Before Dunkirk, here are films that highlighted events of World War II: Throwback Thursday

Ankita Maneck

Jul,20 2017 12:26:55 IST

World War II's Operation Dynamo was an evacuation mission to rescue the soldiers of the Allied forces (England, France) from the beaches of Dunkirk. There was one vital problem — they were surrounded by the German army.

Among those who helped in the evacuation were civilians with small vessels such as fishing boats and car ferries. Over 300,000 soldiers were rescued and the evacuation was hailed as a 'miracle' by Winston Churchill.

This evacuation is the theme of Christopher Nolan's next film Dunkirk. After making films about Batman and time bending experiences in Interstellar, Nolan, for the first time in his career as a director, has attempted to make a film based on a real life event.

World War II remains a subject of fascination for many filmmakers. Right from the pre-war era till date, many films have been made about both the World Wars. There's of course Schindler's List, Sophie's Choice and A Boy In Stripped Pajamas that chronicle the world war, but here are some films that define that events of World War II through different aspects:

Rules of the Game 

A still from Rules of the Game. Image via Creative Commons.

A still from Rules of the Game. Image via Creative Commons.

Renoir's film was set in 1938, and released in 1939, a few months after the Munich Agreement (This was a settlement reached by Germany, Great Britain, France, and Italy that permitted German annexation of the Sudetenland in western Czechoslovakia.)

By February 1939, it didn't seem possible that the surrender of Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler at Munich had saved a war from breaking out.

With the sense of doom hanging over Europe, Renoir thought he could best interpret the state of mind by an allegorical drama.

The film's plot is simple. A socialite and her husband might be cheating on each other — their circle's societal dynamics in a French chateau served as the comic relief in the film. Then there is a sequence where the bourgeois hunt down rabbits in the forest as a sport, which possibly threw light into what Renoir thought of the persecution of jews in Europe.

The best part about Rules Of The Game gets away with explaining the second world war without even saying the word 'war.'

Life is Beautiful

A still from Life is Beautiful. Image via Creative Commons.

A still from Life is Beautiful. Image via Creative Commons.

The Oscar winning film with Roberto Benigni in the lead role shows us the horrors of the concentration camp with a father-son story. Benigni is a father shielding his young son, Giosue, from the terror of being in a concentration camp by turning the experience into a game. His son earns 'points' by behaving well, quietly hiding from the guards and not crying for his mother. In the end, the father sacrifices himself to keep the son safe and when Allied troops free the camp, Giosue is reunited with his mother.

Though it doesn't showcase the war or soldiers, the film beautifully shows the power of hope against a backdrop of crisis.

Hiroshima, Mon Amour

A still from Hiroshima, Mon Amour. Image via Creative Commons.

A still from Hiroshima, Mon Amour. Image via Creative Commons.

From the horrors of a concentration camp, here's the horror of the atomic bombing.

A French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) and a married Japanese architect (Eiji Okada) have an affair in the titular bomb-ravaged city.

Their romance slowly becomes a metaphor for the guilt the Allied forces have for the bombings of the Japanese cities. The film, told mostly through dialogues between the two lovers, serves to question the aftermath of the war. What does a woman who is a part of the Allied forces think of the war? What does a Japanese man think of their victory?

The film by Alain Resnais subtlely explores the dynamics of the war with the lead characters.


A still from Cassablanca. Image via Creative Commons.

A still from Cassablanca. Image via Creative Commons.

Though war is a mere backdrop for this story, it highlights how it affected everyone involved. The plot explores the heartbreaking story of love lost for American expatriate Rick (Bogart) . When Ilsa (Bergman) reappears in his life, with her husband by her side, Rick grudgingly agrees to help them escape to Portugal so Ilsa’s husband can continue his work as part of the Czech Resistance to the Nazi regime.

It is interesting to note that many war refugees actually appeared as extras or were given small roles in the film.


A still from Rashomon. Image via Creative Commons.

A still from Rashomon. Image via Creative Commons.

The notion of the subjectivity of truth is an interesting one. Akira Kurosawa, the great Japanese filmmaker was always fascinated by that — and in Rashomon he explores this philosophy.


Rashomon tells the story of a woman's sexual assault and her husbands' death from four different points of view: the woman's, the dead husband's ghost, the thief and murderer, and an eye witness to the situation. With this Kurosawa tries to explore how subjective truth can be from different people's point of view, and this serves as a metaphor for the second world war.

Updated Date: Jul 20, 2017 12:26 PM