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anoop66's avatar

Can anyone recommend a movie which'd help me get the complete picture of both the World Wars?

Asked by anoop66 (897 points ) December 19th, 2009

I want to understand the complete mechanics of World War I and II. What was the reason for the wars, what was involved and the aftermath.

It’d be better if the movie has a more wider plot than movies like ‘The Pianist’. Although a brilliant flick, I need one that can tell me the whole story.

Thanks!

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23 Answers

rangerr's avatar

Read a book.

tyrantxseries's avatar

Band of Brothers is really good – ww2

dpworkin's avatar

I think you may have to break down and actually read a book, although maybe someone will read it to you.

dpworkin's avatar

@rangerr Jinx, you owe me a Coke.

rangerr's avatar

@pdworkin It wasn’t at the same time, cheaterrrrrrrrrrr!

laureth's avatar

I’m not sure there’s even a movie where you could get the complete picture of a single world war, let alone both at once.

Notrom's avatar

I don’t think that there is a movie out that can cover everything you ask, but to get a pretty good idea read the book All Quiet on the Western front (Erich Maria Remarque), then watch Saving Private Ryan and then Schindlers List both by Steven Spielberg

anoop66's avatar

Thanks for the suggestions, saw Schindler’s List, great movie. If not a movie, a documentary perhaps?

dpworkin's avatar

You can read Winston Churchill’s six volume History of WW II for one point of view.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

“I want to understand the complete mechanics of World War I and II. What was the reason for the wars, what was involved and the aftermath.”

Beware, for thou hast summoned a WW2 geek…

Really, you need to watch many documentaries and read many books to get all this. Hollywood movies just ain’t gonna do it, for they are stories usually told with carloads of creative license in order to make boatloads of money (I’m looking at you, Pearl Harbor and U-571!). And even Downfall, as great as it was, only covers the very end of WW2 from the German perspective.

The absolute best documentary series in terms of technical accuracy, scope and objectivity in my opinion was the first and second series of Battlefield (series three does an excellent job covering Vietnam, series five and six are rubbish rehashes of the first two). A very close runner-up is the older but more widely-known and respected The World at War.

Battlefield is now virtually unobtainable, especially for some episodes from series two. For those interested, PM me and I can give hints regarding ways around this. ;)

SeventhSense's avatar

There’s far too much to be captured in one film and certainly nothing to encompass both wars. Start out with a good encyclopedia to get an overview of why and when certain nations either created the aggression or reacted to the aggression.
World War II can be said to have its onset by Germany’s invasion of Poland, Japan’s aggression against China and their subsequent alliance along with Italy in a play for world dominance. It’s conclusion by the decimation of German soldiers in Russia’s Harsh Winter in the North, the Storming of the Beaches at Normandy in German Occupied France and the surrender of Japan after nuclear bombing. Highly simplistic condensed version which along with the six volumes pdworkin recommends may give you a foundation. :)

There are a number of excellent films to give you some personal stories and moods of various different arenas of the war- The Guns of Navarone, The Empire of the Sun, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, Patton, Tora! Tora! Tora!, The Piano, Schindler’s List to name only a few but some of the best films ever made.

MagsRags's avatar

@hiphiphopflipflapflop what did you think of The War directed by Ken Burns for WW2?

sjmc1989's avatar

For learning about the aftermath, I just took a Holocaust class in college and we watched a great documentary on what happen in the years following World War II. It was information I had never heard before and I really enjoyed it. I can’t remember the name of it, but I’m going to email my professor and ask him the title. I will get back to you on it! and I know you said you wanted a movie with a broad plot, but if you haven’t seen The Grey Zone watch it.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

@MagsRags I’ve only seen a little bit of it. It came out during a period of time when I had basically abandoned TV. I don’t think would serve @anoop66 very well because it seemed to dwell very heavily on letters sent home from low-ranking GIs and the day-to-day experiences of American civilians at home.

Not that that’s bad, but I think @anoop66 is looking for something more “top-down”, objective and dispassionate in perspective.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

To return to the OP: I have to admit to being basically empty-handed when it comes to WW1 TV documentaries.

Kelly_Obrien's avatar

This is so easy. “Johnny Got His Gun.” Dalton Trumbo

Read the book or watch the movie.

trailsillustrated's avatar

get the history channel’s ‘ww2 in hd’ its the best ww2 documentary I’ve ever seen- it has alot of colour footage not shown elswhere

wenn's avatar

There is a Nat Geo documentary called Apocalypse: The Second World War thats really good. Good WWII series, 6 episodes.

YARNLADY's avatar

In this nine-volume series, available on Amazon, ABC News presents a comprehensive look at the significant people, places, and events defining the nation between 1900 and 1979. The first century to be documented on film, this informative and entertaining series presents a collection of historical footage depicting both the cultural and political forces of the period. History of the 20th Century, Vol. 1: 1900 – 1909 recounts the introduction of the motion picture, McKinley’s assassination, Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, Booker T. Washington’s advocacy efforts for black Americans, the great earthquake which destroyed San Francisco, and more. The collection vividly recaptures the tumult and incredible changes occurring throughout the era. ~ Sally Barber, All Movie Guide, New York Times

There is also an excellent article on wikipedia you might be interested in.

SeventhSense's avatar

That sounds like it might be more palatable and less dry then some of the alternatives. I always found the TIME LIFE series were pretty good too.

SeventhSense's avatar

And Empire of the Sun, one of Steven Spielberg’s best pictures, had one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen by the child actor Christian Bale. Long before he did American Psycho he exhibited amazing talent along with John Malkovich. Great film cinematography and score also.

justmesuzanne's avatar

For movies, it’s really interesting to get a variety from different cultures and perspectives. The Pianist is surely a great one, and Empire of the Sun, as well. The German movie, Nowhere in Africa, gives a completely different point of view. I have not seen the movie, The Joy Luck Club, but I read the book. I read the book, Empire of the Sun,at about the same time, many years ago. I loved the way the stories dovetailed because they were both historically accurate. I kept expecting the main characters from each book to walk around a corner and bump into each other at any moment!
*
Empire of the Sun, by JG Ballard, was his account of his experiences as a spoiled little English boy who was separated from his parents in Shanghai and spent several years in a Japanese POW camp. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, was her account of her experiences as a young Chinese girl in China during WWII. (Or perhaps it was her mother’s experiences! I don’t think Amy Tan is quite that old! It’s been quite a while since I read these books!)
*
At any rate, if you want to know more about WWII, of course, there are lots of good books, and if you want to enrich your experience, be sure to get movies that represent the viewpoints of various cultures.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

*Original Post: “I want to understand the complete mechanics of World War I and II. What was the reason for the wars, what was involved and the aftermath.”

I’m sorry, but I don’t see how Empire of the Sun, as good as a story/book/movie as it was – as accurate a depiction as it may be of one person’s experiences during those years – offers much of a perspective at all on this question (even limiting it to WW2).

(Let’s face it, this is a BIG question. Historians have spent lifetimes of working towards tomes that still offer only partial answers to this, as it is really breaks down into thousands of smaller (but still non-trivial) questions.)

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