Top Ten WWII Prisoner of War Movies
As a child of the 70s and 80s my love of movies was born from what was show on TV and as a Brit one thing you could guarantee and that was "The Great Escape" would be on TV at Christmas, probably Easter and maybe the August bank holiday. It has been one of my favourite movies since my childhood with its impressive cast and mix of action with plucky fighting spirit but as I have come to discover there are many more impressive WWII prisoner of war movies out there and surprisingly once in a blue moon a new one is made. As a fan of these movies here are my personal Top Ten WWII Prisoner of War movies:
Empire of the Sun (1987)
As a young boy living in Shanghai in 1941, Jim Graham's (Christian Bale) life is one of privilege but that all changes on December 8th 1941 as the Japanese invade Shanghai. Separated from his parents, Jim tries to carry on as normal returning to the now abandoned family home except with food running short he gets increasingly desperate before ending up with a couple of American mercenaries. Eventually Jim along with these Americans are caught and end up in the Soo Chow prisoner of war camp with many other Brits and Americans. With the camp is riddled with illness it is a very different life to what young Jim was use to but he keeps on going, creating a new life for himself in the camp as he not only scavenges and trades for goods for his American friends but also for the sick he sees around him... read the full movie review
Danger Within (1959)
Following the latest attempt by a prisoner to escape the Italian prisoner of war camp goes wrong, head of escapes Lt. Col. David Baird, M.C. (Richard Todd) comes to suspect they have a traitor in their ranks and is convinced Lt. Cyriakos Coutoules (Cyril Shaps) is giving details of their escape plans to the Italian guards. But when Coutoules is discovered dead in one of the escape tunnels not only do the men wonder how he got there but also who killed him, something that head of the prison Capitano Benucci (Peter Arne) is also interested in uncovering. But as the men put into motion the plans for their latest and most daring escape Capt. 'Bunter' Phillips (Richard Attenborough) believes he has uncovered who the traitor is and if he is right prisoner's life is in danger... read the full movie review
The Captive Heart (1946)
For 220 miles British prisoners of war are marched across Europe till they reached their destination a prisoner of war camp in Germany. Amongst them is Lieutenant David Lennox (Gordon Jackson) who due to injury is going blind, friends from back home Corporal Ted Horsfall (Jack Warner) and Private Dai Evans (Mervyn Johns) as well as Captain Geoffrey Mitchell (Michael Redgrave). Except Mitchell is not really who he says he is as in truth he is Capt. Karel Hasek a Czech soldier who having escaped from another prisoner of war camp put on the Captain's uniform and took the identity of a dead soldier he found. With the men uniting to help each other out they also rally around Hasek when they learn the truth leading to him writing to the real Captain Mitchell's wife Celia (Rachel Kempson) pretending to be her husband in order to stop the German's from becoming suspicious. The question is for how long can they keep this pretence up... read the full movie review
A Town Like Alice (1956)
The year is 1941 and the invading Japanese forces having taken control of British territory leads to British civilians hurriedly trying to leave. Caught in the midst of the trouble is Jean Paget (Virginia McKenna) who along with a group of women and children end up captured by the Japanese. Not sure what to do with women and children the Japanese army force them to march for miles and months on end all over Malaya in search of a prisoner of war camp willing to take them. On their torturous journey Jean meets Australian prisoner of war Joe Harman (Peter Finch) who risks his own life to get Jean and the women essentials such as medicine and food, leading Jean and Joe having feelings for each other... read the full movie review
The Cross of Lorraine (1943)
With World War II raging on Frenchmen from all across the country sign up to fight in the French army but find their war is short lived when the Nazis swiftly defeat them and France signs a peace treaty with the Germans. When the French soldiers surrender they naively believe that the train they are loaded on to will take them back home but are left shocked to find themselves taken to a prisoner of war camp. Life in the camp is hard but most of the men such as Victor (Gene Kelly) do their best to stay strong in the face of the barbaric treatment whilst some such as Duval (Hume Cronyn) befriend the German guards to get an easier life. When Paul (Jean-Pierre Aumont) finds an opportunity to escape he takes some fellow prisoners with them heading for a village which they aim to liberate... read the full movie review
The Colditz Story (1955)
Pat Reid (John Mills) and Mac (Christopher Rhodes) find themselves marched into Colditz castle where they meet Harry Tyler (Lionel Jeffries) and Jimmy Winslow (Bryan Forbes), 2 other prisoners who have tried to escape from other prisons and found themselves dumped in this castle. They are not alone as they see trucks full other prisoners of war arriving with soldiers from Poland, France, Holland and of course good old Blight. Informed that those who attempt to escape will be shot it doesn't prevent them from trying. In fact the various escape attempts becomes an issue as there is no organization and escape attempts from the French cause problems for the British until they all finally agree to cooperate and work together... read the full movie review
The Wooden Horse (1950)
Having been caught in enemy territory John (Anthony Steel), Phil (David Tomlinson) and Peter (Leo Genn) are taken to Stalag Luft III where like many British prisoners feel it is their duty to escape and cause problems for the enemy. With all the huts far too far from the wire to even contemplate tunnelling that way they come up with a cunning plan based on Greek mythology and the Trojan Horse. Using the vaulting box the men take it closer to the fence where they do daily exercises whilst hidden inside is one of the men who for a few hours each day digs a tunnel, concealing it with a trap door placed beneath some soil. It is slow work with numerous near misses from being discovered to dangerous tunnel collapses till eventually it is ready to go... read the full movie review
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Having surrendered to the Japanese Col. Nicholson (Alec Guinness) and his men are taken to a Prisoner of War camp in Indochina where they are ordered by Col. Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) to assist in building a bridge over the river Kwai. But with Saito expecting the British Officers to also help it brings on a battle of wills between him and Col. Nicholson who refuses to order his officers to do manual labour. The men admire Nicholson's resolve and when he finally wins out over Saito loyally do what he says and that is to build the Bridge but to do it with pride and make it a monument to Britain. But soon it becomes apparent that Nicholson's obsessive ness in getting the bridge built is that it has become a monument to him and his leadership. Meanwhile an escaped prisoner called Shears (William Holden) finds himself heading back into danger alongside Maj. Warden (Jack Hawkins) and Lt. Joyce (Geoffrey Horne) as they head to the Kwai to blow up the bridge... read the full movie review
Stalag 17 (1953)
Like any prisoner of war camp, the prisoners in Stalag 17 would try to escape which is what prisoners Manfredi and Johnson attempt to do only to find the Germans laying in wait for them on the outside as if they had been tipped off by someone. When the news of their foiled attempt reaches the other prisoners they soon suspect they have a stool pigeon in their midst with the attention falling on Sgt. J.J. Sefton (William Holden) who not only plans to wait the war out but is known to trade goods with the enemy. But with more escape attempts foiled and tools being uncovered by the Germans Sefton is forced to prove his innocence before he ends up on the end of more than beating... read the full movie review
The Great Escape (1963)
As the Germans try to stop its prisoners of war from escaping they build a new maximum security camp called Stalag Luft North, designed to contain all those prisoners who are notorious for their escape attempts. It is an idea which back fires as under the leadership of Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett "Big X" (Richard Attenborough) these men who dig, build, scrounge and forge come up with a united plan to build 3 tunnels and do the unthinkable get all 250 prisoners out in one night... read the full movie review
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