Favourite WW2 Films

Tomorrow will be VE Day – Victory in Europe, a celebration of the end of World War II in Europe. Despite the UK, along with most of the rest of the world, being in lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many people still want to try and celebrate the day even though we won’t be able to celebrate perhaps in the way we would. Plans are being made to celebrate within the curtilage of people’s properties and to maintain the 2m self isolation rule we have all been adhering to.

However, some people want to mark the day without celebrating outside and I was inspired to write this post after a friend, a few days ago said she was thinking about VE Day and how it had prompted her to want to watch some of the old war films to remember some of the atrocities that people went through during that time and she was asking for recommendations of films to watch. Now as a child I was subjected (at least it felt like that at the!) by my parents to watch all the old war films time and time again. As I’ve grown older though, I’ve developed a sense of nostalgia about things from my childhood including old films that I was made to watch with my parents…who would have thought..!

So I made one or two recommendations to my friend about some films she might watch, I came up with ‘The Battle of Midway’ and ‘Kelly’s Hero’s’. However, with all this time we have on our hands at the moment (well when we’re not gardening &!) my mind started working over time and I began coming up with some of the old favourites from my childhood. It made me think that maybe some of you are thinking of the war films, as a way of remembering what happened during World War II. So I thought I’d share some of my favourite films of the time, some are serious films, some are lighter watching, but all are reflective of the time. I hope you enjoy the list of films and it may even get you thinking of other films of the time that you like and would watch or would share with others.

I started putting some film titles together and then realised that I had run away with myself…lol…and ended up having to cut down the list, otherwise you’d be reading it until this time next year…!! So this is the edited

So in no particular order, here we go…….

The Battle Of Midway (1942)……is a short documentary film, directed by John Ford of ‘The Battle for Midway’ which includes actual colour footage of the battle. I love this film and was the first one I thought of when I was thinking war films to recommend to my friend.

Battle Of Britain (1969)…..starred Michael Redgrave, Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine and Ian McShane. The Battle of Britain said by some to be the Spitfire’s finest hour. The film featured some remarkable aerial photography…it was noted that George Lucas has stated the films influence on the space battles in ‘Star Wars’. The film endeavours to be an accurate depiction of The Battle of Britain when in the summer and autumn of 1940 the British RAF inflicted a strategic defeat on the Luftwaffe.

Kelly’s Hero’s(1970)…..Loved this film then and still love watching it now.!! Donald Sutherland starred as super-freaky hippie tank commander Oddball with his fab line…”Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves”. Clint Eastwood as Private Kelly, a former Lieutenant. plans on raiding a bank 30 miles behind enemy lines in Clermont and hightailing it with a bucket load of loot in the form of gold bars disguised under lead paint valued at US$16million. It’s a war film, but also has some very funny aspects to it.

The Longest Day (1962)…..An American epic war film based on Cornelius Ryan’s 1959 book about the D-Day landings at Normany, France on June 6, 1944. It stars John Wayne, Kenneth Moore, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda and many many more.

Dunkirk (2017)….Even though it’s a ‘newer’ WW2 film, it harks back to the days of A Bridge Too Far & The Longest Day..when casts were so colossal and the props budget so enormous. It depicts the Dunkirk evacuation of WW2. It portrays the evacuation from three, sea and air.

Where Eagles Dare(1968)….Famous for the fight on the moving cable car, which is also reputed to have clocked up the highest body count of any Clint Eastwood film..! Starring Clint Eastwood & Richard Burton.

Cockleshell Hero’s (1955)…..the film depicts a fictionalised version of Operation Frankton, the December 1942 raid on German cargo shipping by British Marines, when British Special Boat Service (SBS) commandos infiltrated Bordeux harbour with folding kayaks. Directed by Cubby Broccoli and stars include Trevor Howard, Anthony Newley & Christopher Lee

Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)…A David Lean film set in a Japanese labour camp that has William Holden as the authority defying US Navy Commander Shears & Alec Guinness as Colonel Nicholson. It sees the blurred lines between enslavement and collaboration. Nicholson tries to protect his men from the Japanese cruelty as they are made to work to build a strategically important railway bridge. Brilliant photography sets and supporting performances are all wrapped around Alec Guinness’s portrayal of Nicholson torn between duty and a kind of twisted, self sacrificial honour….a brilliant film.!

The Desert Rats (1953)….starring Richard Burton as a Scottish army officer in charge of a disparate band of ANZAC troops on the outskirts of Tobruk.

Escape To Victory (1981)…the footie and war film that’s renowned for starring Pele and Bobby Moore. It follows the antics of Allied POW’s forced the play a lose-lose football match against their Nazi captors and how they plan to use the football game as a way to escape their captors.

The Great Escape (1963)….my favourite film that I miss watching every Christmas! Steve McQueen heads up a star studded cast including James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance & James Coburn. It is based on Paul Brickhill’s non-fiction book of the same name. It’s based on the first hand account of the mass escape of prisoners from German POW camp Stalag Luft III in Sagan (now part of Poland). It has a degree of poetic license in solar as the film includes the escape of Americans in the film, which wasn’t the case in the real-life escape.

