My Baker's Dozen of First World War Movies

This is another Genre where I have watched many movies and TV programmes and it is hard to chose the top few. 'The Monacled Mutineer' and 'My Boy Jack' were classical examples of the best BBC & ITV drama, but they were not Movies. I am regularly informed that 'Wings' (1927) and 'Passchendaele' (2008) are excellent Movies but I have yet to see them. The following films about WWI are in order of my choice, enjoy:
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Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
The story of T.E. Lawrence, the English officer who successfully united and led the diverse, often warring, Arab tribes during World War I in order to fight the Turks. (216 mins.)
Director: David Lean
“ I was lucky enough to have first seen this Epic on the BIG screen, in London as a treat and I have watched it twice since at the Cinema. The story is true, the plot is OK, the script is inspired and the cinematography is Magnificent! With a cast to die for, Lawrence of Arabia can still hold its own against all comers, in whatever technology and I defy anybody to forget Maurice Jarre's filmscore. - "The best of them won't come for money; they'll come for me." ” - brickley220
The Lighthorsemen (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
In 1917 when the British forces are bogged down in front of the Turkish and German lines in Palestine they rely on the Australian light horse regiment to break the deadlock. (131 mins.)
Director: Simon Wincer
“ This Australian film about the battle for Beersheba and the events leading up to it deserved at least one Academy Award if not two. The cinematography made the Australian desert look more like Palestine that Palestine does in real life. The Direction by Simon Wincer is brilliant, as is Adrian Carr's editing, especially when you consider that the battle line is real, not CGI; you can tell because some of the riders have more curves than others.
The film was panned by critics, who had probably never ridden a horse much less shared the mutual fear of shot and shell. It is realistic right down to the larrinkinism of the script.
"You mean we're out here looking for birds, sir?" ” - brickley220
Paths of Glory (1957)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
After refusing to attack an enemy position, a general accuses the soldiers of cowardice and their commanding officer must defend them. (88 mins.)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
“ An exceptional movie by an exceptional Director (Stanley Kubrick) it was previously a play from a successful novel about the futility of war, based on a real French Court Martial of four private soldiers. Photographed in Black and White, it was shot very much like a play, which gave it a claustrophobic atmosphere, appropriate to the theme of being trapped. This is an anti-War film in that it showed how officers and men alike were supposed to obey their orders, whether they made sense or not. The only woman in this film was German actress Susanne Christian who sang to the despondant men. Born Christiane Harlan she married the Director soon after the film wrapped and remained with him until his death in 1999.
"Gentlemen of the court, there are times that I'm ashamed to be a member of the human race and this is one such occasion." ” - brickley220
The Blue Max (1966)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A young pilot in the German air force of 1918, disliked as lower-class and unchivalrous, tries ambitiously to earn the medal offered for 20 kills. (156 mins.)
Director: John Guillermin
“ OK, they felt obliged to have the Goddess of Love, Ursula Andress in the movie as the pilots' perks, but ignoring all that, the flying was magnificent. This story of a young German infantryman (George Peppard) who won his wings and joined the elite, aristocratic band of pilots, was straight out of a Boys Own Comic. Two and a half hours literally flies by watching this story of youthful ambition, bravado and treachery. No CGI in this movie either, which makes it 100 times better than 'Flyboys'. Director John Guillermin excelled at epic movies and with Jerry Goldsmith's fantastic film score this was a memorable experience. Despite the distractions over medals, women and alcohol it is a good war film.
"I can't keep these barges flying forever - I'm a mechanic, not a magician." ” - brickley220
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I. (136 mins.)
Director: Lewis Milestone
“ Released only twelve years after the cessation of 'The War to end all Wars' this American movie was based upon a German book by Erich Maria Remarque. Recounting the experiences of a group of students who volunteer to serve the Fatherland, this was an epic film that has retained its humanity and is still relevant today.
It owes a great deal to the Director Lewis Milestone, who was born in Bessarabia (now Moldavia), raised in the Ukraine and educated in Belgium and Berlin before arriving in America in 1914 with six dollars in his pocket. He served in the US Army and after the War he went to Hollywood where he developed a track system to smoothly film action shots whilst moving; standard stuff now but cutting edge in the 1920s. Known as a difficult Director he always got his way; when the producer of 'All Quiet on the Western Front', Carl Laemmle jr., demanded a 'happy ending' for the picture, Milestone telephoned "I've got your happy ending. We'll let the Germans win the war". If you have not seen it then you should, as this Oscar winner is quite capable of talking for itself.
"You still think it's beautiful to die for your country. The first bombardment taught us better. When it comes to dying for country, it's better not to die at all." ” - brickley220
The Dawn Patrol (1938)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
British flying aces in World War I contend with the harsh realities of war. (103 mins.)
Director: Edmund Goulding
“ I have never seen the Howard Hughes 1930 film but they both emanate from the same story by John Monk Saunders. Senior British pilots Captain Courtney (Errol Flynn) and Lieutenant Scott (David Niven) bait their CO, Major Brand (Basil Rathbone) for sending the Squadron on impossible missions. Then Courtney shows incredible courage by flying a suicide mission but survives to take command. With the boot on the other foot it is now the 'devil may care' Ace who has to send his men to their fate.
Directed by the capable Edmund Goulding the enthusiastic cast do a grand job of demonstrating the pressure of leadership in a crisis. It may have helped that Rathbone actually won the MC in WWI and Niven had served as a commissioned officer before Hollywood; only Flynn had a medical condition which prevented him from performing military service.
"You know what this place is? It's a slaughterhouse, and I'm the butcher!" ” - brickley220
Sergeant York (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A marksman is drafted in World War I and ends up becoming one of the most celebrated war heroes. (134 mins.)
