One of the best things about making a movie from an extended event of history is that there are many stories to portray. Writers and directors can be creative with how they bring these stories to the people. Here are the best 18 WW1 Movies that you will love.
1. 1917 (2019)
English 1h 59m IMDb
Director: Sam Mendes
Stars: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays
1917 depicts the story of two Lance Corporals tasked to deliver a message. With the time running out, bombs falling, and soldiers crossing the enemy’s territory, the task makes it harder for them to do.
This movie will show you how complex signals and messages are delivered from deployed soldiers at a time when there are no other means of communication.
The crew had pulled off a continuous shot, which is not easy. Furthermore, the production made a whole set that looks just like their model, where the entire story will rotate to avoid cutting shots to a different environment.
2. Wings (1927)
2h 24m IMDb
Director: William A. Wellman, Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast(uncredited)
Stars: Clara Bow, Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers, Richard Arlen
This movie may not represent the brutality and violence that happened in the war, but it tells how World War I changed people’s relationships, especially among armies. Wings are famous for winning the first Oscar.
That award alone shows how incredible this movie is. The film’s main message shows how they highly discourage war as the brutality can physically, emotionally, and mentally destroy lives.
The original film got lost for about ten years before France presented a copy of the film. Paramount Pictures did some restoration and new soundtracks for the movie, and the images are more alive.
3. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
English 3h 38m IMDb
Director: David Lean
Stars: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn
The movie based its characters on the historical people involved in World War I, but not everything is historically related. Although there are some fictitious moments, the movie did a great job representing the Arabs.
The president of Egypt during the release, Gamal Abdel Nasser, waived the film ban in their country after being accused of false representation. It even became a hit in Egypt!
The director had chosen great actors to represent the historical characters as they brought the characters to life. People adore Peter O’Toole, who played a fictional character but made him feel real.
4. Paths of Glory (1957)
English 1h 28m IMDb
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou
Paths of Glory shows two kinds of desperation: France’s victory in the war against Germany with a personal intention by the upper echelon and General Paul Mireau’s desire to be promoted to a higher ranking.
This World War I movie did not focus on the brutal killing during a fight but on the loss of empathy by those in higher ranks. It is a great movie that shows the internal struggles that most people were not aware that it happens. Winston Churchhill even said that this movie is close to the reality of World War I.
5. They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)
English (United Kingdom) 1h 39m IMDb
Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: Thomas Adlam(voice), William Argent(voice), John Ashby(voice)
This documentary movie presents the stories of those who fought in WWI and footage that people had never seen before. The film made the viewers laugh, think, and cry. There are times when soldiers joke with each other, but it doesn’t take away the fact that there are also brutal happenings you can see on the screen.
London’s Imperial War Museum mostly kept the footage used for this documentary. The productions show the fantastic restoration technology that brings color to the frames. They did justice to the honor of those soldiers in the film.
6. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
English 2h 32m IMDb
Director: Lewis Milestone
Stars: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray
This story tells about the young German boys recruited to be in the war, including Paul Baumer. He was eager to join as he had a different perspective on war. But as the officials put him on the Western Front, the brutality and violence changed his view.
It’s rare to see a German perspective on WWI, especially from young recruits. The film might be gory to some; however, the director included some scenes that German soldiers themselves share and claim they see happen in the actual war. Kudos to him for also not being politically biased while making this film.
7. War Horse (2011)
English 2h 26m IMDb
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, David Thewlis
Albert’s life will change from peaceful countryside to the war between countries as his father sold his beloved horse to the British cavalry. He decided to get enlisted to find his buddy.
Although the characters used are purely fictional, the plot of the man finding his horse during the war is actual. This story is not typical for a WWI movie or any movie, but it conveys many messages, such as the deep connections a human can give to another being.
Many viewers commended the crew for making some scenes as realistic and close to the actual war as possible.
8. A Farewell to Arms (1957)
English 2h 32m IMDb
Director: Charles Vidor, John Huston(uncredited)
Stars: Rock Hudson, Jennifer Jones, Vittorio De Sica
A Farewell to Arms is a love story of an American ambulance corp soldier in the Italian Army and a British nurse in the middle of a war written by the famous Ernest Hemingway in 1929. Two different productions made the same movies about the novel, both with the same title.
The film will question your decisions and will to love someone you know will have one foot in the grave every time he’s away. Moreover, the scenes will make you fall in love with the main characters and mad at the supporting ones who try to tear them apart.
9. The Lost Patrol (1934)
English 1h 13m IMDb
Director: John Ford
Stars: Victor McLaglen, Boris Karloff, Wallace Ford
As the troops were crossing Mesopotamia, unexpected Arabs shot the leader of the soldiers along with the direction. The more they are stuck in the desert, the more they get into deeper trouble.
Victor McLaglen, the leading actor in this film, joined the Irish Fusiliers in World War I, positioned in the same desert where they set the story.
Casting him as the main character is excellent because of his acting skills and because he knows what it was like being at war. This film will put you on the edge of your seat for the psychological horror it brings.
