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10 Best English War Movies To Better Understand England’s Military History!

10 Best English War Movies To Better Understand England’s Military History!

England, with its deep-seated history in martial strategy and its influential roles in global conflict, has given birth to numerous war narratives that have transcended from ancient chronicles to modern cinematic renditions. English war movies carry forward these tales of valor and strife, transforming written legends and hand-drawn imagery into the dynamic medium of film.

Having borne witness to many pivotal wars throughout human history, England’s verdant pastures and iconic cities have become cinematic canvases for riveting war films. These films serve as cinematic tapestries intricately woven with epic battles, personal tribulations, and moments of raw human strength, capturing the essence of war in its brutal honesty and heartrending poignancy.

From sweeping sagas of conflict to delicate portrayals of soldiers’ internal battles, these English war films encapsulate the courage, sacrifice, and the human cost of war. Whether you’re a fervent history enthusiast, a cinephile, or both, there’s an abundance of exceptional war films set against the backdrop of England to sate your appetite.

This exploration will dive into some of the finest English war films ever produced, dissecting their themes, performances, and historical authenticity. We will delve into how these cinematic gems illuminate our comprehension of the epochal events they depict, and why their narratives continue to reverberate powerfully with contemporary audiences.

So, fasten your seatbelt as we embark on a cinematic journey through the landscapes of English war films, navigating the tumultuous seas of conflict and the deeply human narratives that resonate through these epic stories. Each film serves as a poignant testament to the power of cinema as a vehicle for capturing the multifaceted nature of war and its lasting impact on humanity.

These heroes may inspire us to be a better version of ourselves; thus, lessons from the past – taught via war movies such as those set in Vietnam, China, France, and Germany – help transform today’s society in a positive way.  We also have put together our favorite films set in the United Kingdom if you would like to learn more about this intriguing nation…

Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or elsewhere.

You can get one month free of Amazon Prime (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.

Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best. 

While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.

10 Best English War Movies To Better Understand England's Military History!
10 Best English War Movies To Better Understand England's Military History!
10 Best English War Movies To Better Understand England's Military History!

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

The Bridge on the River Kwai is a war film directed by David Lean, a British director known for his visually stunning epics. Lean began his career in the film industry in the 1930s as a film editor and director of small-budget films.

His breakthrough came in the 1950s with the release of his epic film The Bridge on the River Kwai, which won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Lean went on to direct other classics, such as Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago.

The film’s plot is set in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, where British prisoners are ordered to build a bridge over the River Kwai. The film follows the struggle of the camp commander, Colonel Nicholson, played by Alec Guinness, to maintain the dignity of his men by insisting that they build a bridge that will stand as a symbol of their ability and engineering prowess.

Meanwhile, a group of Allied soldiers led by William Holden’s character, Shears, is tasked with destroying the bridge to impede Japanese progress.

The film is based on the construction of the Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, built by the Japanese during World War II using forced labor from Allied prisoners of war and Asian civilians. The railway was intended to link Thailand to Burma, but the brutal conditions and lack of adequate resources led to the deaths of an estimated 100,000 people, including 16,000 Allied prisoners of war.

The Bridge on the River Kwai is a timeless classic worth watching for its historical significance and cinematic excellence.

The Battle of Britain (1969)

The Battle of Britain is a war film directed by Guy Hamilton, known for his work on several James Bond films, including Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever. In The Battle of Britain, Hamilton presents a historical event with remarkable realism and attention to detail, creating a compelling and exciting war movie.

The film’s plot is centered on the Battle of Britain, a major air campaign fought over the skies of the United Kingdom during World War II in 1940. The film depicts the courageous efforts of the Royal Air Force (RAF) as they fought against the Nazi German Luftwaffe. The film’s narrative follows the key figures on both sides of the conflict as they prepare for and engage in the intense aerial battle.

The Battle of Britain is a historically significant event, as it was the first major military campaign fought entirely by air forces. The battle’s outcome was critical for Britain’s survival, as it prevented the Germans from launching a land invasion of Britain, which could have altered the outcome of the war.

The film’s depiction of the battle is faithful to the historical record, and the use of actual aircraft and a realistic portrayal of the tactics and strategies employed by both sides makes the film feel authentic.

The film provides an accurate and engaging portrayal of a critical moment in world history, and the use of actual aircraft and a realistic depiction of the battle’s tactics and strategies adds to the film’s authenticity. The Battle of Britain is a classic war movie that is both entertaining and educational, and it will satisfy any fan of the genre.

A Bridge Too Far (1977)

Directed by Richard Attenborough, A Bridge Too Far is a classic war movie. Attenborough was an accomplished actor and director with an impressive career that spanned over five decades. He received numerous accolades for his work, including four BAFTA awards, an Academy Award for Best Director for the film Gandhi (1982), and a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 1976.

