Have you watched Chris Nolan’s Dunkirk yet? It tracks the story of the Allied evacuation off the beaches of Northern France in May 1940.
Of course, the Dunkirk evacuation has passed into history as one of the most important episodes of World War II. Many historians argue that it’s the point Hitler lost the war. If he’d allowed his Panzer columns to continue rather than waiting for his infantry divisions to catch up, the Allied forces would have been almost wiped out.
Instead, more than 330,000 British, French, Dutch, Polish, and Belgian troops managed to escape across the English Channel. Once back on UK soil, the Allies had time to regroup. The rest is history.
If Dunkirk has sparked your interest in World War II movies, check out these 12 other flicks dealing with the conflict. They’re all currently available on Netflix USA…
1. Schindler’s List (1993)
Of all the terrible stories that emerged after the end of the conflict, the discovery of the Nazi concentration camps – located mainly in Eastern Europe – are the worst. It’s thought The Holocaust claimed the lives of almost 11 million people, six million of whom were Jewish.
But, in the midst of the devastation, some stories of heroism emerged; tales of people who risked everything to help their fellow humans.
One of those people was German businessman, Oskar Schindler. He saved the lives of more than a thousand Polish Jews by giving them jobs in factories. This film – which won seven Oscars – retells his story. It’s one of the most critically acclaimed movies of all time.
2. Patton (1970) [No Longer Available]
General Patton is one of the most important figures of the war, especially after taking control of the U.S. Third Army following the successful Allied invasion of Normandy.
He’s perhaps best remembered for two incidents in 1944. Firstly, the deceptive “Phantom Army” during Operation Fortitude. And secondly, his ability to move six divisions from Saarbrücken to Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.
This 1970 release is a biopic of his time during World War II. It begins with the American defeat at the Battle of the Kasserine Pass in 1943 and ends with his death in December 1945.
3. The Longest Day (1962) [No Longer Available]
The Longest Day takes us back to Northern France and the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
Shot as a docudrama, the timeline of events begins a few days before the Allied forces set sail for France and covers the most significant events of the day itself. The capture of Pegasus Bridge, the work of the American paratroopers at Sainte-Mère-Église, and the confusion caused by the aforementioned Operation Fortitude all feature.
One of the main reasons it remains so popular is due to its historical accuracy. The producers hired several soldiers who participated in D-Day as on-set consultants.
4. The Desert Fox (1951) [No Longer Available]
The Desert Fox tells the story of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Nicknamed “The Desert Fox” for his exploits in North Africa between 1941 and 1943, he was one of the most brilliant tacticians at Hitler’s disposal.
After Hitler’s meddling in Germany’s North African campaign ultimately led to its collapse, Rommel was reassigned to the defending “Atlantic Wall” ahead of the Allies’ D-Day campaign. Rommel was one of the few senior army officials who saw through Operation Fortitude, but he couldn’t get Hitler to agree.
The film looks at Rommel’s backstory, his growing disillusionment with the Nazi leadership, and his eventual involvement in the 1944 plot to kill Hitler.
5. Inglourious Basterds (2009) [No Longer Available]
Inglourious Basterds earned eight nominations and one statuette at the 2010 Oscars.
Unlike the other four movies we’ve looked at so far, Inglourious Basterds isn’t based on real-life events. Instead, it’s a fictional story about two plots to assassinate the leaders of the German war machine.
Directed by Quentin Tarantino, the film boasts an all-star cast, including Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, and Diane Kruger.
6. The Way Back (2010) [No Longer Available]
The Way Back turns attention away from France and instead looks at the war on the Eastern Front.
For all the terrible things that happened in France, Belgium, and The Netherlands, it was the Eastern Front that saw the worst of the atrocities during the conflict. Combined, the Allied and Axis powers saw 10 million deaths (military and civilian) in the west. In the east, the figure hit almost 35 million.
The Way Back uses the true story of Slawomir Rawicz for inspiration. The Polish prisoner of war escaped from a Soviet gulag and walked 4,000 miles to get back to freedom and his family.
