(Photo by Touchstone)

All World War I Movies Ranked By Tomatometer

The 2020 Golden Globes pick for Best Motion Picture – Drama: 1917, a dramatic thriller presented as a single continuous shot, and a tale of valor and sacrifice during World War I. The Sam Mendes film arrives in a moment of peak WWI interest, seen from 15-million seller video game Battlefield 1 and Peter Jackson’s incomparably vivid They Shall Not Grow Old documentary. With that, we’ve collected and ranked every World War I movie by Tomatometer.

Not only did the First World War plunge our planet in death, plague, and turmoil, it would become a sort of stress test for filmmaking, which was still in its early years. World War 1 (1914-1918) was humanity’s first shared cataclysm that the movies had been around for. There would be books and there would be songs written about the War – now it was time to see what movies were capable of expressing. This new medium, with its filmmakers just beginning to create feature-length stories, found its power in resurrecting recent history on-screen to transportive life. Movies became how we process trauma, looking back on the things we have experienced with honor, anger, regret, and romance.

So how fitting that at the first Academy Awards ever, World War I epic Wings (1927) would win Best Picture, partially on the strength of its inventive camerawork that swept audiences into the love triangle and aerial dogfights. WWI movies became prestige events, featuring big-budget casts and production values, seen in enduring classics like A Farewell to Arms, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Grand Illusion. But the regular production of WWI movies dried up in the 1940s. Hmmm, wonder what happened!

After World War II, audiences got a major WWI movie once a decade. Paths of Glory came out in 1957. Lawrence of Arabia was in the ’60s. Johnny Got His Gun for the cynical ’70s. It was Gallipoli in the ’80s. Then in the ’90s, Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and Medal of Honor made WWII the guerre du jour for a long time. All three projects were shepherded by Steven Spielberg, so naturally he would be the one to give World War I its biggest spectacle movie in decades: the 2011 Certified Fresh War Horse.

A quick note on our selection criteria: We picked only movies that were set squarely in the War, instead of just using the War as a backdrop, like Hitchcock’s Secret Agent, The African Queen, or The White Ribbon. And only movies whose subject is the War. Multi-decade stories that happened to include WWI were not considered, leaving off movies like The Great Dictator, Legends of the Fall, and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

Revisit a turning point in human history with our guide to every World War I movie ranked by Tomatometer!

#34

In Love and War (1996)
11%

#34
Adjusted Score: 11354%
Critics Consensus: Formulaic and trite, In Love and War unconvincingly recreates Ernest Hemingway's early life with all the stuffy tropes that the author would have excised in a second draft.
Synopsis: In 1918, 18-year-old Ernest Hemingway (Chris O'Donnell) signs up for service in World War I. After a bomb goes off... [More]
Directed By: Richard Attenborough

#33

The Red Baron (2008)
17%

#33
Adjusted Score: 16076%
Critics Consensus: It doesn't lack ambition, and it boasts undeniably thrilling source material, but The Red Baron is brought down by its overly sentimental script and a number of historical inaccuracies.
Synopsis: Though a national hero to the Germans for his efforts in World War I, Baron Manfred von Richthofen (Matthias Schweighöfer)... [More]
Directed By: Nikolai Müllerschön

#32

Flyboys (2006)
33%

#32
Adjusted Score: 38344%
Critics Consensus: A poorly scripted history-rewriting exercise with mediocre acting and unconvincing CGI battle scenes.
Synopsis: Before the United States enters World War I, some American youths volunteer for the French military. Subsequently, they become the... [More]
Directed By: Tony Bill

#31

Darling Lili (1970)
40%

#31
Adjusted Score: 23129%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In World War I London, half-British, half-German Lili Smith (Julie Andrews) lets her German "uncle" -- a foreign agent and... [More]
Directed By: Blake Edwards

#30
#30
Adjusted Score: 18814%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: American ex-military man Col. Flynn O'Flynn (Lee Marvin) and wealthy Sebastian Oldsmith (Roger Moore) are unlikely partners in the East... [More]
Directed By: Peter R. Hunt

#29
#29
Adjusted Score: 22792%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Longtime rivals in the Marines, Capt. Flagg (James Cagney) and Sgt. Quirt (Dan Dailey) are stationed together in France during... [More]
Directed By: John Ford

