We can’t let today’s 75th anniversary of D-Day pass without noting a few of the best movies and television shows depicting the events of June 6, 1944.
With the United States three years into World War II, that epic, massive invasion by the Allied troops took place on that date by landing craft on the beaches at Normandy in occupied France and by airborne troops who parachuted in behind enemy lines.
These are among the best movies and television shows about D-Day.
This three-hour black-and-white movie tells the events of D-Day from both the Allied and Axis points of view. Shot in the style of a docudrama, the film focuses in intense detail only on the lead-up and execution of the many facets of the D-Day invasion. Unlike the other depictions that follow troops as they liberated countries across Europe, this one ends when D-Day does. The cast features such luminaries as John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Robert Mitchum. The movie may be streamed through Amazon Prime.
The pilot of this television series culminated with the D-Day invasion, and for the next five seasons, the infantry soldiers in Sgt. Saunder’s squad fought their way across France on foot. Praised at the time by veterans for its realism, according to interviews with star Vic Morrow, the hourlong episodes took a hard look at the U.S. military, the German troops they were fighting and the French civilians caught in the middle. Characters were deeply developed over the course of the series, with episodes covering cowardice, bravery, deprivation and, of course, death. The first four seasons were in black-and-white, with the fifth aired in color. The series is available for purchase in a season boxed set on DVD and for rent through Netflix.
“Saving Private Ryan” (R, 1998)
Matt Damon plays the title character in this sweeping film directed by Stephen Spielberg, but it is Tom Hanks as Capt. Miller who is the heart of the movie. The realistically harrowing and bloody opening scene of the movie, which depicted the assault by German guns on the U.S. soldiers packed into the crafts landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day had many theatergoers in tears. For many, it’s not a scene they can watch twice. After the initial invasion ends, Miller gets the order to lead an all-star cast of characters across Europe to find and bring to safety the last of four brothers serving in the military who is still alive after D-Day. The almost three-hour movie may be streamed through Amazon Prime.
“Band of Brothers” (2001)
This 10-hour miniseries, based on the 1992 book of the same name, focused on the true story of the members of Easy Company of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. They parachuted behind enemy lines in the early hours of D-Day, and fought their way through Europe, including the devastating Battle of the Bulge. The extensive cast portrayed the real soldiers, many of whom lived to see themselves on screen, and with 10 one-hour episodes, viewers will get to know each of the characters well. Familiar actors such as Donnie Wahlberg, Scott Grimes and Michael Fassbender dot the cast, but the series doesn’t have huge names. The miniseries may be streamed through Amazon Prime.