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When determining the five best World War II movies of all time there are a variety of factors that one must consider. Such factors include: a believable and compelling story, realistic action, and genuine characters. The only way to determine the top five films that most accurately depict the events of World War II is to examine these various factors separately and evaluate how well they blend together in the movie. Using the aforementioned scale, the following movies prove to be the best five World War II movies ever produced.

1. Saving Private Ryan
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Rating: R
Running time: 170 minutes
Date of original release: 1998

This film is easily the best World War II movie ever made. The opening 24 minutes of the film capture the wholesale slaughter of American troops at the D-Day Omaha Beach landing with uncanny realism. No other war film ever made has managed to capture the chaos and gore of the battlefield with such horrific accuracy. The movie follows a U.S. Army squad led by Captain Miller (Tom Hanks). Shortly after landing at Omaha, the squad is assigned to find and safely return Private James Ryan. Ryan’s other three brothers have all been killed in action in recent fighting. In an effort to circumvent the tragedy of all four brothers losing their lives, Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall orders that Ryan be located and returned to the United States. The remainder of the film follows the squad in the quest to find Ryan and the squad members' struggle to preserve their own lives. This film contains action sequences with unparalleled realism and a remarkable variety of characters. These factors mesh together seamlessly to make Saving Private Ryan the most realistic World War II movie to have ever graced the big screen.

2. The Big Red One
Directed by Samuel Fuller
Running time: 113 minutes
Date of original release: 1980

The Big Red One comes in a close second in the evaluation of the top five World War II movies of all time. The film presents an accurate portrayal of the First Infantry Division fighting from Africa to Europe from 1942 to 1945. Sergeant Possum (Lee Marvin) leads his men with realistic courage and professionalism. The film accurately depicts both the images of brutality as well as the beauty present during the chaos of war. The characters represent American GIs from various walks of life. Through the leadership of Sergeant Possum, the soldiers learn to depend on one another as a team in order to survive the horrific trials and tribulations of war. The story line of the film is based on director Samuel Fuller’s own experiences in World War II, and this is perhaps what makes the film so realistic. With a plot line backed up by genuine characters and realistic action sequences, The Big Red One is a superb World War II film.

3. Tora! Tora! Tora!
Directed by Richard Fleischer, Kinji Fukasaku, Toshio Masuda
Running time: 144 minutes
Date of original release: 1970

Tora! Tora! Tora! is an epic twenty-five million dollar film that follows the historical events leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The first half of the film presents divided scenes from the United States and Japan. It portrays the internal conflicts within the Japanese military and the overlooked warnings by the United States government. The second half of the film is made up of depictions of the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. The characters in the film are all historical figures involved in the events leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The film did not fair well in the United States, but did very well in Japan. The accuracy with which the events leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor are shown, combined with the battle scenes of the bombing itself, distinguish this film as one of the best World War II movies ever made.

4. Das Boot
Directed by Wolfgang Peterson
Running time: 150 minutes
Rating: PG
Date of original release: 1981

Many battles during World War II were fought on the high seas. Therefore, it is only fitting to include a naval film in the Top 5. Das Boot, which in English means The Boat, is a film that tells the story from the perspective of a German U-boat crew. It follows the lives of the submarine crew as they patrol the waters of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Das Boot does not rely heavily on plot, but rather on action and often a lack thereof. Eerie scenes depicting the seemingly endless hours the crew spends waiting in the dank, claustrophobic quarters of the submarine are abruptly interrupted by battle sequences. The film puts little emphasis on the events of World War II; instead, it concentrates on the lives of the crew members. Das Boot contains submarine battle scenes unmatched by any film before or since. Originally in German, the film has English subtitles.

5. Cross of Iron
Directed by Sam Peckinpah
Running time: 120 minutes
Rating: PG
Date of Original Release: 1977

Cross of Iron is another film told from the German perspective. It relates the experiences of a German Wehrmacht platoon retreating in Russia during 1943. The soldiers are led by Corporal Steiner (James Coburn). In Steiner’s opinion, he owes no allegiance to the Fuhrer, but rather to his men and his family. Conflict arises when command of the platoon is given to Captain Stransky who is firmly dedicated to both Hitler and the aims of the war. Stransky is very jealous of Steiner because Steiner was awarded the coveted Iron Cross commendation. Stransky desperately wants to be awarded the medal, too, but will only be able to with the help of the unwilling corporal. Steiner fights for his own survival and that of his comrades while Stransky is a cowardly follower of Hitler.