In American culture, one of the most effective ways to communicate is through the media. The newest films and television shows being released have a large impact on our country’s opinions. Therefore, the quickest way to reaffirm or change the public’s perspective of a particular topic is by making a film about it. There have been many popular films made about almost every important event in history, but perhaps the most prevalent topic in historical films is World War II. It is especially important to study these films because, as film critic Vincent Canby said, “How war movies are accepted by the public reflects the times in which they’re released.”1 Not only is it important to study these for a glimpse into the time they were released but it is also important to see how these films have changed the public’s perception of the event being portrayed. Using these films, the directors have demonstrated their opinion on the selected topic, hoping to change the viewer’s opinion to more closely fit theirs. Such World War II films have been said to “propound a fundamental American decency and dutifulness that is both poignant and indisputable.” 2 It is especially important to study these films in order to see how the films have changed the viewpoint of subsequent generations of viewers, especially those not privy to the war itself. In order to look into this topic, I have chosen three of the most highly regarded and influential World War II films made since the war: To Hell and Back, Saving Private Ryan, and Band of Brothers, which would all be considered “travelogue war movie[s]...which follow a character or group of characters through the historical events of the war.” 3 While studying all aspects of the films are important, there are certain features of the films that are more important to look into. In looking at films made about the United States’ involvement in World War II, it is important to delve deep into the matter of the public memory of patriotism in this war and how these films have affected that memory, both in the time they were released and in the years since. The three films I have chosen tell different stories but all have the same end result: they leave the audience with a sense of pride and nostalgia about the bravery and patriotism of the soldiers that served in WWII. While newer films try to give a deeper look into the misery and sacrifices that were experienced by these men, they are still received by the audience in the same way.
Fehlman, Breanna, "World War II Films and Patriotism in America" (2015). History Class Publications. 30.