#28

Mata Hari (1931)
67%

#28
Adjusted Score: 28709%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In Paris during World War II, Dutch exotic dancer Mata Hari (Greta Garbo) secretly moonlights as a German spy. Using... [More]
Directed By: George Fitzmaurice

#27
#27
Adjusted Score: 24636%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Baron von Richthoven (John Phillip Law), better known as the Red Baron, is a highly skilled German fighter pilot and... [More]
Directed By: Roger Corman

#26

Private Peaceful (2012)
63%

#26
Adjusted Score: 62235%
Critics Consensus: Private Peaceful's deliberate pace will test the patience of many viewers, but its lush visuals and moving screenplay may offer sufficient compensation.
Synopsis: During World War I two brothers fall in love with the same woman as they contend with the pressures of... [More]
Directed By: Pat O'Connor

#25
#25
Adjusted Score: 65747%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: War has plunged Army soldier Joe Bonham (Timothy Bottoms) into an unending nightmare. Hit by an artillery shell in World... [More]
Directed By: Dalton Trumbo

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 43354%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: World War I Australian cavalrymen (Jon Blake, Peter Phelps) fight the Germans and the Turks, ending in a charge at... [More]
Directed By: Simon Wincer

#23

Merry Christmas (2005)
74%

#23
Adjusted Score: 78469%
Critics Consensus: The poignant humanity on display in Joyeux Noel makes its sentimentality forgivable.
Synopsis: With the advent of World War I, Europe is thrown into a brutal and vicious chaos as men are forced... [More]
Directed By: Christian Carion

#22

War Horse (2011)
75%

#22
Adjusted Score: 83907%
Critics Consensus: Technically superb, proudly sentimental, and unabashedly old-fashioned, War Horse is an emotional drama that tugs the heartstrings with Spielberg's customary flair.
Synopsis: Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his beloved horse, Joey, live on a farm in the British countryside. At the outbreak of... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#21

Hell's Angels (1930)
75%

#21
Adjusted Score: 76538%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: As World War I breaks out in Europe, Roy (James Hall) and Monte (Ben Lyon), two brothers studying at Oxford... [More]
Directed By: Howard Hughes

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 83797%
Critics Consensus: A well-crafted and visually arresting drama with a touch of whimsy.
Synopsis: Mathilde (Audrey Tautou) is told that her fiancé (Gaspard Ulliel) has been killed in World War I. She refuses to... [More]
Directed By: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

#19

Waterloo Bridge (1940)
80%

#19
Adjusted Score: 52945%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: At the onset of World War I, British officer Roy Cronin (Robert Taylor) and ballerina Myra (Vivien Leigh) meet and... [More]
Directed By: Mervyn LeRoy

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 88897%
Critics Consensus: Testament of Youth is well-acted and beautifully filmed, adding up to an enriching if not adventurous experience for fans of British period dramas.
Synopsis: During World War I, Oxford University student Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) postpones her studies to serve as a nurse while... [More]
Directed By: James Kent

#17

Beneath Hill 60 (2010)
86%

#17
Adjusted Score: 54113%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: During World War I a mining engineer (Brendan Cowell) and his team dig a network of tunnels beneath German lines... [More]
Directed By: Jeremy Sims

#16

Sergeant York (1941)
88%

#16
Adjusted Score: 89289%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Prize-winning Tennessee marksman Alvin York (Gary Cooper), a recent convert to Christianity, finds himself torn between his non-violent beliefs and... [More]
Directed By: Howard Hawks

#15

King and Country (1964)
86%

#15
Adjusted Score: 25495%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this World War I drama, English army private Arthur Hamp (Tom Courtenay) is accused of deserting his company while... [More]
Directed By: Joseph Losey

#14

1917 (2019)
88%

#14
Adjusted Score: 117853%
Critics Consensus: Hard-hitting, immersive, and an impressive technical achievement, 1917 captures the trench warfare of World War I with raw, startling immediacy.
Synopsis: During World War I, two British soldiers -- Lance Cpl. Schofield and Lance Cpl. Blake -- receive seemingly impossible orders.... [More]
Directed By: Sam Mendes