The movie tells the story of Operation Market Garden, a massive Allied offensive launched during World War II in 1944. The operation was designed to capture several key bridges in the Netherlands and secure a pathway into Germany, but it ultimately failed, resulting in heavy losses for the Allied forces. The film portrays the intense battles during the operation and the heroic efforts of the soldiers who fought in them.

The film’s depiction of the historical events is well-researched and accurate, with many of the battle scenes based on actual accounts of the soldiers who fought in them. The movie effectively captures the chaos and brutality of war, while highlighting the courage and sacrifices of those who fought in it.

Any war movie enthusiast should watch A Bridge Too Far. It’s a classic and highly acclaimed film in the genre. The film’s intense action sequences and emotional moments will keep you on the edge of your seat, and its historical accuracy will provide you with a deeper understanding of the events that shaped our world.

A Bridge Too Far is a must-see movie for anyone who enjoys war movies and wants to gain a better appreciation for the sacrifices of our soldiers.

Who Dares Wins (1982)

Who Dares Wins is a British action-thriller film directed by Ian Sharp and released in 1982. Ian Sharp is a British film and television director, screenwriter, and producer. He is best known for his work in action and thriller genres. In addition to Who Dares Wins, he has directed films like The Assassination Bureau and The Final Option.

The film is based on the Iranian Embassy Siege, which took place in London in 1980. The movie centers around a fictional anti-terrorist squad led by Peter Skellen (Lewis Collins), who infiltrates a terrorist group planning to kidnap dignitaries attending a high-profile political summit in London. The film is known for its gritty, realistic portrayal of the British SAS (Special Air Service) and its tactics in dealing with terrorism.

The film’s plot is based on real events, and the characters are loosely based on real-life individuals who took part in the Iranian Embassy Siege. In the film, Peter Skellen is based on Rusty Firmin, a former SAS soldier involved in the rescue operation. The film also features real-life SAS veteran and author Andy McNab in a small role.

Who Dares Wins is definitely worth watching. The film offers a fascinating look at the tactics and training of the SAS and the extreme measures they take to protect their country from terrorism. The film explores the moral dilemmas soldiers face in these high-pressure situations, adding a layer of depth to the story. Who Dares Wins is a gripping war movie that will satisfy fans of the genre.

Master And Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is a film directed by Peter Weir, an Australian film director known for his work in both Hollywood and Australian cinema. Weir has directed numerous critically acclaimed movies, including The Truman Show, Dead Poets Society, Witness, and Picnic at Hanging Rock. He is known for his attention to detail and ability to create visually stunning films that are also emotionally resonant.

The film is set during the Napoleonic Wars and follows the journey of Captain Jack Aubrey (played by Russell Crowe) and his crew aboard the HMS Surprise as they pursue a French warship, the Acheron, around the tip of South America.

The Acheron is a formidable foe, and Aubrey must use all of his skill and ingenuity to outmaneuver it and protect his crew. Along the way, the crew faces several challenges, including sickness, mutiny, and treacherous weather.

In 1805, the British ship HMS Shannon captured the American ship USS Chesapeake off the coast of Boston. This event was significant because it marked the first time in over a decade that a British warship had captured an American ship. The event also helped to cement Britain’s naval supremacy, which was crucial during the Napoleonic Wars.

Master and Commander is a must-see for fans of the Navy. The attention to detail is impressive, and the film does an excellent job of conveying the harsh realities of life at sea. The performances are also top-notch, with Russell Crowe delivering a powerful and nuanced performance as Captain Jack Aubrey. It’s an epic and engaging film that will satisfy fans of war movies and historical dramas alike.

Atonement (2007)

Atonement was made by director Joe Wright. He is a British filmmaker known for his visually stunning and emotionally charged films. Before Atonement, he directed the critically acclaimed period drama Pride and Prejudice (2005) and the action thriller Hanna (2011). He is also known for his work on the television series Black Mirror.

The film is a period drama based on Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name. The film follows the story of a young girl named Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) who witnesses a moment of intimacy between her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and the family’s housekeeper’s son, Robbie Turner (James McAvoy).

When Briony’s cousin is later sexually assaulted, she falsely accuses Robbie of the crime, leading to his imprisonment and separation from Cecilia. The story spans several decades, exploring the consequences of Briony’s actions and the impact on the lives of all involved.

Although the film is not based on real-life people, it touches on the soldiers’ experiences during the war, including the trauma and displacement they face. The film also explores themes of guilt, redemption, and the power of storytelling.

Any fan of war movies will appreciate the stunning cinematography and realistic depictions of wartime chaos and destruction. However, the film is not solely focused on war, but rather on the human emotions and experiences resulting from war. Atonement is a powerful and poignant film that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

War Horse (2011)

War Horse is a film directed by Steven Spielberg, one of the most iconic and successful filmmakers of all time. Spielberg is known for his diverse range of films, from adventure and action movies like the Indiana Jones series, Jurassic Park, and Jaws, to historical dramas such as Schindler’s List, Lincoln, and Bridge of Spies. Throughout his career, he has won numerous awards, including three Academy Awards for Best Director.

