Continuing with my favorite WWII movies, today I am listing my favorite WWII POW movies, in reverse order, of course. Actually, there are four movies and one TV series. There weren’t many POW films made, probably due to the difficult subject matter. These are, in my opinion, the best.
5. Unbroken (2014)
Unbroken is the story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who served in the Army Air Corps during WWII. After being shot down over the Pacific and floating in a lifeboat for weeks, the Japanese rescued Zamperini and took him to Japan as a prisoner of war. The Japanese defied the Geneva Convention by torturing prisoners and using them as slave labor. This movie depicts the brutality of the Japanese toward prisoners. Based on what I have read, the depiction of the B-24 crashing into the ocean accurately portrays the bomber breaking in half when it hit the water. I prefer the book because it covers much more of Zamperini’s life. Still, this movie is definitely worth watching.
4. Hogan’s Heroes (TV Series 1965-1971)
It seems unlikely to have a sitcom set in a German POW camp, yet I loved Hogan’s Heroes. Both funny and intelligent, the show depicted the antics of the prisoners and the incompetence of the German commander. My favorite character was Sergeant Schultz, the good-hearted guard whose famous line was “I know nothing.” I have always believed that the idea for Hogan’s Heroes came from the bits of comedy in the movie “Stalag 17,” on the list below.
3. Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
In Bridge on the River Kwai, English POW’s were forced to build a railroad bridge in Burma by their Japanese captors. Alec Guinness, the English commander, insisted that the prisoners build a proper bridge as a moral builder. Others including William Holden’s character disagreed and preferred sabotage. The Japanese commander, desperate to complete the bridge, let Guinness take charge, realizing more got done than when he threatened and punished the prisoners. Holden escaped and then led a group back to destroy the bridge. Guinness was so proud of his bridge that he almost spoiled the plan. Bridge on the River Kwai has it all, action, intrigue, superb characters and a fascinating plot. Definitely a must see.
2. Stalag 17 (1953)
Stalag 17, starring William Holden, depicts a German Prisoner of War camp where American airmen are being held. Holden played a cynical entrepreneur who spent his time organizing betting games, distilling alcohol and spying on the Russian women prisoners. The men suspected someone was spying for the Germans. They accused Holden. A new prisoner, who supposedly blew up a German munitions train, arrived. Eventually the spy was revealed and Holden became a hero when he helped the new prisoner escape. Conditions in the movie were not near as bad as the actual prison camps. Never the less, Stalag 17 is very entertaining. Holden received an Oscar for his performance. I definitely recommend this movie. It’s a classic.
1. The Great Escape (1963)
An exciting and entertaining movie, The Great Escape depicts a German Luftwaffe (Air Force) Prisoner of War camp. The Germans had separate POW camps for their Air Force, Army and Navy. The Luftwaffe also separated the officers from the enlisted men. In The Great Escape actors Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson, Richard Attenborough, James Coburn and David McCallum portray prisoners who plan an escape, not of one or two prisoners, but of fifty to one hundred. In addition to escaping, the strategy was to keep German soldiers busy and away from the front. They dug three tunnels, Tom, Dick and Harry to increase their odds of success. Steve McQueen’s character tried to escape several times with no luck. He was called the “Cooler King” because each time he tried to escape he was put in the “Cooler.” The POW leadership asked him to escape, find out all he can about the area surrounding the camp, then get caught and brought back. That’s when the famous scene where McQueen jumps the motorcycle happens. The Great Escape is a great movie that I’ve watched several times. It’s one of my favorite WWII movies. If you haven’t seen it, you should make a point to watch this one.
I am an old movie buff as you can tell from my “lists”. I hope you are enjoying these posts and that you have found some excellent movies to watch.
3 thoughts on “Top WWII Prisoner of War Movies”
The guys had it rough in WWII. I have seen most of those movies back when I was younger.
Thanks for commenting. Even if you have seen them before, they are worth watching again. I think these old movies are better than many made today.
Not sure if I would put Hogan’sHeroes on the list, although I agree with you that shows on this subject are rare. Two that spring to mind are King Rat and Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun.
BTW, you may be aware that Robert Clary (LeBeau on Hogan’s) was an inmate of Buchenwald concentration camp, the same camp my late father was liberated from on April 11, 1945.
. In any case, your top 3 are mine, in the same order.