11 Best World War 2 Movies Worth Watching Again in 2017

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Brad Pitt in Fury.

11 Outstanding War Films You'll Love

World War Two is the single most tragic period of human history. Countries burned to the ground, over 60 million lives perished, and a bloody stain was put on humanity’s record. It has provided inspiration to many filmmakers around the world to bring to life the struggle of the human spirit during this arduous and trying time.

11. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film portrays the intense battle for the island of Iwo Jima which took place in 1945. Iwo Jima was one of the costliest Allied victories in the Pacific theatre of war and claimed many lives on both sides.

Victory or death.

Letters from Iwo Jima is filmed from the perspective of the Japanese defenders of the island, and presents a companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers, which covers the American offensive. Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) arrives to the island in anticipation of the upcoming battle, and from that moment his fate is intertwined with that of Private First Class Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya). The film excels at picturing the warrior mentality and pride of the Japanese soldiers, their undying loyalty to the Emperor and willingness to sacrifice themselves for a greater cause.  

10. Schindler's List (1993)

Herr Direktor, Oskar Schindler. 

Poland has just fallen to the Nazis and the local Polish Jews are being forced into the Krakow Ghetto. Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German businessman and member of the Nazi party, arrives to Krakow and obtains a factory in which he plans to produce enamelware. After witnessing the terrible treatment the Jews of Krakow receive at the hands of the Nazi regime, he sets into motion his ingenious plan to rescue as many people as he can from their death.

Fittingly shot in black and white with just a couple of moments of color, the bleakness and uncertainty of life under Nazi occupation and all the horrors that were performed grip the viewer and deliver a powerful emotional punch. The movie went on to win 7 Oscars and is still one of the best Holocaust movies today.

9. Enemy at the Gates (2001)

Vasili Zaytsev (Jude Law), a shepherd from the Urals joins the Red Army and on the front lines of the Battle of Stalingrad, which would be the turning point of Operation Barbarossa and the beginning of the end of World War 2.  He quickly rises through the ranks of the Red Army and soon becomes a hero to the Soviets and a celebrated sniper.

Vasili Zaytsev, a legend of the Red Army.

A German officer by the name of  Major Erwin König (Ed Harris) arrives to Stalingrad in an attempt to kill Vasili and put an end to his rampage which had begun to affect the morale of the Germans throughout the front. The two skilled marksmen engage in a dangerous game of cat and mouse throughout the war-torn city.

8. Inglorious Basterds (2009)

At times absurd, funny and a bit surreal, Inglorious Basterds takes place in Nazi-occupied France, where the screening of a propaganda movie gathers the political leaders of Nazi Germany.  Two assasination attempts are planned. One by Shoshanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), a young French-Jewish cinema proprietor who barely escaped notorious Jew hunter Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) after he killed her entire family.

The second plan is devised by a group of Jewish-American soldiers led by Lieutenant Aldo "The Apache" Raine (Brad Pitt), who have become feared by the Nazi army for their habit of killing and scalping captured soldiers.

One hundred Nazi scalps!

One of Quentin Tarantino’s most famous movies, Inglorious Basterds is rich with incredible cinematography, brutal action scenes and comedic undertones which are all things Tarantino does best. 

7. Downfall (2004)

The year is 1945. Nazi Germany is about to collapse as the Americans and Soviets race for Berlin. In Hitler’s secret underground bunker, his house of cards is collapsing. Commanding little more than a few regiments, most of which only exist on paper, he is still under the delusion that he will prevail.

A brooding Hitler comes to terms with his failure.

 As the Allies close the ring around Berlin, the atmosphere in the bunker is desperate, to say the least. The people inside of it, Hitler’s highest ranking men included, must now come to the terms that their idea of a thousand-year German Reich is now just that, an idea. The film manages to brilliantly capture the fear, panic and dread of living in Berlin at the very end of World War 2.

6. Come and See (1985)

Children should never witness a war. It is a futile, horrifying experience that leaves grown men scarred for life, let alone young boys. Little Flyora (Aleksey Kravchenko) however, doesn’t have the slightest problem with it. In fact, we first come upon him digging in the dirt, trying to find a rifle to join the Partisans. His wish is fulfilled as he is taken under the wing of Kosach, leader of a group of them.

