25 Best Movies Ever Made About World War II

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Nearly nine thousand films about WWII are listed on IMBD as of 2024. It is easy to understand why this period has so many movies attached to it. World War II is the bloodiest conflict the world has ever seen, and we have attempted to document it from every possible angle.

With so many films about a single subject, figuring out which films to spend your time on can take effort. Or even which genre of film to begin with. Depending on your mood, there are comedies, heroic biopics, and deeply unsettling dramas. Below are our top 25 picks for the best WWII Visual Media. It’s a long list, but every one is worth watching.

1. Casablanca (1942)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

You can’t talk about World War 2 films without bringing up Casablanca. The film was released in the middle of the World War II, and audiences viewed the film as a political allegory for what was happening in the world at the time.

2. Dunkirk

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Christopher Nolan is known for not shying away from political discourse in his films. Few examples of this shine as brightly as his film Dunkirk. The film follows soldiers fighting during a botched invasion plan and eventually winning the day. Nolan’s attention to detail and the film’s emotional impact will keep audiences coming back for generations.

3. The Imitation Game

Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company.

It wasn’t just blood, sweat, and bullets that ended WWII. Brain power was utilized just as much as brawn and bravery during WWII, and The Imitation Game is here to show us how. The film showcases the exploits of Alan Turning, some of which led to the device you are reading this on now.

The Imitation Game follows Turing as he attempts to crack German intelligence codes while trying to understand his sexuality. The film was well received, and Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Turing, received his first Oscar nomination.

4. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Photo Credit: Weinstein Company.

Quentin Tarantino is known as the king of dialogue and gratuitous violence. He showed off both of those skills to the fullest in Inglourious Bastards. Now, this film is in no way historically accurate. But it is a fun and bloody film for people who want to see bad things happen to bad people.

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5. JoJo Rabbit

Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Taika Waititi made a decision that no one saw coming with JOJO Rabbit. He decided to make a dark comedy about WWII involving a child whose imaginary friend is Hitler. But the gambit paid off; viewers loved the film’s approach to the dark elements of the war and the sad yet hopeful message the film delivers.

6. Oppenheimer

Photo Credit: Universal; Pictures.

This recent Christopher Nolan film was a monster at the box office, landing the top spot for the highest-grossing biopic of all time. The film is slow and detailed, with no wasted shots, and no bells or whistles. Oppenheimer tells the story of one of the world’s most infamous people. Nolan gives audiences both the good and bad that resulted from Oppenheimer’s life.

7. The Pianist

Photo Credit: Focus Features.

The Pianist gives audiences a stark look at the decay of Warsaw during the Holocaust. The film was well received, and Adrien Brody received the honor of becoming the youngest actor ever to accept the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Unfortunately, the director of the film, Roman Polanski, fled the country after pleading guilty to charges of abuse to a minor. This controversy has harmed an otherwise fantastic film and overshadowed the accomplishments of the other people attached to it.

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8. Saving Private Ryan

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

This is the film that most people think of when they hear the term war movie. Saving Private Ryan captured audiences that wouldn’t usually be interested in the World War II genre. One of the reasons for this is the combined talent of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. This film is an emotional rollercoaster that is sure to melt even the hardest hearts.

9. Schindler’s List

Photo Credit: Universal Studios.

Another spectacular Spielberg hit is Schindler’s List. This film leans more into the harder-to-stomach aspects of the war. Liam Neeson’s breakout role as Oskar Schinlder is a depressing tale that attempts to show the value of human life during the war. Although it is emotionally challenging to watch, everyone should see the film.

10. Sophie’s Choice

Photo Credit: Incorporated Television Company.

This film is so prolific that Sophie’s Choice has been boiled down into a pop culture reference. Even those who haven’t seen the film know that the term refers to an impossible and devastating choice. 

The film is sometimes bleak and brutal to follow, but it is a compelling story nonetheless. Sophie’s Choice was well received. Maryl Streep received her first Best Actress Oscar for portraying a damaged woman trying to recover after the war.

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11. The Great Escape

Photo Credit: MGM.

The Great Escape is considered one of the most extraordinary prisoner-of-war films to date. That’s a significant accomplishment, considering the film came out in 1963. 

One of the many reasons for the success of this film is the combined acting power of Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, and James Garner, all being harnessed by director John Sturgess. This nonstop thriller still captivates hearts and minds over sixty years later.

12. Masters of the Air

Photo Credit: Amblin Television.

While technically a limited series, Masters of the Air takes audiences in a different direction than most war films. Instead of ground warfare, we get to see the war from the perspective of the pilots risking their lives in the sky. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg team up again to finish their war epic with the installment of Masters of the Air.

