“The war to end all wars,” that’s how the intensity of WWII is usually summed up, and filmmakers have done a pretty decent job of showing us all sides to this epic conflict. If you’re a fan of WWII classics, how many can you identify from just one image? Take our quiz and find out!
This WWII drama was nominated for an astounding 13 Oscar Awards and went on to win 8 of them. Among the wins was one for Frank Sinatra in the category of Best Supporting Actor. It would be Sinatra’s only Oscar win in his acting career.
Black Book holds the distinction of being the most expensive Dutch film made to date. Thankfully for its investors, it did extremely well at the box office and also holds the title of being the country’s highest grossing film.
This WWII film is set in a Japanese prisoner camp – a departure from the usual settings of either Pearl Harbor or the frontlines in Europe. It is still an engrossing film, as it looks at the pride the prisoners-of-war (POWs) place in building the bridge even though they knew it would, in the end, benefit their enemies.
This WWII film is now widely regarded as a classic of the genre. It starred an ensemble list of actors, one of whom was 29-year-old football great Jim Brown. He was also an accomplished actor at this point, and when given an ultimatum by the Cleveland Browns owner, he chose to retire from football to act in the film.
Roberto Benigni co-wrote, directed and starred in Life is Beautiful and won two Academy Awards for his efforts. His wife, Nicoletta Braschi, was his co-star in the film.
One fact which makes Army of Shadows stand out is that the critically acclaimed film was initially released in France in 1969 but would have to wait almost 40 years (2006) for its release in the United States. Once shown, it was very favorably reviewed by critics with many including it on their Top Ten list of films for that year.
A star-studded roster of actors wasn’t the only thing this classic film had going for it. Critics favorably reviewed its use of a documentary style of filming and the matter-of-fact (but not necessarily gory) way in which it relayed the realities of war.
An impressive cast of actors from both sides of the Atlantic came together in the making of this enduring classic. The film reigned at number 1 in Britain for 14 weeks but still failed to turn a profit, thanks to its large production budget.
British actor Liam Neeson (born in Northern Ireland) received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Oskar Schindler, the title character in this film. Although Leeson did not win, the movie was successful in 7 of the other 11 categories in which it was nominated.
Humphrey Bogart stars as Lt. Cmdr. Philip Francis Queeg in this film, which went on to become a box office and critical success. The film is based on a novel which, in turn, is based on the author’s own experiences during WWII. Bogart was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar but lost to Marlon Brandon.
This film, also known by the title “My Name is Ivan” (especially in the U.S.) was praised for taking a sobering look at the effects of war. The child, Ivan (played by Nikolai Burlyaev) is revealed at the end of the film to have been hanged by the Germans.
Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone top the list of actors in this WWII film, while both Pelé and Bobby Moore lead the list of football stars to make appearances. The presence of the footballers is said to have contributed to Escape to Victory’s commercial success.
Das Boot (German for “The Boat”) is a German maritime war film with the distinction of being the second most expensive film ever made, at the time of its release. The authenticity portrayed in Das Boot has been highly praised and is due, in part, to the meticulous construction of submarine models and replication of the submarines’ interior.
Ice Cold in Alex (a.k.a “Desert Attack” in the U.S.) is a British WWII film which was greeted with several award nominations. The title refers to the plan by stranded soldiers and nurse to make their way to Alexandria, where they will share ice cold beers.
It’s a well-known fact that Casablanca is a love story more than it is about the war – the war being more of a backstory in the entire plot. This timeless classic, however, still makes it onto almost ever list of the best WWII movies ever made. To its credit, there are many extras in the film who were European WWII refugees in real life.
Downfall tells the story of Adolf Hitler’s final 10 days as ruler of Nazi Germany and his death. It is a German language film starring Swiss actor Bruno Ganz as Hitler. Ganz is a veteran of both stage and screen, and has acted is several English speaking films, as well.
For his ruthlessness in orchestrating the Holocaust, Reinhard Heydrich gained the nicknames “The Hangman of Prague,” “The Blond Beast” and “Hangman Heydrich.” The film details the 1942 assassination of Heydrich by the Czech resistance.
