War Movie Recommendations


#41

Private John William Fielding, VC, also known as Private John Williams.

His citation for the VC:

Private John Williams was posted with Private Joseph Williams, and Private William Horrigan, 1st Battalion 24th Regiment, in a distant room of the hospital, which they held for more than an hour, so long as they had a round of ammunition left: as communication was for the time cut off, the Zulus were enabled to advance and burst open the door ; they dragged out Private Joseph Williams and two of the patients, and assagaied them. Whilst the Zulus were occupied with the slaughter of these men a lull took place, during which Private John Williams, who, with two patients, were the only men now left alive in this ward, succeeded in knocking a hole in the partition, and in taking the two patients into the next ward, where he found Private Hook.

These two men together, one man working whilst the other fought and held the enemy at bay with his bayonet, broke through three more partitions, and were thus enabled to bring eight patients through a small window into the inner line of defence.

He is portrayed briefly as the slightly weedy guy in the hospital who desperately tries to drag Private Hooke away from the medical alcohol cupboard.

It would probably be easier to list the things the movie got right than wrong, but here are some of the more glaring errors.

The 24th wasn’t a welsh regiment at the time, being instead the 2nd Warwickshire Regiment. It only became the South Wales Borderers several years later as part of the Cardwell reforms. A survey of the men of B Company shows that, in common with much of the British army at the time, the majority came from the urban poor of cities like Birmingham or Manchester.

The Zulus did not charge the post at dawn on the second day. They did appear on the horizon, causing considerable concern, but retreated quietly back towards the border. They passed quite close by to the remains of Chelmsford’s Centre Column as they retreated from Ishandhlwana but neither side had the stomach for a fight.

Adendorf, the grizzled Boer who advises Chard throughout the battle, amlost certainly wasn’t there and appears to have deserted his post before the battle. He was only saved from court martial by Chard’s somewhat questionable account of the battle.

The man most likely responsible for organising the fortifications as Rorke’s Drift is Assistant Commisary James Dalton (shown briefly in the film moving around on crutches handing out ammunition). In reality, he was a retired sergeant who had volunteered for service in the commissariat fir the war. He had also rather handily attended a field fortification course at some time in his career.

Hooke as you say was a lifelong teetotaler. His family was somewhat appalled by his portrayal as a malingerer and a drunk and apparently walked out of the film’s premier. It’s possible that his depiction as a drunkard came from a remark he supposedly made after the battle: “after that, I’ll take a drink.”

Bromhead in real life bore little resemblance to Michael Caine’s character in the film and actually bore somewhat of a resemblance to Colour Sergeant Bourne, being tall with a thick, dark beard. He was also somewhat deaf. Bourne on the other hand was rather short and had at one time been the youngest sergeant in the British army. He eventually was commissioned and retired as a lieutenant colonel. Chard was also somewhat unlike the dynamic officer shown in the film. He was actually rather lazy and was seen by many as a bit of a duffer. Sir Garnet Wolsey, the pre-eminent general in the British army at the time was rather unimpressed by Bromhead and Chard when he met them, and is supposed to have said something along the lines of, “two more dull or unimaginative officers, I have never met.” They did their duty when it mattered though.


#42

The title for that one is somewhat difficult to remember. It’s called “Strategic Air Command” :wink:


Most of the oldies but goodies have already been taken. Even Dunkirk has been name dropped. As far as WWII movies are concerned, that leaves me with Fury to recommend. I can’t speak for the technical accuracy of the film as I’m not an expert on WWII tank tactics in the ETO (perhaps The Chieftain will chime in), but like Dunkirk it sets an overall mood and theme which are lacking in most depictions of war.

There are plenty of films which attempt to depict the horrors of war, but most miss the point. They usually lose the plot either by being soft on one side or by depicting everyone as equally bad without exploring why they are doing the things that they are doing. Taking an Army clerk that you’ve Shanghai’d into being your bow gunner and forcing him to shoot an unarmed German POW in the back is a horrible thing and technically a war crime, but it was the only thing that 1st Sgt Collier could think of to get Pvt Ellison to eschew his civilian hesitancy to kill. If Ellison can shoot an unarmed German in the back then he won’t have any problem shooting one with a panzerschreck in the face. Is this the best method of teaching that? Perhaps not, but it was field expedient. And as horrible as it was, the actual act becomes background noise by the end of the film.

