Greatest War Movies Series

The Best Movies About the Holocaust: A Military Connection Top Ten List

The Best Movies About the Holocaust: A Military Connection Top Ten List

contributed by Melissa Lucas, senior staff writer

Sometimesssss there is a fine line between a film about war and a film about the people who are left to manage the life changing circumstances brought about by war. While the Holocaust was not filled with artillery and battles in the classic military sense, there is no denying it was a war in its own right. So, we thought it deserved a post in our Greatest War Movie Series. There is certainly a lengthy list of movies about the Holocaust. Here are some fantastic Holocaust movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming channels to watch today.

The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)

This classic film is likely on any Holocaust movies list you’ll find. The Diary of Anne Frank is one of the most well-known stories of the time –– that of young Anne Frank and the seven other Dutch Jews who hid together in a small attic annex for two years during World War II. Years after the families were discovered and forced into concentration camps, Otto Frank, Anne’s father and the sole survivor of the group, returned to the attic. While there, he came across his daughter’s diary, which chronicled the events of their two years in hiding with stunning, often excruciating detail. The diary provided content for a play and several subsequent film adaptations, this version as the first.


Judgement at Nuremberg (1961)

Judgement at Nuremberg takes place in 1948, three years after the trials of the highest-ranking Nazi officials. Here, the American military continues to hold post-war tribunals evaluating Nazi activity in the years leading up to the war. The film focuses on the trial of four Nazis, and the tribunal seeking to determine whether their actions were international crimes or whether they simply executed orders. Throughout this film, the head of the tribunal, Judge Dan Haywood struggles to make the right decisions and goes to many lengths to do so.


The Pawnbroker (1964)

The Pawnbroker is a unique movie about Auschwitz, with a story that unfolds through flashbacks of survivor Sol Nazerman. Sol is a bitter, lonely pawnbroker living in Harlem. He lost his family and friends to the Holocaust and in the process his belief in God and faith in mankind. Sol is haunted daily by memories of his wife’s rape and subsequent death, the murders of his family, and the atrocities he experienced at the hands of the Nazis. Upon learning how the man with whom he conducts much business earns his money, Sol recalls the fate of his wife and begins to struggle with the choices he has made since his arrival in the United States.


Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Auschwitz survivor Sophie and her lover Nathan live together in Brooklyn after the war. When Stingo moves in next door, he quickly connects with the couple. As an aspiring writer, Stingo is fascinated with their story, which Sophie reveals over time in a series of flashbacks. Over time Sophie finds herself growing closer to Stingo while her relationship with Nathan becomes increasingly more strained. Sophie’s Choice is a movie about the Holocaust full of love, loss and incredible strength.


Europa Europa (1990)

When Solomon Pearl, a young Jewish boy, is separated from his family in the early days of the war, he poses as a German orphan in order to survive. Going by the name Josef Peters, Solomon eventually finds himself a member of the Hitler Youth in the heart of Nazi Germany. While Europa Europa is criticized for the extraordinary number of coincidences required in order for the story to unfold, it is in fact true. This is one of very few movies based on the Holocaust that offers true insight from the inside the Nazi party.


Schindler’s List (1993)

The ultimate Holocaust survivor movie, Schindler’s List was released to critical acclaim and remains one of the best movies of all time. Set in Poland during WWII, the film depicts the true story of an opportunistic German industrialist turned unlikely humanitarian. After witnessing the persecution of his Jewish workforce at the hands of the Nazis, Oskar Schindler turns his factory into a refuge for Jews during the holocaust. What begins as a business decision to help keep his factory running turns into a mission that saves the lives of nearly 1100 Polish Jews.


The Pianist (2002)

An adaptation of Wladyslaw Szpilman’s gripping autobiography The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939–1945, The Pianist can be found atop most every list of the best movies about the Holocaust. After Szpilman, an on-air radio pianist finds his family home enveloped in what became the Warsaw Ghetto, all Jews, including those he loves, are eventually relocated to concentration camps. Szpilman manages to escape capture and is left alone to survive for years in the ruins of his hometown.


Defiance (2008)

After escaping slaughter, the four Bielski brothers are on the run, hiding in forests of German-occupied Poland and Belorussia. Before long, they find themselves leading a growing group of Jewish refugees who have also fled Poland. The brothers establish a camp filled with makeshift homes and a community full of survivors who must lean on each other to endure. Conflict ensues when one brother breaks from the group and joins the Russian resistance. Defiance is a true story of survival, and perhaps one of the greatest modern movies about the Holocaust.


Best Foreign Language Movie about the Holocaust: Life is Beautiful (1998)

Life is Beautiful is a stunningly heartwarming and equally horrifying film. Guido, a carefree Jewish husband and father, works tirelessly to hold his family together after they are captured and sent to a labor camp. In an effort to protect his son, Giosue, from comprehending or falling victim to the atrocities surrounding them on a daily basis, Guido turns life in a labor camp into one big game. The first to 1,000 points wins a fantastic prize, but in order to earn these points Giosue must follow his father’s rules perfectly. 


Best TV Movie About the Holocaust: Conspiracy (2001)

Part TV movie, part Holocaust documentary, this film from HBO depicts the Wannsee Conference, which assembled near Berlin in 1942. It was here that high-ranking S.S. officials discussed the evacuation of German Jews and other undesirables from the country. It is now known that “evacuation” really meant “extermination.” Conspiracy tells the story of how these officials worked to win over a small group of men opposed to the idea, leading to the Holocaust.


More from Military Connection

For more films from this era, check out our Greatest War Movie Series, which includes a post about the best World War II films. Our Military Blog also includes several posts about the events and effects of WWII. Start with National Peral Harbor Remembrance Day, 10 Facts about the D-Day Invasion, or the Battle of Iwo Jima – 76 Years Later.


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