The holocaust has been a touchy subject ever since its one of the most violent times in history. However, with this list of nineteen best holocaust movies, you can also see the lesson and inspiration you can learn from one of the darkest times, not just in the 20th century but in all of human history.
1. Schindler’s List (1993)
English 3h 15m IMDb
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley
Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List details the true-to-life story of Oskar Schindler. During the Nazi regime, Schindler was a businessman looking forward to using cheap labor from the persecuted Jews.
After a change of heart, his kindness serves as a way to rescue more than one thousand Jewish lives from the impending gassing in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
With its seven Oscar wins and various accolades, it’s no secret that Schindler’s List is one of the most influential pieces of cinema. It’s a classic that will move and inspire you, no matter what you know about the Holocaust and WW2.
2. Life Is Beautiful (1997)
Italian 1h 56m IMDb
Director: Roberto Benigni
Stars: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini
A movie filled with hope and a mix of the dark reality, Life is Beautiful, or La Vita è Bella is an Italian film detailing the imprisonment of an Italian Jewish waiter and his family. Even with its grim subject matter, the film uplifts its tone by doing gags.
With its ingenious handling of the period, Life is Beautiful is one of the most well-known holocaust movies of all time. The holocaust film is a critical and commercial success, grossing $230 million while having a budget of $20 million. It also won three Oscars and many accolades.
3. The Pianist (2002)
English 2h 30m IMDb
Director: Roman Polanski
Stars: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay
Music and art can be more challenging to do when a war occurs. Roman Polanski’s The Pianist follows the true-to-life story of Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody), a Polish Jewish pianist. Stuck amid German-occupied Warsaw, Szpilman must learn how to survive and find the music as the chaos around him unfolds.
The Pianist won three Oscars in the category and multiple accolades. The Oscar-winning performance of Adrien Brody is well-received and still praised to this day. At its core, the film uses the theme of music to show the horrors of the war.
4. The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)
English 3h IMDb
Director: George Stevens
Stars: Millie Perkins, Shelley Winters, Joseph Schildkraut
Anne Frank is one of the most notable figures from the Holocaust period. With her diary published by his father, Otto Frank, many people of today know the point of view of a young mind. George Stevens’s The Diary of Anne Frank adapted the book to the screen.
The film won three Oscars and various other awards, making it a critical success. With the brutal war going on, the melodrama in Anne Frank’s life gives everyone a look at the darkest periods in history through the eyes of a child.
5. Goodbye, Children (1987)
French (France) 1h 44m IMDb
Director: Louis Malle
Stars: Gaspard Manesse, Raphael Fejtö, Francine Racette
A French film by Louis Malle, Goodbye, Children, details the indirect effect of war on the younger people at the time.
Revolving around a boarding school, the film follows the youth and friendship of Julien and Bonnet, a Jewish that sought refugee from the gassing of his people. With the imminent danger in Germany-occupied France, the children must face their fate against violence.
The film takes on a melodramatic tone throughout the film. However, from the point of view of children, it manages to spit naivete and the grim reality of the holocaust.
6. The Shop on Main Street (1965)
German 2h 8m IMDb
Director: Ján KadárElmar Klos
Stars: ida Kaminska, Jozef Kroner, Frantisek Zvarík
The Shop on Main Street follows the Aryanization program in Germany-occupied Slovakia. In the middle of this turmoil is Tóno, a timid carpenter tasked to look over an old Jewish widow’s shop. As Tóno and the widow spend their time together, their bond also grows closer.
Compared to other holocaust films such as Schindler’s List, The Shop on Main Street takes a more sublime approach to the matter.
The black and white film is ripe with fantasy sequences that will surely catch your eye. With a much more philosophical depth, the film showcases a broader perspective on the moral and ethical dilemmas during the period.
7. Shoah (1985)
German 9h 26m IMDb
Director: Claude Lanzmann
Stars: Simon Srebnik, Michael Podchlebnik, Motke Zaïdl
Suppose you are more interested in the lives and historical recounts of the holocaust. In that case, this nine-hour film documentary by Claude Lanzmann will give you a more comprehensive outlook on the period. Through a series of interviews and archived information, Shoah details one of the darkest times in history.
The film not only details the life of the holocaust victims and survivors but also showcases the point of view of ex-Nazi. Shoah gives more leeway for discussion and knowledge about the holocaust with its more objective tone.
8. Europa Europa (1990)
German 1h 52m IMDb
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Stars: Solomon Perel, Marco Hofschneider, René Hofschneider
As the violence against Jew is ripe in Europe, Solomon barely escapes his fate in a concentration camp by pretending he is of German descent. Through many trials and harrowing life and death situations, the young man showcases a feat of bravery against all odds. As the film continues, Solomon slowly sees the true nature of the people around him.
The film received a lukewarm view from German audiences. However, it is well-recognized in the United States and has even been nominated for an Oscar and BAFTA awards.
9. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)
English 1h 34m IMDb
Director: Mark Herman
Stars: Asa Butterfield, David Thewlis, Rupert Friend
The innocence of children is the furthest thing away from the horrors of the war. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas follows the unlike friendship between an Aryan and a Jewish boy. A son of a German SS Commander, eight-year-old Bruno stumbles upon the nearby extermination camp and meets Shmuel, a Jew.
Within the film, the naivete and lack of prejudice from the children, specifically Bruno, strike the viewers as the film continues. It deeply examines the philosophical and moral justification of the violence during the holocaust.
10. Final Account (2020)
German 1h 34m IMDb
Director: Luke Holland
As time passes, it’s harder to gather important information about the true nature of the holocaust.
