WWII Movies
September 16, 2004 3:22 PM   Subscribe

War Movies: I'm looking for any good movies about World War II, specifically to do with civilian life (rather than military actions.) I've seen Au Revoir Les Enfants and The Diary of Anne Frank - can you suggest any others you've enjoyed?
posted by different to Media & Arts (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Slaughterhouse Five
posted by psmealey at 3:26 PM on September 16, 2004

Hope and Glory was good, too.
posted by psmealey at 3:27 PM on September 16, 2004

Cavalcanti's Went the Day Well is a classic. Flawed, but classic nonetheless.

I'm tempted to mention Bedknobs and Broomsticks but I'm not sure that's what you're after ;-)
posted by i_cola at 3:55 PM on September 16, 2004

You've seen The Pianist? How about Mother Night?
posted by Hildago at 4:14 PM on September 16, 2004

A second nod for Hope and Glory
posted by briank at 4:15 PM on September 16, 2004

It may not be exactly what you're looking for, but I highly recommend Judgment at Nuremberg.
posted by mookieproof at 4:23 PM on September 16, 2004

Mrs. Miniver (1942) - the story of a middle-class British family in the beginning of WWII. A classic.

There's actually a post-war sequel, too, called The Miniver Story (1950).

Also, for a different view of what people were seeing at home, check out Walt Disney Treasures - On the Front Lines (1943). It's a two-DVD compendium of many, many Disney cartoons and short films form the war years, including the Oscar-winning "Der Fuehrer's Face" and "Education for Death" cartoons. The first one is a hilarious Donald Duck cartoon, the second one is a grim, powerful discussion of how a cute little German kid gets brainwashed into becoming Nazi. This is a great window into what people on the home front were watching.
posted by Asparagirl at 4:59 PM on September 16, 2004

Ballad of a Soldier is good, and I second Grave of the Fireflies, which is terrific. Also, The Tin Drum is essential. Strayed with Emmanuelle Beart and Nowhere in Africa are recent ones that come to mind. Both are very good.

Come to think of it, pretty much every other German movie since 1945 seems to be about WWII?
posted by muckster at 5:04 PM on September 16, 2004

What the hell.... Here are self-links to the movies I mentioned:

Ballad of a Soldier
Grave of the Fireflies
The Tin Drum
Nowhere in Africa
And my Top Ten Anti-War Movies
posted by muckster at 5:13 PM on September 16, 2004

The Tin Drum is pretty awesome.
posted by Kwantsar at 6:07 PM on September 16, 2004

Enigma is about an English mathematician trying to break the German codes at Bletchley Park. Good if you're looking for civilians working for the war effort.
posted by Frank Grimes at 6:27 PM on September 16, 2004



posted by jonmc at 6:52 PM on September 16, 2004

Solidier of Orange is great. It follows the story of a group of Dutch college friends through WW2. Some join the resistance, some become spies, one joins the krauts, one is a jew and faces persecution. The movie was made by Paul Verhoeven, and stars a young, pre BladeRunner Rutger Hauer.
posted by alball at 7:07 PM on September 16, 2004

The Best Years of Our Lives.
posted by Wet Spot at 7:10 PM on September 16, 2004

Bon Voyage just came out on DVD; it's a farce with Gerard Depardieu. Safe Conduct is about the French film industry under the occupation. There's a Czech movie called Pornography that's about people hiding out on a farm.
posted by muckster at 7:18 PM on September 16, 2004

I recommend Hope and Glory as well.

The Foyles War series is also very good for a slice of English rural life in 1940. The 2nd series was just aired on PBS in August.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 7:21 PM on September 16, 2004

The Singing Detective is set in wartime England. The mini series with Michael Gambon is outstanding; the Robert Downey Jr. remake stinks.
posted by muckster at 7:24 PM on September 16, 2004

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
posted by donth at 8:12 PM on September 16, 2004

The English Patient.

And I also recommend Hope and Glory and Enigma.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:49 PM on September 16, 2004

Um, Schindler's List? And, even though they deal somewhat with the military, I'd also recommend The Eagle Has Landed (cool alternative history) and Das Boot (one of the finest anti-war films).
posted by kirkaracha at 9:06 PM on September 16, 2004

A third for Hope and Glory. Great movie.
posted by scarabic at 9:28 PM on September 16, 2004

And another for Hope and Glory. Love that flick - and it's the best illustration I've seen of what it might have been like to live through the war on the home front.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:44 PM on September 16, 2004

I finally own a copy but haven't watched it yet, but The Sorrow and the Pity sounds right down your alley. Here's a review by Josh Marshall
posted by jacobsee at 10:00 PM on September 16, 2004

Wow, I can't believe all the Hope & Glory fans. I can't stand that movie and have never managed to make it thru it (3 attempts since it came out).

