U.S. News Site Lists ‘Five Best’ WW2 Movies Ever — What Films Did They Miss?

Ethan Hawke stars in the 1991 film A Midnight Clear, one of the best movies about World War Two you’ve probably never seen.

We found this little story on the website for a Utah-based news station: It’s a list of the five supposed ‘best’ World War Two films ever made. While the author, Cody Carlson, rightly includes Patton (1970) and A Bridge Too Far (1977), (in our humble opinion) he misses a few classics of the genre. A ‘complete’ list of must-see World War Two movies would have to include the following titles (in no particular order):

The Cruel Sea (1953)

Jack Hawkins plays the skipper of HMS Compass Rose in the gritty 1954 classic "The Cruel Sea".

Jack Hawkins plays the skipper of HMS Compass Rose in the gritty 1954 classic “The Cruel Sea”.

Based on the book by Nicolas Monsarrat, The Cruel Sea is the quintessential movie about the Battle of the Atlantic. Jack Hawkins plays the skipper of a British Flower-class Corvette, HMS Compass Rose, that puts to sea in 1939 with a crew of novice sailors and amateur officers all of whom must learn about battling German U-boats the hard way – in the heat of battle.

Bridge on the River Kwai (1959)

"What have I done?" Alec Guinness' Col. Nicholson arrives at an unfortunate conclusion in "Bridge on the River Kwai".

“What have I done?” Alec Guinness’ Col. Nicholson arrives at an unfortunate conclusion in “Bridge on the River Kwai”.

I never get sick of this one. When the commandant of a Japanese POW camp orders Allied prisoners to build a bridge across the River Kwai, the ranking English officer in the camp, Col. Nicholson (played by Alec Guinness), seizes upon the project as means to prove to his captors the superiority of the British soldier. Nicholson’s plan works a little too well unfortunately and the results are ruinous.

Guns of Naverone (1961)

Gregory Peck and David Niven in "The Guns of Naverone"

Gregory Peck and David Niven in “The Guns of Naverone”

Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn star in this film about a squad of British commandos that are thrown onto the fictional Greek island of Naverone to destroy a pair of enormous German radar controlled guns that are built into an impregnable cliff top cave. Peck plays Malory, a reluctant member of the team who suddenly finds himself in command after an accident. The group must pull together to overcome one set back after another. A true classic.

Downfall (2004)

Bruno Ganz plays Hitler in the 2004 German film "Downfall".

Bruno Ganz plays Hitler in the 2004 German film “Downfall”.

At least two other movies have attempted to tell the story of the final days of Adolf Hitler. While both Hitler: The Last Ten Days and The Bunker are certainly worth watching, this German-made version of the story is by far the best among them. Told though the eyes of Traudl Junge, Hitler’s 22-year-old private secretary, the movie  charts the final days of the Fuhrer as his Nazi regime literally comes crashing down around him. Downfall is an emotionally exhausting and chilling look at the hopelessness of the last hours of the Third Reich.

A Midnight Clear (1991)

Few saw this made for cable war film "Midnight Clear". Too bad, because it's a brilliant story.

Few saw the 1992 made-for-cable war film “Midnight Clear”. Too bad; it’s a brilliant story.

Chances are you’ve missed this little low budget gem of a movie, but if you can get your hands on a copy, by all means do so. It’s the story of a small squad of GIs that are ordered to set up a listening post in an abandoned Belgian estate on the eve of the Nazi Ardennes Offensive of late 1944. Once dug in, the young soldiers find themselves improvising an unexpected Christmas truce with a group of war weary Germans. An ensemble cast, made up of then unknowns like Ethan Hawke, Gary Sinise and Frank Whaley, deftly brings this tremendous story to life.


What films would you add and why do they deserve to be on the list? Have your say below.


20 comments for “U.S. News Site Lists ‘Five Best’ WW2 Movies Ever — What Films Did They Miss?

  1. 19 November, 2012 at 12:23 am

    Your adds are interesting…especially “Guns of Navarone”. While a star-studded cast, it was largely fictional…but then, movies are to entertain. I am aware of “A Midnight Clear” but only recall bits and pieces of it as I think I saw it once a long time ago.

    I find it also interesting you omitted “Saving Private Ryan”; perhaps you were focusing on the more classic genre?

    But if I many indulge: until fifteen+ years ago, whenever “Sands of Iwo Jima” played, Marine enlistments increased. While the acting was typical John Wayne, it exuded patriotism and “Semper Fi”.

    There are so many others – Twelve O’Clock High, Stalag 17, Sergeant York… Can’t forget the Navy – In Harm’s Way, Wing and a Prayer…

    Nice post!