10. Mars Na Drinu (1964)
English 1h 47m IMDb
Director: Zivorad ‘Zika’ Mitrovic
Stars: Aleksandar Gavric, Ljuba Tadic, Nikola Jovanovic
Mars Na Drinu tells the story of the Battle of Cer, a historical event in World War I. The title of the movie is from a musical composition for the military march, which suits the film as it shows the Serbian Army that marched to the Cer Mountain with no rest and attacked the Austrians who were invading their country, leading them to victory.
This film shows authenticity with how the director and the production portrayed the stories. The movie is in Serbian instead of English, but you can still enjoy it as there are sources that offer English subtitles.
11. Johnny Got His Gun (1971)
English 1h 51m IMDb
Director: Dalton Trumbo
Stars: Timothy Bottoms, Kathy Fields, Marsha Hunt
Some might think death is better than permanent damage. Johnny is a young American soldier who got hit by an artillery shell before the war ended, and the medics had to amputate his arms and legs. On top of this, the incident left him mute, deaf, and blind.
This movie makes the viewers’ stomachs turn from the horror of just thinking about the situation of Johnny. Thinking of the constant pain and being conscious but trapped in a body that cannot do anything is like torture. Kudos to Dalton Trumbo, who wrote the novel and directed the movie.
12. Gallipoli (1981)
English 1h 50m IMDb
Director: Peter Weir
Stars: Mel Gibson, Mark Lee, Bill Kerr
The movie is about two sprinters who joined the Australian Light Horse and were positioned in Gallipoli as messengers. Their enthusiasm turns to horror as they witness the brutality of the war. The film captures the innocence of the young civilians and how they are clueless about the war.
You will never know how things are unless you experience them yourself. The message is still applicable in today’s generation as some people do not understand how cruel the world can be. They do not know how it feels like to be in that position, just like the two characters.
13. The African Queen (1951)
English 1h 45m IMDb
Director: John Huston
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley
Love is brewing, even in the middle of a war. Rose Sayer had no choice but to go with Charlie Allnut to escape the Germans, but it was not easy for them to get along. Along their journey, they encountered many troubles that only made them grow fonder.
The cinematography is subtle and tries to be more natural, which suits the storyline. Even if the film is about an adventure, the director still made sure to be more realistic about the set and the journey. The viewers can feel the building romance in the film, little by little.
14. Sergeant York (1941)
English 2h 14m IMDb
Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie
The story is based on the diary of Alvin York, although most of the parts are fictional. Sergeant York is torn between his religious beliefs and duty to serve his country. As a Christian, he vows not to harm, but as he got persuaded to join the battle, he even became a war hero who tried to capture the Germans instead of killing them.
This movie will question your morality and beliefs even after years of watching it, which serves as a tremendous timely lesson. For a film dated in the ’40s, Sergeant York is genuinely remarkable.
15. The Water Diviner (2014)
English 1h 51m IMDb
Director: Russell Crowe
Stars: Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, Jai Courtney
The story’s timeline was not set during the Great War but in what happened afterward. It is about a father who will do anything to find his missing sons. The Turkish army officer would help him find his son, even though his men were the ones who might have shot them.
The film makes you realize how hard it is to lose someone. Thinking that your loved ones might still be alive might be foolish, but it is worth trying to look for answers. Maybe they are just waiting for you to find them as well.
16. Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)
English 2h 24m IMDb
Director: Richard Attenborough
Stars: Wendy Allnutt, Colin Farrell, Malcolm McFee
WWI is a serious matter, but this movie will lighten the story with comedy and music. The story portrays a family with an optimistic view of the war. However, their perspective changed as the men joined the Army.
Making songs about the war is easy and brings honor, but inserting jokes and funny scenes is complicated. It takes the right amount of balance to be hilarious and sincere to be accepted in the industry.
Kudos to the writer for making it perfect. This film might be your best choice if you want to learn about WWI while getting entertained.
17. The Trench (1999)
English 1h 38m IMDb
Director: William Boyd
Stars: Paul Nicholls, Daniel Craig, Julian Rhind-Tutt
The young British soldiers are petrified of what is about to go down in the battle of the Somme. Billy Macfarlane, a teenage soldier, starts to long for his home while the commanding officer tries to escape reality in his way as well.
The film brings the thrill of waiting for what is bound to happen in the trenches. It focuses more on what the soldiers feel before the violence rather than what happens during the battle. The cast spent a night in a trench to get into the character of the suffering British soldiers.
18. Journey’s End (2017)
English (United Kingdom) 1h 47m IMDb
Director: Saul Dibb
Stars: Paul Bettany, Sam Claflin, Stephen Graham
When at war, you will need a leader who can carry the soldiers. But what if the one given to you has declining mental health? 2nd Lieutenant Raleigh wanted to join his friend Captain Stanhope in the C Company. Unfortunately, his friend is not who he used to know.
The film is personal to the writer, Playwright R. C. Sheriff, as he had witnessed what years of war can do to his friend living in fear. There is a limit to what a soldier can bear, and the story in the film made sure to get the message across.
World War I ended a century ago, but it doesn’t mean we must forget about it and move on to the future. Historical events played a significant part in the generation today. Watch these 18 best WWI movies with timely plots as we internally fight a war of our lifetime.