WAR FILM is a film genre concerned with warfare , typically about
naval , air , or land battles, with combat scenes central to the
drama. It has been strongly associated with the 20th century. The
fateful nature of battle scenes means that war films often end with
them. Themes explored include combat, survival and escape, sacrifice,
the futility and inhumanity of battle, the effects of war on society,
and the moral and human issues raised by war.
War films are often
categorized by their milieu, such as the Korean War; the most popular
subject is the Second World
War . The stories told may be fiction ,
historical drama , or biographical . Critics have noted similarities
between the Western and the war film.
Nations such as China, Indonesia, Japan, and Russia have their own
traditions of war film, centred on their own revolutionary wars but
taking varied forms, from action and historical drama to wartime
Subgenres, not necessarily distinct, include anti-war , comedy,
animated , propaganda , and documentary. There are similarly subgenres
of the war film in specific theatres such as the western desert (North
Africa), the Pacific in the Second World War, or Vietnam ; and films
set in specific domains of war, such as the infantry, the air, at sea,
in submarines , or at prisoner of war camps.
* 1 Genre
* 2 History
* 2.1 The American Civil
* 2.2 The Spanish–American
* 2.3 The First World
* 2.4 The Spanish Civil
* 2.5 The Korean
* 2.6 The Algerian
* 2.7 The Vietnam
* 3 Second World
* 3.1 Films made by the Western Allies
* 3.2 Films made by the
* 3.3 Films made after the war
* 3.4 Military–film industry relations
* 4 National traditions
* 4.1 Chinese
* 4.2 Indonesian
* 4.3 Russian
* 4.4 Japanese
* 5 Subgenres
* 5.3 Submarine
Prisoner of war
* 5.5 Comedy
* 5.6 Animated
* 5.7 Anti-war
* 5.8 Mixed genres
* 6 Notes
* 7 References
* 8 Sources
* 9 Further reading
* 10 External links
List of war films
The war film genre is not necessarily tightly defined: the American
Film Institute , for example, speaks of "films to grapple with the
Great War" without attempting to classify these. However, some
directors and critics have offered at least tentative definitions. The
Sam Fuller defined the genre by saying that "a war film’s
objective, no matter how personal or emotional, is to make a viewer
John Belton identified four narrative elements of the war
film within the context of Hollywood production: a) the suspension of
civilian morality during times of war, b) primacy of collective goals
over individual motivations, c) rivalry between men in predominantly
male groups as well as marginalization and objectification of women,
and d) depiction of the reintegration of veterans.
John Wayne in
The Longest Day , 1962
The film critic Stephen Neale suggests that the genre is for the most
part well defined and uncontentious, since war films are simply those
about war being waged in the 20th century, with combat scenes central
to the drama. However, Neale notes, films set in the American Civil
War or the American
Indian Wars of the 19th century were called war
films in the time before the First World War. The critic Julian Smith
argues, on the contrary, that the war film lacks the formal boundaries
of a genre like the Western , but that in practice, "successful and
influential" war films are about modern wars, in particular World War
II, with the combination of mobile forces and mass killing. The film
scholar Kathryn Kane points out some similarities between the war
film genre and the Western. Both genres use opposing concepts like war
and peace, civilization and savagery.
War films usually frame World
War II as a conflict between "good" and "evil" as represented by the
Allied forces and
Nazi Germany whereas the Western portrays the
conflict between civilized settlers and the savage indigenous peoples.
James Clarke notes the similarity between a Western like Sam
The Wild Bunch and "war-movie escapades" like The Dirty
Jeanine Basinger states that she began with a
preconception of what the war film genre would be, namely that
What I knew in advance was what presumably every member of our
culture would know about World
War II combat films—that they
contained a hero , a group of mixed types , and a military objective
of some sort. They take place in the actual combat zones of World War
II, against the established enemies, on the ground, the sea, or in the
air. They contain many repeated events, such as mail call, all
presented visually with appropriate uniforms , equipment, and
iconography of battle.
Further, Basinger considers Bataan to provide a definition-by-example
of "the World
War II combat film", in which a diverse and apparently
unsuited group of "hastily assembled volunteers" hold off a much
larger group of the enemy through their "bravery and tenacity". She
argues that the combat film is not a subgenre but the only genuine
kind of war film. Since she notes that there were in fact only five
true combat films made during the Second World War, in her view these
few films, central to the genre, are outweighed by the many other
films that lie on the margins of being war films. However, other
critics such as Russell
Earl Shain propose a far broader definition of
war film, to include films that deal "with the roles of civilians,
espionage agents, and soldiers in any of the aspects of war (i.e.
preparation, cause, prevention, conduct, daily life, and consequences
or aftermath.)" Neale points out that genres overlap, with combat
scenes for different purposes in other types of film, and suggests
that war films are characterised by combat which "determines the fate
of the principal characters". This in turn pushes combat scenes to the
climactic ends of war films. Not all critics agree, either, that war
films must be about 20th century wars. James Clarke includes Edward
Zwick 's Oscar-winning Glory (1990) among the war films he discusses
in detail; it is set in the American Civil
War , and he lists six
other films about that war which he considers "notable".
THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR
The costliest war in U.S. history in terms of American life, this war
has been the subject of, or the backdrop to, numerous films,
documentaries and mini-series. One of the earliest films using the
War as its subject was
D.W. Griffith 's 1910 silent picture, The
Fugitive . Films that have the war as its main subject, or about a
certain aspect of the war include the 1989 film, Glory , about the
first formal unit of the Union
Army during the American Civil
be made up entirely of black men. Some films such as Gettysburg
focused on a single battle during the war, or even on a single
incident, like the French short film, La Rivière du Hibou (An
Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge). Others like the 1993 miniseries
North and South spanned the entire breadth of the war. Some films deal
with the human aspects of the war, such as The Red Badge of Courage
(1951), or Shenandoah (1965), on the tragedy that the war inflicted
on the civilian population.
Ken Burns 's The Civil
War is the most
watched documentary in the history of
PBS . 1918 film poster for
Die grosse Schlacht in Frankreich (The Great
Battle in France), with
Hindenburg in the background
THE SPANISH–AMERICAN WAR
The first war films come from the Spanish–American
War of 1898.
Short "actualities" – documentary film-clips – included Burial of
the Maine Victims, Blanket-Tossing of a New Recruit, and Soldiers
Washing Dishes. These non-combat films were accompanied by
"reenactments" of fighting, such as of
Theodore Roosevelt 's "Rough
Riders" in action against the Spanish, staged in the United States.
THE FIRST WORLD WAR
Fiction based on World
During the First World War, many films were made about life in the
war. Topics included prisoners of war, covert operations, and military
training. Both the Central Powers and the Allies produced war
documentaries. The films were also used as propaganda in neutral
countries like the United States. Among these was a film shot on the
Eastern Front by official war photographer to the Central Powers,
Albert K. Dawson : The
Battle and Fall of Przemysl (1915), depicting
Siege of Przemyśl , disastrous for the Austrians, with incidents
reenacted using soldiers as extras. The 1915 Australian film Within
Our Gates (also known as Deeds that Won Gallipoli) by Frank Harvey was
described by the Motion Picture News as "a really good war story,
which is exceptional". Staged scene of British troops advancing
through barbed wire from The
Battle of the Somme , 1916
The 1916 British film The
Battle of the Somme , by two official
Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell, combined
documentary and propaganda, seeking to give the public an impression
of what trench warfare was like. Much of the film was shot on location
at the Western Front in France; it had a powerful emotional impact. It
was watched by some 20 million people in Britain in its six weeks of
exhibition, making it what the critic
Francine Stock called "one of
the most successful films of all time".
William A. Wellman 's Wings (1927), about the First World War, was
the first film (in any genre), and the only silent film, to win an
Oscar for best picture. Later films of varied genres that deal with
the First World
David Lean 's "colossal epic", both war
film and biopic Lawrence of Arabia (1962), shot in the then
unfamiliar and exciting
Technicolor , and described by Steven
Spielberg as "maybe the greatest screenplay ever written for the
Richard Attenborough 's satirical anti-war
musical comedy based on
Joan Littlewood 's play of the same name, Oh!
What a Lovely
War (1969); and Spielberg's war drama
War Horse (2011)
Michael Morpurgo 's children\'s novel of the same name .
THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR
Soviet poster for an exhibition about the Spanish Civil
1936 Further information: List of Spanish Civil
The Spanish Civil
War has attracted directors from different
Sam Wood 's
For Whom the Bell Tolls
For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), based on Ernest
Hemingway 's book of the same name , portrays the fated romance
between an American played by
Gary Cooper and a partisan played by
Ingrid Bergman against the backdrop of the civil war. The epic 168
minute film with its landscapes shot in
Technicolor and a "beautiful"
orchestral score was a success both with audiences and with critics.
Alain Resnais 's Guernica (1950) uses
Picasso 's painting to protest
Carlos Saura 's
La Caza (The Hunt, 1966) uses the
metaphor of hunting to criticise the aggressiveness of Spanish fascism
. It won the
Silver Bear for Best Director at the 16th Berlin
International Film Festival in 1966.
Ken Loach 's Land and Freedom
(Tierra y Libertad, 1995), loosely based on
George Orwell 's Homage to
Catalonia , follows a British communist through the war to reveal the
painful contradictions within the anti-fascist Republican side.
