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The Best WWII Battle Scenes on film


Anthropoid, in cinemas this Friday, ends spectacularly with one of the most realistic and brutal reconstructions of urban siege warfare seen in a long time. With this in mind, we started thinking of our favourite WWII battles from the world of cinema. Here are just a few from recent years. Do you agree with our list?

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS – Clint Eastwood – 2006


The Pacific theatre saw some of the most brutal fighting of WWII as the USA fought to push back the tide of Japanese aggression. Standing in their way was the sacred island of Iwo Jima, a staging post from which the holder could protect much of the Pacific. Clint Eastwood brings the month long battle to life in an extended sequence looking at the Army, Marines, Army Air Force, and Navy working together as a 110,000 strong force to slowly overcome the Imperial 21,000 embedded Japanese troops. The scale is present as the film shows us just what the Americans had to fight through to raise that famous flag.

ENEMY AT THE GATES – Jean-Jacques Annaud – 2001


Pitting Russian (Jude Law) and German (Ed Harris) snipers against each other at the height of the siege of Stalingrad has intense results. The game of cat and mouse becomes one of the most satisfying spectacles as the snipers, technical equals, continuously outsmart each other. The ruined city becomes their playground as they battle through one of the most nail-biting one-on-ones in cinema history – but who will still be standing when the final shot is fired?

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN – Steven Spielberg – 1998


No list of the best cinematic WWII battles would be complete without the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan. The atrocious storming of the Normandy beaches sets the viewer up for nearly three hours of true-to-life carnage as a group of American Army Rangers search for Private Ryan. The non-stop action of the first scenes, from the build up in the landing craft to the bunker clearing and elation of the hard-won victory – this is how you introduce a war film.

FURY – David Ayer – 2014


If asked what your preferred position on the battlefield might be, you’d be tempted to say ‘inside a tank’. Watch Fury and get back to us on that. Brad Pitt leads a cast including Shia LaBeouf and Jon Bernthal as they battle their Sherman tank ‘Fury’ across France for the final push into Nazi Germany. The film presents tank warfare as never seen before: A mixture of barrel sights, battlefield overviews, and steely close-ups blend with the exhaust smoke and engine drone to present a visceral experience of claustrophobia, fear, and adrenaline. A must see for fans of 20th century warfare.

ANTHROPOID – Sean Ellis – 2016


The latest addition to the catalogue of epic battle scenes is Anthropoid. Director Sean Ellis skilfully tells the little-known true story of two Czechoslovak resistance fighters (Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan) parachuted in from England to assassinate the ‘butcher of Prague’ – Hitler’s third in command Reinhard Heydrich. Two parts of this action/thriller place it firmly among the greats: The assassination scene is painstakingly accurate, and lets the tension and suspense build and build before the action unfolds. But the real showstopper is the films final 25 minute long Nazi assault on the church where our heroes are hiding. Watch out for the German light machine guns and some hot-potato grenades!

Anthropoid is in cinemas Friday.

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