The series hasn’t been out long enough to get a critic conscious yet, but how could a series fail with that much firepower behind it?

13. Fury

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Fury gives audiences a glimpse of a more subdued Brad Pitt than the role he plays taking the lives of Nazis in Inglorious Bastards. This film chooses to focus more on the minor aspects that win wars.

Instead of heroes swooping in and saving the day, audiences are given small tactical victories that may lead to winning the war. Don’t misunderstand; the film has plenty of blood and gore; it is just a bit more realistic than Tarantino’s vision.

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14. Hacksaw Ridge

Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment.

This Mel Gibson film follows the exploits of war hero Desmond Doss. This film stands out because Desmond Doss is a conscientious objector and Seventh-Day Adventist who did not carry a gun. The film bears down on the moral dilemmas of Doss as he attempts to stay true to himself while navigating the horrors of war.

15. The Dirty Dozen

Photo Credit: MGM.

This cult classic received backlash when it was first released for its gratuitous use of violence. By today’s standards, though, the film is tame in terms of violence. The Dirty Dozen follows a group of demolition experts as they attempt to destroy their way to freedom during World War II.

16. Das Boot

Photo Credit: Bavaria Film.

This war epic is a relentless two-and-a-half-hour film that showcases the life of German U-boat soldiers during the war. Wolfgang Peterson shows audiences how the camp conditions affect the minds and bodies of the soldiers.

17. Come and See

Photo Credit: Belarusfilm.

Come and See is often regarded as one of the most horrific tellings of WWII. Director Elim Kilmov and co-writer Ales Adamovich drew from their own experiences during the war. The result is the most vital anti-war film that has ever been made. Although not for the faint of heart, Come and See has a message everyone should experience.

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18. The Thin Red Line

Photo Credit: Fox 2000 Pictures.

The Thin Red Line did for WWII what Apocalypse Now did for the Vietnam War. It tried to encapsulate the hallucinatory effect that war can have on the lives and memories of those who participated in it. The film received mixed reviews for this, as the directing style confused some viewers as to what the film was about.

19. Grave of Fireflies

Photo Credit: Studio Ghibli.

An unexpected classic in this genre is Grave of the Fireflies. This animated epic is created by Studio Ghibli, a company typically known for bringing whimsey into the lives of its viewers. Instead, Isao Takahata created a heart-wrenching tale about a family attempting to survive the war’s end in Japan.

20. Downfall

Photo Credit: Constantin Film.

Many films follow the final days of Hitler’s life, but few come close to achieving what Downfall has done. The film is so detailed and complex that it received backlash for trying to humanize one of the worst men in history. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel achieved this level of detail by using eyewitness accounts and historical records to create the most realistic version of the dictator possible.

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21. The Bridge on the River Kwai

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

The actions committed during war tend to fall into gray areas instead of clearly black and white. Director David Lean knew this when creating The Bridge on the River Kwai. The film shows audiences the gray areas of war and asks them to live with the message.

22. Night Will Fall

Photo Credit: Angel TV.

Night Will Fall is a movie about a movie in a sense. This documentary is about a film that Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein created to document the horrors of the Holocaust. Their attempts to uncover these horrors were eventually shelved for being too controversial.

Efforts by the Imperial War Museums in 2014 allowed the film to be finished. Night Will Fall gives the audience glimpses of that film, interviews, and information about the process of making such a complex film.

23. Patton

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

Francis Ford Coppola is regarded as one of the greatest talents to ever work in film. The Godfather is still considered one of the ten greatest films ever made. Patton is his attempt at creating a historically accurate war film following the life of George S. Patton. The result is an incredibly detailed film about a man who was most alive during times of war.

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24. Land of Mine

Photo Credit: Nordisk Film.

Land of Mine explores the problematic separation of justice and vengeance. Following World War II, German prisoners of war were given the task of clearing many of the mines that were left as a result of the war.

Like many films about the war, Land of Mine asks deep, thought-provoking questions that many of us would prefer not to think about. The film is bleak at times but still provides a glimpse into what it means to be a good person.

25. Kelly’s Heroes

Photo Credit: MGM.

Creating a comedy heist set during World War II was a bold choice for director Brian Hutton. Still, it resulted in the film keeping cult classic status fifty years later. Although some criticize the film for oversimplifying and trivializing the war effort, others applaud the film for adding levity and warmth to the genre. Either way, this classic is still beloved today and won’t be going anywhere soon.


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Photo Credit: Pandora Cinema.

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To help viewers on their journey of film brilliance, we have cultivated a list of films we believe everyone should see once. From heart-wrenching dramas to irreverent comedies, this list provides some of the best entries the world of film has to offer.

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Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

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