Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

3 pulse-pounding Netflix war movies to watch after Oppenheimer

Published Aug 2nd, 2023 3:05PM EDT
All Quiet on the Western Front on Netflix
Image: Netflix

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

The blockbuster success of director Christopher Nolan’s three-hour Oppenheimer, which raked in $400 million at the box office after just 10 days in theaters, continues to draw sizable crowds to theaters as July has now given way to August. That the film’s momentum has yet to slow down is all the more remarkable, too, considering its subject matter — the secretive project during World War II to develop the first atomic bomb. War movies don’t get much more cerebral or philosophically confounding than this one.

Once you’ve put yourself through the paces of this sumptuous masterpiece from Nolan, though, you might find yourself eager to seek out more feature films that approach WWII (or its predecessor) from a different vantage point. On that score, Netflix has a number of can’t-miss gems for history buffs in search of a quality war movie to stream, encompassing everything from gory trench warfare to deception operations and codebreaking. And we’ll talk below about three such war movies you should definitely check out.

All Quiet on the Western Front

Whereas Oppenheimer is focused on bomb-making at a secret military base far from the front lines of war, this first Netflix title puts you in the muddy trenches of the Western Front during the First World War. Remember what a visceral experience it was to watch that opening landing scene in Saving Private Ryan, when the bullets sounded like they were zipping all around in the theater and you could hear the sickening thud when they smacked into flesh?

The you-are-there realism of Netflix’s All Quiet on the Western Front magnifies that feeling exponentially.

All Quiet on the Western Front on Netflix
Felix Kammerer, center, in Netflix’s WWI movie “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Image source: Reiner Bajo/Netflix
All Quiet on the Western Front
A production still from the Netflix German-language WWI movie “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Image source: Netflix

The streamer’s adaptation of the seminal World War I novel of the same name is like a two-and-a-half-hour nightmare come to life, which is to say that it’s a stunning artistic achievement that will forevermore be ranked in the top tier of war movies. Nonetheless, I don’t think I could ever stomach watching it again.

As I noted in my separate review of the movie, what makes this film feel so frustrating is that rather than pieces on a chess board moving in accordance with a larger purpose, the conflict in All Quiet on the Western Front feels like it’s all tactics and no strategy. Two sides pummeling each other, until one is either backed into a corner or runs out of naive boys to throw into the meat grinder. Feckless politicians and generals dither over a ceasefire proposal, while the horrific and indiscriminate slaughter continues.

Old men talk and young men die, the same as it’s always been.

Operation Mincemeat

Movies about war, of course, don’t always have to be about killing and fighting in trenches, on open fields, or in the air. This next Netflix film, Operation Mincemeat, takes the battle elsewhere — to the corridors of power occupied by gentlemen spies. Specifically, the spymasters who cooked up a plot that successfully tricked Hitler.

Operation Mincemeat on Netflix
Matthew Macfadyen as Charles Cholmondeley, Colin Firth as Ewen Montagu, and Johnny Flynn as Ian Fleming in Netflix’s “Operation Mincemeat.” Image source: Giles Keyte/See-Saw Films, Courtesy of Netflix

The gist of Operation Mincemeat: To distract German attention from a planned Allied invasion, the masterminds behind British deception operations decide to slip the Germans some bad intelligence — the idea being to convince the Germans to shift their attention away from where the invasion will take place. Getting bogus intelligence into German hands is easy enough, though. The hard part is how to convince the Germans to actually act on it.

As you can probably imagine, the Germans during WWII would have rightly treated as suspicious any game-changing intelligence that just magically happened to fall into their lap from a source, no matter how authentic it looked or how trusted the source was. So the Allies came up with a brilliant solution:

Let the Germans find the intelligence on their own, as opposed to having it brought to them. Basically, the Brits stuff the phony intelligence into a dead man’s pockets, and let him wash up on shore — to an area that they know is crawling with Germans.

Put this war movie on your list if, like me, you especially love spying, deceit, and all the other mischief that goes on during wartime far away from the front lines.

The Imitation Game

This final title isn’t a Netflix original, but it falls in the same category of war movies occupied by the likes of Oppenheimer, in that it’s only a war movie insofar as it takes place during one.

In 2014’s The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Alan Turing, the genius who helped the crew of codebreakers at Bletchley Park crack the German war effort’s supposedly unbreakable Enigma machine. Cumberbatch gives a brilliant performance as Turing, the now-celebrated mathematician and computer scientist who developed insights that would come to be known as “artificial intelligence” — and who came up with a brilliant solution that led to the German military’s codes finally being deciphered, turning the tide of WWII.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.