Recommend me a series of movies about WWII

I will be travelling with my parents in Europe later this year. London and Paris followed by several other stops in Switzerland, Italy, and possibly Germany. My wife and I worked in Europe for several years and travelled extensively but this will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip for my retired parents, who are interested in WWII history. I’m working on sites to visit and may survey the Dope for recommendations later, but that’s not the topic of this thread.

Recommend me a series of movies about WWII (focused on Europe). Feel free to include the obvious choices (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, The Imitation Game, Oppenheimer, etc.). We all have lots of time before the trip and multiple streaming subscriptions, so don’t hold back. What would you watch and in what order?

My list of favorite WWII films in no particular order because I wouldn’t attempt to teach a history lesson with them:

Twelve O’Clock High

The Caine Mutiny

The Enemy Below

Das Boot

Saving Private Ryan

Schindler’s List

Life Is Beautiful (not really a war movie, but I think it counts)

Edit: The TV series “Danger UXB”, which I saw on Masterpiece Theatre when I was a kid.

The Dam Busters A fascinating account of a true attempt to destroy a critical dam, using a new type of weapon. Influenced the attack on the Death Star in Star Wars. They keep thinking of doing a remake, but there’s a major issue – the name of a dog is too offensive, and the dog is important to the plot.

Thank you, both. Several of these are new to me and we’ll definitely check them out. Keep 'em coming. :sunglasses:

ETA: @Q.Q.Switcheroo that’s a great suggestion, too. Haven’t seen that in forever and forgot about it.


The dog’s name was already “Trigger” in the release I saw on TV as a wee lad, back around 1959. I found out it had been changed only many, many years later.

Battle of Britain

Come and see

Das Boot


The Desert Rats and The Desert Fox, both of which have James Mason playing Feldmarschall Erwin Rommel.

A second vote for Danger: UXB.

49th Parallel (1941). A U-boat crew makes its way across Canada after being sunk offshore.

Have never heard of this. Will definitely check it out. Thanks to you and @Llama_Llogophile both.

Have been meaning to watch this one as well. Thanks for the reminder!

Sub-genre: children in WWII movies:

Empire of the Sun (J. G. Ballard’s memoir of internment in China)

Come and See (USSR kids forfeited childhood)

The Tin Drum (Germany)

Hope and Glory (kids in the Blitz)

Little Boy (US: a bit twee, but didn’t deserve the condemnation it received)

Grave of the Fireflies (Japan. If you can stand looking at the photo “Boy Standing by the Crematory,” you might make it through this movie).

Do you want them to be accurate, entertaining or a bit of both?

Great question. All of the above. Inglorious Bastards is a personal favorite, for example, despite its creative liberties. We’ll have a great time discussing the films on extended train trips, to include their historical accuracy.

Not focused on Europe:

Destination Tokyo, Thirty Seconds over Tokyo, and The Purple Heart, all three about the Doolittle Raid in 1942. Watch them in this order.

Objective Burma. Errol Flynn leads a battalion of raiders behind Japanese lines.

Samuel Fuller’s. “The Big Red One.” Stars Lee Marvin as a grizzled sergeant leading a company of young soldiers in the First Army from North Africa to Italy to the Normandy Invasion to the Battle of the Bulge. Absolutely first rate!!

NB: There are at least two movies titled Dunkirk. One made in 2017 and the other made in 1958. I greatly prefer the latter which stars John Mills, Richard Attenborough, and Bernard Lee.

Attenborough played “Big X” Roger Bartlett in 1963’s The Great Escape. It’s one of the best WWII movies ever made, despite certain liberties taken with the story. Before you see the movie, I recommend you read the book of the same name written by Paul Brickell, who was actually an inmate of Stalag Luft III during the war.

Decision before Dawn, about a German soldier recruited to spy for the Allies in the last days of the Third Reich.

The Search. An American GI helps a Czech boy find his DP mother in postwar Europe.

The Big Lift, an accurate dramatization of the postwar Berlin Airlift.

The latter two star four-time Oscar nominee Montgomery Clift.

Listed in order of year of release:

Went the Day Well? (1943) – Graham Greene story of German soldiers having a bad day pretending to be Brits so they can take over a strategically located small town.

Lifeboat (1944) – Survivors of a torpedoed ship share a lifeboat with the German U-boat commander who sank them.

Attack (1956) – WWII infantry Captain Eddie Albert is unfit for command, making Lt. Jack Palance mighty po’ed when there are consequences.

The Password is Courage (1962) – Lower budget The Great Escape starring Dirk Bogarde as the (real-life) Sgt. Maj. Charles Coward.

The Vultures (1984) – Kelly’s Heroes knock-off starring Jean-Paul Belmondo set in 1943 Tunisia. Memorable mostly for the scene in which a foreign legionnaire unwisely urinates on an exposed power cable.

The Colditz Story (1955). Allied POWs escape from a German castle converted to a high-security Luft Stalag. Also based on an account written by a former inmate, Pat Reid.

Not a movie, but Band Of Brothers deserves a mention. In my book a gold standard production of a unit’s experience leading up to D-Day and beyond.

The Man Who Never Was (1956). A dramatization of Operation Mincemeat, the successful Allied deception campaign to mask the invasion of Sicily in 1943 by planting a corpse with classified documents off the coast of Spain. The scheme was so hush-hush that certain details remained secret until fairly recently.

A second version of the story titled Operation Mincemeat was made in 2021 with Colin Firth. Again, I recommend you read the book of the same name, written by Ben MacIntyre, before seeing the movie.