Key World War I movies to watch after ‘1917’

Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif in "Lawrence of Arabia"
Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif in “Lawrence of Arabia,” a David Lean film set during World War I.
(Columbia TriStar / Getty Images)

World War I has been the subject of numerous movies going all the way back to the silent era, when the first Oscar winner for best picture was the 1927 aerial drama “Wings.” The war also has been a favorite subject for a slew of classic directors. Here are a few key entries in the field.

“All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930): This best picture Oscar winner, based on the Erich Maria Remarque novel, follows a group of German schoolboys throughout the war and features hyper-realistic battle scenes.

“Westfront 1918” (1930): Another lifelike view of trench warfare, from German director G.W. Pabst.


“Grand Illusion” (1937): Director Jean Renoir’s film tells of class relationships among French POWs during the war. Widely regarded as one of world cinema’s greatest films.

“Sergeant York” (1941): Gary Cooper won an Oscar for his portrayal of one of America’s most decorated soldiers in director Howard Hawks’ classic.

“Paths of Glory” (1957): Stanley Kubrick’s sobering film stars Kirk Douglas as a French officer defending three soldiers unjustly accused of cowardice.

“Lawrence of Arabia” (1962): This masterpiece from David Lean follows the title character, played by Peter O’Toole, as he tries to rally Arab tribesmen against the Turks during the war.

“Many Wars Ago” (1970): Extremely downbeat antiwar movie from director Francesco Rosi about Italian soldiers, led by some callously insensitive and incompetent higher-ups, fighting the Austro-Hungarian military.


A film set in World War I often focuses on the horrors and futility of war. World War II movies tend to be stories of victory.

Dec. 30, 2019

“Black and White in Color” (1976): Winner of the foreign-language film Oscar, this antiwar comedy is set in West Africa, and features a laughably terrible French military campaign against a German trading post.

“Gallipoli” (1981): Based on the true story of the disastrous Anzac invasion of Turkey. Directed by Peter Weir, starring Mel Gibson.

“Joyeux Noël” (2005): A dramatization of a real event, the unofficial ceasefire along the Western Front around Christmas 1914. A foreign-language film Oscar nominee.