#13

Gallipoli (1981)
91%

#13
Adjusted Score: 93923%
Critics Consensus: Peter Weir's devastating anti-war film features a low-key but emotionally wrenching performance from Mel Gibson as a young soldier fighting in one of World War I's most deadly and horrifying battles.
Synopsis: Archy (Mark Lee) and Frank (Mel Gibson) are two young Australian sprinters who want to join the army to fulfill... [More]
Directed By: Peter Weir

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 94864%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Frederic Henry (Gary Cooper), an American driving ambulances for the Italian Army during World War I, falls for British Red... [More]
Directed By: Frank Borzage

#11

Journey's End (2017)
91%

#11
Adjusted Score: 96634%
Critics Consensus: Journey's End brings R.C. Sherriff's 90-year-old play to the screen with thrilling power, thanks to director Saul Dibb's hard-hitting urgency and brilliant work from a talented cast.
Synopsis: Led by an officer whose mental health is rapidly disintegrating, a group of British soldiers await their fate in an... [More]
Directed By: Saul Dibb

#10

Wings (1927)
93%

#10
Adjusted Score: 98411%
Critics Consensus: Subsequent war epics may have borrowed heavily from the original Best Picture winner, but they've all lacked Clara Bow's luminous screen presence and William Wellman's deft direction.
Synopsis: With World War I afoot, David Armstrong (Richard Arlen) and Jack Powell (Charles "Buddy" Rogers) join the military with an... [More]
Directed By: William A. Wellman

#9

See You up There (2017)
94%

#9
Adjusted Score: 94127%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In 1918, just days before the Armistice, a tragic act of war intrinsically links two soldiers.... [More]
Directed By: Albert Dupontel

#8

Paths of Glory (1957)
96%

#8
Adjusted Score: 103604%
Critics Consensus: Paths of Glory is a transcendentally humane war movie from Stanley Kubrick, with impressive, protracted battle sequences and a knock-out ending.
Synopsis: During World War I, commanding officer General Broulard (Adolphe Menjou) orders his subordinate, General Mireau (George Macready), to attack a... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

#7

Grand Illusion (1937)
97%

#7
Adjusted Score: 111402%
Critics Consensus: Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion is a masterful anti-war statement, bringing humane insight and an undercurrent of ironic humor to an unusual relationship between captor and captive.
Synopsis: A group of French soldiers, including the patrician Captain de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay) and the working-class Lieutenant Maréchal (Jean Gabin),... [More]
Directed By: Jean Renoir

#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 105800%
Critics Consensus: The epic of all epics, Lawrence of Arabia cements director David Lean's status in the filmmaking pantheon with nearly four hours of grand scope, brilliant performances, and beautiful cinematography.
Synopsis: Due to his knowledge of the native Bedouin tribes, British Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) is sent to Arabia to... [More]
Directed By: David Lean

#5

Dishonored (1931)
90%

#5
Adjusted Score: 44003%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A streetwalker (Marlene Dietrich) in World War I Vienna becomes spy X-27, opposite Russian spy H-14 (Victor McLaglen).... [More]
Directed By: Josef von Sternberg

#4

The Big Parade (1925)
100%

#4
Adjusted Score: 101684%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Wealthy young idler Jim Apperson (John Gilbert) enlists during the early days of World War I, to the worry of... [More]
Directed By: King Vidor

#3

The Lost Patrol (1934)
100%

#3
Adjusted Score: 100188%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A British patrol is crossing the deserts of Mesopotamia during World War I when the commanding officer is suddenly struck... [More]
Directed By: John Ford

#2
#2
Adjusted Score: 108140%
Critics Consensus: An impressive technical achievement with a walloping emotional impact, They Shall Not Grow Old pays brilliant cinematic tribute to the sacrifice of a generation.
Synopsis: Using state-of-the-art technology and materials from the BBC and Imperial War Museum, filmmaker Peter Jackson allows the story of World... [More]
Starring: Peter Jackson
Directed By: Peter Jackson