In the film documentary Final Account, the direction takes a turn as it showcases the point of view of the member of the Third Reich rather than the surviving victims. With countless archives and interviews with the people of Nazi Germany, the documentary gives the audience a more expansive view.
This essential and ominous film serves as a reminder of what a collective can do without thinking it’s harmful. As stated, none of us were free from becoming following members of the Third Reich without us knowing.
11. Jojo Rabbit (2019)
English 1h 48m IMDb
Director: Taika Waititi
Stars: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson
Comedy and the holocaust might be the two farthest things from one another, but Taika Waititi manages to combine the two.
From the eyes of a young German and impressionable Jojo, he takes on a blind nationalism toward the Nazi party as he is excluded from his peers. Through the funny shenanigans of his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler, Jojo must confront and reconcile his blind nationalism.
Making a dark figure like Adolf Hitler must be one of this film’s most poignant points. Rather than leaning toward the dark and grim tone most holocaust films feature, Jojo Rabbit is an exceptional feat through breaking the norm.
12. The Counterfeiters (2007)
German 1h 39m IMDb
Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Stars: Karl Markovics, August Diehl, Devid Striesow
The Counterfeiters details the lives of the prisoners during World War II. In their detainment, Sally and Burger, along with other counterfeiters, are tasked to make fake money for the regime. At the mercy of the correctional officers, they have no choice but to aid Nazi Germany indirectly.
The Oscar-winning film details some war victims’ choices to survive. With a contrasting dilemma, The Counterfeiters poses a philosophical quest that we ought to seek out from this type of media.
13. Dunkirk (2017)
English 1h 46m IMDb
Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Fionn Whitehead, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance
When four hundred thousand Allied British and French forces were trapped in the port of Dunkirk, they must do everything to survive. Surrounded by the German troops and air force, almost half a million men struggled to ensure their survival. The film retold a true o life story, inspired by the events of WW2.
Directed by Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk manages to tie a fantastic spectacle and the dark contrasts of the war throughout the film. You must give Dunkirk a watch if you want a war film with an uplifting and moving philosophy.
14. The Reader (2008)
English 2h 4m IMDb
Director: Stephen Daldry
Stars: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, Bruno Ganz
The Reader details a post-World War II love story between a war criminal and her old lover. The film follows Michael Berg, a teenager that seeks out a relationship with someone double his age after she helped him with his scarlet fever. To his surprise, the long-lost lover shows up at one of the Nazi war crime trials.
Unlike other holocaust movies, The Reader focuses more on the personal relationship of a Nazi member rather than with society. As the film unfolds, Michael becomes increasingly thorn on how he should view his and Hanna’s relationship.
15. Mr. Klein (1976)
French (France) 2h 3m IMDb
Director: Joseph Losey
Stars: Alain Delon, Jeanne Moreau, Francine Bergé
Tied to another man with Jewish ancestry due to their exact name, Mr. Robert Klein must prove that he is not a Jew. As the film continues, time continues to tick, and the soldier is starting to round up the Parisian Jews to be sent to the concentration camps. Can Mr. Klein clear his name before the time runs out?
The film combines a mix of drama, mystery, and crime. Set in the holocaust period, you will have your mind running like Mr. Klein.
16. Sophie’s Choice (1982)
English 2h 30m IMDb
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Stars: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Peter MacNicol
Sophie’s Choice follows the titular character Sophie and her relationships as a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps.
Haunted by the difficult choices from her past, she struggles to keep a steady and healthy relationship due to her trauma. With her secrets unfolding before her eyes, Sophie is struck by the fact that she should let go and make a new life for herself.
Often, the films detailing the holocaust focus more on the event that happened during the period. Sophie’s Choice, however, leans on the eminent trauma that the survivor comes through. You are in for a strikingly haunting film with brilliant performances from Meryl Streep and Kevin Klyne.
17. Conspiracy (2001)
English 1h 36m IMDb
Director: Frank Pierson
Stars: Clare Bullus, Stanley Tucci, Simon Markey
A made-for-television film, Conspiracy, details the meeting between S.S. General Heydrich and Lieutenant Colonel Eichmann executed the Jews and other undesirables. With a group of men opposing their proposal, the two conjure a plan to take the way they want.
Unlike any holocaust film, the movie details the story straight from the point of view of the war perpetrators. With the cast’s brilliant performance and striking dialogue, uncovering the German regime has never been more entertaining. As a sign of its incredible performance, Conspiracy won two Primetime Emmys and many accolades.
18. Bent (1997)
English 1h 45m IMDb
Director: Sean Mathias
Stars: Lothaire Bluteau, Clive Owen, Mick Jagger
Bent is the film adaptation of Martin Sherman’s play of the same name. The story follows Max as he struggles to reconcile his identity amidst World War II. Afraid of his brutal fate in the camps due to his homosexuality, Max denies his identity.
Bent combines the chaos of identity and the prejudice of the period. With its depiction of Nazi homophobia, the film won the title Award of the Youth during the Cannes Film Festival in 1997.
19. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
English 2h 59m IMDb
Director: Stanley Kramer
Stars: Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark
Tasked by the court system, Judge Haywood must put forward a judgment to four German judges who used their offices for the brutal policy of the German regime. Throughout the film, Judge Haywood struggles to understand how these people can do that to others.
Listening to the defendants’ point of view, he slowly comes towards an understanding of the challenges faced by the survivors and perpetrators alike. The film makes it poignant that humanizing war criminals is not the same as defending or siding with them.
The holocaust is among the darkest and most violent periods in human history. Ripe with violence, genocide, and immorality, it serves as a reminder about the power of humans to do the most atrocious things when given the right amount of power.
With these nineteen best holocaust movies, we hope you are also reminded and strive to keep the knowledge from these films.