Best D-Day Movies of All Time

Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 6:36 am

In this article, we’ll be looking at the best D-Day movies of all time, which is inspired by the upcoming June 6th anniversary of the largest amphibious invasion in human history. Also known as Operation Overlord and Operation Neptune, the attack was carried out on Tuesday, June 6th, 1944. The previous night, 24,000 Allied airborne troops were dropped into France to pave the way for what was to come, and soon thousands of troops were pouring onto Normandy beach in one of five sectors: Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword.

While no film can capture the true horror of war, a number of the best D-Day movies of all time listed below are still able to move audiences on an emotional level. To rent any of these incredible motion pictures, click on the link and become a Netflix subscriber. We do get a small commission for sending you there, but it all goes right back into providing quality cinematic recommendations.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) – The modern-day masterpiece of D-Day invasion films, the story begins with central character John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) and his men storming the Omaha section of Normandy beach under wilting machine-gun fire and explosions. When I saw this at the theater, a great silence washed over the audience as young men were blown apart and riddled with bullets. The action continues from there, of course, with Miller and company assigned to find Private James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon) and return him home after the loss of his three brothers in combat. But it’s the opening scene that grabs you by the throat and sets the tone for what’s to come. If you have even the slightest interest in war movies, you’ve got to see this one.

George Stevens: D-Day to Berlin (1995) – George Stevens, the Hollywood director behind such films as Shane, Giant, and Diary of Anne Frank, headed a film unit from 1943 until 1946 for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. His crew shot the only full-color footage of the Allied campaign into Europe, and it all begins on D-Day. Later footage includes the liberation of Paris and the horrors of the Dachau concentration camp.

The Big Red One (1980) – Often overlooked by modern fans of cinema, the film follows the 1st Infantry Division (nicknamed The Big Red One) through North Africa, Sicily, and onto the Omaha Beach section of Normandy. Lee Marvin plays the crusty character known only as The Sergeant, and his primary soldiers (known as the “Sergeant’s Four Horsemen”) include Mark Hamill, Kelly Ward, Robert Carradine, and Bobby Di Cicco.

D-Day: Code Name Overlord (1998) – Including footage from the George Stevens Collection (courtesy of the Library of Congress), this 3-hour documentary details the Normandy Invasion from the planning stages two years prior to the actual events of D-Day. There are plenty of details you might hear about for the first time in this film, including the Allied gambit to convince the Germans that the real landing site would be elsewhere.

The Longest Day (1962) – Shot in black and white and utilizing consultants such as the widow of Erwin Rommel, this 178-minute epic focuses entirely on the invasion of Normandy. Each nationality is featured speaking in their native language (with subtitles), and the cast is simply one of the most impressive ever assembled. Just take a look at a few of the names: Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger, John Wayne, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Roddy McDowall, and Eddie Albert.

Ike: Countdown to D-Day (2004) – This A&E television movie stars Tom Selleck as General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the military commander responsible for orchestrating the D-Day Invasion. As plans are made, Eisenhower must also navigate the complex personalities of the men serving under him, including General Patton (Gerald McRaney), General Omar Bradley (James Remar), General Montgomery (Bruce Phillips), and General De Gaulle (George Shevtsov). The production focuses on dialogue over action, with attention paid exclusively to the decisions made by Eisenhower and his men.

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D-Day: The Sixth of June (1956) – On the eve of the D-Day invasion, a group of Allied soldiers set out to destroy a gun emplacement on the Normandy coast. Among the men are Captain Brad Parker (Robert Taylor) and Lt. Col. John Wynter (Richard Todd), who both happen to be in love with the same woman (Dana Wynter). Based on the novel The Sixth of June by Lionel Shapiro.

The Americanization of Emily (1964) – More of a romance and comedy than a war film, the movie still depicts the D-Day landing on Normandy. Plus, it’s a damn entertaining picture with James Garner as a “practicing coward” who falls in love with an Englishwoman (Julia Andrews) who’s lost her husband, father and brother to the war. Also starring Melvyn Douglas, James Coburn, and Keenan Wynn.

Band of Brothers (2001) – Based on the book by Stephen Ambrose, this 10-part HBO miniseries focuses on the men of Easy Company as they advance through the war in Europe. The Normandy Invasion is covered, as well as the ill-fated Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of Bastogne. Shot in the same style as Saving Private Ryan (Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg were executive producers), the series stars Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, David Schwimmer, James McAvoy, and Colin Hanks.

D-Day: The Total Story (1994) – Hosted by Gerald McRaney and clocking in at six hours, this film covers every aspect of Normandy invasion in exacting detail. Veterans from all sides are interviewed, and attention is also paid to the military personalities involved (Rommel, Montgomery, Eisenhower). A comprehensive documentary for anyone wanting to know everything about the Battle of Normandy.

For films along the same theme as the best D-Day movies of all time, check out the following OGM articles:


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