While the next one isn’t about WWII or even a movie, I highly recommend “Generation Kill” if anyone is interested in more recent conflicts. It’s technical attention to detail creates an immersive environment that allows the audience to simply witness the events depicted while giving room to come to your own conclusions as the Marines of 1st Recon try to do the same. But most importantly it depicts the greatest horror of war: unpoliced moostache hairs.


#43

Triggered.

Let’s start with the good points, shall we?

It was better than Pearl Harbor. There were real ww2 tanks in it.

Some of the less good points:

The blurb at the start rehashes the tired, Tommy Cooker, Sherman death trap nonsense.

The tank tactics are complete unrealistic. The spacing between the tanks sucks and they should have had some kind of infantry support. Fury looks like an M4A3E8 to my admittedly relatively incompetent eye but what ever it is, it definitely has the long barreled 76mm which, depending on the ammo, should have had a decent chance at punching through the armor on a Tiger at point blank range. Quite why the Tiger comes out into the open to be outflanked by those Shermans and doesn’t just hide in the tree line and plink them all at long range remains a mystery.

The film really irritated me with the shooting of German prisoners and general air of moral ambiguity. Yes the allied armies didn’t always behave like saints and at times questionable decisions like the bombing of Dresden were taken, but the other lot were busy with this.

We were the f***ing good guys in WW2 and it doesn’t hurt to remember that.

The final battle was just silly. The crew failed in their basic mission which was to hold the crossroads. Notice the film ends with the remains of the Waffen SS column marching off to attack the REMFs from 2nd Armored anyway. Yes they took casualties but they still carried on with their mission. Why they didn’t just go around the clearly knocked out tank anyway is unclear, as is what it was that made all those Panzerfausts they were carrying the first time we see them just disappear. Might a better choice from Fury’s crew have been to grab all the machine guns and ammo they could carry, set up a good ambush position somewhere with a bit of cover and send the fastest runner back to HQ to let them know what was coming?

If you’re looking for a modern(ish) WW2 movie, Saving Private Ryan is far better.


#44

Thanks for the information on the battle with the Zulus. I was aware of some of the information, including the name of the regiment, but not everything. There is a Youtube channel that analyses war movies for historical accuracies and it has covered among other Zulu and Waterloo. I’m not sure naming other channels is okay, so I will omit the name, but you can send me a message if you are interested.

Regardless how the movie portrays, any man who survived through that hell must have been extraordinary. I tip my hat to your great-great-grandfather and to you, good sir.


#45

I think you misunderstand what the movie was about. It’s not your fault, though. A lot of people have come to the same conclusion. If most people do not understand what a filmmaker is trying to say, then it isn’t the audience’s fault.

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to go into a long winded treatise dissecting the film’s meaning and it’s many flaws. Suffice to say, it’s central theme is also explored in Generation Kill, though that mini-series did a significantly better job. Granted, that show had 7 hour-long episodes to explore it compared to Fury’s 134 minute running time.

I’ll simply say that the “mistakes” that the film made aren’t mistakes. At least, they aren’t mistakes made by the filmmaker. They are 1st Sgt Collier’s mistakes.

Yes, trying to go all Battle of Thermopylae on the Waffen SS in a busted tank was a bone-headed move. It was a bone-headed move made by a man operating on 0% sleep and 100% adrenaline. A man who had spent the first half of the day watching most of the people under his command killed by a single enemy tank.

The scene where he forces Pvt Ellison to shoot the German POW was not meant to say “Hey, the Allies were just as bad as the Nazis.”, though it is understandable if you came to that conclusion. In the hands of most Hollywood filmmakers, that would be what was intended. The real intention was to show that 1st Sgt Collier’s decision-making capabilities were already in a very questionable state by that point.

