I've read in a few places that American soldiers during WWII (meaning men who had actually seen combat, not rear echelon troops) preferred light comedy or romance movies to the sanitized propaganda in war movies of the time.

Can anyone give me a counterexample? I'm looking for a plausible reference to a frontline soldier, or group of frontline soldiers, enjoying a war movie - either because they didn't mind the propaganda, or because the movie was unusually realistic.

Edit: Sorry, the second paragraph isn't really clear - I'm specifically interested in American war movies that were made during the war, and the combat soldiers' reaction to them.

I know a lot of more realistic movies were made after the fact. Thanks and apologies to everyone who answered before the question was corrected.

  • 1
    Do you insist on American soldiers/movies?
    – DVK
    Feb 2, 2012 at 15:04
  • It's not clear if you're talking only about movies actually produced during the war, or modern ones (such as those in these answers) are fine.
    – o0'.
    Feb 2, 2012 at 16:42
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    @Lohoris Yes, I was wondering the same thing, as movies made during the time would be subject to propaganda, while those later tended to be more realistic after a period. Such as Saving Private Ryan. The questions notes "of the time" but the answers are for later periods.
    – MichaelF
    Feb 2, 2012 at 16:49
  • 1
    Thanks, guys; I didn't realize how badly I'd phrased that. Better now, I hope.
    – Rose Ames
    Feb 2, 2012 at 20:38
  • 1
    @Lohoris: I see your point. That decision should rest with the Rose Ames to be honest. I am loathed to edit her(?) questions to change its meaning. Feb 3, 2012 at 13:25

6 Answers 6


Of the war movies made during WWII, American veterans liked the realistic ones:

  • The Battle of Midway (1942)
  • At the Front (1943)
  • Report from the Aleutians (1944)
  • With the Marines at Tarawa (1944)
  • The Memphis Belle (1944)

On the other hand, the "tough guys" of the time, notably John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart were not regarded at all among the veterans (this contradicts Tom Au's answer, vide Casablanca).

Source: Gambone The greatest generation comes home: the veteran in American society, 2005, pp. 159-160 http://books.google.pl/books?id=7SRZzJUf8cYC&pg=PA159

  • Thanks, that looks like a really interesting book. Does it say specifically that they disliked Casablanca? It's not my idea of a propaganda war movie - not about soldiers, for one, and the patriotism is mixed with a fair amount of cynicism and humour.
    – Rose Ames
    Feb 4, 2012 at 5:43
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    @Rose Ames no; the book does say explicitly that soldiers disliked Bogart in the war time, but does not mention what appearance (he starred in many films although Casablanca is most known).
    – kubanczyk
    Feb 4, 2012 at 8:59
  • I believe that Bogart and Wayne were not well-regarded because they simply "acted" tough in the movies and men who had seen combat could see through the acting. I think it really bothered both men. Aug 16, 2012 at 13:26
  • To follow up, John Wayne was embarassed about it, which helped prompt him to make the ridiculous, so-bad-you-love-it Viet Nam war movie, "The Green Berets". Feb 27, 2013 at 20:46

I found this panel interview discussion on PBS org. The panel included, Speilberg, actors, and a veteren by the name of Judge John Harrison. I will quote a few of his comments below but heres the link.

PHIL PONCE: As one who was at D-Day on Utah Beach, in your case, was the film's depiction of what it was like, was it accurate, to your mind?

JUDGE JOHN HARRISON: I was off the beach and, of course, the Utah Beach was a much easier beach as far as losses are concerned than Omaha. Omaha, from what I gathered, was a slaughterhouse, and it was beautifully or tragically shown in this picture.

PHIL PONCE: Judge, do you think the movie caught the character of what that experience was like for people at D-Day?

JUDGE JOHN HARRISON: I'm sure it did. It couldn't be more real.

Saving private ryan seems to pull at the emotions of veterens and some examples have been compiled into the book Now You Know : Reactions After Seeing Saving Private Ryan. If you are very curious you may want to check it out.

