World War II has long been a rich source of ideas and inspiration for moviemakers. All of the streaming services boast war films, but what are the best World War II movies on Netflix?
In this article, we list the best World War II movies to watch on Netflix. So, if a recent blockbuster has made you want to delve deeper into World War II, this is a good place to start.
1. Mission of Honor (2019)
2019’s Mission of Honor—directed by David Blair—follows a group of Polish fighter pilots. They arrive in the UK during the Battle of Britain and join the RAF’s famous 303 Squadron.
As the specter of Nazi rule loomed over the UK, many expressed severe doubts about how long the isolated British could continue to repel German military power. For the Polish fighters, the existence of their entire country was under threat.
Equipped with the near-obsolete Hurricane aircraft, they fought valiantly and claimed their place in history.
2. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Inglourious Basterds isn’t based on real-life events. The movie is a fictional story about two plots to assassinate the leaders of the German war machine.
Directed by Quentin Tarantino, the film boasts an all-star cast, including Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, and Diane Kruger. It earned eight nominations and one win at the 2010 Oscars.
3. The Pianist (2002)
Roman Polanski’s 2002 biographical drama movie won widespread acclaim at the time of its release. It won three Oscars—including Best Actor and Best Director—and earned a further four nominations.
The Pianist tells the life story of the famed Polish-Jewish composer and pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman. Szpilman was popular in his home country before the outbreak of war, but by 1942 he found himself deported to Treblinka, a Nazi extermination camp.
4. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas takes us inside the Nazi extermination camps.
The protagonists are two eight-year-old boys, Bruno and Shmuel. Bruno is the son of a Nazi guard; Shmuel is an inmate. The story plots their growing friendship, but more importantly, offers a look at the horrors endured by the people inside.
5. The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Based on E. M. Nathanson’s 1965 bestselling book of the same name, The Dirty Dozen earned four nominations and one win at the 1968 Oscars.
The story centers on a group of prisoners who have been selected for a suicide mission in northern France ahead of D-Day. It has an impressive cast, with Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, and Ernest Borgnine all taking leading roles.
6. Alone in Berlin (2016)
If you’d prefer a slower-paced WWII movie, Alone in Berlin might be worth considering. The film is based on the true story of Otto and Elise Hampel. They protested against Hitler’s regime in the war’s early years by writing postcards and leaving them in public places around Berlin. The couple were caught and executed in 1943.
Alone in Berlin’s lead actors—Emma Thompson, Brendan Gleeson, and Daniel Brühl—earned critical praise for their performances when the movie was unveiled at the Berlin Film Festival in 2016.
7. The Battle of Midway (1942)
The Battle of Midway was arguably the turning point in the Pacific theater. Coming six months after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese hoped to impart another demoralizing defeat on the US Navy.
Allied cryptographers were able to learn of the attack in advance, allowing the Americans to plant an ambush. Japan lost all four of its large aircraft carriers, handing the Americans an advantage that would last until the end of the conflict.
This movie is only 18 minutes long, but it features some of the best footage of the Pacific war that was ever captured. Directed by John Ford, it won the 1942 Academy Award for Best Documentary and earned Ford a Purple Heart.
8. The Great Raid (2005)
The Great Raid takes place in the Philippines. It focuses on American soldiers and Filipino resistance guerrilla fighters as they attempt to liberate 500 soldiers from a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Japanese forces have held the prisoners in shocking conditions for the last three years, and the camp lies 30 miles behind enemy lines.
Some people have criticized the film for being too long and too complicated. But if you’re looking for a World War II film to get your teeth into, it might be worth watching on Netflix.
9. The Photographer of Mauthausen (2018)
The Photographer of Mauthausen is a Spanish movie about Spanish Civil War veteran turned famous photographer, Francisco Boix.
The Nazi regime sent Boix to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where he was an inmate from 1941 to 1945. Due to his background, he worked in the photography department of the camp’s administration team.
During his imprisonment, he managed to take 20,000 secret photos and hide their negatives around the site. After the war, Boix was called to be a witness in both the Nuremberg trials and the Dachau trials.
10. Hitler: A Career (1977)
Hitler: A Career is a German documentary about the Fuhrer’s rise to power and subsequent regime.
Produced by one of Hitler’s most well-known biographers, Joachim Fest, the movie was groundbreaking at the time of its release. Here’s how TIME magazine described it in 1977:
“[It] is the smash of the summer, drawing thousands to the box offices and spurring a nationwide re-examination of the Nazi past.
To younger viewers, the film is a revelation. The school system of West Germany after the war either disregarded the Hitler period or raced through it. Among older viewers, the reaction is often uneasiness. Says one Berliner, 76: ‘That was how Hitler was. He was black magic, and intoxicated people.'”
11. The Exception (2016)
If the rise of Hitler is a little too heavy going, try this romantic drama instead.
The Exception’s central character is Wehrmacht Captain Stefan Brandt. He is assigned to be the personal bodyguard of deposed German Emperor, Wilhelm II, in The Netherlands. He quickly falls for one of the maids, and the couple begin to plan their escape.
12. Defiance (2008)
Set in Nazi-occupied Belarus during late 1941, Defiance uses the Bielski partisans—a group of Belarusian-Jewish resistance fighters—as its inspiration.
In the movie, a family of Jewish brothers (played by Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, and George MacKay) escape into the forests, meet up with a group of Russian fighters, and attempt to build a secret village to house 1,000 Jewish refugees.
More Great Movies to Watch on Netflix
Remember, the list of movies on Netflix is continually evolving, so if you notice another WW2 movie on Netflix that isn’t on our list, make sure you let us know in the comments below.
And if you’ve worked through all of our recommendations and are ready for something else to watch, here are the best BBC shows on Netflix that Americans will enjoy.
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