The Top 7 World War I Movies of All Time


World War I had a huge impact on the economic and political infrastructures of many countries. Empires crumbled, and the United States emerged as a force to be reckoned with world wide. Frequently overshadowed by the attention given in cinema to World War II and the Vietnam War, the significance of The Great War can’t be denied.

A war fought in the trenches, Germany, Russia and France saw casualties in the millions. US entry into the war was a turning point for the Allies. Propelling them to victory and leading to the Treaty of Versailles and the forming of The League of Nations. Those who fought, died and were champions of peace throughout the world should not be forgotten. It’s for that reason that I’m bringing to you my list of the Top 7 World War I Movies of all time.  Based on my opinion alone, I believe these movies memorialize the impact felt worldwide by one of the bloodiest and most significant wars the world had ever seen.

#7 Sergeant York

The compelling story of war hero and Medal of Honor recipient Alvin York, Sergeant York chronicles the transition of this former war pacifist to fierce patriot. Despite suffering devastating casualties and against all odds, York and just 7 soldiers managed to overpower a German machine gun nest, disarm them and capture over 100 men. Sergeant York received 11 Academy Award nominations and captured two wins. Gary Cooper as York, received the Oscar for Best Actor. An inspiration to all, Sergeant York shows that one man CAN make a difference. Even one who initially didn’t want to fight.

#6 Gallipoli

This 1981 film starring Mel Gibson is a coming of age story depicting the emotional impact the failed Gallipoli campaign had on a passionate and hopeful Australian regiment. This heartbreaking tale of innocence lost resonated with the Australian people and critics alike. Earning Gallipoli a Golden Globe nomination, 8 Australian Film Institute nominations and raking it in at the Australian box office.

#5 A Very Long Engagement

Audrey Tatou of Amelie fame, starred in this French love story about a young woman’s search for her fiancé believed to be sent to his death for attempting to evade military service during World War I. Her journey reveals corruption­­­ throughout the French government as she searches for answers behind her fiancé’s disappearance. A Very Long Engagement received numerous award nominations worldwide, solidifying Tatou’s status as a critical and fan favorite.

#4 A Farewell to Arms

An autobiographical novel by author Ernest Hemingway­­, the 1957 film version of his novel focuses on an ill fated love affair between American soldier Frederick Henry and British nurse Catherine Barkley. Henry, played by Rock Hudson is being treated at a British hospital in Northern Italy where he meets Barkley. Henry and a pregnant Barkley are soon separated. Overcoming many obstacles, including Henry fleeing the German forces, the two are reunited. A Farewell to Arms is a quintessential love story with a stellar cast.

#3 All Quiet on the Western Front

This 1930 film received two Academy Awards and was considered to be culturally and historically significant by the Library of Congress in 1990. This is harrowing and graphic telling of a group of young German boys sold on the honor and glory of war. What they witness is far from glamorous as they experience hardship and adversity throughout their service. Reflecting on the purpose of war in the process. The movie was strongly debated for its raw accountability and seemingly anti-German slant. All Quiet on the Western Front was banned in several countries following its release. One thing is for sure is that it stirs emotions and forces you to re-examine the effects of war, good and bad.

#2 Lawrence of Arabia

This visually stunning masterpiece is an accounting of British soldier T.E. Lawrence’s account of his experiences serving Allied Forces in the Arabian Desert. As WWI progresses, so does Lawrence. He begins to struggle internally with his love of country and newly formed bonds with his Middle Eastern counterparts. Lawrence of Arabia was a critical and box office success winning 7 of the 10 Academy Awards it was nominated for. Peter O’Toole played the lead and most characters in the movie were based on actual people relevant to the story.

#1 War Horse 

Released in 2011, War Horse is the epic tale of love, loyalty and friendship. The story begins with the developing bond between Joey and his young trainer Albert. After they are separated, Joey’s service begins. Now under the ownership of World War I soldier, and changing hands from owner to owner, the horse becomes an inspiration throughout the rest of the story. Albert enlists in the military to search for his horse and after much adversity the two are finally reunited. Set against the backdrop of WWI, War Horse is really a love story. The bond that exists between Albert and Joey and Albert’s commitment to finding him is truly inspiring. War Horse received great reviews and was a champion at the box office.

Final Thoughts

Well, that’s my list. Now there are many great WWI movies out there, but this list for me shows a well rounded view of the Great War and brings with it the heart, spirit and passion of those affected. Each one of these movies left an impression on me and my choices reflect that. Enjoy! And don’t forget to leave a comment below to tell me your favorite WW1 movie of all time. 


chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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3 thoughts on “The Top 7 World War I Movies of All Time”

  1. Yes Ty, you are right, bilingual is an asset. Here I live in Puerto Rico for the last 3 years and I am having a hard time getting Spanish down. I have learned many bad words, but…. My wife is bilingual and we have authored some bilingual books together. Now as for Flemish, Grandma spoke it when she was alive and I understood everything. It would do all of us a lot of good to learn more languages.By the way Ty, you did a great job on this post.

  2. Come on Greg, being bilingual is an asset. I’m sure flemish could come in handy! But you’re right about the significance of WWI. Not just for you, but for many. This was a war that changed the face of the United States in the world and set up apart from the rest. Though every war is has it’s place in history for a variety of reasons, WWI was definitely a catalyst for establishing this country as an advocate for freedom throughout the world.

  3. World War 1 has very much significance in my life. That is why I too am always interested in watching movies that depict this war.

    My Grandparents were in Belgium when it was invaded by Germany. They hid within crates of apples on a ship and ended up on Ellis island. From there they traveled to Iowa and became farmers. If not for World War 1, I would probably be speaking flemish and living somewhere near Brussels where some of our family still reside.

    As for the movie list you provided, there are two that I could watch over and over. A Farewell to Arms and All Quiet on the Western Front.

    I have not watched War Horse yet, but I will be sure to soon. Thanks for the reminder of some great movies.

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