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Where Eagles Dare
This is a typical 60's WWII movie with explosions, motorcycle chases and big hair, but what sets this apart from the rest is its genius screenplay and steel blue cinematography. Shot on location in the Austrian alps, the film opens as a daring commando raid, but soon we learn there is much more to the story than rescuing an important POW. Everytime you think you know what will happen, a clever twist takes you in an unexpected direction and keeps you on the edge of your seat for 2½ hours. Starring Clint Eastwood and written by the creator of "The Guns of Navarone," perhaps its greatest asset is that it's nearly 40 years old but holds up against any modern WWII film.

Divided We Fall
A true gem from the Czech Republic that examines the complexities of moral dilemmas put upon people under Nazi occupation. It centers around a couple who take in a Jewish friend, but also has a very realistic look at collaborators, fugitives and the resistance, and the difficult choices they make to save themselves and the ones they love. This is not a heavy-handed nor a light-hearted film, but one with a perfect balance of tension, hope and dark humor. This is not a Holocaust film, nor does it have any of the Holocaust/Nazi/WWII clichés that mar other films. It is a unflinching yet uplifting story, filled with wonderful actors who, by the end of the film, make you feel as though you know the characters intimately. With great cinematography and direction for a low budget film, this is unlike any occupation film I've ever seen.

The Pianist
This is a perfect film adaptation of Wladyslaw Szpilman's autobiography, which is mentioned in the book reviews above. Never in my life have I seen a film go to such painstaking lengths to accurately recreate the book it was based on. Nearly all of the screenplay follows Szpilman's book, making this as accurate a film as possible. Just like the book, the film does not try to trick the audience into an emotional response. All the sentiments the characters feel are faithfully portrayed by the actors and in Roman Polanski's expert direction. Winner of 3 Oscars (best actor, best director and best adapted screenplay), this is one of the most powerful and relevant WWII films ever made, perhaps only rivaled by Schindler's List.

Schindler's List
This is a true story about a Nazi war profiteer who saves the lives of 1200 Polish Jews by keeping them in his factory and out of the gas chambers. Winner of several Oscars (including best picture and best director), it is Spielberg's best work to date and is a cinematic masterpiece. More importantly, it accurately portrays Jewish life in Poland during WWII and touches the viewer's heart as no other book or movie could possibly do. It was voted 9th best American film of all time by the American Film Institute.

Saving Private Ryan
Spielberg continues his dramatic genius for WWII dramas in this 5 Oscar winning classic. After a brutally realistic opening D-Day sequence, a squad of GIs are sent out to find a Private in the Airborne who earned a ticket home by losing his 3 brothers in the war. As the squad battles their way across Normandy they ask themselves if saving one man is worth risking the lives of eight others.

Dark Blue World
This is a flawless film about Czech pilots who fled their homeland to England to join the RAF, yet after the war the Communists in Czechoslovakia imprison these brave pilots because of their heroism, out of fear of upheaval. Told mostly as a series of flashbacks, the superior directing, acting, special effects and cinematography capture the essence of the story and time period perfectly, with no "ulterior motives" or "special messages" to the film. As the director says "it is about men who live by their conscience, and about heroism."

A Bridge Too Far
A brilliant film about Operation Market-Garden that stays true to fact while keeping its epic status, something rarely seen in older films. Featuring a talented cast of huge stars such as Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford, Sean Connery, Gene Hackman and Lawrence Olivier, this is a great action film and testament to the brave men in that campaign.

Stalag 17
Probably the best of the "classic" WWII movies from the golden era of Hollywood. The film takes place in a German POW camp filled with colorful characters--American airmen who have been shot down and captured, but maintain their dignity and spirit. However, it soon becomes clear the Germans planted a spy among the POWs and the camp must find out who it is before they attempt a daring escape. The director, producer and screenplay co-writer is the legendary Billy Wilder, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. It also stars one of the best actors of the era, William Holden, who actually won a "best actor" Oscar for this film.

Winner of 8 Oscars including Best Actor and Best Picture, this film follows Patton's career in WWII from Africa to the Battle of the Bulge. While there are minor innacuracies and a few embellishments, the people who knew Patton personally say that this unbiased film captures his enigmatic personality well. Certainly an epic with a great balance between memorable dialogue and impressive battle scenes.

The Guns of Navarone
Nominated for 7 Oscars and winner of Best Special Effects and 2 Golden Globes, this is a classic action thriller. Sporting an exciting storyline, it is supplemented by a fantastic cast who seek to save trapped British soldiers on the Mediterranean Sea. They can't be rescued by ship because of the powerful German guns on Navarone, so an elite team is sent in to infiltrate the island and destroy the guns. This is one of the few war films from the 60s that has retained all of its magic.

The Bridge On The River Kwai
The true story of British POWs in a Japanese camp in Burma who are forced to build a bridge under brutal conditions. Even though it is marred by historical inaccuracies and Hollywood melodrama, the film is a cinematic masterpiece that won 7 Oscars, including Best Picture and holds a prominent spot in the American Film Institute's list of top films.

This is one of the best made-for-TV films ever produced and even eclipses some big-budget war films. Set around the largely-unknown Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, the film chronicles the lives of several Jewish resistance figures who would rather die fighting than be led peacefully to the concentration camps. Based on real people and real situations, it is supported by a fine cast and realistic sets, costumes, and weapons, making it a very believable film.