I'll second a bunch of the others, though: Tin Drum, Ballad of a Soldier, Europa Europa, Mother Night, Sorrow and the Pity, ...Finzi-Continis.

And I'll add a vote for

Hiroshima mon Amour
Night & Fog
Fires on the Plain
Come and See
Marriage of Maria Braun
Cranes are Flying
Forbidden Games
Kobayashi's Human Condition trilogy
Diamonds of the Night
Thin Red Line
My Name is Ivan
City of Sadness
Before the Rain
Black Rain (the Imamura film)
Wajda's trilogy: A Generation, Kanal, and Ashes and Diamonds
The Burmese Harp
Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

and maybe The Night Porter and Johny Got His Gun, not because I like them so much, but because they're so fucking bizarre. Note that Focus, above, ain't so great as it is sorta interesting.

Caveat: not all of these are civilian life, however. They're just the best, imo, films related to WWII.
posted by dobbs at 11:01 PM on September 16, 2004

Seventh for Hope & Glory, third for Europa Europa.
posted by Vidiot at 11:09 PM on September 16, 2004

Oh, and it ain't a movie, and it ain't civilian life, but if you haven't seen HBO's Band of Brothers, it's well worth a watch.
posted by dobbs at 11:11 PM on September 16, 2004

Second for Roman Polanski's "The Pianist". I just saw that a week ago.
posted by Goofyy at 1:03 AM on September 17, 2004

Another for Hope & Glory.

I so want to be the Granfather when I am his age.

"You're a dark horse bowling googlies at your age!!"

Best. Line. EVAR!!

Also, Map of The Human Heart is a nice little movie.
posted by Dagobert at 3:02 AM on September 17, 2004

La Vita รจ Bella
posted by mr.marx at 4:24 AM on September 17, 2004

Underground although it is more related to history of Yugoslavia from WW2 to present times.
posted by nims at 5:04 AM on September 17, 2004

Interesting, but harder to find in the U.S., is Edgar Reitz' "Heimat" miniseries, which follows the life of a small German town from the 1920s to the 1980s.
posted by gimonca at 5:51 AM on September 17, 2004

Here are some obscure ones that no one has mentioned:

A Matter of Life and Death (a.k.a. Stairway to Heaven)

This is a wonderful romance/comedy/fantasy about an British airman (David Niven) who gets shot down and killed. Only instead of going to heaven, he lands on Earth (because an angel screwed up). Having been given a second life, he falls in love with an American girl (Kim Hunter). The angels in heaven try to claim him, but he wants to stay.

Green for Danger

Really fun who-done-it set during the blitz in England. The buzz bombs are almost characters. If you're not already, you'll come away from this film being a big Alister Simm fan.

Danger UXB

This is a BBC TV series about London's bomb squad. It's absolutely gripping.

Radio Days

Woody Allen's tribute to the 40s. A big section of it takes place in NYC during the war.

To Be or Not to Be (1942)

Jack Benny comedy in which a group of actors try to outwit the Nazis.

To Be or Not to Be (1983)

Mel Brooks remake of the Jack Benny comedy. I prefer the original.

Monsieur Verdoux

Charlie Chaplin plays a serial killer (you heard that right). Set in France during WWII. NOT silent.

The Great Dictator

Charlie Chaplin plays dual roles: Hitler and a Jewish barber. Also not a silent movie.

And, while it's not about WWII, there's a whole season of Upstairs Downstairs that's about civilian life during WWI. I recommend renting or buying the entire series -- some of the best TV ever made -- and watching it from the beginning, so that by the WWI period, you grow to love the characters. The series spans from 1908 - 1930.
posted by grumblebee at 6:34 AM on September 17, 2004

Response by poster: Fantastic - thanks a lot, everyone. This has definitely given me some great ideas to be going on with.
posted by different at 11:25 AM on September 17, 2004

The Big Red One

Grave of the Fireflies
posted by matteo at 1:44 PM on September 17, 2004

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