Trenches of WW1 in film?
March 5, 2007 6:17 AM   Subscribe

What films (preferably in Netflix's catalog) do a good job of depicting the misery and scale of the trenches of World War One?

I've seen:

All Quiet on the Western Front (the original)

Wings (the original silent version with Clara Bow, accompanied by a live pipe organ... amazing experience)

Paths of Glory

Johnny Got His Gun


I prefer films that emphasize the misery and horror over the "glory" of war. Think Band of Brothers vs. John Wayne.
posted by bondcliff to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A Very Long Engagement is a french film that depicts a WWI trench battle through a series of flashbacks. It's a good film, but very long.
posted by muddgirl at 6:23 AM on March 5, 2007

It's not *exactly* what you're looking for, but Joyeaux Noel is a good illustration of the futility of war, and of hatred in general. It's a very quiet movie, but intensely moving. You'll laugh at parts while you watch it, and then wonder why you're sad for the rest of the day.
posted by kalimac at 6:27 AM on March 5, 2007

This isn't a feature film, but consider watching the fourth series of Black Adder.
posted by Prospero at 6:27 AM on March 5, 2007

P.S. Amazon reviews for the Black Adder disc are unfortunately spoiler-filled.
posted by Prospero at 6:29 AM on March 5, 2007

Second vote for A Very Long Engagement. It's a good film with some very miserable and horrific trench scenes.
posted by fire&wings at 6:42 AM on March 5, 2007

Even though it's not specifically about the war, Legends of the Fall deals with it and the aftermath. Good movie, anyway - if a bit melodramatic.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:08 AM on March 5, 2007

HBO did a movie called The Lost Brigade. Don't know if it is on netflix.
posted by Gungho at 7:20 AM on March 5, 2007

Capitaine Conan. You want the misery of war, you got the misery of war.

Also, you might check out this BBC page
posted by languagehat at 7:26 AM on March 5, 2007

The fourth season of the British television series Upstairs, Downstairs (1971 - 1975).

Fascinating material on the way by which WWI upended the British class system. No battlefront footage, but good material on the war from the perspective of all classes in London.
posted by Gordion Knott at 7:39 AM on March 5, 2007

The Big Parade.
posted by marxchivist at 7:52 AM on March 5, 2007

I don't think that it's very good but The Trench sets out to depict life in a WW1 trench.
posted by dmt at 8:10 AM on March 5, 2007

Second for Joyeux Noël.
posted by puddleglum at 8:55 AM on March 5, 2007

Les croix de bois.
I haven't seen it but the original book by Roland Dorgeles seems to be what you are looking for. French blurb:
"Avec un réalisme parfois terrible mais toujours d'une généreuse humanité, la vie des tranchées nous est décrite dans toute son horreur et aussi sa bouffonnerie, son quotidien et ses moments exceptionnels."
Quick and dirty translation:
"With a sometimes terrifying realism but always with generous humanity, life in the trenches is described with all its horror and its buffoonery, its daily life and its exceptionnal events."

It's not a movie, but there is also the excellent graphic novel "C'était la guerre des tranchées" by the wonderful Jacques Tardi.
posted by bru at 8:57 AM on March 5, 2007

Days of Glory has been released last December, so it may not be available in DVD yet.
posted by bru at 9:08 AM on March 5, 2007

I don't know how easy it would be to find, but I thought this remake of "All Quiet on the Western Front" was excellent. It's a lot different than the original.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:29 AM on March 5, 2007

Capitaine Conan. You want the misery of war, you got the misery of war.
Not only that, but quite possibly the best (worst?) collection of keywords ever:
Venereal Disease / Frenchmen / War / Soldier / Prostitute
posted by scrump at 10:30 AM on March 5, 2007

Netflix has the 1979 remake of All Quiet on the Western Front.