Don’t forget that Ellison is the protagonist of the film, not Collier. Collier’s role is to play the role of mentor in a Campbellian Monomyth sort of way. Similar to Gandalf or Obi Wan Kenobi. Except the film replaces a calm, wizened old man with a pissed off, sleep deprived 1st Sgt who doesn’t have time to show his new bow gunner the ways of the force. It’s a standard Hero’s Journey story except where all of the character archetypes are replaced with very fallible people under extreme stress.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t do the best job of getting this across. It’s lack of technical attention to detail prevents the audience from suspending disbelief. While it tries to play with the Monomyth format, it doesn’t do an adequate job of informing the audience when it’s straying from the formula, which can cause confusion. It also uses a number of narrative devices that could easily be mistaken for hackneyed tropes.

Damnit, I was trying to keep it short but here we are. Sorry about that.


#46

With all these things said, the enjoyment factor of the movie is still high if you suspend your disbelief and turn your brain off


#47

:rofl:

Thanks for having my back with the fact-check, @payneja! Guess I was overthinking it.

Not sure if anyone’s mentioned it, but “Glory” is a good American Civil War (“War of Norther Aggression”) film. Same with “Gone With The Wind,” and “How The West Was Won.” Though “Glory” was based on an actual unit raised in Massachusetts. Like the Tuskegee Airmen, it was an all black unit (except for officers).


#48

This movie is also the inspiration for the Iron Maiden song of the same name. My love of Iron Maiden was a gateway drug to history when I was a kid. I’m sure the Sabaton fans here know what I’m talking about.


#49

the Norwegian film Kongens nei (the King’s choice)
the ww2 occupation of Norway earlys days

the Danish movie 9. april… the Day before and the occupation of Denmark at the borders and the fight against Germany…


#50

Just saw The King’s Choice two weeks ago. Great movie.


#51

I would recommend a war thriller Volhynia. The action of the movie is set between years 1939 to 1945 and focuses on the events that lead to the Volhynian Massacre, despite big competition probably the most brutal genocide of WWII. Here you can watch the trailer with English sub: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-nwg693WCE


#52

Ive found that a lot of the older war films are far more philosophical in nature and critical of war as a whole than the more modern films, which are often pretty glorifying. For example, films like Fields of Glory, Bridge on the River Kwai or Lawrence of Arabia delve deep into the general madness of war in ways that Saving Private Ryan or Dunkirk or Hacksaw Ridge dont really even attempt, though they all have merits of their own.
Another good example is All Quiet on the Western Front, an American film depicting the German side of a war in which Americans fought the Germans, made less than 20 years after the wars conclusion. Such bravery doesnt seem to exist in Hollywood anymore. Imagine the controversy if someone made a movie of the Gulf War purely from an Iraqi perspective, with no good Americans anywhere in sight. Such a thing would never get greenlit in today`s movie industry.

When looking at WWII films, I often find German films better than American ones, probably because it would be impossible for the Germans to not be critical of the war and their own role in it. Films like Stalingrad, Das Boot or Untergang are all slow, moody and yet utterly captivating.
On a similar note, I highly recommend the Japanese animated feature Grave of the Fireflies. It tells a heartbreaking story of two children orphaned by American bombings, who are driven into ever deeper desperation by the uncaring adults around them.

On more recent American war films, I prefer the ones about the Vietnam War, particularly Apocalypse Now and Full Metal jacket. American films on Vietnam have some of the features of the German films about WWII: namely the need to adress a morally challenging war ending in defeat and answering the ensuing questions.
I also deeply recommend the Vietnam War documentary series by Ken Burns. It is emotionally compelling and manages to tell the story from all sides (NVA, VC, ARVN, USA, war protesters, journalists, draft dodgers, politicians), without picking sides.


#53

I think that partially has to do with the fact that most of the people involved in creating Path’s of Glory and Bridge on the River Kwai as well as others like Catch 22 were veterans of wars themselves. In the few decades after the war you probably couldn’t swing a dead cat around Hollywood without hitting a half dozen WWII veterans. Thus, when it came time to make films about the war I imagine that the thought never occurred to them to play it any other way than how they knew it.