#1
Adjusted Score: 109505%
Critics Consensus: Director Lewis Milestone's brilliant anti-war polemic, headlined by an unforgettable performance from Lew Ayres, lays bare the tragic foolishness at the heart of war.
Synopsis: The film follows a group of German schoolboys, talked into enlisting at the beginning of World War I by their... [More]
Directed By: Lewis Milestone


Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

This week on home video, we’ve got a couple of Oscar winners, a comedy sequel, and the final season of a popular drama. Then, we’ve got another Oscar nominee and a handful of smaller releases that might be worth your time. Read on for details:

Big Hero 6

90%

It’s official: Big Hero 6 is the Best Animated Feature of 2014 according to the Academy, and now you can chortle and coo at Baymax in the comfort of your own living room. Loosely based on the Marvel comic of the same name, the film takes place in the fictional metropolis of San Fransokyo, where a young robotics prodigy named Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) who enrolls in a super exclusive school for gifted scientists after the death of his older brother. Faced with the possibility of tracking down his brother’s killer, Hiro teams up with his new friends — and invents some hi-tech gear for them — in order to bring the villain to justice. Critics were big fans of the animation in Big Hero 6, as well as the action-packed story and surprisingly heartfelt touches, leading to a Certified Fresh 90 percent Tomatometer score. As a bonus, the Blu-ray will also get you the Oscar-winning animated short Feast, as well as the requisite behind-the-scenes featurettes and deleted scenes.

Whiplash

94%

Speaking of Oscar wins, the one category that was arguably a complete lock was Best Supporting Actor, which went to J.K. Simmons for his portrayal of a draconian music conductor in Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash. Based on Chazelle’s own experiences, the film starred Miles Teller as ambitious jazz drummer Andrew Neiman, who comes under the tutelage of notoriously brutal instructor Terence Fletcher (Simmons) at a prestigious music school. Fletcher pushes Andrew to extremes, leading to a battle of wills and a climactic showdown. Critics gushed over Whiplash, rewarding it with a Certified Fresh 95 percent on the Tomatometer not only for the impressive performances from Simmons and Teller, but also for the film’s sustained tension and superb sound and editing. The particularly notable audio commentary track features Simmons and Chazelle, but the Blu-ray also comes with a 43-minute piece on professional drummers, Chazelle’s original 18-minute short which was expanded into the feature film, and more.

Horrible Bosses 2

35%

2011’s Horrible Bosses was a successful ensemble comedy that made the most of its stars talents, and while the film didn’t feel especially ripe for a sequel, it was somewhat inevitable. This time around, pals Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day) embark on an entrepreneurial venture producing a new shower head. When the trio is duped by an unscrupulous investor (Christoph Waltz), they decide the best course of action is to kidnap his son (Chris Pine) for ransom. It’s often rare for comedy franchises to strike gold twice in a row, especially when the first film relies on a specific premise that’s abandoned in its sequel, and Horrible Bosses 2 fell prey to the sophomore jinx, clocking in at 35 percent on the Tomatometer. Critics were unamused by what they called lazy writing and witless humor, but it might still tickle your fancy if you’re a fan of its three stars.

Sons of Anarchy: Season Seven

Late last year, FX’s popular biker drama Sons of Anarchy finally came to a close after seven seasons, and by most counts, its final year was a success. Built on a foundation of deep character development, bursts of violent action, and dark family drama, SOA hurtled into its finale with six straight Fresh seasons under its belt — all at 78 percent or above. The final episode itself was well-received at 88 percent, and though its Shakespearean conclusion was something of a given, most agreed it was satisfying and effective nonetheless. The complete series was previously available with an empty slot for the season seven package, and you can pick that up this week — or you can pick up the complete series with season seven included as well.

Also available this week:

  • Code Black (91 percent), a documentary focusing on the Los Angeles County Hospital’s trauma ward, the busiest emergency department in the country.
  • Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Beyond the Lights (81 percent), starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker in a Certified Fresh romantic drama about a pop diva who begins to question her career trajectory. The film was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Original Song category.
  • The Borderlands (79 percent), a horror film about a team of investigators looking into reports of paranormal activity at a remote church in England.
  • Private Peaceful (64 percent), starring Jack O’Connell and George MacKay in a war drama about two brothers who grow up rough and enlist in the military together.
  • Cantinflas (29 percent), starring Óscar Jaenada and Michael Imperioli in a drama about the famous titular Mexican entertainer.
  • And finally, two choices from the Criterion Collection: Federico Fellini’s Fellini Satyricon (78 percent), a surrealist portrait of Rome, is available in a new DVD and Blu-ray; and the 1978 animated adaptation of Watership Down (82 percent), Martin Rosen’s haunting rabbit tale of survival, is also available in a new DVD and Blu-ray.

