The Best World War I Movies You’ve Never Seen

(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. This week we go back in time with some movies set during the war to end all wars.)

World War I doesn’t get as much love in theaters as its younger brother World War II, and while there’s no good reason for that I assume it’s simply because WWII offers a greater variety of locales and military hardware to explore. There have been some acclaimed ones over the years, though, from All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) to Paths of Glory (1957) and from A Very Long Engagement (2004) to Mata Hari (1985). Fine, one of those wasn’t quite as acclaimed as the others, but I’m just making sure you’re paying attention.

While the death toll ranges depending on your Google source — seriously, I found numbers from nine to twenty-five million — there’s a reason it was called “the war to end war.” Sure, that was a bit presumptuous, but the point remains that it was an epic conflict involving tens of millions of lives. You’d think we’d have more stories up on the big screen, but in lieu of quantity we at least have quality starting with Sam Mendes’ beautiful and brilliantly structured 1917 which is currently in limited release and absolutely worth your time. While you wait for that one to expand into your area, though, might I recommend a few older titles? I might, and I will if you keep reading.

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To quote Martin Short’s SCTV character Irving Cohen, “years ago there was a thing called a-vaude-a-ville.”

Vaudeville was theatrical circuit in the late 19th century and early 20th century where, for a few cents, you’d go to see a stream of short plays, musical or comedy acts. Many of the earliest film comedians got their start there, like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers and, yes, all permutations of The Three Stooges.

This weekend sees the release of the Farrelly Brothers’ unfairly maligned film The Three Stooges (it’s good, I swear) and it is absolutely soaked in the seltzer that is the Vaudeville aesthetic. Plot will get yanked to the side (as though with a hook on amateur night) if there’s an opportunity get a laugh from some physical or verbal schtick. If this is in any way your thing, might I suggest some other Vaudeville-inspired films you probably haven’t seen. Read More »