Movies & TV

The 20 Best World War II Movies Ever Made

From war-torn romances to bloody battles, these are the best films that depict the horrors of war-and the humanity at the center of the conflicts.

From war-torn romances to bloody battles, these are the best films that depict the horrors of war—and the humanity at the center of the conflicts.

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20| Stalingrad

A complicated love affair erupts amid the Nazi invasion of Stalingrad in this celebrated Russian film.

19| Defiance

Four brothers join Russian resistance fighters in the Eastern-European woods, slowly building camps of Jewish refugees.

18| Black Book

A Jewish singer goes undercover for the Dutch resistance in order to infiltrade the Nazi headquarters in Netherlands. Rent/buy on Amazon and iTunes.

17| Son of Saul

A prisoner in Auschwitz saves the body of a young boy from the crematorium in this intense depiction of morality and spiritual survival.

16| Empire of the Sun

A young Christian Bale stars as an English boy separated from his family in Japan-controlled China.

15| Patton

George C. Scott gives a tour-de-force performance as the complex and controversial general George S. Patton.

14| Letters From Iwo Jima

Clint Eastwood finds sympathy for the enemy in this Oscar-nominated epic.

13| The Dirty Dozen

A rag-tag group of convicts bind together for a suicide mission on the eve of D-Day in this Oscar-winning epic.

12| From Here to Eternity

On the eve of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, three Army soldiers find themselves in a variety of romantic entanglements while stationed in Hawaii.

11| Downfall

This Oscar-nominated thriller depicts Adolf Hitler's final days as he hides in a Berlin bunker.

10| The Thin Red Line

Terrence Malick returned from a 20-year hiatus for this quiet reflection on the horrors of war.


9| The Longest Day

This Oscar-winning epic tells the story of D-Day through various points of view—from both the Allied and German sides.

8| Life Is Beautiful

A dutiful Italian father tries to shelter his son from the dangerous truth of the Holocaust in Roberto Benigni's Oscar-winning film.

7| Das Boot

This celebrated drama gives an inside look at what happened beneath the surface on a German U-boat.

6| Inglourious Basterds

Tarantino's absurdist take on propaganda film depicts the brutal death of Adolf Hitler.

5| Grave of the Fireflies

Two Japanese children struggle to survive in the waning days of WWII in this highly celebrated animated film.

4| Schindler's List

Steven Spielberg's magnum opus is the definitive on-screen depiction of the Holocaust.

3| Casablanca

One of the greatest films ever made—period—this one practically set the standard for the war-torn romance genre.

2| The Bridge on the River Kwai

A British colonel leads a team of POWs in a Japanese camp to build a bridge for their captors—and plans an uprising.

1| Saving Private Ryan

Spielberg brought the horrific violence of war front and center with the staggering depiction of the Invasion of Normandy.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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