WWII Films and Documentaries?

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    I have discovered that one of the best ways that I learn is through film. While one film may be very misleading historically, in my experience, watching a few documentaries and several films set during a particular time period is extremely effective in providing both an overview of and a feel for the era in question.

    When I did this for the Civil War years ago, I began to realize that the war was more complicated than simply quashing a rebellion, “saving the union”, and freeing the slaves. I came to see Lincoln as quite the opposite of the demigod presented to me throughout my life, and I began to sympathize with the South before I even realized that there was a school of thought out there that shared — and legitimized — my new leanings (I was still a George Bush Republican who had never heard of Ron Paul). I discovered Thomas DiLorenzo, Ron Paul, Tom Woods, and the rest is history. 🙂

    Having subsequently completed the WWI and Prohibition eras, I began WWII this week with Episode 1 of Ken Burns’ “The War,” followed by the extremely moving film “The Flowers of War”. As I began building a spreadsheet of the films I want to watch, trying to organize them in an order that makes sense, I realized that I have this wonderful tool at my disposal: I have all you experts at my fingertips (I hope ALL of the history professors read this and contribute, so I will be posting this in both the Western Civ and US History forums).

    1) Since I happen to be on WWII right now, would ye be so kind as to suggest first any documentaries you could recommend and an order for watching them that would be most helpful in providing me with a thorough overview of the history?

    2) Second, could you also list all of the films from the era you consider worth a viewing, again in an order that would help my linear mind connect all the dots?

    3) Please consider doing this for each time period you cover in your various lectures. And perhaps the lot of you could eventually come to a consensus on the official Liberty Classroom rubric of documentaries and films for each time period.

    Thank you so much.


    I wish I could help you, but I haven’t had much exposure to WWII documentaries.


    WWII films worth seeing:

    The Band of Brothers series
    The Pacific series
    (though both are highly jingoistic, they are a fairly accurate portrayal of American combat in the European and Pacific theaters)

    Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima (watch back to back)

    Saving Private Ryan for the D-Day sequence in the first 20 mins. Generally regarded as the most accurate portrayal of Operation Overlord on film.

    Tora! Tora! Tora! Though it has some historical inaccuracies, it is still a very good film on the Pearl Harbor attack.

    Valkyrie Excellent movie that is a fairly accurate portrayal of the almost successful attempt to kill Hitler.

    The Downfall One of the best films on Nazi Germany I have seen. Centers on Hitler’s last days in his bunker.

    Das Boot An excellent German film.

    Enemy at the Gates Great film about the Battle of Stalingrad

    The Pianist

    Empire of the Sun



    A Bridge Too Far

    The Big Red One

    The Longest Day

    The Dirty Dozen

    Where Eagles Dare Not historically accurate, but a good movie.

    Hope that helps. There are so many documentaries on WWII, it is impossible to keep up. Two that I show in class are in the Lost Worlds series, one on atomic cities in the U.S. and one on Hitler’s plans for Germania.


    The World at War
    See the wikipedia page for more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_at_War
    Can be found at many libraries I think.


    I wondered if the the documentary series ‘World at War’ was any good and worth seeing.

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