THE KOREAN WAR
See also: Category:Korean
War films Movie poster for South
Korean film A Woman\'s
War (여성전선 – Yeoseon Jeonseon), 1957
Samuel Fuller ’s
The Steel Helmet (1951) was made during the Korean
War (1950–1953). The critic Guy Westwell notes that it questioned
the conduct of the war, as did later films like The Bridges at Toko-Ri
Pork Chop Hill (1959). Fuller agreed that all his films
were anti-war. No Hollywood films about the Korean
War did well at the
box office; the historian Lary May suggested that they reminded
American viewers of "the only war we have lost".
In 1955, after the fighting, the successful South Korean action film
Piagol about leftist guerrilla atrocities encouraged other
film-makers. The 1960s military government punished pro-communist
film-makers and gave Grand Bell Awards to films with the strongest
anti-communist message. Censorship loosened in the 1980s. The Taebaek
Mountains (1994) dealt with leftists from the south who fought for the
Silver Stallion (1991) and Spring in My Hometown
(1998) showed the destructive impact of American military presence on
village life. The violent action films Shiri (1999) and Joint Security
Area (2000) presented North Korea in a favourable light.
Films in North Korea were made by government film studios and had
clear political messages. The first was
My Home Village (1949), on the
liberation of Korea from the Japanese, presented as the work of Kim Il
Sung without help from the Americans. Similarly, the country's films
about the Korean
War show victory without help from the Chinese. The
film scholar Johannes Schönherr concludes that the purpose of these
films is "to portray North Korea as a country under siege", and that
since the U.S. and its "puppet" South Korea invaded the North once,
they would do so again.
THE ALGERIAN WAR
Gillo Pontecorvo 's dramatic The
Battle of Algiers ((Italian : La
battaglia di Algeri; Arabic : معركة الجزائر; French
: La Bataille d'Alger), 1966) portrayed events in the Algerian War
(1954–1956). It was shot on location as an Italo-Algerian
co-production. It had the black and white newsreel style of Italian
neorealism , and even-handedly depicts violence on both sides. It won
various awards including
Golden Lion at the
Venice Film Festival . It
was attacked by French critics and was for five years banned in
THE VIETNAM WAR
Further information: Vietnam
War in film
Viet Cong poster for a
1967 film about the supposed martyrdom of Nguyen Van Be
Few films before the late 1970s about the Vietnam
depicted combat. The exceptions included The Green Berets (1968).
Critics such as Basinger explain that Hollywood avoided the subject
because of opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War
, making the subject divisive; in addition, the film industry was in
crisis, and the army did not wish to assist in making anti-war films.
From the late 1970s, independently financed and produced films showed
Hollywood that Vietnam could be treated in film. Successful but very
different portrayals of the war in which America had been defeated
Michael Cimino 's
The Deer Hunter (1978), and Francis Ford
Apocalypse Now (1979). With the shift in American politics
to the right in the 1980s, military success could again be shown in
films such as
Oliver Stone 's Platoon (1986),
Stanley Kubrick 's Full
Metal Jacket (1987) and
John Irvin 's
Hamburger Hill (1987).
The Vietnamese director Nguyen Hong Sen's The Abandoned Field: Free
Fire Zone (Canh dong hoang, 1979) gives an "unnerving and compelling
.. subjective-camera-eye-view" of life under helicopter fire in the
Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War. The film cuts to an (American)
"helicopter-eye view", contrasting painfully with the human tenderness
SECOND WORLD WAR
FILMS MADE BY THE WESTERN ALLIES
Further information: List of Allied propaganda films of World
Filming aboard the Royal
Navy submarine HMS Tribune , playing the
role of "HMS Tyrant" in a propaganda film, 1943
The first popular Allied war films made during the Second World War
came from Britain and combined the functions of documentary and
propaganda. Films such as
The Lion Has Wings and Target for Tonight
were made under the control of the Films Division of the Ministry of
Information. The British film industry began to combine documentary
techniques with fictional stories in films like
Noël Coward and David
In Which We Serve (1942) – "the most successful British film
of the war years",
Millions Like Us (1943), and
The Way Ahead (1944).
B-25s about to launch from the USS Hornet in Thirty Seconds Over
In America, documentaries were produced in various ways: General
Marshall commissioned the
Why We Fight propaganda series from Frank
War Department's Information-Education Division started out
making training films for the
U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy; the Army
made its own through the U.S. Signal Corps, including
John Huston 's
Battle of San Pietro . Hollywood made films with propaganda
messages about America's allies, such as Mrs. Miniver (1942), which
portrayed a British family on the home front; Edge of Darkness (1943)
showed Norwegian resistance fighters, and The North Star (1943)
Soviet Union and its
Communist Party . Towards the end of
the war popular books provided higher quality and more serious stories
for films such as
Guadalcanal Diary (film) (1943),
Mervyn LeRoy 's
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), and
John Ford 's They Were
Expendable (1945). Screenshot from
Moscow Strikes Back (1942).