Flyora very quickly learns that war is not fun and games, and witnesses the evil and brutality that adults do to each other. Come and See depicts what it’s like to quickly grow up in wartime conditions, deprived of a family’s warmth and everything any developing child needs.

Pillaging Nazi soldiers pose for a picture with Flyora.

5. Thin Red Line (1998)

Starring Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, John Cusack, George Clooney, John Travolta and John C. Reilly. If I haven’t given you enough incentive to watch the movie by now, I don’t know what will.  Thin Red Line follows the plight of Charlie Company, a US Army regiment which is deployed to Guadalcanal as part of an assault on the island.

Charlie company carefully advances through the tall grass.

They are tasked with capturing Hill 210, a well-defended strategic location on the island, a mission which will test their courage, skill and patience. The film discusses themes such as the allout insanity that is dominant during wartime, and the thin line between the individuals that lose themselves to it and the ones that don’t. 

4. The Bridge on The River Kwai (1957)

From the producer of Lawrence of Arabia, Sam Spiegel, comes the epic tale of British prisoners of war captured in 1943 and sent to Burma. They arrive at a work camp, managed by the ruthless Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) who informs them that they are tasked with building a railway bridge on the river Kwai.

Nicholson speaking to Saito.

A stoic Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) at first refuses to build the bridge with his fellow officers and is punished for it, although he later begins to entertain the idea for the sake of keeping his men’s morale high. Another officer, US Navy Commander Shears (William Holden), manages to escape the prison camp, but his higher-ups place him in a commando squad tasked with destroying the very bridge Nicholson is building. Finding a solution to this predicament will turn out more bloody than anyone could have guessed. 

3. The Pianist (2002)

War does not know of anything beautiful. All art is barely worth anything in a world where men are trying to kill each other. The life of Władysław Szpilman (Adrien Brody) is an example of that. A pianist on the Warsaw radio, he finds himself in the middle of Hitler’s attack on Poland.

Szpilman is separated from his family forever.

During his stay in besieged Warsaw, he witnesses the brutality of the Nazi regime, several failed rebellions and experiences first hand the horrifying treatment Jewish people received under occupation. As he struggles to survive, he also attempts to renew his artistic flame which he lost under the heel of oppression and harsh life. 

2. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

D-Day, June 6th 1944. All four of the Ryan brothers are part of the enormous US assault on Normandy, meant to be the beginning of the end of Hitler’s reign in Europe. Three of the four brothers leave their lives in northern France that day. The last living brother, a Private James Ryan, is unnacounted for. A team of soldiers led by Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) is scrambled to find James Ryan and bring him home from the front lines.

Miller leads his squad on Omaha beach.

They will search far and wide for him, but who they find might not be who they were looking for. One of the most well-known World War 2 movies, Saving Private Ryan is all about family. When men find themselves in extraordinary circumstances of war, their fellow soldiers become brothers and fathers until victory or death. 

1. Fury (2015)

Soldiers operating a tank usually grow attached to it, seeing it as an extension of themselves; it is their prison, but also their salvation. Often they give their tanks names, and Fury, the light Sherman is no stranger to this tradition.  The battle-hardened crew led by Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Brad Pitt) is joined by a fresh recruit ex clerk typist Private Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman).

As the tank regiment progresses through Nazi Germany, Norman will have to find the strength to adapt to the “kill or be killed” mentality of war, or he risks putting not only himself, but the soldiers around him in danger as well.

The Fury battles German armor.

All the bravery he picked up along the way will have to shine during the squad’s final test, where they find themselves in an inescapable situation facing overwhelming odds.

All in all, these movies represent World War 2 for what it was – a tragic, bloody conflict which should never have taken place.

If for some reason you’ve ever wanted to take part in a war, please don’t go and start one. Check out these articles instead:

11 Greatest War Games Ever Made

11 Best War Games to Play in 2016

21 Best World War Games on PC

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