If you’re a fellow WWII history buff, you know the appeal of a great period piece movie. If you are searching for a movie to watch on the next rainy day, when you’re sick, or for your weekly movie night, consider some of the movies below. Instead of action films, the ones outlined below focus more on characters than the battles of the war. These four films offer a slice of history, fascinating characters, and the stories that continue to make WWII a period to reflect upon.
Filmed in black and white as a nod to the era’s documentary footage, director Steven Spielberg tells the story of Oskar Schindler. Schindler, a German businessman, was responsible for saving more than a thousand Polish Jews by employing them in his factories during WWII. Based upon the book Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally, Spielberg’s film won 7 Academy Awards and is regarded in some circles as one of the best films of all time.
Chronicling the true story of Władysław Szpilman, “The Pianist” is based on the autobiography of the same name. The film follows Szpilman, a Polish-Jewish pianist and composer, from the beginning of the war to the end, documenting how his talent and intelligence help him form connections that keep him alive. “The Pianist” has many themes, but perhaps the most poignant is the idea that art ties a culture together, providing hope and comfort in the darkest of times.
George C. Scott portrays the famed U.S. Army General in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Patton.” The film demonstrates the complexity of General Patton, a key figure in the victories of many WWII battles. Often regarded as a war hero, General Patton’s character is in opposition to modern day definitions of a hero, posing the idea that doing the right thing isn’t always black and white.
A heartbreaking film about Sophie, a concentration camp survivor, who had to choose which one of her children would be sent to the gas chamber or to a work camp. The movie is based on a novel of the same name. While fictional, the story isn’t unrealistic as mothers during the Holocaust were often faced with similar, heartbreaking decisions. Played by Meryl Streep, Sophie’s story is shown through flashbacks that chronicle her life before, during, and after the concentration camp. The movie demonstrates the ripple effect our choices make and how families continued to feel the terror and heartbreak of the Holocaust for generations.
While not inherently feel good movies, the characters featured in these films are proof of the strength and complexity of the human soul. If you’re not in the mood for WWII action movies, check out these four and brace yourself for the emotions they are about to invoke in you.