If you're planning to visit the site of Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of O'ahu, one of the best ways to prepare for what you can expect to see on your trip is to watch a movie or TV show about the events that took place on December 7, 1941.
From the 2001 blockbuster smash hit Pearl Harbor to the television mini-series Pearl from 1978, these cinematic retellings of the Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor can help give you context for why the historic site of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial is so important to American history.
Before you travel to Pearl Harbor, you should also read up on some guides about the event and how to respectfully visit the memorial site.
Michael Bay's blockbuster set immediately before, during, and after the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack tells the story of two best friends and the woman they both love. Heavily criticized for its script and acting, the movie nevertheless features the best re-creation of the Pearl Harbor attack ever put on film. You can even visit many of the movie's filming locations on your trip as much of the film was shot on the island of O'ahu.
From Here to Eternity (1953)
Fred Zinnemann's multiple-Oscar winner is set in pre-World War II Hawaii. It tells the story of several army soldiers stationed on O'ahu on the eve of Pearl Harbor. The film won Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), Best Supporting Actress (Donna Reed), and five other awards.
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
The story of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as seen from both the American and Japanese perspectives is told in a straightforward manner in Tora! Tora! Tora! This movie does not hesitate to point out the mistakes which were made on both sides of the conflict, including the United States failing to heed warnings of an impending attack. The movie also features some of the best recreations of the actual attack seen on film prior to the 2001 release of Pearl Harbor.
In Harms Way (1965)
Otto Preminger's classic drama of the war in the Pacific focuses on several navy officers and the women in their lives who are suddenly catapulted into the war following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The film is finely acted—with John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Patricia Neal, Tom Tyron, and Paula Prentiss in the leading roles—and presents an intimate look into the effect the war had on the lives of those closest to it.
Winds of War (1983)
This TV adaptation of Herman Wouk's brilliant novel was heavily criticized for a weak performance by Ally McGraw in the lead role. However, the mini-series does a good job of portraying the events that led to the U.S. involvement in the Second World War, culminating in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Final Countdown (1980)
Perhaps one of the stranger titles on the list, this sci-fi film from 1980 centers around a modern aircraft carrier known as the U.S.S. Nimitz that's caught in a strange vortex and thrown back in time to 1941 along with 6,000 men and 100 jet aircraft. The movie stars Kirk Douglas and Marin Sheen as they try to prevent one of the most devastating attacks on U.S. soil in modern history.
The timeline narrative style of Hy Averback's 282-minute TV epic mini-series provides a view of people affected by the tragic attack on Pearl Harbor—how they lived before it and the long-term changes it made in their lives. This TV mini-series stars Angie Dickinson, Adam Arkin, Robert Wagner, and Dennis Weaver. Unfortunately, the miniseries has not been released on DVD and is only available on VHS.