This week at the movies, we’ve got a crime reporter (Nightcrawler, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo), a troubled amnesiac (Before I Go to Sleep, starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth), and a sadistic killer (the 10th anniversary rerelease of Saw, starring Cary Elwes and Danny Glover). What do the critics have to say?. What do the critics have to say?

Nightcrawler

95%

A creepy, tense thriller about a nocturnal obsessive or a satire of the 24-hour news cycle? Critics say Nightcrawler is a terrific blend of both, with a live-wire performance from Jake Gyllenhaal and an evocative, sinister sense of place. Gyllenhaal stars as Lou Bloom, a freelance TV journalist who sells lurid crime footage to a local station. But as his career progresses, and his scoops become ever more explosive, Bloom’s shaky ethics threaten to overwhelm him. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Nightcrawler is so taut, atmospheric, and well-acted, you might not even notice the leaps in narrative logic.

Before I Go to Sleep

37%

Before I Go to Sleep boasts an intriguing premise, a top-notch cast, and slick, sleek production values. So how could it miss? The answer, say critics, is that the film’s fine performances are in service to a plot that starts strong but strains credulity as it goes along. Nicole Kidman stars as a woman who wakes up every day with no memory of her past — the tragic result of an accident. But when she makes a shocking discovery, our heroine delves into the secrets of her past while trying to determine who she can trust. The pundits say Before I Go to Sleep often gets by on chilly atmosphere and the strength of Kidman’s performance, but it doesn’t quite achieve the chilly heights it’s aiming for.

Saw

50%

Ten years ago, before the term “torture porn” had even been invented, Saw hit theaters awash in Sundance buzz and comparisons to Se7en. The critics were split: some found it to be brutal and clever, while others simply found it depraved. Half a dozen sequels followed, but none could approach the original Saw in terms of novelty or (moderate) critical acclaim. If you’ve ever wanted to enter the twisted world of diabolical killer Jigsaw in a darkened roomful of screaming strangers, now’s your chance: Saw is hitting theaters to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

What’s Fresh on TV:

Critics are still mixed on Gotham‘s overall tone, but most found “The Spirit of the Goat” (67 percent) to be a step in the right direction, thanks in part to much-needed character details about Oswald Cobblepot and Detective Bullock.

Creepy atmosphere, high-stakes action, and splendid special effects combine with a welcome touch of humor to overcome narrative flaws and present a version of Constantine (69 percent) that’s close to his comics counterpart.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Revenge of the Mekons, a rockumentary about the cultishly adored British indie band, is at 100 percent.

  • Jean-Luc Godard‘s Goodbye to Language 3D, an atmospheric meditation on the nature of communication, is at 89 percent.

  • The Great Invisible, a documentary about the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, is at 84 percent.

  • Point and Shoot, a documentary about a Baltimore man whose five-year tour of the Middle East included a stint in the Libyan Revolution, is at 71 percent.

  • ABCs of Death 2, a 26-chapter anthology horror film that takes another crack at alphabetical terror, is at 68 percent.

  • Private Peaceful, a period drama about two brothers whose loyalties are tested amidst the fog of World War I, is at 65 percent.

  • Magical Universe, a documentary about an eccentric octogenarian outsider artist, is at 60 percent.

  • Horns, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple in a fantasy thriller about a man who’s been accused of a crime and finds horns with astonishing powers growing out of his head, is at 48 percent.

  • Missionary, a thriller about a woman who tries to break off her extramarital affair with a missionionary when she reunites with her estranged husband, is at 38 percent.

  • Hit By Lightning, starring Jon Cryer and Will Sasso in a comedy about a guy who meets the perfect woman only to discover she wants to kill her husband, is at 14 percent.