Dunkirk and World War II Movies You Should See


I’ve scratched the new movie “Dunkirk” off my list of “I’ll pay theater prices to see that movie” movies. I was going to until I read an article in the Wall Street Journal that essentially said that the director had treated the movie as a sort of disaster film. Sort of like “Titanic”, but without the iceberg. Then, I read two reviews by non journalists who spent their own money to see the film, and that sealed it. I’ll still see it, but not until it’s “free” on one of the premium cable channels that I pay too much for as is.

With that being said, here are ten World War II movies you should see. They are either great stories or historically accurate. A couple are both. They are not in order, because that sort of ranking is always open to interpretation.

The Longest Day. Based on Cornelius Ryan’s great book of the same name. The Hollywood movie that EVERYONE in Hollywood wanted to be in. Except Jimmy Stewart who never did a World War II movie after having served in combat. The story is that Sir Richard Burton, while on a break from another movie, flew at his own expense to the set so that he could do his part for free. It was that good a movie.

12 O’Clock High Dean Jagger won an academy award for his portrayal of Major Stowall. The movie was so good that for some time it was show at USAF staff school to demonstrate leadership.

Patton George C. Scott won an academy award (which is refused) for his portrayal of General George Patton. Not the full story of Patton and World War II, but a good one none the less.

Tora! Tora! Tora! An incredibly well done portrayal of the events leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It’s actually two movies in one, as there is a detailed portrayal of the Japanese preparations for the attack. The attack itself is very well staged, with what were for the time state of the art special effects. It was criticized for being too slowly paced and documentary like. Interestingly, those are no considered the movie’s best attributes.

The Big Red One  Written and directed by Samuel Fuller, who was an infantryman in World War II. The movie is gritty, to say the least. It’s at least partially autobiographical

In Which We Serve A 1942 British film about the British Navy in the early stages of World War II. It stars Noel Coward, who was a big star in England in the pre war years and for several years beyond. Most of the rest of the cast are not well known, if known at all, in the US. Worth seeing.

Halls of Montezuma One of many war movies starring Richard Widmark. It’s a pretty complex story of US Marines taking a Japanese held island.

Hell to Eternity The mostly true story of Guy Gabaldon who was raised by a Japanese family in Los Angeles before World War II. Fluent in Japanese, he enlisted in the USMC and fought in the Pacific. A great drama.

The Desert Rats A good story about Australian and New Zealander troops fighting the Germans in the desert of North Africa early in World War II.

The Story of G.I. Joe Another gritty movie about a small unit of American infantry being covered by war reporter Ernie Pyle. Several of the major characters are killed or seriously injured during the course of the film.

Honorable Mentions

Not top ten films, but worth seeing The Enemy Below, Sands of Iwo Jima, A Bridge Too Far, The TrainSahara, Band of Brothers, and Destination Tokyo.

That’s my list, I’m sure others will have their list. I could list 100 movies about World War II and not cover all of them. Or get anyone to agree.

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After a long career as a field EMS provider, I'm now doing all that back office stuff I used to laugh at. Life is full of ironies, isn't it? I still live in the Northeast corner of the United States, although I hope to change that to another part of the country more in tune with my values and beliefs. I still write about EMS, but I'm adding more and more non EMS subject matter. Thanks for visiting.


    • It’s right there on my list. It’s definitely in the top ten, might be #1 if I were doing that list. BTW, Gregory Peck was perhaps the best actor of the 20th Century.

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