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Eight World War II Movies To Watch Before 'Inglourious Basterds'

August 18th, 2009 10:40am EDT
The Thin Red LineWith the release of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds Friday, we're excited about what this often-perverse, slightly deranged and mostly genius mind will do with a movie about World War 2's Nazi-occupied France.

Looking back at the movies that Hollywood tackled on the same subject, most have been re-creations of bloody battles or stories of specific personalities involved, but very few ever added the comic punch that Tarantino's flick will surely carry out.

In anticipation of the film, here is a list of World War II films to watch before the release of "Inglorious Basterds" on August 21st :

1. Das Boot - While it may have one of the most depressing endings, it also just happens to be one of the best movies of all time. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, the film follows a crew of 42 young German sailors as they fight in a German U-Boat in the Battle of the Atlantic. It opens with the somber fact that 40,000 German sailors served on U-boats in the war and that 30,000 of them never returned. There's nothing cheerful about this movie and it clocks in at three hours and some, so be sure to make a lot of popcorn when you sit down for this one.



2. The Thin Red Line - The term "thin red line" refers to a thinly spread military unit standing firm against an attack, which is a good representation of what the movie is about. The film stars Adrien Brody, Kirk Acevedo, Sean Penn and Jim Caviezel and numerous other surprise appearances, so be sure to pay attention when you watch this gem. Adapted from the novel by James Jones, it portrays the battle of Guadalcanal in 1942 and the various struggles the troops go through - from a marriage falling apart back home to the hunger for power. Compared to more recent war films, "The Thin Red Line" is not your average Hollywood blow 'em up fest, instead director Terrence Malick's flick shines through with intense realistic battle images and a rarely seen visual poetic journey. Why this film never got more attention, we will never know.

3. The Big Red One - Originally made in 1980 and restored in 2004 with 47 minutes of additional footage, "The Big Red One" is a classic black and white film about four soldiers who survive the war. With Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, and Robert Carradine, the story is told in a straight-forward war battle tale from the eyes of Samuel Fuller, who served in the war, and also includes a couple real-life experiences from Fuller. The "big red one" refers to the red number one of the US First Infantry Division's shoulder patch. Unfortunately, Fuller died before he could see the restored version of his film as he had intended it to be made. This movie goes unnoticed by many, and yet it is of the same caliber of another movie from it's decade - Platoon. Definitely ranks up in the top five of any war movie.

4. The Longest Day - Even though this film dates back to 1962 and there are a number of small errors throughout, it still holds up as an epic, battle-filled re-telling of the invasion of Normandy and the build up to D-Day, as well as tells the story from four perspectives: British, German, French and American. Sean Connery has a small role, as well as actors John Wayne, Richard Burton and Paul Anka. Some like to compare "The Longest Day" to Saving Private Ryan, but it's pointless to do so. Steven Spielberg had an endless budget for "Saving Private Ryan." Some will tell you that the grand battles of "The Longest Day" far surpasses "Saving Private Ryan," while others will argue otherwise. Each deserve your viewing and you can decide for yourself about which is better.



5. Stalingrad - More than a million people died during the Battle of Stalingrad, which lasted between August 1942 and January 1943. The film portrays the story of a small group of German soldiers as they slowly start to become less than human. The film is brutal, often times perversely so, with mutilations and decapitations - yet somehow this film comes through as a powerful force to be reckoned with.

6. Saving Private Ryan - Blood, guts and glory - everything needed to make a Hollywood blockbuster war movie. While classic war movie buffs might scoff at this choice, it just didn't seem right to not include it. Tom Hanks plays one of his best parts and even Matt Damon is likable as Private James Ryan. One of the more bloody depictions of the Normandy landings, the movie follows a group of U.S. Soldiers as they search for Pte. Ryan, whose brothers were K.I.A. Does it belong in the top spot? No, but it definitely deserves a spot on any top war movies list.

7. Enemy at the Gates - Jean-Jacques Annaud's "Enemy at the Gates" falls into one of two groups: people either love it or hate it. It's the story of a Russian sniper, Vassili Zaitsev (played by the delicious Jude Law) and a German sniper, Major König (played by Ed Harris,) who stalk each other during the battle of Stalingrad, which results in one of the best sniper duels of any movie. In between the raging battles, another battle forms between Zaitsev and his friend and political official, Commisar Danilov, over a woman (Rachel Weisz), whom both men fall for. While the story leans more towards the fictional than anything else, there are still some brilliant fight scenes that make it worth watching. Bonus points for the sexy love-making scene.

8. The Great Escape - Ask any hot-blooded woman and she'll tell you that Steve McQueen, back in his glory days, was some hot stuff. Based on a true story, this film stars McQueen as "The Cooler King" Captain Hilts, a POW who is placed in an "escape proof" prison. Of course, as the title suggests, the POWs do escape, and half of the movie revolves around the Gestapo searching for and rounding up over 70 of the escapees. Who gets away and who escapes? Well, you'll need to watch the movie for that answer. It also stars a very young Charles Bronson and a very sexy James Garner. It's a classic in terms of acting, story-line and general greatness in a World War II story.



More excellent WWII movies to check out: The Dirty Dozen, Kelly's Heroes, Hell is for Heroes, Schindler's List, La Vita è Bella, To Hell and Back and A Bridge Too Far.

Jennifer Best
Story by Jennifer Best

Starpulse contributing writer


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