Another movie that I like from that period is Is Paris Burning. I only saw it once when it came on TV and it was the subtitled version. I’ve tried to find that version on DVD format but the only ones I can find are of the English dubbed version. The dubbing spoils it for me and I can’t make it more than a few scenes in, unfortunately.


#54

One of my favourite movies of all time, not just war movies, is Ice Cold in Alex.

This movie tells the story of a small group of soldiers and nurses trying to escape from Tobruk through the German-occupied desert. For Captain George Anson, the taste of the ice-cold beer served in Alexandria, Egypt remains an indelible memory. When he’s assigned to escort two nursing sisters there, he dreams of enjoying that simple pleasure again. But his routine mission turns epic as he and the nurses find themselves driving further and further south to escape the advancing German army.


#55

If you want to give a try to a 1985 soviet movie about Nazi German occupation of Byelorussia, you really need to check 'come and see"

It’s really hell of a movie, can’t figure out why so few people know it. Sure it has that slow pace most Russian movies has (such as Tarkovsky’s). But aside from that, it’s a great, yet shocking, experience.

Plus, there have been way too few Soviet movies given so far :wink:


#56


#57

World War 2 in post-war Greek cinema

WW2 movies were always a favourite theme for the Greek audience, as it reminded them, especially in the immediate postwar years, the intense decade, full of glories and sufferings.

The first WW2 Greek movie, was The Nazis Strike Again (1948), a bitter satire against the Civil War who was in full scale from the moment the Germans left. A quiet and modest man, disappointed and embittered by the civil war, has a nightmare in which the Nazis are striking back, with new, more powerful weapons, and the horror of the occupation is resumed. The movie was a pionerring moment for the Greek cinema in general, as it initiated it’s so-called “Golden Age”, which lasted until the late 1970’s.
As the result of the Civil War was the complete defeat of the Communists (who played the major part in the Greek Resistance), so the theme of the WW2 Greek movies was modified. There was no reference to any communist, or political/ideological leaning activity. The roles were just patriots, eager to fight the Nazis, without any ideology or other motivation but the freedom of the nation. Interestingly enough, even foreign fims that depict directly or indirectly the Greek Restistance, follow the same path (The Guns of Navarone, Combat series S03E02 (watch that Telly Savallas’ mustache and Jennifer Aniston’s father)
There are three notables exceptions.
The Barefoot Battalion (1953), depicts the real story of the team of 160 orphans of Thessaloniki during the occupation. The Nazis requisitioned their orphanage, so the kids in order to survive, they were organized as a secret “army”, with hierarchy and discipline. At the beginning they stole to feed themselves, but they became so good that they started to organizing rations for the destitute, spying and sabotaging the Germans and helping Greek and English officers, to escape in Middle East, to join the allied armies. The day Thessaloniki was liberated, along with the partisan and other restistance groups, they paraded as well, holding a banner which wrote “The Barefoot Battalion”. The movie is taking place a few years later, when a former member of the Barefoot Battalion, now adult, catches a kid who was trying to steal his wallet. He tells to the boy his story during the Occupation. Finally, after listening to the story, the boy follows him in the orphanage and decides to stay there to find a permanent food and shelter and grow up honest.
Another interesting fact is that, apart two professional actors, the rest are amateurs. Especially, the kids who played in the movie were real orphans from Athens and Thessaloniki.
Glory Sky (1962), tells two real stories in Northern Greece during the war. It’s an anti-war drama, who combines the love and the duty for the fatherland, along with the misery of the war. Essentially, a small village loses most of its conscripts, the survivors either commit suicide to the face of the defeat, or return to their homes as shadows of their former self. At the end, they are seeing the Nazis entering their village, joyful and singing. Heroism and tragedy in war are an inseparable pair.
The Blocking (1965) depicts another real event, the Blocking of Kokkinia. Kokkinia was a predominantly worker district of Athens, with a strong communist Resistance. The district saw heavy fighting between communist urban partisans and Nazis, and was basically free. On August 17, 1944, however, strong Nazi and Greek collaboration forces, along with policemen, invaded the district and, with the help of informants, rounded up the entire population in the district’s square, they pointed out the Resistance leaders and executed them, along with many others. After that, they looted the whole district.
Adonis Kyrou, the director, was himself a Resistance member and he tried to depict the event between a dramatized documentary and neo-realistic movie, taking care that the minimal fiction would not slip into private dramas. The final scenes in the square still have a force of poetic realism. But we are in 1965, with almost nonexistent cinematographic infrastructure. Thus, the poor means of production and the lack of know-how (especially in street fighting) do not complete the whole project at an artistic level.

