Today marks Remembrance Day in which we honour the memory of all those who lost their lives in the tragic events of World War I.
To commemorate the occasion we're presenting our list of the most unforgettable World War I films, ones that remind us never to forget one of the darkest periods in human history.
All Quiet on the Western Front
Made only 12 years after the war has ended and still very fresh in everyone’s minds, this offers the lesser heard point-of-view of a young German soldier.
It is a very human account of the effect of war on the individual and their subsequent disconnection from family and society. It’s also Peter Jackson’s top choice of World War I films. In a list for Total Film, the director says: “The camera angles and staged battle footage have been copied in almost every World War I film made since. Many of the extras were veterans of the real battles, and it has a very authentic feeling.”
Paths of Glory (1957)
Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the novel of the same name is based on the true story of four French soldiers, sentenced to death for refusing to take part in a suicide mission. It stars Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax, the commanding officer who attempts to defend the soldiers against being court-martialled for cowardice.
Testing the boundaries of what becomes acceptable during times of conflict, the vehemently anti-war film attracted criticism from military personnel. Pressure put on the studio by the French Government not to release the film in France meant it was not shown there until 1975.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
A character study of how war can inspire, corrupt and ultimately ruin a man, Lawrence of Arabia is the epic, multi-award-winning biographical portrait of T.E. Lawrence (played by the captivating Peter O’Toole), a British Army lieutenant sent to the Arabian peninsular during the war who proceeds to go a bit native.
His loyalties and personality both begin to split apart, with his sense of identity becoming as fractured as the situation in the Middle East. If you ever get a chance to see it on the big screen, it’s an experience not to be missed – the sweeping desert landscapes and rousing score are what cinema is made for. It’s not considered one of the best and most influential films of all time for nothing.
A Very Long Engagement (2004)
Reunited with her Amélie director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Audrey Tautou plays the fiancé of a soldier thought to have been sentenced to death for trying to escape military service. Refusing to give up hope, she embarks on an investigation to find out what really happened. Through beautiful sepia tones and Tautou’s nuanced and subtle performance, the format shows both sides of war’s human sacrifice – the soldiers who go off to fight, and those who they leave behind.
War Horse (2012)
About his chosen narrative format, War Horse author Michael Morpurgo told The Guardian recently: “I thought, through the horse's eyes we could see the conflict from all sides and tell the tale of the universal suffering in that war, and make it not simply a story of fighting, but of reconciliation.”
Steven Spielberg’s well-received adaptation was nominated for six Oscars. Very Spielbergian in its focus on fractured families torn apart by circumstance, the battle scenes are brilliantly executed and it packs the kind of emotional punch you would expect from the legendary director.