Snow camouflaged Russian ski infantry ride into battle on
tanks in the
Battle of Moscow
The Russians, too, appreciated the propaganda value of film, to
publicise both victories and German atrocities. Ilya Kopalin's
Moscow Strikes Back (Russian : Разгром
немецких войск под Москвой, literally "The rout
of the German troops near Moscow"), was made during the
Moscow between October 1941 and January 1942. It depicted civilians
helping to defend the city, the parade in
Red Square and
speech rousing the Russian people to battle, actual fighting, Germans
surrendering and dead, and atrocities including murdered children and
hanged civilians. It won an Academy Award in 1943 for best
documentary. Newsreel cameras were similarly rushed to Stalingrad
early in 1943 to record "the spectacle which greeted the Russian
soldiers" – the starvation of Russian prisoners of war in the
Voropovono camp by the German Sixth
Army , defeated in the
Feature films made in the west during the war were subject to
censorship and were not always realistic. One of the first to attempt
to represent violence, and which was praised at the time for "gritty
Tay Garnett 's Bataan (1943). The depiction actually
Jeanine Basinger gives as an example the "worst
image for stark violence" when a Japanese soldier beheads an American:
the victim shows pain and his lips freeze in a scream, yet no blood
spurts and his head does not fall off. Basinger points out that while
this is physically unrealistic, psychologically it may not have been.
The wartime audience was, she points out, well aware of friends and
relatives who had been killed or who had come home wounded.
FILMS MADE BY THE AXIS POWERS
Nazi propaganda and Japanese propaganda during
Hitler and Goebbels visiting
Universum Film AG in
1935. The studio made propaganda films such as Triumph des Willens
(1935) and Kolberg (1945).
Axis powers similarly made films during the Second World War, for
propaganda and other purposes. In Germany, the army high command
Sieg im Westen ("Victory in the West", 1941). Other Nazi
propaganda films had varied subjects, as with Kolberg (1945), which
depicts stubborn Prussian resistance in the
Siege of Kolberg (1807) to
the invading French troops under
Napoleon . The propaganda minister
Joseph Goebbels chose the historical subject as suitable for the
worsening situation facing
Nazi Germany when it was filmed from
October 1943 to August 1944. At over eight million marks, using
thousands of soldiers as extras and 100 railway wagonloads of salt to
simulate snow, it was the most costly German film made during the war.
The actual siege ended with the surrender of the town; in the film,
the French generals abandon the siege.
For Japan, the war began with the undeclared war and invasion of
China in 1937 , which the Japanese authorities called "The China
Incident". The government dispatched a "pen brigade" to write and film
the action in China with "humanist values".
Tomotaka Tasaka 's Mud and
Soldiers (1939) for instance, shot on location in China, Kōzaburō
Legend of Tank Commander Nishizumi , and Sato Takeshi 's
Chocolate and Soldiers (1938) show the common Japanese soldier as an
individual and as a family man, and even enemy Chinese soldiers are
presented as individuals, sometimes fighting bravely. Once war with
the United States was declared, the Japanese conflict became known as
War . Japanese film critics worried that even with Western
film techniques, their film output failed to represent native Japanese
values. The historian John Dower found that Japanese wartime films
had been largely forgotten, as "losers do not get reruns", yet they
were so subtle and skilful that
Frank Capra thought Chocolate and
Soldiers unbeatable. Heroes were typically low-ranking officers, not
samurai , calmly devoted to his men and his country. These films did
not personalise the enemy and therefore lacked hatred, though Great
Britain could figure as the "cultural enemy". For Japanese
film-makers, war was not a cause but more like a natural disaster, and
"what mattered was not whom one fought but how well". Asian enemies,
especially the Chinese, were often portrayed as redeemable and even
possible marriage partners. Japanese wartime films do not glorify war,
but present the Japanese state as one great family and the Japanese
people as an "innocent, suffering, self-sacrificing people". Dower
comments that the perversity of this image "is obvious: it is devoid
of any recognition that, at every level, the Japanese also victimized
FILMS MADE AFTER THE WAR
Fiction based on World
War II and List of World
War II films Shooting a scene from A Bridge Too Far on location
Deventer , Netherlands, 1977
According to Andrew Pulver of The Guardian, the public fascination
with war films became an "obsession", with over 200 war films produced
in each decade of the 1950s and 1960s.
War film production in the
United Kingdom and United States reached its zenith in the mid 1950s.