The Dam Busters (1954)….A typical British military endeavour…it sees Michael Redgrave as the ‘bouncing bomb’ boffin Barnes Wallis and how he over-came the hurdles that were put in front of him in his struggle to design and develop the bouncing bomb. It has footage of the actual busting of the dams of the Ruhr Valley which keeps you on the edge of your seat

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)…Explosive, colourful and slicker that one might expect, it follows a rag-tag bunch of Allied soldiers.

Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)….Another Clint Eastwood film, but this time as a director. He hadn’t directed a film before 2006, but made up for it with this film which depicts a group of soldiers even more bound by tradition and honour than their American counterparts, trapped in an un-winnable war and dreaming of home.

Ice Cold In Alex (1958)….Army captain Anson (John Mills) with his unit, hijacks an ambulance and heads across the Sahara with two nurses and a dubious South African officer in tow. Their in pursuit of the lager that Anson thinks they’ll find in Alexandria.

Hell In The Pacific (1968)….sees an American pilot (Lee Marvin) stranded on a beautiful isolated South Sea island with a Japanese soldier (Toshiro Mifune) who come to realise that the only way to survive is to collaborate..but it takes them a time to get to that point.!

Saving Private Ryan (1998)….starring Tom Hanks as Private Ryan and directed by Stephen Spielberg. The film sees a furious ‘men in combat’ film that balances comradely bromance with gale force action. Set during the invasion of Normandy in World War II.

From Here To Eternity (1953)….Set in the run up to the attack on Pearl Harbour. Based on James Jones’ foul mouthed novel, this film sees Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr frolicking in the Hawaiian surf, but there is still plenty that shocks in Fred Zinnermann’s adaptation.

The Dirty Dozen (1967)….it must be something when Quentin Tarantino says that it’s amazing! The film is full of stars with Robert Aldrich, JimBrown, Charles Bronson, John Cassavettes, Lee Marvin, Telly Savalas and many more. It was based on a real life World War II unit of behind the lines demolition specialist from the 101st Airborne Division named The Filthy Thirteen.

Schindlers List (1993)….This is film I’ve wanted to watch for so many years, but I can’t actually bring myself to watch it for fear of it upsetting me so much. Directed by Stephen Spielberg and based on Thomas Keneally’s novel ‘Schindlers Ark’. It follows business man Oscar Schindler and his wife Emilie who saved more than a thousand mostly Polish – Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories during World War II.

The Thin Red Line (1998)….Directed by Terrence Malick and an adaptation of James Jones’ memoir of the fierce battle for Guadalcanal. The film features Sean Penn, John Cusack, Nick Nolte, George Clooney, John Travolta and Woody xxx It follows the journey of an army rifle company – C for Charlie who are sent in to relieve battle weary Marine units and the ensuing exhausting battles that follow.

Casablanca (1942)….An American romantic drama based on an un-produced stage play ‘Everyone Comes to Rick’s’. The story focuses on an American expat who must chose between his love for a woman and helping her husband, a Czech resistance leader escape from the Vichy controlled city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Germans.

Enemy At The Gates (2001)….based on the 1973 non-fiction book ‘Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad’, describing the battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942 and 1943. Its main character is a fictionalised version of Vasily Zaytsev, a Soviet Union Sniper.

Pearl Harbour (2001)….A fictionalised American film of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on Dec 7th 1941. IT focusses on a love story based in the run up to the attack, its aftermath and the Doolittle Raid. Stars include Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale and Josh Hartnett.

Reach For The Sky(1956)….A biographical film about aviator Douglas Bader, based on the biography of the same name.

We Dive At Dawn (1943)….A film about the crew of submarine HMS Sea Tiger when they find their shore leave suspended when they’re given a new mission…to destroy Germany’s brand new battleship the Brandenburg, which is crossing open waters on its way to the Baltic Sea.

The Battle Of The River Plate….depicts the story of the Battle of the River Plate, an early WWII navy battle in 1939 between three Navy cruisers and the German pocket battleship the Admiral Graf Spee.

Cruel Sea (1953)….Based on the best selling novel of the same name, it depicts the Battle of the Atlantic between the Royal Navy and German U Boats. It is seen form the viewpoint of the British Naval Officers and Seamen who served in convoy escorts.

Sink The Bismarck (1960)….based on a true story of the hunt for the German super battleship Bismark. The film follows the attempt of the British Admiralty’s Chief of Operations Captain Jonathan Shepard (Kenneth More), and his team as they gather intelligence and launch an offensive against the dreaded German juggernaut. Midway through the operation, Shepard is shocked to discover his old rival, Admiral Günther Lütjens (Karel Stepanek), is at the helm of the Bismarck, and the mission suddenly becomes personal.

South Pacific (1958)….I had to put this in here, I know its a musical, but I absolutely love!! Its based on the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)….the film dramatises the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. The ‘tora‘ of the title is a two syllable Japanese code word used to describe that complete surprise has been achieved.

Ice Station Zebra….

A Bridge Too Far (1977)….based on the 1974 book of the same name and directed by Richard Attenborough. Its the second film based on the events of WWII’s failed Operation Market Garden. Its the story of the seizing of Arnhem Bridge over the Rhône River, France. The title wad taken from the statement by Commander of the First Allied Airbourne Army to Field Marshal Montgomery, the operations architect, that he thought it was “a bridge too far”.

Patton (1970)….An epic biographical film about US General George S Patton during World War II. Starts include George C Scott & Karl Malden

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