You’re on an impossible mission if you’re looking to learn about the history of wars in the world using only your Netflix Canada account. You may need to dig up old-world relics that are your video-store and library cards. Netflix Canada’s selection of war films is sadly incomplete.
The ratio of all First World War to Second World War movies is about 1:100 (unscientific figure, but the Second World War was longer, its effects longer lasting and its narratives more easily dramatizable, which may explain the difference); on Netflix Canada, I’ve been unable to find more than one movie or documentary on the First World War worth sharing (Flyboys, the unrecommendable 138-minute mess starring James Franco, is available if you are so brave. One of the more positive reviews called it “a lot less obnoxious than Pearl Harbor.”)
Where is the Paul Gross-directed-written-starring Passchendaele, a great – and one of the only – Canadian war film? Classics like All Quiet on the Western Front and Paths of Glory? More recent films like A Very Long Engagement and War Horse? And I’m still only on the First World War – the streaming service’s repertoire of Cold, Vietnam and Korea War movies is missing some cinema classics. I can’t fault Netflix for its shortcomings, but if it is going to be the future of media streaming, it has a long way to go.
Here are some of the war movies Netflix Canada has to offer.
FIRST WORLD WAR
Lawrence of Arabia: A class in every sense of the word; the 1962 film is a seven-time Oscar winner with a runtime of 216 minutes; it’s directed by David Lean, who directed The Bridge on the River Kwai and Doctor Zhivago; it stars Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn and Omar Sharif; it’s based on the true story of T.E. Lawrence and his work during the Arab attacks against the Turks during the First World War.
Titles not available on Netflix Canada that you should seek out: Joyeux Noël, Passchendaele.
SECOND WORLD WAR
The Longest Day: The 1962 epic was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, but it lost to Lawrence of Arabia; chronicles the D-Day invasion of Normandy from the Allied and German points of view during the Second World War; the film boasts three directors (Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton and Bernhard Wicki) who handled the segments involving their own countries – Annakin was British, Marton, American, and Wicki, German.
Tora! Tora! Tora!: Like The Longest Day, chronicles an event from different points of view – in this case the American and Japanese accounts of the attack on Pearl Harbor; also like The Longest Day, employs teams of directors to handle their own countries’ segments (Richard Fleischer, U.S.A., Kinji Fukasaku and Toshio Masuda, Japan).
Inglourious Basterds: WWII, Tarantino style. As Nazis plan on hosting a movie premiere at a theatre in occupied Paris, a group of American Jewish soldiers have plans of their own. It’s the movie that introduced Christoph Waltz – he won an Oscar for his portrayal of the unhinged Col. Hans Landa, – to the rest of the world.
Titles not available on Netflix Canada that you should seek out: Schindler’s List, Downfall and the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers and The Pacific.
MASH: The 1970 Robert Altman film starring Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould and Robert Duvall inspired the TV series starring Alan Alda that ran for 11 seasons starting in 1972. The staff at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital cope with the horrors of war in Korea in their own way.
Titles not available on Netflix Canada that you should seek out: Rescue Dawn, Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter and Good Morning, Vietnam.
Titles not available on Netflix Canada that you should seek out: Good Night, and Good Luck, Thirteen Days, Reds and The Manchurian Candidate (1962).
The Hurt Locker: A six-time Oscar winner directed by Kathryn Bigelow that helped catapult Jeremy Renner’s career.
The Messenger: An important reminder of the human toll of wars. While some of the aforementioned suggestions romanticize violence, death, danger, hot-headedness, The Messenger tells the story of the men who have to notify families that their husbands, sons, wives, brothers and sisters have died “serving their country.” Oren Moverman directs an Oscar-nominated script which he co-wrote.
Titles not available on Netflix Canada that you should seek out: In the Valley of Elah, Zero Dark Thirty and Stop-Loss.
Forgotten Warriors: A short documentary about Aboriginal Canadians who fought during the Second World War even though they could not be conscripted. Narrated by Gordon Tootoosis. (Note: will only be available for streaming until Nov. 15, 2013)
Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State: A six-episode BBC miniseries also known as Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution that I will be watching this week; features archival films, interviews with survivors and re-enactments in which every word used is “double – and in some cases triple – sourced from historical records,” according to director and writer Laurence Rees.