlay. Stream it on Apple TV, Vudu, and Amazon Prime Video.

Add the Epic Patton to Your List of Must-See Movies

Director Franklin J. Schaffner offers viewers a biographical account of one of America’s greatest generals, George S. Patton. George C. Scott plays the role of the general in a movie that follows him through victories and controversies. The cast includes James Edwards, Karl Malden, Carey Loftin, Bill Hickman, and Albert Demortier.

Patton was released during the Vietnam War and was seen to be an anti-war film at the time. It earned several Oscar awards, including Best Actor for Scott. You can stream this movie on Vudu, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video.

Watch Criminals Become Heroes in The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen, directed by Robert Aldrich, gives viewers an intense adventure. An American major for the Office of Strategic Services is given the challenging task of training notorious convicts into highly-skilled soldiers. They are given the mission of helping to disrupt leaders of the German army in order to improve the Allies’ chances on D-Day.

The impressive all-star cast includes Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Telly Savalas, and Charles Bronson. Watch this movie on Max, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video.

Get an Inside View of the Nazi Party in Valkyrie

Bryan Singer directs Valkyrie, a film based on the real-life plot to assassinate Hitler. Officers of the German army band together in an attempt to end the Fuhrer and Chancellor of the Reich’s reign of terror. Tom Cruise portrays a pivotal member of the German resistance, Claus von Stauffenberg.

Watch Valkyrie on Max, Apple TV, Vudu, and Amazon Prime Video.

If you want to understand war and its consequences on mankind, take a journey into some of the best World War II films that have ever been made. You won’t be able to stop at this list as you go down a rabbit hole of films that will leave you searching for more.

Be sure to include a variety of perspectives to gain a better understanding of this crucial period in world history.

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