To mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, here’s my Top 10 list of Hollywood’s best films on the conflict:
The Pacific Theater
“From Here to Eternity” – This star-studded blockbuster about the run-up to Pearl Harbor boasts Oscar-winning performances by Frank (Comeback Kid) Sinatra and Donna Reed, and memorable turns by Montgomery Clift and Ernest Borgnine – not to mention the iconic, wave-splashed smooch between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr.
“They Were Expendable” – John Ford directed this realistic look at a PT boat squadron’s exploits in the Philippines during the early years of the war. John Wayne heads the cast, opposite Robert Montgomery, a longtime MGM leading man, who served as an officer in the South Pacific and on a Navy destroyer during the D-Day invasion.
“Mrs. Miniver” – Greer Garson won an Academy Award as the stiffest-upper-lippest mother ever. The scenes of her confronting a downed German pilot and shielding her family in a bomb shelter during an air raid are riveting. Many credit this movie with single-handedly rallying American support for our British allies.
“The More The Merrier” – Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea are hilarious as strangers sharing an overcrowded apartment during the wartime housing crunch in Washington, D.C. Charles Coburn copped an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor playing the pair’s matchmaking roomie.
“Since You Went Away” – Nine Academy Award nominations went to this box-office smash about a brave mother (Claudette Colbert) who keeps the home fires burning when her husband is called to war. Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple portray Colbert’s daughters.
“The Story of G.I. Joe” – Director William Wellman captures the lives of ordinary infantrymen, as seen through the eyes of Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Ernie Pyle (Burgess Meredith). Robert Mitchum shot to stardom in the film Dwight Eisenhower called “the greatest war picture I’ve ever seen.”
“Stalag 17” – William Holden scored a Best Actor Oscar as a prisoner of war who may – or may not – be a Nazi snitch in this acclaimed comedy-drama from writer-director Billy Wilder. Based on a hit Broadway play, the film masterfully blends big laughs with pulse-pounding suspense.
“The Best Years of Our Lives” – This moving account of soldiers returning home swept the Academy Awards, winning nine Oscars, including Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Director and Screenplay. Featuring a stellar cast including Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Theresa Wright and disabled war veteran Harold Russell.
“The Search” – Director Fred Zinnemann (From Here to Eternity) lends a documentary feel to Montgomery Clift’s first starring role as an American G.I. trying to reunite displaced orphans with their families in post-war Berlin. An underrated film that earned a special Oscar for 10-year-old Czech actor Ivan Jandl.
“The Men” – Marlon Brando made his big-screen debut as a bitter, wheelchair-bound soldier struggling to regain his physical and emotional equilibrium in another heartfelt release from director Zinnemann. To ensure authenticity, Brando spent weeks living in a veterans’ hospital alongside real-life casualties of war.