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Every year, many Americans gather with their loved ones to celebrate Memorial Day. On the last Monday of May, many celebrate the federal holiday that honors those who have passed during the nation’s wars. Many show their support through lavish pool parties, wearing the nation’s colors in some way, and some even do an on-theme movie night. While movie nights are usually reserved for horror films for date night or family-friendly flicks on Disney, you can change it up this holiday by watching some of the most powerful films based around World War II.
While World War II was one of the most devastating events in the entire world’s history, many filmmakers have made stunning films around it. Many show the devastation from different points of view, illuminating the audience from different perspectives.
Whether it’s a newer Oscar-winning piece like Jojo Rabbit or a classic film like Casablanca, there’s a lot more to war films than you might think.
These war films have dashes of romance, horror, and drama for the ages. So for Memorial Day, sit down and watch one (and more) of these stellar films that’ll probably bring you to tears.
Check out the best films to watch if you’re itching for a moving World War II movie below.
A version of this article was originally posted in June 2017.
Starring Adrien Brody, The Pianist shows his Oscar-winning performance as a Polish Jewish musician struggling to survive during World War II.
‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’
This film is not for the faint of heart. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is based on the bestselling book that follows the friendship between the son of a Nazi soldier and a boy in the concentration camp nearby.
Christopher Nolan’s 2017 film Dunkirk is a harrowing tale of the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II. However, it tells the tale through those on land, in the air, and on the sea.
Directed by the celebrated Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit is a comedy-drama film that follows a young boy named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) who idolizes Hitler. He idolizes him so much that he has an imaginary friend based on him. However, his world is changed when he discovers his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in their home.
Chances are that you’ve already seen the classic romance film Casablanca. In case you haven’t, it’s a romance film following a cafe owner deciding whether or not to help his former lover escape the Nazis.
‘Come and See’
The 1985 anti-war film Come and See follows a young boy who found an old rifle, leading him to join the terrifying world of the Soviet resistance movement during WWII.
Starring Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes, the legendary cinematic film Schindler’s List is one that stays with you. The 1993 classic follows industrialist Oskar Schindler trying to help his Jewish colleagues escape the Nazis.
‘The Cranes Are Flying’
The BAFTA-nominated film The Cranes Are Flying depicts the cruel reality of WWII, specifically the damage it did to the Soviet Union. It follows two lovers torn apart by the draft, showing how both of them deal with the separation.
‘Saving Private Ryan’
Starring Matt Damon and Tom Hanks, the Oscar-winning film Saving Private Ryan follow a group of soldiers retrieving a paratrooper and going into combat. Both touching and brutal, this film is definitely one to have the kids wait to watch til later in life.
‘The Great Escape’
Starring Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough, The Great Escape follows a dramatized tale of the allied prisoners escaping a German camp in WWII.
The 2006 film Black Book (also known as Zwartboek) follows a Jewish singer who infiltrates a Gestapo headquarters for the resistance. Based on true events, this drama shows a new layer of the events that many have always wanted to know more about it.
‘The Great Dictator’
Charlie Chaplin‘s silent film classic The Great Dictator is both a satirical and powerful film that condemns Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, fascism, and antisemitism.
‘Empire of The Sun’
Directed by Steven Spielberg, Empire of The Sun is based on the semi-autobiographical 1984 novel that follows Jim (Christian Bale) who ends up becoming a prisoner of war.
‘The English Patient’
The ever-so touching, romance film The English Patient follows the story of a badly-burned man’s flashbacks, showing the audience his love affair. The Best Picture film is based on the 1992 novel, leading the audience through a beautiful love story based in WWII.
‘Millions Like Us’
Millions Like Us shows the lives of multiple women that had to work on aircraft parts during WWII. Both daring and refreshing, this film is bound to be unlike any you’ve seen before.
Das Boot is a powerful film that depicts the terrifying, claustrophobic life of soldiers living and working in a WWII German U-boat.
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