World War I has inspired countless stories, both fiction, and non-fiction, across all cultures, languages, and even mediums. Movies have been particularly effective at portraying the horror of war, as well as its emotional toll on those involved.
In this post, I share with you 10 of the best World War I movies ever made – from epic dramas to documentary reels – each offering a unique perspective on this tumultuous period in history.
These Word War I movies capture the true spirit of courage and resilience during WWI while also highlighting some of its most poignant moments.
This list of the best World War I films can also be a good educational resource to use with your students to show them the true spirit of courage and resilience during WWI and some of its most important moments.
To optimize students learning, make sure you do your homework beforehand. Watch the movie at home, prepare comprehension questions, discussion prompts, etc. This will deepen the student’s understanding of the context, characters, plot, and themes of the particular movie.
1. A Farewell to Arms (1932), 1 h 31 min, 13+
A Farewell to Arms is a classic film directed by Frank Borzage, and released in 1932. It is an adaptation of the 1929 novel by Ernest Hemingway and tells the story of Lt. Henry and Nurse Catherine Barkley during World War I.
2. Paths Of Glory, (1957), 1 h 27 min, 13+
Paths Of Glory is a 1957 drama directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Kirk Douglas. Set during World War I, the film follows Colonel Dax (Douglas) as he leads three of his men on an offensive mission against a German stronghold.
3. The Harlem Hellfighters Great War, (2017), 52 min, 7+
The Harlem Hellfighters Great War is a 2017 documentary that tells the story of the 15th Regiment of the New York National Guard, an all-black unit during World War I. It follows their journey as they fight for liberty and democracy in France, and also for racial equality. Led by Colonel William Hayward, this unit was the most decorated regiment of the Second World War.
4. They Shall Not Grow Old, (2019), 1 h 39 min , R
They Shall Not Grow Old is a 2019 Academy Award-winning documentary film directed and produced by Peter Jackson. The movie uses unseen footage from the World War I period to tell the story of the soldiers who fought in the conflict. It features a mix of colorized archive footage, interviews with veterans, and original audio recordings of veterans talking about their experiences of the war.
5. Beneath Hill 60, (2022),2 h 2 min, R
Beneath Hill 60 is a 2022 war drama based on the extraordinary true story of Oliver Woodward, an Australian tunneler during World War I. The action takes place on the Western Front in 1916, where Woodward and a secret platoon of tunnelers must defend a leaking labyrinthine tunnel system packed with enough high explosives to alter the course of the War.
6. Journey’s End, (2018), 1 h 47 min
Journey’s End is a 2018 British war drama film based on the play of the same name by R. C. Sherriff. Set during World War I in March 1918, the story follows Captain Stanhope and his company of British soldiers who arrive at the front-line trenches of northern France, awaiting their fate as German forces approach.
The film stars Sam Claflin, Paul Bettany and Asa Butterfield, and was praised for its gripping story and performances.
7. Gallipoli, (1981), 1 h 51 min, PG
Gallipoli is a 1981 Australian war drama directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson. The film follows the story of two young men, Archie and Frank, who enlist in the Australian Imperial Force during World War I and fight in the Battle of Gallipoli in Turkey.
8. All Quiet On The Western Front, (1979), 2 h 36 min, 13
All Quiet On The Western Front is a 1979 American war drama film directed by Delbert Mann, based on the novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. Set during World War I, it follows a group of German soldiers as they experience the horrors and trauma of trench warfare.
The story focuses on Paul Baumer, a young German soldier who discovers the horrors of war. The film features an all-star cast including Richard Thomas, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence and Ian Holm. All Quiet On The Western Front received critical acclaim and was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
9. 1917, (2020), 1 h 59 min, R
1917 is an epic war drama by the acclaimed director Sam Mendes. The film follows the story of two British soldiers, Lance Corporal Blake and Lance Corporal Schofield, during the height of World War I.
These soldiers are tasked with the mission to deliver a message to the other side of the enemy line in order to prevent the death of 1600 soldiers, including Blake’s brother. As the two men venture through the dangerous and chaotic landscape of the battlefield, they must overcome the odds in order to complete their mission on time.
10. Aces High, (1976), 1 h 54 min, PG
Aces High is a 1976 British war drama directed by Jack Gold. The film follows the story of Peter Firth, a new recruit in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I. Initially, Peter has a tense relationship with his squadron leader Malcolm McDowell, but as he comes to understand the horrors and complexities of war, he begins to gain a new found respect for his commanding officer.