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Kai White
Kai White

World War 2 Movies: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Films

Cast: Aldo Fabrizi, Anna Magnani, Marcello PaglieroThe wounds of European conflict and Nazi occupation were still tender in Rome in late 1944, which chimed with the documentary instincts of Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini. Rome, Open City drew on real issues and situations during the years of conflict. Needless to say, the brutality of the occupying regime is presented with a shocking frankness, not only its indifference to class, age, gender and religion, but its total lack of logical purpose. Rossellini shot the film using leftover celluloid from other movies, which not only lent it a gritty newsreel aesthetic, but a real sense of urgency and anguish. Three years later he would tell a similar story from a different perspective in Germany, Year Zero.

Since its start in 1939, we've seen many different filmmakers' takes on the war, be it through terror-filled dramas, high-stakes romances, or even satirical comedies. Whether the war is front and center or simply a backdrop for human conflict, these films are sure to shock and inspire. Here, in no particular order, is our list of the best World War II movies of all time.

world war 2 movies

There are love stories, and then there's Casablanca. The oft-quoted film follows the trench coat-clad Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), an American expat and owner of a nightclub in Morocco, whose political neutrality and cynical disposition can be traced back to a failed relationship with Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman). When Ilsa and her husband Victor Laszlo turn up in Casablanca, desperate for help in escaping the Germans, Rick must decide which is stronger: his love for Ilsa, or his desire to help the world thwart a fascist regime. Representing one of the many wartime films made by the studio system in the early years of the second World War, Casablanca defied expectations upon its release, earning a Best Picture win, and a permanent place in cinema history. While the film is shot in black and white, Casablanca finds depth and color in the story's love triangle, and by illustrating the difficult moral choices these complex characters are forced to make.

Wolfgang Peterson's war epic (translated to The Boat) depicts the claustrophobic world of a German U-boat during the Battle of the Atlantic. The film was shot in chronological order over the course of a year to capture a pale, bearded crew hardened by months at sea that feel like a lifetime. The result brings stunning realism to the terror and conditions of naval warfare, with intense action sequences and a great eye for detail. Even at two-and-a-half hours, Das Boot is a relentless, emotional ride that grows grimmer by the minute.

Studio Ghibli, the hallowed film company behind animated classics like Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Howl's Moving Castle, is known for its mystical creatures and fantastical worlds. But in 1988, writer-director Isao Takahata cast aside the feel-good formula and created this heart-wrenching tale of two siblings trying to survive in Japan as World War II draws to a close. In a world where animated movies can sometimes be regarded as vapid pieces of children's entertainment, Grave of the Fireflies remains one of the most visually stunning and emotionally moving genre films of all time, no matter your age. Make sure to bring tissues for this one.

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The Thor: Love and Thunder helmer passionately directs a story that's both hopeful and deeply tragic, putting children at the forefront of a world undergoing dramatic change. With vibrant colors, complex characters, and an upbeat soundtrack, Jojo Rabbit is an endlessly entertaining satire that you'll enjoy with every rewatch.

When it comes to depicting the terrors of war on screen, no war has been represented more in the cinema than World War II. Even today, movies are still made about this hellacious global conflict to eradicate fascism and genocide, with stories that cover many different aspects of the war. There are love stories set against the backdrop of espionage and resistance, tales from the brutal bullet-riddled battlefields, and stark dramas that shine a spotlight on the atrocities committed, which we all must never forget.

We've collected, from the past eight decades, ten of the very best World War II films of all time, from acclaimed directors like Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, David Lean, and more. These are stories of horror, heartbreak, heroism, and humility that sometimes offer up different tonal takes on this utterly incomparable era of destruction. And, if you'd like to see WWII movies that are fitting for Memorial Day weekend, you can find a full collection we've gathered in our list of the best Memorial Day movies to watch right now.

Christopher Nolan's sweeping, complex, timey-wimey ensemble war film depicting the Dunkirk evacuation of over 300,000 Allied soldiers in Northern France, is a deeply moving spectacle full of dazzling imagery and an impressive sense of grandeur. Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, and Tom Hardy are just some of the names here as three stories unspool, via overlapping timelines, depicting the land, sea, and air efforts to mount a massive rescue mission. It's one of the best Christopher Nolan movies everyone should see.

