WW1 movies

This war horrifies me. What are the best movies to get a true sense of it. Sure Johny got his gun. Paths of glory. Any others, this war was pure murder on so many levels.


All Quiet on the Western Front.


The Trench

Joyeux Noel

Sergeant York

All Quiet on the Western Front is probably the best there is on WWI.

There’s a film that came out last year, Passenchaele (I think I’m spelling it wrong) that’s supposed to be good, but I haven’t seen it.

Edit: CSL can spell it!

There’s Flyboys, but that was… eh.

There is, of course, War Horse coming out before the end of the year, no idea if it’s good, but the trailer is great.

There is also a German film about the Red Baron that came out not too long ago.

And an old Roger Corman film about the Red Baron which is actually pretty good. ;)

The All Quiet … remake with John Boy and the old guy from Airwolf is also more than decent for a TV movie.

Then there are

The Lost Battalion (original & remake) and
Jean Renoir’s masterpiece Grand Illusion

Lawrence of Arabia
The Blue Max
Aces High

In the air, Hell’s Angels was good, The Dawn Patrol had less spectacle but better acting. On the ground, A Very Long Engagement had its moments.

And what everyone else said.

In other media: Flash games: Warfare 1917. TV (flashback): Archer, Double Deuce. The second season of Downton Abbey is gravely affected by the War, creating horrible levels of melodrama that threatens to wipe away the quality of the first season. Non-fiction book: TheWorldUndone.

As above, plus

Blackadder Goes Forth - black humour works well

Journey’s End (film & play - Aces High is based on this, but transferred the story to RFC rather than the army)

Sure it might be a good book for people who want a basic overview of the war but Meyer gives too much useless anecdotes, goes overboard with background (yes in a book about the First World War I really want to know the Hohenzollern family history from the 15th century onwards!), and draws horribly wrong conclusions about some military matters.

You’d be much better off reading something like “Cataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy” by David Stevenson (though it is very dry) for a general overview. Or just Keegan’s book.

If you want something about the French, since they did the majority of the fighting but that tends to get overlooked, you NEED to read “Pyrrhic Victory: French Strategy and Operations in the Great War” by Robert A. Doughty. It manages to show how French leadership nearly destroyed their entire army before and during the Nivelle Offensive without getting into the kind of mouth-foaming territory you’d find from something like “The Donkeys” by Alan Clark (which Meyer consults in his book).

That said the best and very easy to read books about the war are by Tim Cook. He has a two-volume series about the Canadian Army. Probably one of the most balanced overviews of how an army fought the war on the western front from late 1914 until the end of the war. Plus since its Canadian its mostly divorced from the historiographic debate that plagues British scholarship where you really need to wonder if a particular author has an axe to grind - like Clark very obviously does.

Nobody mentioned Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory yet?

The Lighthorsemen - Generally a pretty good Australian movie with one of the best cavalry charges ever filmed. Too bad Peter Jackson couldn’t take a lesson or two from Simon Wincer. The Criterion LD is a much-sought-after collectors that also has another movie about this very same event that was made a long, long time ago.

Red Baron - Fairly blah movie about the Red Baron, his brothers and the rest of the Flying Circus (and Brown I suppose). Air combat is okay but the other stuff is mostly dumb.

There’s also quite a few episodes of Young Indiana Jones which have some pretty good trench battle sequences (in France/Belgium and East Africa) and capture the atmosphere pretty well.

I don’t recommend Passchendaele, it sucks ass.

Company K - Haven’t seen this yet but comes recommended. Based on a novel.

— Alan

Um yeah, in the first post :)

— Alan

Ha! For some reason I didn’t find that when I searched the page for “Glory”…

It was such a miserable, futile war that it’s great fodder for dramatization (or lethal humor a la Black Adder). My favorite remains the Douglas/Kubrick Paths of Glory. But honestly, there’s a whole bunch of good films set against WWI - most of the ones mentioned so far are worth seeing. Well, maybe not Flyboys unless you are hopelessly addicted to biplanes (raises hand as raised on Milton Bradley’s American Heritage Dogfight boardgame).


This one. It’s like Saving Private Ryan with all the comedy moments taken out.

Also The Lighthorsemen.

Sure the tacked on love story stuff and most of the scenes set in Alberta are but everything else is great.