10 Great World War II Movies You've Probably Never Seen

There are countless WW2 classics, but some still slip beneath the radar.

The Big Red One
United Artists

War films have always been a staple of cinema.

The heyday of the genre was undoubtably between the 1950s and 1970s, when countless World War II dramas dominated the box office. From depictions of noteworthy battles and incidents (such as The Longest Day, The Great Escape, A Bridge Too Far and The Dam Busters), to completely fictional instances (such as Casablanca, The Dirty Dozen and Von Ryan’s Express), many have become mainstays of your father’s DVD collection and movie channels on TV.

In recent decades, films geared around the conflict have become less commonplace as those that experienced it have become fewer and fewer in number, though directorial heavyweights like Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds) and Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk) have ensured that audiences continue to visit it in breathtaking fashion.

Aside from the big-budget blockbusters, there are a huge number of other World War II films from around the world that have slipped under the radar somewhat over time. There are so many aspects of the conflict that have only ever been explored in such films, making them essential viewing for anybody looking to approach it from a different perspective.

Here are 10 that definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.

10. Grave Of The Fireflies (1988)

The Big Red One
Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli may often be called the ‘Japanese Disney’, but the subject matter of many of their films is far darker and mature than any of Disney’s family friendly entertainment releases. A happy ending is never guaranteed and that is perhaps never more apparent than in Grave Of The Fireflies, a brutal insight into the harsh realities of everyday life in wartime Japan as the country's inevitable defeat to the Allies looms large.

The tragedy of lead character Seita and his sister Setsuko makes for a harrowing watch. Knowledge of their grim fates from the film’s opening scene makes their desperation from loss, malnourishment and mistreatment in an uncaring society even harder to stomach, as the moments of hope and happiness stemming from Setsuko’s innocence and Seita’s determination to protect her are all ultimately meaningless.

It certainly doesn’t make for repeat viewing given the terrifying nature of its subject matter, but it's important to experience nonetheless. Perhaps the starkest film in the Ghibli catalogue, it’s a human wartime drama of the highest order, fully deserving of a wider audience befitting its perfect 100% RottenTomatoes score.


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