Its popularity in the
United Kingdom was brought on by the critical
and commercial success of
Charles Frend 's The Cruel Sea (1953). Like
others of the period, The Cruel Sea was based on a bestselling novel,
in this case the former naval commander
Nicholas Monsarrat 's story of
the battle of the Atlantic . Others, like The Dam Busters (1954),
with its exciting tale of the inventor
Barnes Wallis 's unorthodox
bouncing bomb and its distinctive theme music , were true stories. The
Dam Busters became the most popular film in Britain in 1955, and
remained a favourite as of 2015 with a 100% score on
Rotten Tomatoes ,
though, partly because it celebrated an "exclusively British ", it
failed to break into the American market. A large number of war films
were made in the 1955-58 period in particular. In 1957 alone, Bitter
Count Five and Die ,
The Enemy Below , Ill Met by Moonlight
, Men in
War , The One That Got Away and Seven Thunders , and the
highly successful, critically acclaimed pictures The Bridge on the
River Kwai , which won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year,
Paths of Glory were released. Some, such as Bitter Victory,
focused more on the psychological battle between officers and egotism
rather than events during the war. The Bridge on the River Kwai
brought a new complexity to the war picture, with a sense of moral
uncertainty surrounding war. By the end of the decade the " sense of
shared achievement" which had been common in war films "began to
evaporate", according to Pulver.
Hollywood films in the 1950s and 1960s could display spectacular
heroics or self-sacrifice, as in the popular
Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)
John Wayne . U.S. Marines considered Sands of Iwo Jima
visually authentic, but found Lewis Milestone's
Battle Cry (1955),
with its attention to the lives of the men, the more realistic film.
The formula for a successful war film consisted, according to Lawrence
Suid, of a small group of ethnically diverse men; an unreasonable
senior officer; cowards became heroic, or died. Jeanine Basinger
suggests that a traditional war film should have a hero, a group, and
an objective, and that the group should contain "an Italian, a Jew, a
cynical complainer from Brooklyn, a sharpshooter from the mountains, a
midwesterner (nicknamed by his state, "Iowa" or "Dakota"), and a
character who must be initiated in some way". Films based on real
commando missions, like The Gift Horse (1952) based on the St. Nazaire
Raid , and Ill Met by Moonlight (1956) based on the capture of the
German commander of Crete, inspired fictional adventure films such as
The Guns of Navarone (1961), The Train (1964) and Where Eagles Dare
(1968). These used the war as a backdrop for spectacular action.
Supposed realism: the
Commemorative Air Force 's
Gulf Coast Wing 's
Tora! Tora! Tora! team simulating the attack on Pearl Harbor with a
wall of fire instead of explosions, using planes such as T-6 Texans
converted to resemble Mitsubishi A6M Zeros , and generating smoke
Darryl F. Zanuck produced the 178 minute documentary drama The
Longest Day (1962), based on the first day of the
D-Day landings ,
achieving commercial success and Oscars. It was followed by
large-scale but thoughtful films like
Andrei Tarkovsky 's Ivan\'s
Childhood (1962), and quasi-documentary all-star epics filmed in
Europe such as
Battle of the Bulge (1965),
Battle of Britain (1969),
Battle of Neretva (1969), Midway (1976) and A Bridge Too Far
(1977). In Lawrence Suid's view, The Longest Day "served as the model
for all subsequent combat spectaculars". However, its cost also made
it the last of the traditional war films, while the controversy around
the help given by the U.S.
Army and Zanuck's "disregard for Pentagon
relations" changed the way that Hollywood and the
Zanuck, by then an executive at
20th Century Fox , set up an
American-Japanese co-production for
Richard Fleischer 's Tora! Tora!
Tora! (1970) to depict what "really happened on December 7, 1941" in
the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor . The film, panned by Roger
The New York Times , was a major success in Japan. Its
realistic-looking attack footage was reused in later films such as
Midway (1976), The Final Countdown (1980), and Australia (2008). The
story was revisited in Pearl Harbor (2001), described by The New York
Times as a "noisy, expensive and very long new blockbuster", with the
comment that "for all its epic pretensions (as if epic were a matter
of running time, tumescent music and earnest voice-over
pronouncements), the movie works best as a bang-and-boom action
Steven Spielberg 's
Saving Private Ryan (1998) uses hand-held camera,
sound design, staging and increased audio-visual detail to
defamiliarise viewers accustomed to conventional combat films, so as
to create what film historian Stuart Bender calls "reported realism",
whether or not the portrayal is genuinely more realistic. Jeanine
Basinger notes that critics experienced it as "groundbreaking and
anti-generic", with, in James Wolcott's words, a "desire to bury the
cornball, recruiting poster legend of John Wayne: to get it right this
time"; and that combat films have always been "grounded in the need to
help an audience understand and accept war". Its success revived
interest in World
War II films. Others tried to portray the reality
of the war, as in
Joseph Vilsmaier 's
Stalingrad (1993), which The New
York Times said "goes about as far as a movie can go in depicting
modern warfare as a stomach-turning form of mass slaughter."