Stars Lee Marvin (American) and Toshirō Mifune (Japanese) are the only two characters in the film. They go from being enemies to working together so they can escape the deserted island they are stranded on. Lingering anti-Japanese sentiment after WWII is blamed for the poor box office performance of Hell in the Pacific.
The Thin Red Line was released in the same year as two other acclaimed WWII movies – Life is Beautiful and Saving Private Ryan. It was nominated for 7 Academy Awards (same as Life is Beautiful), whereas Saving Private Ryan got 11 nominations. Those two films won 5 and 3 Oscars, respectively, but The Thin Red Line came up empty-handed.
The Second World War may have ended on September 2, 1945 but, as A Bridge Too Far shows, there was a (failed) attempt by the Allied forces to end it much sooner. The film looks at Operation Market Garden, which lasted for just over a week in September of 1944 and which was meant to capture a strategic bridge in Arnhem, Netherlands.
Grave of the Fireflies is a celebrated Japanese animated war drama based on a 1967 semi-autobiographical short story. The movie has been made over into 2 live-action films (2005 and 2008) but neither was as successful as the original.
Flags of Our Fathers is the companion film to Letters from Iwo Jima, both of which were filmed and released back-to-back. Although Letters from Iwo Jima was the more successful film (critically and financially) Flags of Our Fathers still received some positive reviews and 2 Academy Awards nominations.
An intense fist fight atop a cable car is just one of the many scenes in Where Eagles Dare that had moviegoers gripping the edge of their seats. In that scene, famous British stuntman Alf Joint fills in for actor Richard Burton. A Bridge Too Far and Kelly’s Heroes are two other WWII films Joint worked on in his prolific 30-year career.
The Battle of Stalingrad (1942- 1943) really did happen and the Soviet Union sniper and war hero Vasily Zaytsev really existed. What is much disputed about Enemy at the Gates, however, is whether the epic sniper face-off between Zaytsev and German sniper Major Erwin König really took place. In fact, some say König is entirely fictional.
Actor Christian Bale (known most for American Psycho and The Dark Knight) was only 13 years old when he appeared in a leading role in this Steven Spielberg film. This was only the second film in which Bale apppeared, and his performance was greeted with very positive reviews by critics.
Director Sam Peckinpah was well known for making gritty Westerns, and while Cross of Iron is the only war film he made, it was widely used as inspiration by other filmmakers. Films inspired by it include both the Italian “The Inglorious Bastards” and Quentin Tarantino’s film “Inglourious Basterds.”
This film about North African soldiers fighting for Free France comes with a compelling political message. It shines light on the service those men provided and the disservice done to them by France in withholding their pensions. Following the release of the film, some positive changes were made in this regard.
Quentin Tarantino is both writer and director of the film Inglourious Basterds. The name of the film is based on the Italian film “The Inglorious Bastards” – although the storyline is different. Tarantino has never offered a full explanation for misspelling the words in his film’s title.
The beautiful Italian countryside is the backdrop to this this blatantly realistic look at the war and its effect on those who fought. The film has been hailed as one of the best WWII films ever made, and its style has served as inspiration for dozens of films which followed.
The Eagle Has Landed was released 3 decades after the Second World War had ended and 7 years after humans first walked on the moon. Its title comes for a statement Neil Armstrong made on July 20, 1969 when the first man-made craft, the “Eagle,” landed on the surface of the moon.
This Steven Spielberg drama is based on the American brothers Robert, Preston, Edward and Fritz Niland – who all fought in WWII. After the first three were presumed dead, Fritz was returned to the U.S. It was later discovered that Edward had also survived, having escaped a Japanese prison camp.
The real Memphis Belle bomber on which the film is based is a United States Army Air Forces aircraft. It operated out of England during the Second World War and after 25 successful missions, returned to the U.S. along with its crew. Both plane and crew were then sent on a 31-city tour selling war bonds.