The plot of War Horse revolves around a young farm boy named Albert (played by Jeremy Irvine) and his horse, Joey, during the tumultuous period of World War I. Joey is sold to the British cavalry and sent to France, where he becomes caught up in the horrors of the war. The film follows Joey’s journey and the various people he encounters along the way, as he struggles to survive and return home to Albert.

The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Michael Morpurgo, first published in 1982. Although the story is fictional, it is inspired by the real-life use of horses in World War I, where millions of horses were used for transportation, communication, and other duties on the battlefield. The film also depicts some of the historical events of the war, such as the Battle of the Somme.

If you enjoy war movies, War Horse is a must-see. The film does an excellent job of depicting the brutality and devastation of war, while also showcasing the resilience and bravery of those who fight in it. The relationship between Albert and Joey is also very touching, adding a personal and emotional element to the story. War Horse is a powerful and moving film that will leave a lasting impression.

Dunkirk (2017)

Directed by Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk is a war film that tells the story of the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France, during World War II. Nolan is a highly regarded director known for his unique storytelling techniques and visually stunning films. He has directed several critically acclaimed movies, including Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy and Interstellar.

The film Dunkirk follows three storylines that converge during the evacuation of Dunkirk. The first storyline follows a group of soldiers stranded on the beach and desperately trying to find a way off. The second storyline follows a civilian boat owner who joins the rescue mission to help evacuate soldiers. The third storyline follows a Royal Air Force pilot engaged in aerial combat with German forces.

These three storylines are shown in a non-linear fashion, creating a sense of urgency and tension that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.

The film is based on the real-life historical event known as the Dunkirk evacuation, which occurred during World War II. In 1940, Allied soldiers were trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk after the German army had pushed them back to the coast. The evacuation was a massive operation involving hundreds of boats and ships that rescued over 330,000 soldiers.

The film is a visual masterpiece, with stunning aerial shots and breathtaking cinematography. The movie’s score, composed by Hans Zimmer, is also exceptional and adds to the film’s overall atmosphere. Dunkirk is a war movie that is not to be missed, offering a unique perspective on a historical event that is often overlooked in World War II history.

Darkest Hour (2017)

Darkest Hour was also directed by Joe Wright, director of Atonement, and is a drama film that showcases the struggles of Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, during World War II.

The film’s plot is set in 1940, following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The film chronicles the early days of Winston Churchill’s (Gary Oldman) tenure as Prime Minister, and his handling of the crisis in Europe as Hitler’s army advances towards the English Channel. Churchill faced opposition from his party, who preferred peace talks with Hitler, while he struggled to rally the country behind him to fight the war.

The movie is based on the real-life historical event of the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II. The film highlights Churchill’s challenging circumstances and intense pressure as he struggled to keep his nation united and the hopes of millions of people alive.

Gary Oldman delivers an outstanding performance as Winston Churchill, and his portrayal of the iconic statesman is remarkable.

Darkest Hour is a must-watch movie for those who enjoy war movies that delve into historical events. The film offers a compelling storyline, great performances, and stunning visuals that will keep you engaged. The movie highlights the power of resilience, determination, and leadership during times of crisis, making it an inspiring tale for people of all ages.

If you are a fan of war movies and want to experience a gripping story of courage and determination, then Darkest Hour is worth watching.

1917 (2019)

Director Sam Mendes, best known for his work on American Beauty and the James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre, directed the war film 1917. He has received numerous awards for his directing and screenwriting, including an Academy Award for Best Director for American Beauty. Mendes’ directing style often blends emotional depth with stunning visuals, and 1917 is no exception.

The plot of 1917 is set in April of that year, during World War I, and follows two young British soldiers, Schofield and Blake, as they are tasked with delivering an urgent message to stop an attack that would result in the deaths of 1,600 British soldiers, including Blake’s brother.

The message must be delivered through enemy territory, and the two soldiers embark on a perilous journey through the trenches, No Man’s Land, and deserted towns while facing intense danger at every turn.

1917 is based on the Western Front of World War I, specifically the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917, where British troops fought German troops in a grueling and ultimately unsuccessful offensive. The film captures the brutality and futility of the war, highlighting its devastating impact on the soldiers and civilians caught in its crosshairs.

While the film’s characters are fictional, 1917 pays homage to the real-life soldiers who fought in World War I, many of whom never made it home. The film is a tribute to their courage and sacrifice, and it honors their memory by telling a gripping and emotional story that captures the horrors of war.

If you enjoy war movies, you should definitely watch 1917. The film offers a unique perspective on World War I, immersing you in the brutal and harrowing experience of trench warfare. It also showcases Mendes’ exceptional directing skills, with the entire film being shot as if it were one continuous take, adding to the intensity and urgency of the story.

Additionally, the outstanding performances by the cast, particularly George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman as the two soldiers, will keep you invested in the story until the very end. 1917 is a visually stunning, emotionally powerful, and unforgettable film that will leave a lasting impression on anyone who watches it.