MILITARY–FILM INDUSTRY RELATIONS
Frank Capra (right) of the US
Army Signal Corps confers
Roy Boulting of the British
Army Film Unit on the editing
of the film
Tunisian Victory in February 1944
Many war films have been produced with the cooperation of a nation's
military forces. After the Second World War, the United States Navy
provided ships and technical guidance for films such as
Top Gun . The
U.S. Air Force assisted with
The Big Lift , Strategic Air Command and
A Gathering of Eagles , which were filmed on Air Force bases; Air
Force personnel appeared in many roles. Critics point out that the
film Pearl Harbor's US-biased portrayal of events is a compensation
for technical assistance received by the US armed forces; the premiere
was actually held on board a U.S.
Navy carrier. In another case, the
Navy objected to elements of Crimson Tide , especially mutiny on
board an American naval vessel, so the film was produced without their
assistance. Film historian Jonathan Rayner observes that such films
"have also clearly been intended to serve vital propagandist,
recruitment and public relations functions".
The first Chinese war films were newsreels like
Battle of Wuhan
Battle of Shanghai (1913). Still in films such as Xu Xinfu
Battle Exploits (1925), war featured mainly as background. Only
with the Second Sino–Japanese
War from 1937 onwards did war film
become a serious genre in China, with nationalistic films such as Shi
Dongshan 's Protect Our Land (1938) The Chinese Civil War, too,
attracted films such as Cheng Yin 's From Victory to Victory (1952). A
more humanistic film set in the same period is
Xie Jin 's The Cradle
(1979), while more recent large-scale commercial films include Lu
City of Life and Death (2009). Chinese directors have
repeatedly attempted to cover the atrocities committed by the Japanese
Nanking massacre (1937–1938), with films such as the
political melodrama Massacre in Nanjing ,
Mou Tun Fei 's docudrama
Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre , and the "contrived Sino–Japanese
romance" Don\'t Cry, Nanking .
Zhang Yimou 's epic Chinese film
War (2011), based on
Geling Yan 's novel, portrays the
violent events through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl.
Siliwangi Division in combat, in a scene from Usmar Ismail
Darah dan Doa , 1950
Many Indonesian films deal with the occupation of the archipelago by
the Japanese during the Second World War.
Teguh Karya 's Doea Tanda
Mata (Mementos, literally "Two Eye Marks", 1985) covers the limited
nationalist resistance to Dutch colonial rule in the 1930s. A third
group of films such as
Enam Djam di Jogja (Six Hours in Yogyakarta,
Serangan Fajar (Attack at Dawn, 1983) covers the Indonesian
war of independence (1945–1949). Two other films about the same
period portray the Indonesian equivalent of the Chinese
Long March :
Usmar Ismail 's
Darah dan Doa (The Long March, literally "Blood and
Prayer", 1950) and
Mereka Kembali (They Return, 1975). Each of these
films interprets the past from the perspective of its own time.
The more recent Merdeka (Freedom) trilogy (2009–2011), starting
with Merah Putih ("Red and White", the colours of the flag of the new
Indonesia), revisits the campaign for independence through the lives
of a diverse group of cadets who become guerillas.
November 1828 (1979) looks at Indonesia's struggle for
independence through historical drama about the Java or Diponegoro War
(1825–1830), though the colonial enemy was the same, the Dutch .
Deanne Schultz considered it "a valuable interpretation" of Indonesian
history that "embodies the best of popular Indonesian cinema." It was
the first Indonesian film to become well-known internationally.
Russia's "cinema front": Yury Ozerov (left) directing the
Stalingrad , 1987
War has been Russian cinema's major genre, becoming known indeed as
the "cinema front", and its war films ranged from grim portrayals of
atrocities to sentimental and even quietly subversive accounts.
Leonid Lukov 's popular and "beautiful"
Two Warriors (1943) depicted
two stereotypical Soviet soldiers, a quiet Russian and an extrovert
southerner from Odessa, singing in his dugout.
The many Russian films about the Second World
War include both
large-scale epics such as Yury Ozerov 's
Battle of Moscow (1985) and
Mikhail Kalatozov 's more psychological
The Cranes are Flying (1957)
on the cruel effects of war; it won the 1958 Palme d'Or at Cannes.
See also: § Animated , and Category:Japanese war films
Japanese directors have made popular films such as Submarine I-57
Will Not Surrender (1959),
Battle of Okinawa (1971) and Japan\'s
Longest Day (1967) from a Japanese perspective. These "generally fail
to explain the cause of the war". In the decades immediately after
the Second World War, Japanese films often focused on human tragedy
rather than combat. From the late 1990s, films started to take a
positive view of the war and of Japanese actions. These nationalistic
films, including Pride (1998),
Merdeka 17805 (2001), and The Truth
about Nanjing (2007), have emphasized positive traits of the Japanese
military and contended that the Japanese were victims of post-war
vindictiveness and viciousness. Such films have, however, drawn
protest for revisionism .
