The 5 Top Movies About D-Day

Omaha Beach memorial
Jean-Pierre Lescourret / Getty Images

There are several movies that attempt to capture the intensity of the D-Day Invasion by Allied forces on June 6, 1944. The events of that day and the lead up to it have inspired generations of screenwriters, directors, and actors. As time marches on, and the soldiers and pilots involved in the battle die, there’s even more interest in the D-Day landings which were the pivotal point of World War II. Relive that day in history with these top films about D-Day.​

  • 01 of 06
    Colville US Cemetery
    Getty Images/Yann Guichaoua-Photos

    What a cast the film has: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Sean Connery, Richard Burton, Henry Fonda, Rod Steiger, Robert Wagner, Peter Lawford, Roddy McDowell, Eddie Albert, Sal Mineo, Paul Anka, Fabian and Red Buttons to name a few. It needs to be three hours long to give everybody their share of the action. And what an action.

    The Longest Day depicts the Battle of Normandy from the viewpoints of both the Allied and the German forces in consultation with veterans of both sides. Based on a 1959 book by Cornelius Ryan, the black-and-white film won Oscars for cinematography and special effects and was released in 1962.

  • 02 of 06
    Easy Company Memorial used in Band of Brothers
    Creative Commons/Didi52327

    This American war drama mini-series is the be-all and end-all D-Day video. It was based on the non-fiction book by historian Stephen Ambrose and follows Easy Company (part of the 101st Airborne Division) from boot camp in the United States through D-Day and right up to the end of the war and Japan’s surrender. The book was pretty accurate, based on interviews Stephen Ambrose did with Easy Company veterans. The series cleverly bases the characters on real members of Easy Company and includes contemporary interviews with them ​although the series inevitably took poetic license.

    It was directed by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks and was their second war movie venture after Saving Private Ryan. In 2001, the series won Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for best mini-series. Band of Brothers has continued to fascinate and attract admirers.

    The title of the book and the series was taken from William Shakespeare’s play Henry V, set in 1415. The English King of England faces the French before the Battle of Agincourt on St. Crispin’s Day and made one of the most stirring speeches in the history of the theatre, which includes the line:

    “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”

    At the time, Band of Brothers was the most expensive tv mini-series made by any network in the world, costing $125 million. The BBC as co-production partner paid £7 million ($10.1 million); again the most it had ever paid. It was worth every penny.

  • 03 of 06
    Saving Private Ryan
    Getty Images/Fotos International Contributor

    When this movie came out in 1998, there was one recurring theme everyone referred to which was the feeling total realism that director Steven Spielberg produced. It starts with a 27-minute beachfront attack by American forces on Omaha Beach, an intensely chaotic attack that Spielberg had researched with painstaking accuracy. He employed Paul Fussell, the veteran and critic and historian Stephen Ambrose as consultants and used amputees as actors and the results were pretty shocking.

    The story follows a group of soldiers who go behind enemy lines after D-Day to find Private James Ryan (played by Matt Damon who is not seen for most of the movie) whose three brothers have been killed in action. Tom Hanks stars as United States Army Rangers Captain John Miller, leading a squad of men (Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg, and Jeremy Davies) in the search.

    While the D-Day scenes were shot in Ireland, some shooting was also done in Normandy, at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer and in Calvados.

    Saving Private Ryan was nominated for 11 Academy Awards; Spielberg won his ​second Academy Award for Best Director and the film won four further awards. It was a huge success, grossing $481.8 million worldwide. In 2014, Saving Private Ryan was selected for the National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

  • 04 of 06
    Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer
    Joel Carillet / Getty Images

    This 1968 film from the novel by Alistair MacLean (who simultaneously wrote the screenplay) starred Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton (along with Donald Houston, Robert Beatty, Mary Ure, Patrick Wymark and Derren Nesbitt). Directed by Brian G. Hutton, it takes place in 1943-44 and involves U.S. Army Brigadier General George Carnaby (Robert Beatty), a chief planner of the second front, captured by the Nazis before the Normandy invasion and taken to Schloss Adler castle in the Alps. A team of British and American commandos is sent on a daring aerial mission to rescue the General before he spills the beans on the D-Day plans. It's not easy; there is a Nazi traitor in their midst.

    Apparently, both Burton and Eastwood called the film Where Doubles Dare due to the number of time stand-ins doubled in action sequences. Never mind, the action-packed scenes like the rescue from the Alpine castle carry the film along at a cracking pace. 

    The title of the film is from William Shakespeare's Richard III

    'The world is grown so bad,
    that wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch.'

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06
    Battle of Normandy Museum, Bayeux
    Calvados Tourisme

    The Big Red One stars Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, and Robert Carradine. Made in 1980, the movie starts in black and white in November 1918 at the end of World War I when a private (Marvin) kills a German soldier as he was surrendering. Marvin later learns that the war had been over for several hours. Marvin was wearing the red numeral ‘I’; the shoulder patch of the 1st Infantry Division, the ‘Big Red One’.

    The film then jumps to 1942 with Marvin a sergeant of a squad serving in various campaigns including the Normandy campaign. His German counterpart. Schroeder is a soldier very like him. The story goes full circle with Marvin once again attacking the surrendering Schroeder, hours after the war had ended.

    It’s written by Samuel Fuller, a World War II veteran who had served in the 1 st Infantry Division, received various awards and was present at the liberation of the Falkenau concentration camp which figures in the film. It was cut quite considerably when first released. A restored version, The Big Red One: The Reconstruction, was premièred at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, seven years after Fuller died.

  • 06 of 06
    D-Day Commemorations Juno Beach
    Getty Images/ Jean Catuffe

    Storming Juno which came out in 2014, is slightly different as it tells the story of a group of three young Canadian soldiers who stormed Juno Beach. It follows their lives from their different role as paratroopers, tank crews, and regular infantry and stars Kevin Walker and Benjamin Muir.

    Edited by Mary Anne Evans