Director: Howard Hawks
“ The real Alvin C. York did not want a movie made of his WWI service but relented when he needed funds to build a Bible School. He really was the most decorated American soldier of the War and the Oscar winning film was based upon his diary and experiences. Having Howard Hawks as the Director and Gary Cooper playing the backwoods marksman helped this movie become the most successful film of 1941.
Yes there is some humour in the movie but York's sincerity is allowed to shine through in Coop's Oscar winning performance.
"Well I'm as much agin' killin' as ever, sir. But it was this way, Colonel. When I started out, I felt just like you said, but when I hear them machine guns a-goin', and all them fellas are droppin' around me... I figured them guns was killin' hundreds, maybe thousands, and there weren't nothin' anybody could do, but to stop them guns. And that's what I done." ” - brickley220
Gallipoli (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Two Australian sprinters face the brutal realities of war when they are sent to fight in the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey during World War I. (110 mins.)
Director: Peter Weir
“ This was the Australian WWI movie with the big names that got a box of awards and was nominated for a Golden Globe. Whilst the film is about the Dardenelles campaign there are several historical inaccuracies included deliberately for dramatic effect. The score by Jean Michel Jarre is very effective and the film is very dramatic but sometimes a tad tedious. The emphasis on the friendship between Archy Hamilton (Mark Lee) and Frank Dunne (Mel Gibson) is there to demonstrate why certain events occur later in the film. Visually it is an exciting production but it is subject to variation in pace at times.
" The thing I can't stand about you, mate, is you're always so bloody cheerful." ” - brickley220
Aces High (1976)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
In WW1 the high casualty rate among the rookie pilots of the Royal Flying Corps puts an enormous strain on the survivors. (114 mins.)
Director: Jack Gold
“ Lt. Stephen Croft (Peter Firth) has always Hero Worshipped his school senior, the enchanting and successful Major John Gresham (Malcolm McDowell) who is engaged to Croft's sister. Then Croft turns up for duty at Gresham's RFC Squadron, all bright eyed and ready for war. But as the youngster undergoes his rites of passage journey, he finds that he is not really ready and that his super hero is very human. The sharp eyed will notice that this film recycles some 'Blue Max' stock shots but there is still enough original footage to maintain the interest during Croft's two hour baptism of reality, love and pain.
"How many for breakfast? Any of them?" ” - brickley220
The African Queen (1951)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
In Africa during World War I, a gin-swilling riverboat captain is persuaded by a strait-laced missionary to use his boat to attack an enemy warship. (105 mins.)
Director: John Huston
“ Well it was either this beautiful romance or Doctor Zhivago and David Lean already had an entry in this list whilst John Huston's masterpiece has a happier ending. We all know the plot by heart, nasty Germans kill the girl's brother, confirmed batchelor rescues girl, she convinces him to attack Germans, they fall in love.
Rose Sayer (Katherine Hepburn) was in her mid-Forties and Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) was in his Fifties, so they were hardly the "Star crossed lovers" of Romeo and Juliet. What we learn from this lovely film based upon C.S. Forrester's adventure story is that you are never too old to learn how to fall in love or sink an enemy ship.
"By the authority vested in me by Kaiser William II, I pronounce you man and wife. Proceed with the execution." ” - brickley220
The Fighting 69th (1940)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Although loudmouthed braggart Jerry Plunkett alienates his comrades and officers, Father Duffy, the regimental chaplain, has faith that he'll prove himself in the end. (90 mins.)
“ Although this is based upon the activities of a real Regiment that participated in WWI this is also a 'pot boiler' using a parody of 'Angels With Dirty Faces' stars James Cagney (Pvt. Jerry Plunkett) and Pat O'Brien (Father Duffy) to pitch the plot about "Duty before Self" to the American audience. Pvt. Plunkett is only looking out for 'No.1' and very convincing he is too, but underneath it's James Cagney and you know that he is going to come through eventually.
"You know Jerry, you're getting yourself so "well-liked" in this army, that they'd rather machine gun you than the Germans! It was bad enough at Camp Mills, but instead of improving you've been getting worse!" ” - brickley220
A Very Long Engagement (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Tells the story of a young woman's relentless search for her fiancé, who has disappeared from the trenches of the Somme during World War One. (133 mins.)
“ Yes I know that this is a romantic film where the heroine searches for her true love who goes missing during the First World War. Apart from the fact that it is a French film as opposed to British, American or Australian and that it was actually made in the 21st century, I happen to like this lovely piece of cinematography.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet is an exceptional Director and this film deals with all the emotions which rise to the surface in a conflict. It is not just stern faced men staring death in the eyes, it is the reason why we fight to defend our way of living.
Audrey Tatou (Mathilde) is a very talented actress and certainly Gaspard Ulliel (Manech) is worth trying to save.
"Miracles don't just happen in Lourdes, you know." ” - brickley220
Hell's Angels (1930)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Brothers Monte and Ray leave Oxford to join the Royal Flying Corps. Ray loves Helen; Helen enjoys an affair with Monte; before they leave on their mission over Germany they find her in still another man's arms. (127 mins.)
Director: Howard Hughes
“ This Howard Hughes film is more of an excuse to fly aeroplanes and show off the talents of Jean Harlow, than make a serious statement about the tragedy of war. Indeed Hughes was going to participate in the stunt flying himself, but crashed shortly after his first take off, breaking several bones in the process. The audience was shocked by the language, the film lost money, but Hughes had another aviation masterpiece in the can. There are more stories about the making and saving of this movie than most of the others put together.
I have included this contribution to my list because despite all that is wrong with this tale of sibling rivalry, I cannot help liking it. It is the a relative that nobody really cares for, but you still invite him to a party because he is fun to have around.
"I wanna be free. I wanna be gay and have fun. Life's short. And I wanna live while I'm alive." ” - brickley220