Double Indemnity could top a list of the Best Movies Made During World War II, as could The Philadelphia Story or Holiday Inn.
Twelve O'Clock High would be high on my list of movies about the war that were made later, which also would include Au Revoir Les Enfants and From Here to Eternity.
The Nazi Holocaust is one of the defining elements of the second World War and a list of the best fiction movies about it would include Judgment at Nuremberg, Schindler's List and perhaps the television mini-series Holocaust.
Among the top documentaries about the war would be The Sorrow and the Pity, Into the Arms of Strangers and Shoah.
That one could make many lists of different kinds of World War II movies illustrates the elasticity of "Ten Best" categories. It also reflects the varied wealth of movies that have been made about World War II.
While many excellent movies have been made about World War II, the best of the best are those that helped the Allies to win the war. These are the rousing pieces of propaganda that moved people to enlist, make munitions, buy war bonds, save scrap metal and rubber, grow victory gardens, send gifts to the troops and mail letters to their loved ones in the service. These movies helped make sure that Hitler didn't run the world, and they are fun to watch.
#1) Casablanca (1942) Directed by Michael Curtiz. Written by Julius J. Epstein, Philip C. Epstein and Howard Koch. Based on the play Everybody Comes to Rick's by Murray Bennett and Joan Alison. Placed on the National Film Registry in 1989. Named one of the 100 best movies ever by the American Film Institute in 1998.
It is one of the best movies ever made and perhaps the absolute best movie love story. It also is gripping and inspiring. Most of the people in Casablanca can do little to thwart the Axis occupiers of Morocco, but they can sing. When the patrons of Rick's bar serenade the Nazis with the French anthem "La Marseillaise", their defiance makes it some of the most stirring music in all of film history.
#2) One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1941) Written and directed by Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell.
The "Hollywood" in the title of this list is convenient and it helps the alliteration, but it is misleading because three of these movies were made in Great Britain. This is one of the exceptionally stirring movies from Over There.
A crew of British pilots must evacuate their plane after a bombing run over Germany. They get help from people in the Netherlands who are willing to risk their lives to resist the Nazi forces that have seized their country. One of Our Aircraft is Missing is moving, suspenseful, amusing and without flaw.
#3) So Proudly We Hail (1943) Directed by Mark Sandrich. Written by Allan Scott.
This tribute to all who served the war effort without actually fighting lauds the nurses who tended to our boys in uniform. Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard and Veronica Lake give exceptional performances in service of a stirring story. The movie provided real-life help to the war effort when Lake sacrificed her trademark peek-a-boo tresses for short hair so that women who emulated her would stop getting their hair caught in the machinery at defense manufacturing plants.
#4) Immortal Battalion (1944) Directed by Carol Reed. Written by Eric Ambler and Peter Ustinov.
Another from England, this one focuses on the training circumstances by which raw recruits become polished soldiers. David Niven and the other officers don't understand how these miracles happen, but they are grateful that they do. So are we.
#5) Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) Directed by David Butler.
Axis military might is no match for Hollywood star power. Most of the major stars at Warner Brothers appear in a story that has Eddie Cantor playing both an egocentric performer and a man who can't get a job in show biz because he looks too much like . . . Eddie Cantor. We're all in it together and triumph seems inevitable when the "we" includes Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, John Garfield, Ida Lupino, Dinah Shore and Ann Sheridan.
#6) Fighting Sullivans (1942) Directed by Lloyd Bacon. Written by Edward Doherty, Mary C. McCall and Jules Schermer.
The moving story tells of five brothers who enlist in the U.S. Navy after Pearl Harbor and who die in battle at Guadalcanal. This never mawkish memorial of one family's sacrifices is a touching tribute to all who died in combat.
#7) In Which We Serve (1943) Directed by David Lean and Noel Coward. Written by Coward.
The survivors of a sunk British destroyer reflect on their service and the loved ones waiting for them at home. The effects are realistic and everyone confronts challenges with stiff upper lips. The stoicism with which all involved face war's uncertainties is inspiring.
#8) Mrs. Miniver (1942) Directed by William Wyler. Written by George Froeschel and James Hilton. Based on a novel by Jan Struther.
Winston Churchill was grateful for the boost this one gave the spirits of people opposed to the Axis. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda chief, was jealous.
Although important as a piece of history, the movie also has some especially rousing scenes. Walter Pidgeon's participation in the rescue of troops at Dunkirk brings to thrilling life an episode most of us have only read about. When the British people sing hymns in the remains of their bombed-out church, one's faith in the indomitable human spirit is fortified.
#9) Foreign Correspondent (1940) Written by Robert Benchley, Charles Bennett, Joan Harrison and James Hilton. and Saboteur (1942) Written by Alfred Hitchcock and Peter Viertel. Both directed by Hitchcock.
Both thrillers are about patriotic men and women racing to foil Axis agents who plan sabotage. Saboteur has some stirring patriotic touches, including a clever bit in which warring governments are represented in microcosm by circus freaks. It ends with a fight for life and liberty on the . . . Statue of Liberty.
#10) This Land Is Mine (1943) Directed by Jean Renoir. Written by Dudley Nichols.
If the movie had nothing else going for it, the defiance in the title could make it a contender. Charles Laughton's performance places this solidly on the list. As a courageous French schoolteacher who defies the Nazis who occupy his town, Laughton seems ordinary until he exudes extraordinary courage. The movie makes us believe that each of us has what it takes to ensure that everyone can live free in a land that is theirs.