Netflix users mentioned Westfront 1918, Black and White in Color, Blackadder Goes Forth, and Oh! What a Lovely War.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:07 AM on March 5, 2007

The Lost Battalion sounds like it might be good.
p.s. nice use of the "corpseeatingrats" tag.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:10 AM on March 5, 2007

I don't have Netflix so I a don't know if they carry it, but the PBS 6 part documentary The Great War was excellent. In fact, now that you've reminded me about it I think I might try to find it to watch again.
posted by SDH30 at 11:11 AM on March 5, 2007

For me, the most horrifying depiction of WW I is in the poems of Wilfred Owen. Richard Burton recorded an overpowering reading, issued on LP as The Days of Wilfred Owen. This was in turn issued as the sound track to a TV movie. I have no idea where to get it, but I was shaken up for a week after I saw it.
posted by KRS at 11:31 AM on March 5, 2007

Netflix has The Great War that SDH30 mentioned.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:07 PM on March 5, 2007

Seconding Blackadder IV. They manage to slip in an awful lot of WWI history, from commentary on class difference and contemporary attitudes in the trenches to the devastating effects of pals battalions and more. Plus, the last episode is just about the best thing ever put to film...
posted by vorfeed at 2:05 PM on March 5, 2007

thirding a very long engagement. dont think anything will be better than Paths of Glory, however, IMHO.
posted by prophetsearcher at 3:12 PM on March 5, 2007

Gallipoli is a fantastic and tragic film. You didn't ask for book recommendations, but I recommend the Pat Barker Regeneration trilogy.
posted by theora55 at 3:14 PM on March 5, 2007

Gods and Monsters, which is about James Whale, the director of Frankenstein, has some wonderful flashbacks to WWI. During the time the film is taking place, Whale is suffering from a medical condition that causes his brain to misfire a lot, so he's constantly drawn back to memories of his life. The WWI scenes are not a huge part of the movie, but it's interesting how the memories of the trenches become juxtaposed with scenes of Frankenstein's monster.
posted by saffry at 3:18 PM on March 5, 2007

again on The Lost Battalion, although I felt it lacked the full extent of wastefulness and destruction, but I come into that as a fan of Band of Brothers type special fx. I'm only very young though so I haven't seen too many WW1 films (they seem to be hard to find amidst the vast volumes of WW2), I'm not sure if you were asking about films which deal with WW1 specifically, or films which contain depictions of WW1, in perhaps short scenes or references.

I do remember the series Young Indiana Jones (perhaps?) had a few scenes relating back to his time in the trenches.

The film A Little Princess, although not about war, features a background plot element that her father has gone missing in the trenches, it features some short scenes showing him lying amidst a large number of other fallen soldiers on the front lines. I don't want to reveal too much without spoiling it for you, but it has elements of how the war caused her father to forget who he was or who his daughter was.

12 Monkeys has a scene where Bruce Willis is travelling back in time and lands in a mud filled trench in WW1 and is confronted by French soldiers.

I suspect I might be right off the mark here, but through I'd throw in a few minor depictions.
posted by chrisbucks at 4:29 PM on March 5, 2007

Seconds for both "A Very Long Engagement" and the Pat Barker "Regeneration" trilogy.

There's evidently a movie version of "Regeneration" starring Jonathan Pryce floating around out there somewhere, too, although it may go by a different title.
posted by hwestiii at 6:19 PM on March 5, 2007

James Whale's first British theater directing success, the 1928 smash hit Journey's End, is set completely in the British trenches and was made into a movie in 1930, starring Colin Clive* (who apparently really shone in the original stage version after replacing Laurence Olivier). It's also just been revived on Broadway to rave reviews.

*Yes, that Colin Clive
posted by mediareport at 9:38 PM on March 5, 2007

Regeneration, starring Jonathan Pryce. Netflix has it (titled Behind the Lines).
posted by kirkaracha at 10:29 PM on March 5, 2007

second for "paths of glory"
posted by fac21 at 1:41 AM on March 6, 2007

I was going to make chrisbucks' "Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" suggestion too. But, it's not yet out on DVD.
posted by sevenless at 11:13 AM on March 6, 2007

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