10 Holocaust Movies

Monday, March 7 by Patricia Cook

These 10 Holocaust movies can be considered great because they do what great Holocaust movies should: they take a dark time in history and tell a small part of the story we didn’t know before. The best movies about the Holocaust educate us more than they entertain us, but they do it with compassion, or humor, or even stark truth.

  1. "The Diary of Anne Frank," 1959. Young Anne Frank kept a diary as she and her family hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam for two years. Anne’s diary is a touching account of the days spent in hiding, filled with fear, but also hope. The Franks were discovered in 1944, and taken to concentration camps; only Anne’s father survived. Based on a true story of a well-known figure, this is a great Holocaust movie.
  2. "The Odessa File," 1974. Not all Holocaust movies are based on fact; this one is based on a novel by Frederick Forsyth, and tells the story of a journalist, played by Jon Voigt, who investigates the sighting of a former SS-Captain in charge of a concentration camp during World War II. His investigation turns up surprising facts and hits close to home. 
  3. "The Boys from Brazil," 1978. Ira Levin wrote the novel that inspired this Holocaust movie, which deals with attempts to clone Hitler. A Nazi hunter, played by Laurence Olivier, discovers the plan, which has already produced several young boys with a family history eerily similar to that of Hitler’s. A moral dilemma ensues.
  4. "Playing for Time," 1980. This movie is based on the memoirs of cabaret singer Fania Fenelon, who along with other musically-inclined female prisoners in Auschwitz, formed an orchestra and played music for the guards and are spared death.
  5. "Sophie’s Choice," 1982. Based on the novel by William Styron, Sophie’s Choice tells the story of Sophie, who arrives at Auschwitz and is forced to choose which of her two children will be killed and which will live. If she refuses to choose, both children will be killed. Meryl Streep won an Oscar as Sophie. Although fictional, this is a great movie about the Holocaust.
  6. "Schindler’s List," 1993. In this Holocaust movie about the Holocaust, Liam Neeson plays real-life Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved more than a thousand Polish Jews from death in concentration camps, at great personal risk—and expense—by deeming them workers essential to the war effort. 
  7. "Life is Beautiful," 1997. Roberto Benigni plays a man in a concentration camp with his son, who uses humor and imagination to protect the young boy from the truth. Bringing a touch of humor and levity to the horrors of the Holocaust without minimizing it make this a great Holocaust movie. Benigni earned an Oscar for his performance.
  8. "Jakob the Liar," 1999. Robin Williams plays Jakob, a Polish shopkeeper caught outside after curfew; in the German commander’s office, he hears good news on the radio and relays that information to a friend. The news spreads, bringing hope to the residents of the ghetto, who come to believe there is a radio hidden somewhere. Jakob continues to relay good news to keep spirits up and hope alive, although he must make it up, because he does not actually have a forbidden radio.
  9. "Conspiracy," 2001. Conspiracy focuses on the Wannsee Conference, held in January, 1942, where 15 Nazi officials met to plan the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question.” This is a disturbing glimpse into the deliberate planning and coordination of the slaughter of millions of Jews. Kenneth Branagh stars as Reinhard Heydrich, who convened and oversaw the Conference.
  10. "The Pianist," 2002. "The Pianist" is the real-life story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, who survived the Holocaust with protection from a German soldier, for whom he played the piano. This is a great Holocaust movie that brought Adrien Brody an Oscar for his portrayal of Szpilman. 
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