Top 10 World War II Movies

Script written by Sean Harris. We haven’t seen another war like it, and hopefully we never will; but it did inspire some fantastic films. In this video, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the top 10 World War II movies. For this list, we’ve looked at all movies focused on any aspect of the Second World War. However, the perspective, theme, or setting can vary. Special thanks to our users jkellis, Hilda van der Heide, haptori, Mike_N_Ike2296, Luke Lanton, Jack Hightston, Alex Fever, Shawn Frary, Tyler Soto, Supermanguy, KiltWearingWarrior, Andrew Warren, Robert Albritton, TheRandomLime, Jason Heilbronner, Oakley.24, wx30th, TylerKienzlen, thesunflowerfield, MrManovar6, Awesome One, lord18100, Boogon123, TeeWhy, Maurizio Antonio Borgese, Quetzal00358, dipanjan, Andrew A. Dennison and Alex St-Ja for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Sean Harris.

Top 10 World War II Movies


We haven’t seen another war like it, and hopefully we never will; but it did inspire some fantastic films. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 World War II movies.

For this list, we’ve looked at all movies focused on any aspect of the Second World War. However, the perspective, theme, or setting can vary.

#10: “Downfall” [aka “Der Untergang”] (2004)

At number 10, it’s the final 10 days of Adolf Hitler’s life. He and his Nazi army are operating from a bunker, and the Allied forces are getting ever closer, penning them in. The claustrophobia is palpable, and though it may not be something we sympathize with, it is something that captures attention from start to finish. Hitler promises to defend Berlin, or realize the movie’s title and face his “Downfall” – it’s history that we all know, and a movie that we all should watch!

#9: “Inglourious Basterds” (2009)

In this alternate history story, Quentin Tarantino creates for us a Jewish retaliation against Nazi Germany that really makes a mark! Brad Pitt is Aldo Raine, the leader of this vengeful bunch, a collector of Nazi scalps – and a man who’s very handy with a pocketknife! Stylized in a typically Tarantino way, this movie recaptures the World War II era, and remains faithful to it. It’s a ‘fiery’ film, that’s packed with hate – but we love it, unrealistic as it may be!

#8: “Patton” (1970)

As patriotic a biopic as you’ll ever likely see, this movie retells the story of the American General George S. Patton. A major player in World War II, Patton was an ace in the hand for the American troops. His outspokenness was often controversial, but his value on the battlefield was undeniable. Rod Steiger turned down the part of Patton, allowing George C. Scott to step into his big boots – it turned out to be a career-defining role in an Oscar winning movie!

#7: “The Pianist” (2002)

Władysław Szpilman’s is a World War II story so personal, and so painful, it has the modern day audiences reminding themselves that it wasn’t a one-off… That the real-life Szpilman was one of a huge number. We follow the Polish-Jewish musician as he flees from hiding place to hiding place, from labor camp to labor camp. He’s a gifted pianist, but fear prevents him from playing. In moments when music is heard, though, it’s beautiful, but also chilling – much like this movie!

#6: “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957)

When Burmese railroad construction reaches the shores of the River Kwai, the responsibility for bridge building is given to Japanese Colonel Saito. He promptly passes the labor onto a group of captured British soldiers – and what follows is a strange, cyclical tale of individual pride and national patriotism. The British build the bridge as testament to their ability, the Japanese need it to aid their logistics – and for some, the bridge is entirely, unquestionably, unwanted.

#5: “The Great Escape” (1963)

When the Nazis captured this batch of POWs, they didn’t know the trouble they had let themselves in for! Steve McQueen as Captain Hilts leads an escape attempt from within an “inescapable” camp, bringing together a quite unique resistance movement. A movie that’s remembered for all of the little things as well, we’ve all tried to mimic McQueen’s baseball-against-the-wall trick, and everyone’s absent-mindedly hummed the theme tune at some point in their lives… see, you’re doing it now!

#4: “Casablanca” (1942)

Consistently ranked amongst the greatest movies of all time, “Casablanca” has quite rightly made it into the top half of our Second World War showdown. It sees Humphrey Bogart perform for the first time as romantic lead, and Ingrid Bergman as the object of his affections. Set in Northern Africa, in the Moroccan city of its title, it’s a conflict between “love and virtue.” It’s an exercise in doing the right thing, with WWII as its backdrop – and for us, the “right thing” is making time to watch this movie!

#3: “Das Boot” (1981)

“Das Boot,” or “The Boat,” is as concerned with life in between battles as it is concerned by the experience during them. Much of “Das Boot” is a representation of the chronic tedium that sea-faring soldiers felt. The cabin fever is infectious; and as the submarine sinks lower, the pressure rises, in more ways than one! The battle scenes are brutal, the boredom scenes are bleak – as the German tagline claims, it’s ‘what war is all about’!

#2: “Schindler’s List” (1993)

It’s a directorial master class, that doesn’t shy away from a grueling story; it’s multi-award winning, and deservedly so. Steven Spielberg had initially been unsure if he could make a movie about the Holocaust, but “Schindler’s List” is proof that he most definitely can! Liam Neeson plays real-life German businessman Oskar Schindler in this modern-meets-classic, black-and-white film. Schindler had arrived in Krakow looking to make money, but he soon turns his attention to saving lives by sheltering Jews from the Nazis. His story’s inspirational; and the movie’s iconic!

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “The Thin Red Line” (1998)
- “The Dirty Dozen” (1967)
- “Life is Beautiful” (1997)
- “Grave of the Fireflies” (1988)
- “Letters from Iwo Jima” (2006)

#1: “Saving Private Ryan” (1998)

Gold and silver go to Spielberg! The first half hour of our top-ranked film is probably one of the greatest pieces of modern cinema. It’s awful, it’s atmospheric, it’s unrivalled. The following 2 hours are equally enthralling, emotional and epic. As Tom Hanks and his squad travel overland, and through all sorts of danger, they do so with one man in their sights; Private Ryan. A seemingly mini-mission in a great, grand battle, their story is a reminder of the sheer scale and significance of World War II.

Do you agree with our list? Which Second World War classic did we miss? For more historic Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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