Written and directed by Terrence Malick, ‘The Thin Red Line’ explores the Battle of Mount Austen, which was a part of the Guadalcanal Campaign in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. The narrative is adapted from James Jones’ book of the same name. One of the biggest talking points of the movie was Malick’s comeback, who resumed his directorial career after a 20-year hiatus. The direction is impeccable and showcases Malick at his best.
With a stunning star cast, consisting of names such as Nick Nolte, Adrien Brody, George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Elias Koteas, Jared Leto, John C. Reilly and John Travolta, and an immensely gifted crew, the film is certainly quite an experience. It is shot by American cinematographer John Toll, co-edited by Billy Weber, Leslie Jones and Saar Klein, and the music is scored by German composer Hans Zimmer. ‘The Thin Red Line’ was nominated for seven Academy Awards and was one of the most critically endeared films of 1998.
For this article, I have taken into account films which have similar narrative structures and visual style as this Terrence Malick flick. The selected names on this list are primarily World War II movies. In addition, I have not included films directed by Terrence Malick in order to make it more diverse. So, without further ado, here is the list of best movies similar to ‘The Thin Red Line’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these movies like ‘The Thin Red Line’ on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
8. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
An adaptation of ‘Picture Letters from Commander in Chief’, written by Tadamichi Kuribayashi, ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’ chronicles the battle of Iwo Jima between the United States and Imperial Japan during World War II. The narrative is crafted from the perspective of the Japanese who fought in the war. Directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Iris Yamashita, the war film is built on the atrocities and evil of battle. While it did not hit big at the box office, the flick was met with immensely positive reviews, with many even rating as the best film of its year.
7. Army of Shadows (1969)
Written and directed by French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville, ‘Army of Shadows’ is the story of underground resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied France. A drama-suspense film, ‘Army of Shadows’ blends several narrative and visual styles. It provides a heroic view of the resistance fighters and sets it parallel to the austere portrayal of the movement itself. An adaptation of journalist and novelist Joseph Kessel’s book of the same name, the movie initially released in France in 1969, but later received a worldwide viewership in 2006. ‘Army of Shadows’ was met with immense critical acclaim and was inducted in the list of “top films of the year” by many publications. It also holds a rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and is included in Roger Ebert’s list of “Great Movies”, thus surmounting its legacy.
6. The Big Red One (1980)
Written and directed by Samuel Fuller, ‘The Big Red One’ stars Lee Marvin as a hardened sergeant who, along with the four core members of his infantry unit, tries to survive World War II as they move from battle to battle throughout Europe. An epic war film, ‘The Big Red One’ premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and won positive reviews. The narrative is a deeply personalized piece of work which takes the form of an epic. Roger Ebert perhaps put it in the best way in his review, wherein he wrote, “While this is an expensive epic, he hasn’t fallen to the temptations of the epic form. He doesn’t give us a lot of phony meaning, as if to justify the scope of the production. There aren’t a lot of deep, significant speeches.” The movie is today widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time.
5. Patton (1970)
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and co-written by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North, ‘Patton’ is set during World War II and chronicles the career of the controversial American general, George S. Patton, essayed by George C. Scott. Adapted from two novels – ‘Patton: Ordeal and Triumph’ (1954), written by Hungarian author Ladislas Farago and ‘A Soldier’s Story’ (1961), written by Omar N. Bradley – this epic biographical war film is a force to be reckoned with. With a brilliant performance by George C. Scott as the contentious general, a taut screenplay and skillful direction, ‘Patton’ won heaps of critical praise. The flick bagged seven Academy Awards and two Golden Globes. It has been included in American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Movies” and in 2003, was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress.
4. Dunkirk (2017)
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, ‘Dunkirk’ chronicles the titular Dunkirk evacuation of World War II. The narrative formulates the epic story by establishing a foundation of “sea, land and air” in a nonlinear format to provide three different but interlinked experiences. The film has often been hailed as Nolan’s best work as well as one of the best war films of all time.
The story is crafted with minimalist dialogue, haunting cinematography and echoing sound design which creates the atmospherics. Though many have commented negatively on the tone of the flick being dull, Nolan’s vision cannot be dismissed. The movie also scores points in the historical accuracy department as many historians have noted the film’s attempt to craft a realistic, historically accurate piece of art. With a rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and a total gross of $526.9 million against a budget of $150 million, ‘Dunkirk’ has already received a strong cult following and is perhaps Nolan’s most critically acclaimed movie since ‘Memento’.
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3. Schindler’s List (1993)
Adapted from the Booker Prize-winning historical novel ‘Schindler’s Ark’ (1982), written by Australian novelist Thomas Keneally, ‘Schindler’s List’ is the story of the titular Oskar Schindler, a Sudeten German businessman, who won hearts by saving the lives of more than a thousand Polish Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by taking them under his refuge as employees his factories during World War II. Directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Steven Zaillian, the film boasts of commendable performances by Liam Neeson as Schindler, Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern, Schindler’s Jewish accountant, and Ralph Fiennes as the vicious SS officer Amon Göth.
The epic historical drama put Spielberg on the map as a serious filmmaker. With its black and white cinematography, carefully constructed scenes and resonating background score, ‘Schindler’s List’ became an instant classic. It won seven Academy Awards, seven BAFTAs, and three Golden Globes, making it one of the most critically acclaimed films of its year. The film has a highly impressive 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
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2. Das Boot (1981)
Based on the novel ‘Das Boot’, written by Lothar-Günther Buchheim, this film is set in a submarine and follows the German U-boat U-96 and its crew, who set out on a tumultuous patrol in the Battle of the Atlantic. Written and directed by Wolfgang Petersen, ‘Das Boot’ provides an intrinsic view of the psychology of the armed forces in times of battle. While most of such films showcase the atrocities of war on a large landscape, ‘Das Boot’ restricts the setting to a submarine. This helps in creating a sense of claustrophobia and paranoia. The production design elevates the realism and the performances are very restrained. With a rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film is often cited as one of the best works in its genre. The critical success and the impact of the flick have spawned a sequel television series of the same name which premiered in 2018.
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1. The Pianist (2002)
‘The Pianist’ follows Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jewish musician, during the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II. Directed by Roman Polanski and written by Ronald Harwood, the narrative stems from Szpilman’s memoir of the same name. This is the first World War II film to be directed by Polanski. The director often spoke about his memories of being trapped in the Kraków Ghetto. Polanski was also offered to direct ‘Schindler’s List’, but he declined and it went to fellow visionary craftsmen Steven Spielberg.
‘The Pianist’ is a deeply personalized piece of work which showcases Polanski darkest memories. The biographical drama premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and won the prestigious Palme d’Or. Upon its theatrical release, it won immensely positive reviews, with many citing it as one of best films of the 21st century. The movie bagged the “Best Director”, “Best Actor” and “Best Adapted Screenplay” at the Academy Awards. It holds a rating of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.
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