Things changed in 1967, when Far-Right colonels established a seven-year dictatorship after a coup d’État. The dictators fought in WW2 and later either in Right/anti-communist Resistance groups, or Nazi collaborators’ militia. So, they funded and supported in every way the filming of “patriotic” movies. Now the movies are Hollywood-like, in technical means, budget etc, and more pompous than ever. Nevertheless, they smashed box-offices, holding the top records of the highest-grossing films for decades.
An example of larger than life scenarios was Lieutenant Natasha (1970). Natasa, was found in Dachau, unable to communicate for 20 years. She finally regain her memories in the mental asylum and she returns home. On the way she remembers her past life, as a singer, and later in the Resistance, along with her husband, a Greek officer. In an operation which they wore German uniforms, communist partisans saw them as Nazis and shot them. He dies instantly, she paralyzes from the shock and is given to the Germans, as she is perceived as such. A previous scene of her torture at the hands of the Nazis was parodied mercilessly, as she retains her make-up during her suffering.
The principle example of the Junta-era films about WW2 is Ohi (No), in 1969. The lead actor is Kostas Prekas, young and handsome then, who supported the regime. In the movie he is reserve lieutenant Dimitris Nicolaou, a rambo-like hero, loyal to the nation and to his Italian girlfriend, despite their nations are at war. The war scenes, for 1960’s Greece, are spectacular and epic, and the most parodied scene of the entire Greek cinema is here: Germans initiated their invasion and our hero is on their way, inside the Metaxas line of fortresses. The Germans say to the hero that his country capitulated. He hysterically answers: “Lies! Lies! You are lying! Greeks choose death! They don’t capitulate”. After, the Germans are asking him to lay down his weapons. He answers in, perhaps, one of the best/worst overactings in world cinema “Come and take them! Ahhhhh!”. Naturally, our hero dies as a hero, executed during the Resistance from the Nazis.

Outside the junta sponsored cinema, independent film-makers found their way to create anti-dictatorship movies, like What Did You Do in the War, Thanasi? (1971). It’s a wild tale of mistaken identity set during the Nazi occupation of Greece and starring the great Thanasis Vengos. Thanasis is called upon, during the Occupation, to testify at the trial of a tavern owner accused of serving cat meat to his customers. He too is accused of perjury and imprisoned with some resistance fighters. The resistance fighters escape, but Thanasis remains in his cell. He is accused of being Ivan, the notorious ringleader of certain revolutionaries.
Here the Nazis are the subtle substitute of the 1970’s dictators and the title and the themes of the movie are provoking the audience to think what they were doing against the dictatorship.


#58

Since we got to talking international WW2 movies, I thought I`d give an honorable mention to the Finnish war epic, Unknown Soldier.

Based on a 1954 novel by Väinö Linna, three separate movies have been made of the story, in 1955, 1985 and 2017.
The movies tell the story of a company of machine gun company through the entirety of the continuation war, from the offensive phase and heavy casualties to the boredom of the stationary period to the chaotic retreat in 1944. The men in the company come from different backgrounds and different regions in Finland, symbolizing the entire war generation. The novel doesnt glorify war or hide its horrors, but it does idolize Finnish men, portraying them as stoically brave and loyal, fearless in the face of the enemy but always fighting with the brass.
Edvin Laine directed the first movie in black and white so that he could incorporate actual war footage to his movie, which has endured as a cultural icon in Finland. Not only is the novel required reading in school, but the film is shown on Finnish television every independence day. So anyone wanting to understand how Finns remember their war experience pretty much has to watch it.