As you’re reading through this list of dramatic movies, remember that Netflix also offers TV shows like these terrific period dramas:
7. Downfall (2004) [No Longer Available]
As 1945 progressed, the Nazis were in disarray. After their victory at the Battle of the Bulge, the Allies were freewheeling towards Berlin and meeting little resistance. In the East, the Red Army was finding it harder, but was still progressing.
As the two sides neared the outskirts of Berlin and the outcome of the war became inevitable, the Nazis prepared themselves to make one last stand. The Battle of Berlin was about to begin. It started on Hitler’s 56th birthday and lasted 10 days.
Downfall retells the battle’s story from the Nazi leadership’s perspective. The film starts with Russian tanks shelling the city and ends with the Red Army just streets away from Hitler’s bunker.
8. The Battle of Midway (1942)
Of course, the war wasn’t just going on in Europe and North Africa. The Pacific-Asian Theatre – where the Americans fought back against the Japanese, was the other big flash point.
The Battle of Midway was arguably the turning point in the Americans’ Pacific campaign. Coming six months after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese hoped to impart another demoralizing defeat on the U.S. Navy.
However, Allied cryptographers were able to learn of the attack in advance, allowing the Americans to plant an ambush. Japan lost all four of its large aircraft carriers, handing the Americans an advantage that would last until the end of the conflict.
This movie is only 18 minutes long, but it features some of the best footage of the Pacific war that was ever captured. Directed by John Ford, it won the 1942 Academy Award for Best Documentary and earned Ford a Purple Heart.
9. Atonement (2007) [No Longer Available]
Atonement is another fictitious film, but it’s well-deserving of your attention.
The focus of the movie is an alleged crime and the impact it has on those connected with the events. World War II inextricably linked with the story; the Battle of Dunkirk and Battle of Britain both play a prominent role in the storyline.
It was nominated for seven Oscars.
10. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008) [No Longer Available]
Unlike Schindler’s List, which mainly addressed The Holocaust from the perspective of an outsider, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas takes us inside the extermination camps.
The protagonists are two eight-year-old boys, Bruno and Shmuel. Bruno is the son of a Nazi guard, Shmuel is an inmate. The story plots their growing friendship, but more importantly, offers a look at the horrors endured by the people inside the camps.
It’s worth remembering that of the six million Jews murdered during The Holocaust, 1.5 million of them were children.
11. Naked Among Wolves (2015) [No Longer Available]
Naked Among Wolves is set within the Buchenwald concentration camp. Along with Dachau, it was one of the two largest concentration camps on German soil.
The movie takes place in 1945. The inmates know the war is coming to an end and liberation is imminent. However, a Jewish baby is discovered within the camp. It forces the prisoners to choose between protecting the baby or protecting their futures.
The story is based on Bruno Apitz’s famous novel, which in turn is based on his own real-life experiences within the camps.
12. Flame and Citron (2008) [No Longer Available]
Flame and Citron is a fictional account of two Danish resistance fighters. It’s comfortably the most traditionally cinematic film on this list.
Packed with references to “film noir,” it’s hard to know whether the primary genre is art-house, war thriller, or crime drama. The story tries to transcend the typical World War II narrative of good-versus-evil, and instead takes a long look at the moral dilemmas posed by international conflict.
The director, Ole Christian Madsen, took eight years to research and write the story.
Which World War II Movies Would You Recommend?
If your fascination with World War II is just beginning, you should definitely watch the movies that made this list. You will probably also want to watch the best war documentaries. There’s so much great content out there, you may need help keeping track of what you have and haven’t seen.
Whether it’s a historical re-enactment of a battle, a biopic of one of the war’s greatest characters, or a fictional piece that draws attention to the terrible realities of conflict, all of these films remind us how awful the six-year struggle was for everyone involved.
If you’re a seasoned watcher of WW2 films, we want to hear from you. Which brilliant movies on Netflix have you unearthed that we should all be watching? As always, you can leave your suggestions in the comments below.