WWII in pictures; or, how much of the war can be told in movies?

We were watching Darkest Hour last night, and got to thinking about Churchill, and Ike: Countdown to D-Day, and started to wonder how much of WWII can be told in movies.

How many reasonably accurate, fact-based movies are there of WWII? How long can you sit down and watch WWII in the movies and get a fairly accurate feel for the events in the war?

We thought of:

Darkest Hour
Battle of Britain
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
The Longest Day
Ike mentioned above

Movies like Pearl Harbor, well, it’s based on actual fact, but really isn’t that good or accurate of a movie. I’m not sure it counts.

Movies like Twelve O’Clock High, which, while accurate to the experience of daylight bombing, isn’t based more than peripherally on actual events.

Are there more that would work?

Grave of the Fireflies

Tora! Tora! Tora!

all Hollywood movies leave things out or change them.

HBO miniseries the Pacific and Band of Brothers (Euro theater) are both 10 hours long and are excellent. Since they are HBO shows they don’t pull any punches.

Definitely NOT Midway.

Letters From Iwo Jima

*Das Boot

Enemy At the Gates*

Sink the Bismarck!

A Bridge Too Far, which I believe is a reasonably accurate depiction of Operation Market Garden.

The Bridge at Remagen is perhaps too highly fictionalized to qualify.

I have not seen the movie, but I understand that Valkyrie sticks pretty close to the facts of the Hitler assassination plot (although aspects are fictionalized), if you can get over the distraction of Tom Cruise in the lead role.

Fat Man and Little Boy sticks reasonably close to the historical facts about the Manhattan Project.

For the Pacific:

Flags of Our Fathers (in part)
Letters from Iwo Jima

Although they focus especially on individual stories, I believe they depict the battle accurately.

The Thin Red Line takes place during the battle for Guadalcanal, but also focuses more on personal stories than the historical aspects of the battle.

Two different aspects might be movies which attempt to stick to the big picture facts of the war or certain episodes, or ones which are focused on ‘what it was like’.

Since “The Pacific” as mentioned though not technically a movie, “Band of Brothers” is pretty similar. “Saving Private Ryan” also in that general category for the ‘what it was like part’, though focusing a small story where it doesn’t particularly matter if that particular story happened.

Whether the modern generation ‘don’t pull any punches’ depictions of WWII are really accurate I don’t know, since I’ve never been in a war. I’m not sure veterans of recent wars would even know, different sort of combat for the most part. Some of the 90’s-2000’s projects spent a lot of time with veterans trying to hone this, but Hollywood always has its own ideas and production values.

Reading the title I thought it might be about historical footage or photographs. In many cases those sources fill in technical details that weren’t recorded otherwise. For example when people ask, how many GI’s carried this or that weapon? It wasn’t necessarily written down, and official tables of organization and equipment weren’t always reflective of reality. Pictures and film can add significant information. All the more so for less plentifully equipped armies than the US.

Das Boot is fiction.

Enemy at the Gates is mostly fiction.

If you accept background and want to go before the US involvement you could actually use The Sound of Music to portray the Anschluss. While the story itself is fictionalized and sanitized you could certainly get a feel for ‘We’re Austria! We’re not?’ from it.

What’s wrong with Midway? I had thought it was pretty accurate? It’s got characters that are based on real people.

The OP said “fact based.” All films that aren’t strict documentaries are fiction. The OP wants a “feel for the events” as he puts it. Das Boot gives that feel in spades.

Midway is a fucking joke. If you went through the movie and edited out about half of it, you could probably get a semi-coherent picture of the code breaking and the battle. You’d just have to cut out the leads. :smiley:

Atonement has a very powerful closing sequence set on the beaches of Dunkirk.

Battle of the Bulge covers that battle pretty thoroughly - not sure how accurate purists consider it, though (I remember they didn’t have actual German tanks for filming).

The Imitation Game is about Alan Turing and British codebreaking.

PT-109 is about JFK’s experiences in the Pacific. They Were Expendable is about earlier PT boat operations.

The Cruel Sea (not nearly as good as the book) is about grueling Royal Navy convoy duty.

There’ve been two movies named Stalingrad, I think; I saw the German one, which is very good.

Valkyrie is about the 1944 German military plot to overthrow Hitler.

Conspiracy is a good film about the Wannsee Conference, although several of the actors (most notably Kenneth Branagh as Reinhard Heydrich) look very little like the men they’re playing.

Red Tails is about the Tuskegee Airmen.

*The Man with the Iron Heart *and Anthropoid are both about Heydrich and the British-Czech plot to kill him.

Their Finest is about the British propaganda filmmaking industry during the war.

Fury is about U.S. Army tankers in the last days of the war.

Hope and Glory is about life on the British homefront.

The Captain, a potent German B&W film from last year which I saw recently, is based on the true story of Willi Herold, a deserter who passed himself off as a Luftwaffe captain using a discarded uniform he’d found. He waged his own little reign of terror at a camp for German military prisoners, again in the last days of the war.

Got to have Schindler’s List.

The Good German, too. To cover the aftermath and occupation.

Not all the action was at the front.

The Dambusters and Enigma Game both cover aspects of the technological development that underpinned the war effort.

There was also the raid on the Norwegian heavy water plant - The Heroes of Telemark, which apparently had one of the actual participants playing a German guard and, if television movies count, then you can also add Copenhagen, about the German bomb effort.

There are numerous fairly biographical movies about the resistance movement, ranging from Valkyrie [Tom Cruise plot to kill Hitler], Sophie Scholl [German civilian resistance] and, of course Schindler’s List.

There was a lot more to the Eastern Front than Stalingrad, which seems to be the only episode that gets any attention (at least in the West).

Come and See is great, so’s Cross of Iron. Neither is strictly historical, but they do cover things other films don’t (Khatyn and other Belorussian massacres and partisan actions, and the Kuban bridgehead and Caucasus front)

Au Revoir les Enfants
Wartime Farm (not a movie)

Well, that was a sloppy bit of scholarship. Clearly I meant the Imitation Game, and while I was composing this I got distracted reading all about German heavy water production and was soundly beaten by Elendil’s Heir for several of the suggestions.

In return I offer Empire of the Sun - JG Ballard’s autobiographical novel adapted by Stephen Spielberg, and Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall, based on Spike Milligan’s memoir.

Have never seen PT109, but the accuracy issues raised in the wikipedia entry seem within the range of tolerance of others above.

The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far are perhaps the most historically accurate WW2 films I have seen. Battle of the Bulge would be better titled Battle of the Bilge, being in no way an accurate portrayal of the events.

Band of Brothers is the best series about the war. I have not seen Pacific but the reviews seem to be favorable in terms of the accuracy.

As much as i dislike Speilburg, parts of Saving Private Ryan were exceptional in recreating the “feel” of combat and the attention to detail was astounding.

Most recently, Dunkirk seemed well researched and portrayed but I found it boring.

What i would really like to see is a A Bridge Too Far quality film about Vietnam

A movie that presents an aspect of the war little seen otherwise is Soldier of Orange, about a group of Dutch students who either join the Resistance or Allied Forces, or become collaborators with the Germans. It’s based on an autobiographical book, but it’s years since I’ve seen it and so can’t say where it falls on the accuracy spectrum.