The Best WWII Movies of All Time

Source: Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

The consequences of World War II are still felt today, nearly 80 years after the war ended in 1945. And interest in the subject, as measured by the number of movies that continue to be made about the war, still fascinates the public. (So does an earlier war: These are the best movies about World War I.)

To determine the 50 best WWII movies of all time, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of Sept. 1, 2023, weighing all ratings equally. Documentaries were not considered. Director information is from IMDb.

Of the 50 films listed, nine were released in the 21st century. The most recent was “Oppenheimer” – a biopic about atomic bomb developer J. Robert Oppenheimer – released this July 2023. It became one of the summer’s biggest hits, grossing more than $865 million worldwide. Among the other noteworthy World War II films that came out in this century include “Dunkirk” (2017), “Hacksaw Ridge” (2016), and “The Imitation Game” (2014).

Though the majority of the films listed were made by American directors such as Steven Spielberg, Mervyn LeRoy, and William Wyler, motion pictures helmed by filmmakers from other nations also appear on this list. These include films from British directors David Lean and John Boorman; Japanese filmmakers Masaki Kobayashi and Isao Takahata; Germany’s Volker Schlöndorff; and Bosnian-born Emir Kusturica.

Nearly half of the films on our list were Academy Award winners, including multiple Oscar recipients “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946), “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), and “Schindler’s List” (1993). (See where the latter two fall on our list of the best Steven Spielberg movies.)

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