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The Best World War II Movies Ever Made

Settle in for epic storytelling — from Omaha Beach to Iwo Jima

The 76th anniversary of D-Day is June 6; here we celebrate with 11 classic movies about World War II. While sheltering at home, get out your handkerchiefs and experience the uplifting power of our historic triumph over seemingly unbeatable foes.

Michael Caine sitting in a cockpit of an aircraft in the film Battle of Britain

Mary Evans/SPITFIRE/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection

Michael Caine, playing Squadron Leader Canfield, sits in a cockpit of an aircraft for the film, "Battle of Britain."

Battle of Britain (1969)

The Royal Air Force keeps the Nazi Luftwaffe from crossing the English Channel and invading England. A must-watch for armchair pilots who live for aerial dogfights and vintage planes, and for fans of stars Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Laurence Olivier and Ian McShane.

Where to watch: Amazon, Vudu. Typically $3.99 or by subscription.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Steven Spielberg earned an Oscar for best director for this heart-thumping drama that grips right from its visceral 24-minute opening scene of the D-Day storming of Omaha Beach. The inspiring Capt. Miller (Tom Hanks) and his small platoon infiltrate enemy lines to rescue Private Ryan (Matt Damon) after his brothers have died in battle.

Where to watch: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, Sling TV. Typically from $2.99 or by subscription.

John Wayne stars in the film The Longest Day

20th Century-Fox Film Corp/Courtesy Everett Collection

John Wayne (third from left) stars as Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort in "The Longest Day."

The Longest Day (1962)

John Wayne leads an all-star army (Eddie Albert, Paul Anka, Richard Burton, Robert Wagner, Rod Steiger, Sal Mineo and Sean Connery) in a sprawling Oscar winner that tells the gut-wrenching D-Day story from the dual perspectives of the Allies and the Germans.

Where to watch: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube. Typically $3.99 or by subscription.


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Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

Tough-as-nails Marine Sgt. John M. Stryker (John Wayne) grits his teeth, gets the girl (1940s pinup star Adele Mara) and beats the Imperial Japanese Army in the pivotal Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945.

Where to watch: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Hulu, YouTube. Typically $2.99 or by subscription.

Lee Marvin on the set of The Dirty Dozen

Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Lee Marvin on the set of "The Dirty Dozen."

The Dirty Dozen (1967)

Who was even tougher than John Wayne? Lee Marvin as Major Reisman, commanding 12 violent felons (including Ernest Borgnine, Donald Sutherland, Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, Telly Savalas and Jim Brown) out to assassinate Nazi officers meeting at a French château.

Where to watch: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, Philo. Typically $2.99 or by subscription.

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)

The Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, gets the play-by-play treatment. Amazing aerial dogfights and terrifying kamikaze runs compete for screen time with devastating naval battles in the 1970 Oscar winner that stars Martin Balsam, Jason Robards, So Yamamura and Tatsuya Mihashi.

Where to watch: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube. Typically $3.99 or by subscription.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

David Lean's epic seven-Oscar-winning ode to the power of human survival is a thrilling, character-driven movie set in a British POW camp in Japanese-occupied Burma. Alec Guinness and William Holden plot to sabotage a strategic bridge to thwart their captor (Sessue Hayakawa).

Where to watch: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube. Typically $1.99 or by subscription.

Patton (1970)

George C. Scott won one of the film's seven Oscars for his galvanic performance as the most profane, volatile, unpredictable — and also among the most brilliant — of World War II generals.

Where to watch: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, Hulu. Typically $1.99 or by subscription.

Steve McQueen sitting on a motorcycle for the film The Great Escape

Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Steve McQueen sitting on a Triumph Bonneville motorcycle in a publicity still for the film, "The Great Escape."

The Great Escape (1963)

In a rousing, fictionalized rendition of a real 1944 Allied POW breakout from a camp 100 miles from Berlin, a dashing Steve McQueen leads a band of daredevil soldiers (James Coburn, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson and David McCallum) who plot their mass escape via an ingenious tunnel system.

Where to watch: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube. Typically $0.99 or by subscription.

Das Boot (1981)

In the hit that made him a top Hollywood talent, German director Wolfgang Petersen did something no Hollywood movie had ever done: make viewers see the war through the eyes of the German submarine crews, three-fourths of whom died in battle. It's a gripping psychological thriller conveying the claustrophobia, tedium and terror that besets the U-boat denizens being led by the brilliant actor Jurgen Prochnow.

Where to watch: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube. Typically $2.99 or by subscription.

Gene Hackman Ryan O Neal Michael Caine Edward Fox and Dirk Bogarde in A Bridge Too Far

Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

(Left to right) Gene Hackman, Ryan O'Neal, Michael Caine, Edward Fox and Dirk Bogarde in a promotional portrait for "A Bridge Too Far."

A Bridge Too Far (1977)

Another epic based on real events, director Richard Attenborough's massive go-for-broke adventure follows the Allies on Operation Market Garden, the impossible 1944 air and land mission to dismantle critical bridges behind enemy lines. The cast is superb: Dirk Bogarde, Sean Connery, Ryan O'Neal, James Caan, Gene Hackman, Robert Redford, Elliot Gould, Anthony Hopkins, and Liv Ullmann.

Where to watch: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube. Typically 99 cents or by subscription.

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