June 6 marks the 75th anniversary of the Allied D-Day landings at Normandy. One of the greatest days in military history has long been one of the greatest inspirations for Hollywood filmmakers.
Here's a list of must-see D-Day movies, including a couple that most everyone has seen and a few you may have never heard of before.
1. Saving Private Ryan
There are probably still a million different stories to tell about D-Day, but Steven Spielberg's 1998 classic is such a great movie that not many are likely to try. "Saving Private Ryan" might just be the greatest Best Picture nominee to get robbed of an Oscar (even though Spielberg won a well-deserved Best Director award).
"Saving Private Ryan" was like a bolt of lightning because it introduced at least a couple of generations to the sacrifices made by Americans (and Allied troops) to defeat the Axis during World War II. Millions who served were able to enjoy the thanks of a grateful nation in their later years largely because this movie educated young people about their sacrifices and bravery.
"Saving Private Ryan" is not available on any streaming services right now, but you can rent or buy a digital copy from Amazon, iTunes or Vudu. It's also available on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD discs.
2. The Longest Day
Producer Daryl F. Zanuck set out to create the greatest movie ever made with 1962's "The Longest Day." At a moment when filmmakers were luring viewers to theaters with wide-screen color spectaculars, Zanuck insisted on making a black-and-white movie because that's how he (and most everyone else) experienced newsreel footage of the actual war.
True to its title, the movie is three hours long and is loaded with a who's who of male action stars of the era: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Robert Ryan, Rod Steiger and a cast of thousands.
"The Longest Day" defined WWII for a generation of moviegoers, and it's found a new generation of fans through its many, many showings on Turner Classic Movies.
You can see it on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, June 6, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. That's the lead slot for the channel, and this showing will feature an introduction with host Ben Mankiewicz and Rob Citino, Samuel Zemurray Stone Senior Historian at the National World War II Museum.
You can rent or buy a digital copy from Amazon, iTunes or Vudu, and it's available on DVD or Blu-ray.
3. Overlord (1975)
"Overlord" got extensive support from Britain's Imperial War Museum for a movie that follows one British soldier from recruitment to his landing on D-Day. Director Stuart Cooper and cinematographer John Alcott match their footage to historical footage from 1944 and use it to create a highly personal perspective that aims to capture the fog of war.
Consider this one to be mirror image of "The Longest Day." It follows that movie on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, June 6, at 11:15 p.m. Eastern and will also feature an introduction from host Ben Mankiewicz and Rob Citino.
"Overlord" is streaming on the new Criterion Collection app. You can also rent or buy "Overlord" from Amazon or iTunes or get it on DVD or Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection.
4. Screaming Eagles
This 1956 movie tells the story of a 101st Airborne Division unit that parachutes into France on D-Day. They miss their target and must fight their way back to join the rest of "D" Company to hold a bridge.
The movie was shot in black-and-white and features a mostly unknown young cast that includes future stars Paul Burke ("Naked City"), Martin Milner ("Adam 12") and Robert Blake ("Baretta.")
This movie is a rarity, not available to stream or on DVD. You can see it on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, June 6, at 7:30 a.m. Eastern. Set your DVR.
This 1950 movie is notable because it's the big D-Day movie, and the filmmakers were able to get their hands on a ton of both German and Allied film footage to tell their stories. Otherwise, the movie was shot entirely in California at Fort Ord, with Monterey subbing for Omaha Beach.
There are obviously better D-Day movies out there, but this is the one made closest to the actual event for an audience who had strong memories of June 6, 1944.
This movie is another rarity, not available to stream, but you can buy it on a Warner Archive DVD. You can see it on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, June 6, at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Set your DVR.
6. The Big Red One
Director Samuel Fuller was a World War II veteran who served as a rifleman with the U.S. 1st Infantry Division. His 1980 movie "The Big Red One," starring Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill and Robert Carradine, tracks his actual wartime service and includes a compelling sequence on Omaha Beach.
Though it was hacked to bits by the studio for its initial 113-minute release, film historian Richard Schickel used Fuller's script notes to create a 162-minute "reconstruction" in 2004. Fuller, known for noir like "Pickup on South Street" and a string of gritty low-budget war movies in the 1950s, is either the sleaziest art filmmaker or the artiest schockmaster of all time, depending on your perspective.
You can buy or rent the (still very good) theatrical cut on Amazon, iTunes or Vudu. If you want to see the reconstruction, you'll have to track down a DVD or a Blu-ray (which includes the reconstruction as a bonus DVD).
7. 36 Hours
In this 1965 spy movie, James Garner plays Maj. Jefferson Pike, an Army intelligence officer captured by the Germans in Lisbon just days before D-Day. The crafty Germans attempt to use the same tricks that worked so well for the IMF in "Mission Impossible: Fallout," but Garner catches onto their game.
After an attempted escape, the Germans continue to work Pike and finally manage to confuse him about what day it is, getting the intel they need. A weather delay (which really happened) pushes back the invasion and discredits the intel.
OK, so this is not a real D-Day movie. It's a '60s spy flick that's using D-Day as the plot hook for some espionage mind games. You can see it on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, June 6, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern or buy or rent it on Amazon, iTunes or Vudu. Plus, it's available on Blu-ray and DVD from the Warner Archive collection.
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