Special Report

The Best Movies About World War I

World War I had barely concluded before movie makers sought to tell the story of the War to End All Wars. Some of these motion pictures are among the most honored movies in cinematic history. (Some have a place among the best war movies of all time.)

To determine the best World War I movies, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of Dec. 15, 2022, weighting all ratings equally. (Documentaries were not considered.) Cast information and directorial credits come from IMDb.

Though many of the plotlines of the films on our list involve love stories (sometimes love triangles), for the most part, these movies are unstinting in their depiction of the horrors of modern warfare. Besides the filth and tedium of daily life in the trenches, filmmakers showed the terror of shelling; the use of obsolete tactics in an era of industrial-scale warfare; the grim charges over the top; and the impact of total war on the civilian populations. (These are the most accurate war movies ever made.)

As decades passed, the long shadow of the First World War did not. Jean Renoir’s film “Grand Illusion,” made in 1937, showed the resilience and dignity of French prisoners of war as another war loomed in real life. In 1961, Stanley Kubrick’s ironically titled “Paths of Glory” exposed the cynicism of French high command that sent thousands of troops to their deaths despite the hopelessness of their mission.

Click here to see the best movies about World War I

Some films about World War I may show thrilling cavalry charges such as those in the “The Lighthorsemen” or “Lawrence of Arabia,” but there is little glory and their message is unmistakably anti-war. “All Quiet on the Western Front” was not the first great film about World War I. King Vidor’s “The Big Parade” and William Wellman’s “Wings” (the first Best Picture Oscar winner) predated it. But it has become the benchmark for anti-war films, and has been remade several times, most recently in 2022 (a version that can be streamed on Netflix).

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