On June 6, 1944, 74 years ago today, the Allies invaded Nazi-occupied France, landing on the beaches of Normandy in the largest seaborne invasion in history. There were around 156,000 Allied troops in Normandy, with 73,000 of them Americans. It is estimated that over 10,000 Allied troops died, while between 4,000 and 9,000 Nazi troops were killed.
While we salute the brave men and women who laid down their lives for our freedom, let’s take a seat and enjoy some of the most influential films and mini-series to have come from that historic event. Here is your top 10 must-watch list that captures the heart of our country and the strength of our resolve.
Band of Brothers (2001)
This series, originally broadcast on HBO, tells the story of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army. Based on interviews with survivors of Easy Company, as well as soldiers’ journals and letters, this 10-part series chronicles the experiences of these young men who knew extraordinary bravery and extraordinary fear. Based on the book written by Stephen Ambrose.
The Longest Day (1962)
In 1944, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower makes the momentous decision that the combined Allied invasion of Europe will take place on the 6th of June. The decision proves to be strategically wise: the German High Command, assuming the invasion will not take place during the current inclement weather, is caught unawares; Panzer divisions are awaiting the attack at Dover, the Luftwaffe is scattered, and Hitler himself has taken a sleeping pill and left orders that he is not to be disturbed. Allied sources alert the French Resistance, who cut telegraph wires and blow up ammunition trains. Dummy parachute figures are dropped to confuse the Germans. Airborne glider infantry are landed near the key site of the Orne River Bridge. Then, at dawn, the full Allied might is unleashed as 150,000 troops, backed up by 5,000 transport and fighter vessels, storm the three major Normandy beachheads of Juno, Omaha, and Utah. Although a division of paratroopers is slaughtered when they overshoot their mark, French commandos capture the seaside town of Oistreham and American Rangers successfully scale the supposedly-impregnable cliffs of Point-du-Hoc. It is at Omaha Beach that the assault falters; held back by a seemingly impregnable cement wall, the troops are unable to advance. But Brigadier General Cota rallies his men, urges Sergeant Fuller to place a dynamite charge, and blasts a clear path from the beach. With the coming of nightfall, the Allies are firmly entrenched on European soil.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) takes his men behind enemy lines to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have been killed in combat. Surrounded by the brutal realities of war, while searching for Ryan, each man embarks upon a personal journey and discovers their own strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honor, decency, and courage.
In May 1940, Germany advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, troops were slowly and methodically evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. At the end of this heroic mission, 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated.
Eye of the Needle (1981)
A ruthless German spy who goes by the name of Henry Faber (Donald Sutherland) is on his way back home from England after gathering information about the D-Day invasion for Hitler. Henry, who is actually the “Needle,” a name that refers to his favorite method of killing, becomes stranded on Storm Island with Lucy (Kate Nelligan) and her husband, David (Christopher Cazenove). Lucy’s strained relationship with her disabled husband leaves her vulnerable to Henry’s charms.
IKE Countdown to D-Day(2004)
A depiction of the tense 90 days leading up to the D-Day invasion and how Dwight Eisenhower, against all odds, brilliantly orchestrated the most important military maneuver in modern history.
In April 1945, the Allies are making their final push in the European theater. A battle-hardened Army sergeant named Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt), leading a Sherman tank and a five-man crew, undertakes a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Hopelessly outnumbered, outgunned and saddled with an inexperienced soldier (Logan Lerman) in their midst, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds as they move to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.
Biography of controversial World War II hero General George S. Patton. The film covers his wartime activities and accomplishments, beginning with his entry into the North African campaign and ending with his removal from command after his outspoken criticism of US post-war military strategy.
Where Eagles Dare (1968)
A crack team of Allied soldiers stages a daring rescue during World War II. A U.S. general is being held captive in an imposing castle fort, high in the Bavarian Alps. The audacious plan calls for Lt. Schaffer (Clint Eastwood), Maj. Smith (Richard Burton) and other operatives to parachute down wearing Nazi disguises. They’ll penetrate the mountain outpost while undercover operatives assist them from within. But their mission changes when they discover that there’s a traitor in their midst.
Schindler’s List (1993)
Businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) arrives in Krakow in 1939, ready to make his fortune from World War II, which has just started. After joining the Nazi party primarily for political expediency, he staffs his factory with Jewish workers for similarly pragmatic reasons. When the SS begins exterminating Jews in the Krakow ghetto, Schindler arranges to have his workers protected to keep his factory in operation, but soon realizes that in so doing, he is also saving innocent lives.
Be sure to follow our must-watch list this D-Day and never forget the brave men and women who fought for our freedom.