The Eternal Zero (2013) narrates the tale
of a Zero fighter pilot who is considered a coward by his comrades, as
he returns alive from his missions. It broke the record takings for a
Japanese live action film, and won the Golden Mulberry at the Udine
Far East Film Festival, but was criticised for its nationalistic
sympathy with kamikaze pilots.
Documentary and List of World
War II documentary
The wartime authorities in both Britain and America produced a wide
variety of documentary films. Their purposes included military
training, advice to civilians, and encouragement to maintain security.
Since these films often carried messages, they grade into propaganda.
Similarly, commercially produced films often combined information,
support for the war effort, and a degree of propaganda.
ostensibly simply for information, were made in both Allied and Axis
countries, and were often dramatised. More recently, in the
Morteza Avini 's
Ravayat-e Fath (Chronicles of
Victory) television series combined front-line footage with
Teutonic Order (German) monks prepare the hanging of a Russian
resistance leader. Still from
Alexander Nevsky (1938) Further
Propaganda film and World
War I film propaganda
Sergei Eisenstein 's 1938 historical drama
Alexander Nevsky depicts
Prince Alexander 's defeat of the attempted invasion of the Russian
Novgorod by the
Teutonic Knights . By April 1939 the film had
been seen by 23,000,000 people. In 1941 the director and three others
were awarded the
Stalin Prize for their contributions. The film
features a musical score by the classical composer
Sergei Prokofiev ,
described as "the best ever composed for the cinema". Russell
Merritt, writing in Film Quarterly, describes it as a "war propaganda
film ". A 1978 Mondadori poll placed
Alexander Nevsky among the
world's 100 best motion pictures. Screenshot from
Frank Capra 's
Why We Fight series, depicting lies being broadcast by the
Nazi propaganda machine
During the Second World War, film propaganda was widely used. Kenneth
Clark advised the British government that "If we renounced interest in
entertainment as such, we might be deprived of a valuable weapon for
getting across our propaganda"; he suggested using documentaries about
the war and the war effort; celebrations of Britishness; and films
about British life and character.
Michael Powell and Clark agreed on a
story about survivors of a
U-boat crew, imbued with brutal Nazi
ideology, travelling across Canada and meeting various kind, tolerant
and intelligent Canadians, to encourage America into the war. The
resulting film, 49th Parallel (1941), became the top film at British
offices that year. Entertaining films could carry messages about the
need for vigilance, too, as in
Went the Day Well? (1942) or the
avoidance of "careless talk", as in
The Next of Kin (1942). The
romantic drama Casablanca (1943) was used to vilify Nazism.
Charlie Chaplin 's
The Great Dictator (1940) clearly
satirised fascism .
Michael Curtiz 's Casablanca (1943) was not
simply a romance between the characters played by
Humphrey Bogart and
Ingrid Bergman , but vilified the Nazis and glorified resistance to
them. Frank Capra's
Why We Fight series (1942–1945) won the 1942
Academy Award for best documentary, though it was designed to
"influence opinion in the U.S. military".
During the Cold
War , "propaganda played as much of a role in the
United States' struggle with the
Soviet Union as did the billions of
dollars spent on weaponry."
Face to Face with Communism (1951)
dramatised an imagined invasion of the United States; other films
portrayed threats such as communist indoctrination.
The cramped, equipment-filled setting of a submarine film , Das
Boot (1981), recreated in the Bavaria film studio Main article:
Submarine films have their own particular meanings and conventions,
concerned specifically with giving the effect of submarine warfare . A
distinctive element in this subgenre is the soundtrack , which
attempts to bring home the emotional and dramatic nature of conflict
under the sea. For example, in
Wolfgang Petersen 's 1981
Das Boot ,
the sound design works together with the hours-long film format to
depict lengthy pursuit with depth charges , the ping of sonar , and
threatening sounds such as of the propellors of enemy destroyers and
torpedoes . Classic films in the genre include
The Enemy Below (1957)
and Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), both based on novels by naval
commanders. Run Silent, Run Deep is a movie full of tension, both with
the enemy and between the contrasting personalities of the submarine
Commander and his Lieutenant, played by
Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster
PRISONER OF WAR
Prisoner of war § In popular culture
Stalag Luft III used in filming The Great Escape (1963)
A popular subgenre of war films in the 1950s and 1960s was the
prisoner of war film. The genre was popularised in Britain with major
Guy Hamilton 's
The Colditz Story (1955) and John Sturges
's The Great Escape (1963). They told stories of real escapes from
German prisoner of war camps such as
Stalag Luft III in the Second
World War. Despite episodes of danger and human tragedy, these films
delight in a continual boyish game of escape and ingenuity,
celebrating the courage and the defiant spirit of the prisoners of
war, and treating war as fun.
