We have examined war movies before but in this list we’re being more specific and looking at World War Two. War is a gold mine of material for the movie industry with stories of individual courage, history changing incidents and simple biographies of the characters involved to name but a few. The challenge is to tell these stories without every glorifying war. World War Two was the first in which there were mass deaths of civilians – war until now had largely been between national armies. And the use by Hitler to mastermind the Holocaust as a subplot is one of the most horrific events in history. Here is a suggestion of ten movies, some older and some more recent, that might help put World War Two into context.
10. Winter in Wartime – 2008
Winter in Wartime is a right of passage movie that follows a young Dutch boy who starts by getting involved with the resistance through circumstance and learns, as he matures, that war is not a fantasy adventure. It is always easy to forget that war is not just for grown-ups. Children outside occupied Europe were, largely protected from what was going on but those in the middle of events had their childhoods ripped out from under them.
9. The Diary of Anne Frank – 2009
A dramatization of the real life diary of a teenage girl hiding in Nazi occupied Amsterdam, the Diary of Anne Frank is a remake of the 1959 big screen version by George Stephens. Anne Frank has become enshrined as an icon of the steely determination of all generations in Europe to cope with the situation that was imposed upon them.
8. The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel – 1957
Rommel and his tanks were the scourge of North Africa during the Second World War. Although never a favourite of Hitler, Rommel was lauded while he was successful. This is a relatively straight forward historical movie starring the magnificent James Mason in the title role. The politics of the war in Africa were complicated because occupation of the area was as much symbolic as strategic.
7. Female Agents – 2008
The idea that France was lead by The Resistance during the Second World War is rather misplaced. Many French were complicit with the Nazis. This is very much a story of women who were sent into France to operate behind enemy lines. There were many unsung heroines during the Second World War who’s stories only came out long after the event. This is not always because their activities were secretive.
6. D-Day – 2004
This is a made for TV docu-drama that tells the story of the D-Day landings. The landings were the real entry of the US into the war. D-Day was the turning point of the war and has been examined by the movie from top to bottom, from side to side and from inside to out. Given this, that is is room for yet another angle is surprising. Nevertheless, this is a strong delivery of the story and is worthy of a watch.