Sunday, February 27, 2011

Celluloid Nazis

Sinatra impersonating a Nazi in Von Ryan's Express
I have nothing insightful to say about tonight's Academy Awards.  I suppose I could rank the four movies I saw in the theater this past year:  1)  The King's Speech; 2) True Grit; 3) Megamind; and 4) Yogi Bear 3D. 

But, I can talk about great old war movies.  Indeed, I was at a party a couple of months ago in which my friends and I began to list classic World War II films, immediately reaching consensus on the most enjoyable and memorable.  Actors, settings, action, and even the soundtracks were easily recalled, even though we hadn't seen many of these movies in years.  There is something about movies with Nazis that particularly resonates.  Perhaps it is that the Nazi characters personify evil but are still human and based on recent historical fact, not monstrous science fiction creations, that make them such compelling movie villians.

I decided to come up with my top 10 favorite Nazi movies, and the list came to me very quickly.  Here goes:

1.  The Guns of Navarone (1961) with Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, David Niven and many others.  This is simply my favorite war movie and one of my favorite movies, period.
2.  The Great Escape (1963) directed by John Sturges, starring Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Garner and many more. Classic.  Except for Charles Bronson as a claustrophobic Pole, this one never gets old. 
3.  Von Ryan's Express (1965) starring Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard.  Sinatra is phenomenal as an American officer leading the escape of mostly resentful British soldiers from an Italian POW camp.
4.  Where Eagles Dare (1968) directed by Brian Hutton, starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.  Burton and Eastwood are great together in a plot with several twists and turns.  A friend and I once tried to count how many Nazis Clint gunned down, but we lost track about midway through.
5.  Kelly's Heroes (1970) also directed by Brian Hutton, starring Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas and Don Rickles.  This off-beat film about American soldiers going behind enemy lines to steal gold is exciting and funny. 
6.  Stalag 17 (1953) directed by Billy Wilder and starring William Holden who won an Oscar for his performance.  This is another classic.  Otto Preminger plays the POW camp commandant.
7.  The Dirty Dozen (1967) with Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Telly Savalas and Charles Bronson.  Marvin is assigned to train 12 convicted murderers for a dangerous mission in preparation for D-Day. 
8.  The Eagle Has Landed (1976) another directed by John Sturges, starring Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland and Robert Duvall.  Gripping movie from the German point of view about an attempt to kidnap Winston Churchill.
9.  Sahara (1943) Humphrey Bogart.  This one takes place in the North African desert, where Bogie leads an abandoned tank unit.  This film was made during the war, and is a lot less cynical than most of the others on this list.
10.  The Bridge at Remagen (1969) starring George Segal, Ben Gazzara and Robert Vaughn. Segal leads U.S. troops to capture a bridge across the Rhine in the last months of the war to prevent German troops from retreating safely.  Vaughn, the Nazi officer assigned to blow it up, tries to hold off as long as possible.

What am I forgetting?

[Related posts:  Best Westerns]

1 comments:

Stephen said...

* Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa (Inglorious Basterds)

* Ralph Fiennes as Amon Göth (Shindler's List)

* Kenneth Mars (may he R.I.P) as Franz Liebkind (The Producers)

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