David Lean 's Bridge on the River Kwai
(1957) was judged best picture at the Oscars; it took the genre from
chilly German prisons to the heat of a camp in Thailand. It was the
first, too, to use lush colour to bring out the British stiff upper
lip of the colonel, played by
Alec Guinness in an Oscar-winning
performance. The "definitive" Oscar-winning prisoner of war film was
Billy Wilder 's
Stalag 17 (1953), while the brief but powerful prison
camp scenes of
The Deer Hunter (1977) lend an air of tragedy to the
whole of that film.
First military comedy:
Charlie Chaplin 's
Shoulder Arms (1918)
Comedy film § Military comedy
Charlie Chaplin 's
Shoulder Arms (1918) set a style for war films to
come, and was the first comedy about war in film history . British
cinema in the Second World
War marked the evacuation of children from
London with social comedies such as
Those Kids from Town (1942) where
the evacuees go to stay with an earl (a country nobleman), while in
Cottage to Let (1941) and
Went the Day Well? (1942) the English
countryside is thick with spies.
Gasbags (1941) offered "zany,
irreverent, knockabout" comedy making fun of everything from barrage
balloons to concentration camps .
Abbott and Costello
Abbott and Costello 's Buck
Privates was successful in America, leading to many further wartime
First animated propaganda film:
Winsor McCay 's The Sinking of
the Lusitania (1918)
Winsor McCay 's
The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918) was a silent
War film. At 12 minutes long, it was the longest animated
film made at that time. It was probably the first animated propaganda
film to be made; it remains the earliest serious animated drama that
has survived. Through World
War II, animated propaganda shorts
remained influential in American cinema. The
Walt Disney Company ,
working with the American armed forces, produced 400,000 feet of war
propaganda films between 1942 and 1945, including Der Fuehrer\'s Face
Education for Death (1943).
Japanese anime films from the 1960s onwards addressed national
memories of war. Akira (1988) moves from the atomic destruction of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki to apocalyptic visions of global conflict;
Grave of the Fireflies (1988) is elegiac on the effect of war on
children. Barefoot Gen (1983) portrays the bombing of Hiroshima
through the eyes of a child, but reviewers consider it a less well
made film than
Grave of the Fireflies with "stomach-churning detail"
bizarrely paired with crude artwork, giving it the look of a "Saturday
morning Warner Brothers cartoon".
Lewis Milestone 's All Quiet on the Western Front ,
1930 Further information:
List of anti-war films
The anti-war genre began with films about the First World War. Films
in the genre are typically revisionist, reflecting on past events and
often generically blended.
Lewis Milestone 's All Quiet on the Western
Front (1930) was unquestionably powerful, and an early anti-war film,
portraying a German point of view; it was the first film (in any
genre) to win two Oscars, best picture and best director. Andrew
Kelly, analysing All Quiet on the Western Front, defined the genre as
showing: the brutality of war; the amount of human suffering; the
betrayal of men's trust by incompetent officers.
War and anti-war
films often prove difficult to categorize as they contain many generic
ambiguities. While many anti-war films criticize war directly through
depictions of grisly combat in past wars, some films such as Penn's
Alice\'s Restaurant criticized war obliquely by poking fun at such
things as the draft board. The number of anti-war films produced in
America dipped sharply during the 1950s because of
McCarthyism and the
Hollywood blacklist . The end of the blacklist and the introduction
of the MPAA rating system marked a time of resurgence for films of all
type including anti-war films in the States. Robert Eberwein names two
films as anti-war classics:
Jean Renoir 's prisoner of war masterpiece
La Grande Illusion (The Grand Illusion, 1937), and
Stanley Kubrick 's
Paths of Glory (1957). The critic
David Ehrenstein notes that Paths
of Glory established Kubrick as the "leading commercial filmmaker of
his generation" and a world-class talent. Ehrenstein describes the
film as an "outwardly cool/inwardly passionate protest drama about a
disastrous French army maneuver and the court-martial held in its
wake", contrasting it with the "classic" All Quiet on the Western
Front's story of an innocent "unstrung by the horrors of war".
Some later war films combined black comedy and anti-war sentiment, as
in the anti-war farces of
Mike Nichols 's
Catch-22 (1970), based on
Joseph Heller 's satirical novel about the Second World War, and
Robert Altman 's MASH (1970), set in Korea, reflecting the attitudes
of an increasingly sceptical public.
Other genres were combined in
Franklin J. Schaffner 's Patton (1970),
about real life General
George S. Patton , where combat scenes were
interleaved with commentary about how he waged war, showing good and
bad sides to a command. It and MASH became the two most profitable
war/anti-war films made up to that time; and Patton won seven Academy
* ^ Clarke's list of "notable Civil
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(1971), North and South (1985), and Ride with the Devil (1999).
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