  • That's a well researched answer to a question that I didn't mean to ask :P. The book looks interesting though.
    – Rose Ames
    Feb 4, 2012 at 5:47

The "classic" movie of World War II was Casablanca. It was both a romance AND a war movie.

But mostly it was a "good versus evil" morality play, with the hero, Rick Blaine, "giving up" his former girlfriend (the Ingrid Bergman character) to a resistance fighter for the sake of the war effort, and receiving the friendship of the former "collaborationist," Captain Renault, in return.

Ironically, Hollywood had the same idea as the U.S. Army, that Casablanca was the focal point of World War II (and the movie was rushed into production when the American troops landed there). The Allied victory in North Africa allowed the invasion of the Axis' "soft underbelly" in Italy. An Axis victory there would have allowed them to invade America's "soft underbelly"--in Brazil.

  • 1
    Sure, but what about war veterans?
    – o0'.
    Feb 3, 2012 at 15:07
  • @Lohoris: I believe war veterans liked this. I've seen men of a "certain" age (now dying off) at screenings.
    – Tom Au
    Feb 3, 2012 at 15:09
  • I think that may have more to do with its ideas as a "classic" than a reflection of it as a war movie. It is still screened today as a family movie, or as classic cinema, in many places.
    – MichaelF
    Feb 4, 2012 at 12:34
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    Where do you get the idea that either the US Army or Hollywood thought that Casablanca was the focal point of WWII? The release of the movie, not the production, was rushed when Allied troops landed there. The comment about Brazil is simply odd. Aug 16, 2012 at 13:32
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    @TomAu No, there is no plausible real world scenario for the invasion of Brazil as a way to get to the US. It only makes sense if you play Risk. Far more sensible would be the German's WWI ploy, exposed in the Zimmerman telegram, of using Mexico to get to the US. In 1944, Caribbean islands would have been far more useful than Brazil. If you watch the movie, there's no indication that anyone suspected an American invasion and Hollywood found out when the rest of us did. Feb 27, 2013 at 20:44

There are so few relatively realistic American movies about WWII to choose from that it really doesn't make sense to require any hard poll data from veterans.

As to TV, the choice is simple:

This list may be expanded as long as I don't have to limit myself to American movies or to WWII.

  • 5
    THese were made after WWII and not during.
    – Stevetech
    Feb 4, 2013 at 8:37

There were plenty of British films (if they are any good to you) which were made during the war.e.g.

Went the Day well.

We dive at dawn.

In which we serve.

The Life & Death of Colonel Blimp.

A matter of Life and Death.

Millions Like Us.

Next of Kin.

One of our aircraft is missing.

The first of the few.

Cottage to let.

The Day will dawn

Pimpernel Smith.

The Foreman went to France.

Freedom Radio.

The Way Ahead.



You can find a more complete list of war films, with dates of original release, at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?num=50&site=&source=hp&q=british+films+of+ww2&oq=british+films+of+ww2&gs_l=hp.3..0i22i30l5.2313.8755.0.9219.

  • 2
    I suggest you re-read the question.
    – o0'.
    Mar 15, 2015 at 21:54
  • @Lohoris The title does not specify that the films have to be American. They appear to be looking for any films which were 'well regarded by American soldiers'. I am certain that most of those films will have been watched by American soldiers at some stage, at least the ones who served in Europe.
    – WS2
    Mar 15, 2015 at 22:07
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    And the point where they would have been weel regarded? You are just listing random movies…
    – o0'.
    Mar 15, 2015 at 23:41

I might add the great documentary 'The War' made by Ken Burns in 2007. A truly magnificent researched piece of work of no less then 14 hours! The imagery is second to none. The stories are deeply moving. It's the ultimate praise for the American soldier who gave up everything to save the world.

  • 2
    Although this may be a great movie, the OP is looking for movies made during WW2.
    – Luke_0
    Dec 28, 2012 at 19:32

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