We present you a list of thirteen of the best WWII movies of all time. See if your favorite Second World war picture is included in this one!
The Second World War was a conflict that spanned the globe, left huge craters [and countless unexploded vintage bombs] in three continents and touched billions of lives directly until now including those of filmmakers, the actors they cast for their WWII movies and even the crew that worked for them. Yes, there have been a number of epic war films [both WWI and WWII along with movies showcasing other conflicts throughout world history] made throughout the film making history.
While there’s that fact, it doesn’t erase the “other side of the coin”, so to speak — the many terrible movies in the war genre made. But the good ones make up [sort of] for the bad ones. That spoken, here’s what I think are the best – the A-1 – war films made — all 13 of them [in no particular order].
1: Inglorious Basterds
Yes, I know, this one didn’t stick to the facts but then, movies do not have to be historically accurate to be the best or watch-worthy, right?
This Quentin Tarantino-directed film possessed all the elements synonymous to Tarantino’s works — blood, violence, a dark twisted humor and more violence.
Its plot centered on the Basterds, a group of Jewish soldiers creating havoc behind the the lines of the Germans [just like what the Nazi Germans were doing as stressed out by Brad Pitt’s character in this film] may be more comic-book material than history book stuff but it didn’t lessen the movie’s impressiveness a little bit.
2: The Pianist
Based on the true story of Polish-Jewish pianist and composer, Wladyslaw Szpilman, this historical drama is a standout when it comes to showcasing the horrors of WWII, especially for the Jews during the Holocaust.
Adrien Brody’s brooding looks went well with the equally dark, brooding and heart-breaking theme the whole movies was set in. And the soundtrack — very moving.
3: The Battle of Britain
This 1969 war film is in this best list for three reasons:
One, it’s an exceptional movie centered on one of World War Two’s most critical encounters. Two, the fact that each of the aircraft used in the movie were the real deal. That meant each one of them came and saw action during WWII. Thirdly, the dogfight sequences. They’re simply epic!
Besides, you don’t get to see the latter two reasons in films nowadays.
4: A Bridge Too Far
Based on a book of the same name and boasting of an all-star cast of A-list actors in the 70s, the likes of Sean Connery and Gene Hackman and Anthony Hopkins, this war film tackled one of the most daring attempts at ending the war at an earlier date but ended up in failure — the Operation Market Garden.
The movie may run a bit too long for some but aside from the impressive cast, the re-imagining of the deteriorating situation the Allied paratroopers were in was quite masterful so, these make up for that shortcoming.
And if you’re a gamer, you should know that Call of Duty 2 was inspired from this film. As a matter of fact, the game’s Captain Price was directly based from this flick’s Captain Price.
5: The Longest Day
If Quentin Tarantino took liberties in making his Inglorious Basterds, Ken Annakin did the opposite when making his black-and-white classic, The Longest Day. This was THE D-DAY MOVIE right before Saving Private Ryan came into the picture.
The war flick boasted of a huge stellar cast. Furthermore, some of its actors, like Henry Fonda, really fought in the second global conflict. This, along with the number of Allied and Axis consultants employed just for the movie, lent to a really authentic look at what happened during the D-Day Invasion.
6: Tora! Tora! Tora!
This movie is on the top list when it comes to accuracy with its plot centered on the attack of Pearl Harbor leading to US’ decision to wage war against Japan. After all, this 1970 war flick was the product of years of negotiation and collaboration between American and Japanese directors, thus, it was able to show both sides in just one picture.
And like The Battle of Britain, this a-1 World War Two movie used aircraft and equipment that went back to the Second World War.
7: Stalingrad 
The Battle of Stalingrad is one of the most, if arguably the most, depicted conflicts during WWII with many shows and documentaries about the events surrounding it and its two key players — the Russians and the Germans.
This 1993 war flick is the second movie made about the battle showing it in a German’s perspective with all the gritty horrors the soldiers experienced in the Russian city after being drilled that they were chosen “because they are the best” before being deployed there.
Just a note, if you are into feel-good war films, then, this one’s not for you.
8: The Bridge on the River Kwai
This 1957 war flick was another work of fiction but was based on an actual WWII event — the building of the Death Railway, the Burma Railway, by Allied POWs between 1942 and 1943.
The circumstances which surrounded those who built the railway were quite hellish and an estimated 90,000 Allied POWs died during its construction due to the brutal treatments their Japanese and Korean captors put them through.
This war film made it to this best list simply because it is one of the greatest movies ever made in history.
9: The Great Escape
This 52-year-old war WWII movie may be dumb to some but then, it has some great stunt sequences that are really thrilling to see.
It’s a fun, adventure-filled movie of POWs trying to make a break from the camp they were put into and was based from the non-fiction book written by Paul Brickhill in 1944 about the mass escape of POWs from Stalag Luft III in what is now Poland. But then, the end is a reminder how war is not a game after all.
10: Saving Private Ryan
Watch the film’s opening scenes and you’ll get why this 1998 American war-drama flick made it to this best list. The realistic and very graphic elements of this movie’s first 27 minutes or so sets it above others in the war film genre.
Added to that, it was a Steven Spielberg masterpiece and featured the stellar performance of Tom Hanks among others. Need we say more?
11: Das Boot
This 1981 German WWII film [released in the US with the title The Boat] was originally a TV miniseries with a showing span of six hours. It enjoyed theatrical release and its thrilling and suspenseful elements are the main reasons why it is in this best list.
One fact — most of Das Boot was shot inside a real submarine subjecting its actors to that real claustrophobic feeling U-boat crews had to deal with during the war. It could be the reason why they’re acting were extraordinarily realistic.
12: Letters From Iwo Jima
This Japanese-American war film was directed and co-produced by Clint Eastwood and was part of his two-part Iwo Jima saga with its companion movie, Flag of Our Fathers. While the latter was, in my honest opinion, a terrible movie, this one, told from the point-of-view of the Japanese soldiers who defended the island of Iwo Jima, is an exceptional piece.
The Japs here were portrayed just like any other human being caught up in the brutalities of war, not the usual “we are fanatical brutes” kind of way. I shed many tears after watching this one.
13: Grave of the Fireflies
You may find it weird that an animated picture made it to this best list but in all seriousness, this haunting and heart-breaking 1988 Japanese animated drama flick deserves its spot.
Its plot centers on the two siblings’ will to survive and the struggles they go through in a war-torn Japan at the end of WWII.
Like any other list, a line has to be drawn. Don’t get angry if this certain war film or that great WWII epic flick did not make it.
And anyway, as impressive as these war-genre pictures are, nothing tops Band of Brothers.