THROUGH the years, the last worldwide war has been a fertile ground for filmmakers to explore.
From heart-wrenching dramas to chest-thumping action, from the Pacific war to the European front, World War II films run through the gauntlet of emotions, locations, and characters. Almost eighty years after the war, the stories — fictional or based on truth — still have the power to captivate us.
Here are eleven you can watch right now on Netflix, as of June 25. The list is arranged alphabetically.
Darkest Hour (2017)
The chameleon-like Gary Oldman steps into one of the most formidable roles of his career: the tenacious old bulldog Winston Churchill. With factions inside the British government arguing for appeasement, Darkest Hour shows how Churchill stood fast against the Nazi forces that would soon invade Britain.
Christopher Nolan, the director of Inception, could have done a straightforward World War II story, but that’s just not his style. In Dunkirk, the acclaimed director stretches and compresses three different storylines of British soldiers evacuating the French town. Edge of your seat stuff, and definitely not your typical war movie.
Enemy at the Gates (2001)
In besieged Stalingrad, a young hunter named Vasily Zaitsev becomes a crack sniper and a thorn on the side of the German invaders. The Nazis send an elite sniper of their own to pursue him. Almost twenty years old now, Enemy at the Gates is a classic war movie that takes a stab at portraying the war from the Russian side of the fence.
Brad Pitt leads a pack of jaded hard asses, plus one raw recruit, manning a tin box across enemy territory in the last days of World War II. The movie is a hellish look at the tense brotherhood that unites a tank crew. The cast had to go through a brutal boot camp and hazing before they could step into their roles, and it shows in the performances.
Greatest Events of World War II in Colour (2019)
Okay, this isn’t a movie. But if you need a crash course on world history, this Netflix docu-series walks you through the major beats of the war, with colorized footage to bring the 80-year-old events to life. From the Blitzkrieg to Pearl Harbor to D-Day, consider this series as your World War II 101.
The Monuments Men (2014)
Directed by George Clooney, this film tells the story of a different kind of soldier: museum directors, historians, and other academic types who are tasked to save or recapture important works of art from the Nazis as the Allies advance into Europe. It’s an eye-opening look at one of the little-known pieces of history from World War II.
The Photographer of Mauthausen (2018)
This Spanish flick takes you inside the vicious German concentration camp of Mauthausen, where a rebellious Spanish photographer named Francesc Boix is one of those imprisoned inside. Boix takes it upon himself to smuggle photographs of the Nazi’s brutal treatment of the Jews and other prisoners to the outside world.
Playing For Time (1980)
Inside the concentration camp of Auschwitz, a group of classically trained Jewish musicians are spared from death in order to play music for their Nazi jailers. However, one of them, Fania Fénelon, begins to question if staying alive is even worth it.
The Resistance Banker (2018)
This movie from the Netherlands tells the story of homegrown hero Walraven Van Hall, who sets up a secret shadow bank inside his Nazi-occupied country to help fund the resistance and the escape efforts of the Jews. To do that, he must pull off what’s termed as one of the biggest financial frauds in Dutch history.
Schindler’s List (1993)
Ralph Fiennes plays Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who secretly worked to help thousands of Jews escape the Nazi regime. This black and white film, directed by Steven Spielberg, cleaned up at the Academy Awards, walking away with Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay plums.
The Wind Rises (2013)
Studio Ghibli is known for its fantastical anime films, but in 2013, the animation studio tried its hand at a biography with a retelling of the life of aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi, who designed the fighter planes that Japan used to bomb Pearl Harbor. In this heavily fictionalized tale that still features some trademark Ghibli touches, the peace-loving Jiro struggles with the legacy of his greatest creation.