  2. MHN
    19 November, 2012 at 6:05 am

    Nice additions, I never saw W&P. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the list.

    • 19 November, 2012 at 11:04 am

      Seems like quite a few people are “tweeting”… Since I grew up watching Tweetie Bird, I’ll stay with that. 😉

  3. MHN
    19 November, 2012 at 10:29 am

    BTW — Some people are Tweeting their movies.
    @GaryOkeefe1 pics When Trumpets Fade (1998) and The Long and the Short and the Tall (1961)

  4. MHN
    19 November, 2012 at 10:31 am

    @AmateisGal Tweets: I haven’t even seen two of them. I think The Longest Day (1962) should be included and Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

    BTW — The Longest Day is a classic (love the Pegasus Bridge scene) but have never seen Best Years. I had to check it out on IMDB.com. It looks like a great idea for a movie though.

  5. Melissa Marsh
    19 November, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Best Years is a must-see for how soldiers returning from the war dealt with their new lives. Great acting from Dana Andrews and Fredric March, plus a very well-done performance by real-life double hand amputee Harold Russell.

  6. 19 November, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Where do you start? How about All Quiet on the Western Front (the original version that is). and for the South African War, Breaker Morant. Gallipolli is also worth a watch

    • MHN
      19 November, 2012 at 11:36 am

      All great movies. The US site was speaking about ww2 movies though. I love Gallipoli — it was one of the first movies I ever rented on VHS (30 years ago… yikes!). I usually watch Morant about once a year — it still makes my blood boil! All Quiet is still watchable… even the 1979 made for TV. Incidentally, there is supposedly a remake in the works.

    • 22 February, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      All Quiet on the Western Front is a WWI Movie and the best WWI Movie…and Sgt York is up there as well.

  7. elizzar
    19 November, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    does ‘saving private ryan’ not get any kudos? the Omaha beach landings at the start, watched in a cinema with full surround sound, man that was intense film. my friend’s knuckles were clenched white during that part. i also (guiltily!) enjoy the basil rathbone sherlock holmes in ww2 films, but perhaps i shouldn’t mention them … (propaganda for the win …)

    • Chen Fawn Meng
      14 February, 2016 at 9:20 am

      If you like Sir Basil Rathbone & war movies,watch “The Dawn Patrol”.

  8. Dan
    19 November, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    I believe one of the best WW2 films I have seen is the When Trumpets Fade: Battle of Hürtgen Forest (1988) so I completely agree with @GaryOkeefe1. Another one is the made for TV movie, The Execution of Private Slovik, the last American executed for desertion.

  9. MHN
    19 November, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    The Pvt Slovik film had Martin Sheen in it. I only saw it once, but the execution scene was as brutal to watch as Path to Glory.

  10. 21 November, 2012 at 2:45 am

    I’d like to add the movie “Die Brücke” (“The Bridge” in English), based on a true story .. There are two versions of this movie and both are really good. Reckon that most people will like the version that was made in 2008 better than the version made in 1959. The acting is very good in both movies, you really should give both movies a try 🙂

  11. Adam Woodward
    9 April, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    I enjoyed the directors cut of Das Boot the other night. The fear and boredom of a submariner so well played

  12. RobSanDiego
    19 December, 2014 at 4:24 am

    Some commenters say “Saving Private Ryan” belongs on this Best Of list; I say no, for several reasons.
    1. Going through the French countryside the patrol chattered like a bunch of noisy Boy Scouts, not Rangers in enemy territory.
    2. The patrol went through the dogtags without noticing or caring about the wounded who might see them doing it. So few wounded too, despite the large number of dogtags.
    3. The French father insisting they should take his daughter with them!!?
    4. The patrol’s disagreement over whether they should bring a little girl with them!!?

    Spielberg did a good job on the battle scenes, but got a lot of the rest wrong. He always overdoes something in his films, and always misses something too. Band of Brothers was better because he didn’t direct it. I’m with Mustang.Koji, 12 O’clock High belongs on the list.

  13. 22 February, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    I have tried seeing as many Documentaries and Movies on WWI & WWII as possible and some seen several Times. I would have to add A Bridge Too Far, Stalingrad, The Winter War (Talvisota), Band Of Brothers and THe Pacific and Cross of Iron to this List.

  14. Chen Fawn Meng
    14 February, 2016 at 9:06 am

    I would have added “Pearl Harbor”,”Saving Private Ryan”,”Von Ryan’s Express”,”Battleground” & the “Band Of Brothers” series.

  15. 12 September, 2016 at 11:39 am

    “April 9th” / “9. april” German invasion of Denmark. Excellent film

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