Adrien Brody was 29 years old when he won the Best Actor Academy Award for his lead role in The Pianist. This makes him the youngest person, to date, to walk away with the Best Actor Oscar.
Reach for the Sky is a British war classic starring Kenneth More as veteran aviator and double amputee Douglas Bader. It has been reported that, unlike More’s portrayal of him, Bader had a coarse and “difficult” personality. He refused to see the film when it was released, eventually watching it 11 years later.
All the gritty, thought-provoking films made about WWII were (thankfully) balanced out by some epically comedic ones which were released, as well. One such classic is Kelly’s Heroes starring Clint Eastwood and Telly Savalas (who later starred in the TV series Kojak). Savalas’ younger brother, George, also has a part in this film.
There is no doubt that To Be or Not to Be is a comedy – and a very good one at that. The problem most moviegoers had when it was released is that it is a comedy about the war they were suffering through at the time!
Catch-22 was released a few months after both MASH (a movie about the Vietnam War) and Patton (another WWII movie). It failed, however, to garner as much success as those two films did. That was somewhat attributed to moviegoers’ loss of interest in films based on wars.
The Dam Busters (or Dambusters) were a real squadron from the Royal Air Force. They took part in Operation Chastise (a mission to bomb dams in Germany in May, 1943) which is the focus of the film. Apart from bombing dams, Squadron 617 also hit hydroelectric plants, mines and factories.
Apart from being an accomplished actor, Steve McQueen was also a skilled race car driver, motorcycle racer and stuntman. His motorcycle chase scene in this movie is still hailed by many as one of the greatest ever filmed.
Veteran actors Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn star in this British-American war epic. Their ages led to the British press referring to the film as “Elderly Gang Goes Off to War.”
Production of this WWII epic was closely tied to the United States Marine Corps (USMC). In fact, the name of the film is taken from the USMC’s official hymn and proceeds from the film were donated to USMC charities.
Pearl Harbor, the movie, ended up costing more than the actual damage done to the real Pearl Harbor when it was attacked by the Japanese. The movie went on to become a box office success even though its reviews by critics were mixed to negative.
This film stars Jack Scalon as Shmuel (a Jewish boy inside an extermination camp) and Asa Butterfield as Bruno (son of the German officer in charge of the camp). Criticism of the film came from some persons who pointed out that young children like Shmuel would not have been held in the camp but gassed immediately as they were seen as unfit to work.
Writer and director David Ayer’s film, Fury, has received quite a bit of praise for the stark way in which it presents the gruesome realities of war. The film, which received several industry nominations, is said to be in keeping with Ayer’s usual themes of brotherhood and violence.
Both critics and moviegoers loved The English Patient when it was released. Noted film critic Roger Ebert gave the movie a full 4 out of 4 star rating. The film received multiple industry award nominations, walking away with 2 Golden Globes, 9 Oscars and 6 BAFTA awards.
Letters from Iwo Jima was one of two films produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, telling the story of the Battle for Iwo Jima from two different perspectives. This film dealt with the experiences of Japanese soldiers, while Flags of Our Fathers used the point of view of American soldiers.
Son of Saul is a Hungarian WWII film which won in the Best Foreign Language Film category at both the Academy and Golden Globe Awards. The film tells the story of concentration camp prisoners who are forced to aid the Nazis.
Valkyrie is the story of a German officer who led an attempted assassination of Adolph Hitler. The role of the officer, Claus von Stauffenberg, is played to much acclaim by Tom Cruise. It has been often noted that Cruise’s selection for and attraction to the role was based, in part, on the fact that he bears a strong resemblance to Stauffenberg.
Although Battle of the Bulge is notorious for its historical inaccuracies, its popularity is due, in part, to the work of the actors. They include both Charles Bronson (a real-life Purple Heart recipient after he was wounded in WWII) and William Conrad, the film’s narrator, who was a captain and fighter pilot during WWII.
Actor George C. Scott portrays U.S. General George S. Patton in this epic WWII biographical film. Although his performance was highly praised (even to this day), Scott famously became the very first actor to refuse the Best Actor Oscar Award which he won for his role.