World War 2 might be way in the past now, but the movies keep coming. There are several new World War 2 movies in the works, coming out in the next couple years. We've went ahead and listed them below:

World War 2 movies have served as some of the best films ever to be made and for good reason. The politics and battles portrayed in WWII movies arguably shaped the world today more than any other event throughout modern history.

The Great Dictator was completed before the United States had even entered the war, and it serves as one of the greatest World War II movies ever with hilarious writing and directing along with a great ending.

Life is Beautiful is a top WW2 movie that some find charming and others find offensive. I like the give the film the benefit of the doubt, though both sides bring up good questions. Is it right to deceive your child in an attempt to shield them from a truly terrible situation? In the end, is joy and love the only things that matter in this world?

Stalingrad may not be the best World War II movies to ever be made, but it definitely brings something unique to the table due to some interesting visual choices and a Russian perspective seldom seen on this scale.

Now, a lot of people love this film and would rate it higher, but as far as World War II films go this movie is pretty basic. The gruff style of the filmmaking, take no prisoners script, and performances make this one of the most beloved World War II movies.

Patton is one of the best World War II movies of all time because there are a ton of big battle scenes with lots of production design, but it also does a great job of showing the unique qualities that made Patton such an interesting character. Patton was complicated. He had a big ego, but loved his troops and he was more interested in winning rather than fear which meant he was able to, at times, back that ego up through action.

There have been plenty of movies about Allied POWs escaping their imprisonment, but The McKenzie Break flips the script. In this 1970 drama, Brian Keith plays an Irish officer in the British army who must stop German prisoners suspected of planning an escape from an Allied POW camp in Scotland.

World War Z is a 2013 American action horror film directed by Marc Forster, with a screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, and Damon Lindelof, from a story by Carnahan and J. Michael Straczynski, based on the title of the 2006 novel of the same name by Max Brooks. It stars Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, a former United Nations investigator who travels the world seeking a solution for a sudden zombie apocalypse.[12] The ensemble supporting cast includes Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, and Matthew Fox.

An early script was leaked onto the internet in March 2008, leading to a review by Ain't It Cool News that called it "[not] just a good adaptation of a difficult book [but] a genre-defining piece of work that could well see us all arguing about whether or not a zombie movie qualifies as 'Best Picture' material".[22] The script was well-enough respected to find a place on the 2007 Black List of "most liked" screenplays not yet produced.[23] The Ain't It Cool News review also noted the film appears stylistically similar to Children of Men (2006), following Gerry Lane as he travels the post-war world and interviews survivors of the zombie war who are "starting to wonder if survival is a victory of any kind."[22]

In June 2012, screenwriter Damon Lindelof was hired to rewrite the film's third act, with reshoots scheduled to begin that September or October.[59] He was brought in as a new set of eyes not burdened by all the history of the script and said: "[Brad Pitt] took me through how excited he was when he read the book, what was exciting for him, the geopolitical aspect of it. But when we started working on the script, a lot of that stuff had to fall away for the story to come together."[60] Lindelof explained that there were inefficiencies in the script in relation to the shooting that started before the script was finalized, making the ending "abrupt and incoherent", and that the film was missing a large chunk of footage. He presented two options to executives, who ultimately chose to shoot 30 to 40 minutes of additional footage to change the ending. However, Lindelof did not have time to script the new ending, so in July Paramount hired his Lost partner Drew Goddard to finish the work.[61] Goddard later told Creative Screenwriting: "To me the big lesson of World War Z was that Paramount, Plan B and Brad Pitt simply said, 'Let's take the time to make this movie the best version of the movie before we put it on the screen for audience.' [sic] That doesn't happen a lot. A lot of times they just throw the movie out there and say, 'We'll make all our money opening weekend and then the movie will go away.' I came away from it thinking, 'Why don't we do this on more movies?'"[62]


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