(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: 11.822%
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: This romantic biography, based on the diaries and letters of former Army nurse Agnes von Kurowosky, follows the woman's efforts... [More]
Directed By: Richard Attenborough

#33
Adjusted Score: 20.068%
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: Baron Manfred von Richthofen is the crack pilot of the German aerial combat forces -- a legend in his own... [More]
Directed By: Nikolai Muellerschoen

#32

Flyboys (2006)
33%

#32
Adjusted Score: 37.042%
Critics Consensus: A poorly scripted history-rewriting exercise with mediocre acting and unconvincing CGI battle scenes.
Synopsis: As World War I rages in Europe and Allied forces in France, Italy, and England find their resolve quickly diminishing... [More]
Directed By: Tony Bill

#31

Darling Lili (1970)
40%

#31
Adjusted Score: 28.345%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Julie Andrews made a bid to change her squeaky clean image with this elaborately mounted World War I musical. Lili... [More]
Directed By: Blake Edwards

#30
#30
Adjusted Score: 48.815%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Based on the novel by Wilbur Smith, this film follow the scheme of a proper English gentleman, Sebastian (Roger Moore),... [More]
Directed By: Peter R. Hunt

#29
#29
Adjusted Score: 63.528%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: James Cagney signed on to play Captain Flagg in 20th Century Fox's 1952 remake of the 1926 classic What Price... [More]
Directed By: John Ford

#28

Mata Hari (1932)
63%

#28
Adjusted Score: 63.589%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: "So much for Carlotta" muses the head of German Espionage (Lewis Stone), shortly after secret agent Karen Morley is put... [More]
Directed By: George Fitzmaurice

#27
#27
Adjusted Score: 48.985%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This film of the wartime exploits of Baron Von Richthoven, who was also known as the "Red Baron," was a... [More]
Directed By: Roger Corman

#26

Private Peaceful (2014)
63%

#26
Adjusted Score: 63.187%
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: Private Peaceful tells the story of two devoted brothers who struggle through a harsh childhood and adolescence in rural Devon,... [More]
Directed By: Pat O'Connor

#25
#25
Adjusted Score: 68.572%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The author of the famous late 1930's antiwar book Johnny Got His Gun wrote and directed this film adaptation. It... [More]
Directed By: Dalton Trumbo

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 46.663%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Four gallant men of the Australian Light Horse Regiment are thrust into the last great cavalry charge when the British... [More]
Directed By: Simon Wincer

#23
Adjusted Score: 77.378%
Critics Consensus: The poignant humanity on display in Joyeux Noel makes its sentimentality forgivable.
Synopsis: Scottish, French and German troops declare a spontaneous Christmas Eve truce in the trenches of World War I in this... [More]
Directed By: Christian Carion

#22

War Horse (2011)
74%

#22
Adjusted Score: 81.527%
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: Set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War, War Horse begins with the... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#21

Hell's Angels (1930)
76%

#21
Adjusted Score: 77.979%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this film, Ben Lyon and James Hall play a couple of British brothers who drop out of Oxford to... [More]

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 81.904%
Critics Consensus: A well-crafted and visually arresting drama with a touch of whimsy.
Synopsis: Audrey Tautou, who rose to international stardom with the title role in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's worldwide smash Amà (C)lie, reunites with... [More]
Directed By: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

#19

Waterloo Bridge (1940)
80%

#19
Adjusted Score: 60.377%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this film, Robert Taylor, a British officer from a wealthy family, falls in love with ballerina Vivien Leigh. Taylor's... [More]
Directed By: Mervyn LeRoy

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 88.322%
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: Testament of Youth is a powerful story of love, war and remembrance, based on the First World War memoir by... [More]
Directed By: James Kent

#17

Beneath Hill 60 (2010)
86%

#17
Adjusted Score: 41.75%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A weary platoon battles a powerful enemy in hopes of protecting a massive cache of explosives in this vivid World... [More]
Directed By: Jeremy Sims

#16

Sergeant York (1941)
88%

#16
Adjusted Score: 91.267%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Based on a true WWI story, this film follows a religious Tennessee boy, who is initially opposed to war. York... [More]
Directed By: Howard Hawks

#15

King and Country (1965)
86%

#15
Adjusted Score: 86.019%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: King and Country was adapted by Evan Jones from John Wilson's play Hamp. Misfit World War I British soldier Tom... [More]
Directed By: Joseph Losey

#14

1917 (2020)
89%

#14
Adjusted Score: 109.492%
Critics Consensus: Hard-hitting, immersive, and an impressive technical achievement, 1917 captures the trench warfare of World War I with raw, startling immediacy.
Synopsis: At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield (Captain Fantastic's George MacKay) and Blake (Game... [More]
Directed By: Sam Mendes

#13

Gallipoli (1981)
91%

#13
Adjusted Score: 94.167%
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: The first of two consecutive films to see director Peter Weir team with Mel Gibson (the other being The Year... [More]
Directed By: Peter Weir

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 94.98%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A tale of the love between ambulance driver Lt. Henry and Nurse Catherine Barkley during World War I. The action... [More]
Directed By: Frank Borzage

#11

Journey's End (2018)
91%

#11
Adjusted Score: 94.703%
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: March, 1918. C-company arrives to take its turn in the front-line trenches of norther France, led by the war-weary Captain... [More]
Directed By: Saul Dibb

#10

Wings (1927)
93%

#10
Adjusted Score: 97.431%
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: Wings, the first feature film to win an Academy Award, tends to disappoint a little when seen today. Too much... [More]
Directed By: William Wellman

#9
Adjusted Score: 73.034%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: November 1919. Two survivors of the trenches, one genius draftsman, the other modest accountant, decide to mount a scam to... [More]
Directed By: Albert Dupontel

#8

Paths of Glory (1957)
95%

#8
Adjusted Score: 103.531%
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: When soldiers in World War I refuse to continue with an impossible attack, their superior officers decide to make an... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

#7
Adjusted Score: 111.618%
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: For its 75th Anniversary, Rialto Pictures presents a stunning 4K restoration of GRAND ILLUSION, Jean Renoir's powerful and eloquent anti-war... [More]
Directed By: Jean Renoir

#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 106.337%
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: This sweeping, highly literate historical epic covers the Allies' mideastern campaign during World War I as seen through the eyes... [More]
Directed By: David Lean

#5

Dishonored (1931)
90%

#5
Adjusted Score: 90.564%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In a film loosely adapted from the story of Mata Hari (the Dutch dancer who finagled secrets for the Kaiser... [More]
Directed By: Josef von Sternberg

#4

The Big Parade (1925)
100%

#4
Adjusted Score: 100.732%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Rich, clean-cut American hero John Gilbert plunges into World War I and some of the most emotionally shattering battle scenes... [More]
Directed By: King Vidor

#3

The Lost Patrol (1934)
100%

#3
Adjusted Score: 100.388%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this film, sergeant Victor McLaglen is in charge of a WWI-era British cavalry regiment, stranded somewhere in the Mesopotamian... [More]
Directed By: John Ford

#2
#2
Adjusted Score: 105.131%
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: Peter Jackson directs this homage to the British troops of the First World War with never-before-seen-footage of soldiers as they... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Peter Jackson

#1
Adjusted Score: 111.021%
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: Follow a group of idealistic young men as they join the German Army during World War I and are assigned... [More]
Directed By: Lewis Milestone


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