Set in Britain's top secret intelligence headquarters, the film follows a master code-breaker trying to unravel the mystery of the infamous German code machine "Enigma." When his former lover disappears under mysterious circumstances, he is drawn into a web of intrigue, lies and espionage that he believes is related to a pack of U-Boats heading towards an Allied convoy in the North Atlantic. This is one of the most cleverly thought-out spy thrillers I've seen, and the actors genuinely put forth a big-budget effort in a small budget film. Also, the film goes the extra mile by including submarine scenes and eastern front scenes, which not only adds to the plot but to the film's credibility. Some people might find it slow, but I think it is a first-rate puzzle of love, war, and patriotic duty.

Memphis Belle
While a little on the light side, this film is probably the best portrait of the American airman in WWII. It is refreshing to see a film that centers around the air war, which is a backdrop for most films, yet air crews had a much higher death rate than their Army counterparts. This film tells the true story of a B-17 crew and their gallant dedication to duty that made them the first American bomb crew to complete 25 missions.

The Thin Red Line
This WWII epic is set in Guadalcanal in 1942 and follows a company of Army replacements determined to keep their foothold on the Solomon Islands. It is based on the 1962 novel by James Jones, who was a veteran of that campaign and is wonderfully directed by Terrance Mallik. It was nominated for 7 Oscars, including best picture, and should have beaten out Saving Private Ryan for cinematography. Probably the most philosophical and artistic war movie ever made, it takes the point of view of the common GI and depicts his struggle with a balance of erie tranquility and intense emotion.

Empire Of The Sun
Directed by Stephen Spielberg, it follows a young English boy living in China during the late 1930s. When war breaks out, he is separated from his parents and must find a way to survive on his own. Later when he is put in a prisoner's camp he learns to grow up fast and finds out more about the world and himself than he ever knew as a free boy.

Life Is Beautiful
A brilliant Italian tragi-comedy written, directed and featuring Roberto Begnini as the bumbling love-struck hero who wants to win the heart of his "princess". He achieves all he wants but when the Nazis put him in a concentration camp he loses everything--but still has his family, which gives him the will to live and realize that each day is precious. Winner of 3 Oscars (including best actor for Begnini), this is one of the rare few films that will make you genuinely laugh and cry in the same movie.

Das Boot
This is a German film directed by Wolfgang Peterson (Air Force One, Outbreak) that takes a frighteningly shocking look at submarine warfare in WWII. It follows the crew of U-96, who were sent out to destroy Allied convoys and find glory in the German navy's finest weapon. Instead they realize the terror of war and the intense reality of not knowing which breath might be your last. I recommend seeing the widescreen director's cut with English subtitles, in which the audio & visual effects are superb and makes this a film decades ahead of its time. Nominated for 6 Oscars, it is not only the most realistic submarine film ever made, but also one of the most powerful war movies in existence.

When Trumpets Fade
This HBO movie isn't a big budget epic but it fits the bill as a smaller, more focused look at a bloody yet forgotten American campaign. Set in late 1944 during the Hurtgen Forest offensive, it is a rare look at how American war plans were often ill-conceived and costly. While the film is not a political commentary, I am recommending it because it accurately depicts how the battle for the Hurtgen forest was strategically foolish and how the American system of replacing front-line casualties with green recruits became a tragedy.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Although this is a romantic film, I am recommending it because it captures Greek life under Italian occupation--something rarely, if ever, seen in film. The plot is hardly original, a foreign soldier falls in love with a beautiful native girl, but the film has character depth and fine cinematography. While it is not a traditional war film, it is worth a look for its few action sequences. If you can swallow Nicholas Cage as an Italian officer, you can connect with the characters and even enjoy it as more than just a love story.

Au Revoir, Mes Enfants
One of the best foreign language films, it is about a young French Jewish boy who is hidden in a Catholic school to protect him from the Nazis. At first he isn't accepted as "the new kid" in a strict school in harsh times, but as time goes on he and the other children learn the meaning of true friendship and are forced to become mature even though they should be free-spirited children.

The Sorrow And The Pity
This is a 1969 documentary of France under German occupation in Clermont-Ferrand, and never will you see a more accurate picture of French life during WWII. The 4 hour film is a collection of interviews with French resistance, collaborators, average citizens, spies, political figures, even British and German soldiers. This is concrete proof that there are no easy answers when asking about WWII and seldom are issues black and white.

Nazis: A Warning From History
This mini-series from the Discovery Channel covers the Nazi Reich from its meager beginnings in the turbulent 30s to its destructive demise in 1945. Well put together, it has an enormous amount of detail featuring hundreds of photos, maps, documents and interviews with eye-witnesses.

A German film focusing on the battle of the same name and takes the point of view of the German soldier on the eastern front. We follow a group of young soldiers who go from being arrogantly victorious to experiencing humiliating defeat during the turning point of WWII. Fairly realistic, it is unique at showing an often overlooked aspect of WWII--how the Germans themselves dealt with their own war.

Although I'm always interested in hearing about good books & movies, I can't put them up here until I've read or seen it!

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