Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On this Veterans Day: A salute to World War I Movies

I'm World War I aficianado, so I am drawn to movies and novels set during that time. "Futility of war" seems to be the main theme in artistic works about the Great War of 1914-18. In honor of the 90th anniversary of the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, here's a list of 10 movies with a WWI theme:

  1. All Quiet on the Western Front. 1930. Classic book by Erich Maria Remarque, classic movie by Carl Laemmle, Jr. and Universal Pictures. Who can forget that butterfly?

  2. Paths of Glory. 1957. Stanley Kubrick + Kirk Douglas. Hero Douglas tries to save his men from the certain-death orders of a crazy general.

  3. Sergeant York. 1941. Pacifist Southern boy Alvin York (Gary Cooper) has to put aside his conscientious objector feelings and ends up single-handedly killing 25 German soldiers and capturing 125 prisoners, becoming the most decorated (American) hero of WWI.

  4. Grand Illusion. 1937. Filmaker Jean Renoir portrays the futility of war through the eyes of French prisoners of war. Usually shows up on any list of greatest movies ever made.

  5. The Dawn Patrol . 1938. A remake of the 1930 version, Errol Flynn and David Niven star in this tribute to the fighter pilots of WWI.

  6. Joyeux Noel. 2005. A beautiful French film about the famous Christmas Truce of 1914. If only they'd just been allowed to keep playing soccer . . .

  7. Gallipoli. 1981. Talk about the futility of war! Aaargh! Those damn whistles sending the boys over the top. Always makes me want to hit somebody. Hard.

  8. A Very Long Engagement. 2004. Just a taste of what soldiers did to get away from the trenches

  9. Oh, What a Lovely War. 1969. An interesting, weird film that captures the interesting weirdness of the war itself. And every top British actor shows up in the Richard Attenborough movie - Olivier, Gielgud, Smith (Maggie), 3 Redgraves, among many others.

  10. A Farewell to Arms. 1932. I'm voting for the early version with Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes, rather than the 50's version with Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones. I do have my standards, after all. Hemingway well done. Er, done well.
I wish someone would make a better film of Pat Barker's novel Regeneration. I've seen one from 1997 that can't begin to do justice to the book. Anyway, feel free to add to the list of films.

A salute to all service people and veterans on this Veterans Day 2008.

No comments: