Definitive History in Film - WWII edition

Went to see The Last Legion today, and it made me think about how fast and loose some films play with history, even if some of the basic facts are there (which tells you how involved I was in the movie, to start pondering things like that). Anyway, I propose a Definitive History as portrayed in films, television, or whatever. The rules are only one portrayal of an historical event can count, and while historical accuracy is the most important, there should be at least some entertainment value in it. Movies based peripherally around an event but primarily focusing on fictionalized characters shouldn’t count (for example, I would include Tora! Tora! Tora! over Pearl Harbor)

So, if you were going to make the most definitive list of as-close-to-factual-events-as-possible movies (film or television) about World War II, what would they be? Throw them out here, and we’ll arrange them chronologically and debate which version of multiple events belongs.

I don’t mean (or want) to sound American-centric, so please suggest films of any country, although if nobody’s really heard of it or it’s impossible to get a hold of, please refrain.

Of the top of my head, the earliest WWI-related movie I can think of is The Battle of Britain.

If this works out, we can look at other eras.

Der Untergang is not exactly a war film, but it as accurately as possible retells the final days in Hitler’s bunker and is generally an excellent movie.

I can’t recall a WW2 movie that portrays actual battle that has impressed me too much with its realism - but I have pretty high standard as something of a hobbyist expert.

Edit: Exception may be Das Boot. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it though, so my memory of problems I had with the movie would’ve faded. I recall at the time feeling that it was pretty accurate.

For complete lack of historical accuracy, A Bridge Over The River Kwai has to be included.

I’m not an historian, but I offer for your consideration:

The Longest Day

If you do not consider it accurate, I would like to know of any major flaws.

Zoe, **The Longest Day ** is a good choice. It portrays real characters in real events. Likewise, A Bridge Too Far is a flick that mostly shows historical events, even if it is on an anti-war spin.

Boy, I forgot about Das Boot…how historically accurate was it?

The Longest Day. Definitely.

I’ll offer up:

Is Paris Burning?

The Dam Busters

Mr. Roberts

On the Japanese civilian side, Grave of the Fireflies is semi-autobiographical, although not technically about real people, and evidently quite accurate.

Midway ( ) is reasonably accurate for Hollywood.

I don’t think the character played by Heston was historical, but the underlying military strategy and background are close.

(They use USN Essex class carrier’s for the Japanese, IIRC. The film footage is shown in reverse, to make it seem that the island structure is on the port side. :slight_smile: )

The author of Das Boot served as a journalistic officer on several u-boat missions during the war. As I recall, the crewmen are fictional composites, but all of the events in the story actually happened.

A few that come to mind that haven’t been mentioned are:
Pursuit of the Graf Spee
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

and frothing Nazi admirals and a very hawt Dana Wynter aside,
Sink the Bismarck!

You must include the 26 part TV series The World At War followed by Victory At Sea .

Haven’t seen it in a while, but I think I remember the guys charging up the beach in Normandy like it was the Oakland Raiders against Pop Warner kids. Not exactly how things really went on D-Day.

Not sure if my selection fits the rules, but I’d suggest 12 O’Clock High. Fictional, yes. But I frequently hear WWII vets say that this film captured the vibe of the 8th Air Force’s experiences better than any other. I’ve personally met two B-17 pilots from that era who strongly agreed with that assertion.

Band of Brothers

The Dam Busters has to be included on this list.

Psst! Post #7.

Okay, how did I miss that? I know I read your post, because I saw your nomination of Mr. Roberts, which knocked the other movie I was going to mention off the list.

:confused: What “anti-war spin” are you talking about? No depiction of the boondoggle that was Market Garden could be accurate without showing the confusion, miscommunication, futility, and waste that were all part of that failed operation.

I’d say that’s a function of filmmaking logistics and not a lack of effort in portraying things as accurately as possible. From Wiki:

Although the assault on Normandy may feel be portrayed in a more “realistically” sophisticated and violent way in Saving Private Ryan, I like TLD because it conveys one incredibly important thing about the beach assault that SPR ignores–that they were pinned down out there for hours.

The producer Darryl Zanuck was a D-Day nut and spared on expense at the time to make things as accurate and wide-ranging as possible–depicting a myriad of operational vantage points (both Allied & Axis), including Brits, Canadians, the Resistance, etc. Some of it may be dated, and the star-watching can be a little distracting, but I think it’s still the most complete D-Day representation in a single feature.

The Battle of Britain seemed to be accurate.

Read “Anti-War” as “Anti-Millitary,” then. The movie suffers from being made in the late 60’s-early-70’s era with all of it’s attendant war protest mentality. Market garden was a boondoggle and it’s not hard to find mistakes throughout the operation. But the producers did the classic “War Sucks” stance of just myopically showing the death and destruction without addressing why the fighting was happening. I mean, confusion, miscommunication, futility, and waste are part of EVERY military operation. The disaster that was Market Garden was not unique in that.