Second World War films dominated the cinematic landscape from 1950 through to the turn of the millennium – but what about films focused on the first major conflict of the 20th century?
If truth be told the so-called “Great War” running of 1914 to 1918 probably didn’t lend itself to big screen reimagining in the same way World War II does.
For one thing, it’s a far more complicated conflict; there are no cut-and-dried bad guys to rival the Nazis, with the reasons behind the four-year war complicated to say the least. There’s also the fact that much of the warfare unfolded in trenches and was brutally repetitive, often unfolding across unforgiving stretches of terrain colloquilly known as "No Man’s Land".
That’s not to say there are not great examples of World War I films. The only real difference is you have to look a little harder to find them. While Sam Mendes’ 1917 and the brilliantly realised Peter Jackson documentary They Shall Not Grow Old have put the war back in the spotlight, some of the very best First World War films have gone largely under the radar – until now.
Here are 10 underrated gems that you need to seek out.
10. Regeneration (1997)
Adapted from Pat Barker’s brilliant novel of the same name, Regeneration is a very different but no less harrowing kind of war movie focusing on the mental toll of the conflict for those involved.
The plot centres on a several British Army Officers brought together at Craiglockhart War Hospital where soldiers were treated for shell shock and other traumas linked to their experiences on the front lines of war. Blending fact with fiction, the psychiatric facility is home to real-life patients and famous poets like Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen as well as several other characters created as part of the story.
Game of Thrones star Jonathan Pryce takes centre stage as the real-life Captain William Rivers, the doctor and psychiatrist tasked with rehabilitating these damaged young men. James Wilby shines as Sassoon while Johnny Lee Miller delivers an impressive early performance in a supporting role.
A scathing indictment of the war and the treatment of countless young men, Regeneration isn’t always an easy watch but it remains a compelling and emotive one that serves as a remainder of the power of poetry and the futility of conflict.