One of the unexpected elements of FRACAS yesterday was the screening of the old movie "Battle of the Bulge" on a TV in the background. I hadn't seen it in a long time but did remember the horrible job it did getting things right historically, but for all that it had some highlights notably the singing of the Panzer March song at the beginning. But it got me thinking as to what my all top favourite WW2 and War movies would be?
A Bridge too far
Ok the trailers a bit dramatic with the whole "the biggest battle of the war" bit but the movie is damn good. The book by Cornelius Ryan is a classic that I've read countless times (just finished again last night) and the movie does a fairly solid job in following it. Yes the tanks are Landrovers with wooden frames on them and some bits are slow but its a movie you can watch over and over again. Just awesome
Originally a 6 hour mini-series (a lot of people forget that) based on Lothar Gunthur Buchiem's autobiographical novel. There are 2-3 versions of the movie out there the original shorter version and a directors cut with an improved audio track and approx. 15-20mins of extra footage. Personally I like the shorter version as in the new one they changed some of the cast voices and the new ones aren't as good and I much prefer the versions in German.
As a bit of useless general knowledge the Tipperary Song sung in the movie is actually a version being song by the Red Army (i.e. the Soviets) Choir after the War - didn't believe it until my Dad showed me the original record, and the actor who played Lothar the war correspondant in the movie went on to become a rock start in West Germany.
Somewhat unique in that its a Russian movie but damn its good and very realistic right down to the T34s.
Bridge on the River Kwai
Alec Guiness's best role and one of those movies that you can watch multiple times and still enjoy. If you want another take on Japanese POW camps you should also read James Clavells King Rat his semi-autobiographical time of his captivity in Changi Prison, Singapore.
The Dambusters (1955)
You know the one where the use Guy Gibsons dogs real name and no-one really cares. Fantastic movie still a classic hopefully Peter Jackson doesn't screw up the remake if he ever gets round to finishing it. Those Lancasters sound fantastic - one of the best airshows I ever went to was Biggin Hill in 1996 where they had the BoB flight plus another 12 or so Spitfires all flying in formation the sound was awe inspiring.
The Eagle has Landed
Ok its not the greatest and the story is pretty far fetched but its a movie I really like plus Michael Caine isn't half bad in it and Donald Sutherland has always been one of my favourite actors.
The spawn of thousands of parodies including one from BF but its one of the best movies ever made.
Other notable mentions
Dark Blue World - about Czech pilots in the Battle of Britain
Von Ryans Express - with Frank Sinatra, yes its cheesy but still very enjoyable
The Great Escape - takes some liberties to give Steve McQueen a bigger role but its still good
Battle of Britain - but to be honest I find it hard to watch as the Me109s with the Hispano engines look like crap
Cross of Iron - I enjoyed it when I was younger but watched it again last year and it was awful.
You'll note that I haven't included Saving Private Ryan in this list. Yes its incredibly realistic but I just don't find it watchable. A great war movie is one you can watch over and over again and SPR just doesn't do it for me, I find the characters in it are just too predictable and like a lot of Speilburgs movies it just too over done (the really lame Warhorse is the latest example of that),