The best films about the Holocaust aren’t just entertainment. They’re educational, eye-opening and thought-provoking. Most importantly, they insure that any generation that did not personally live through the horrors of World War II understands the importance of the term “never forget.” That’s why Best Choice Reviews went on the hunt for the best movies about the Holocaust.
To create our ranking, we began by using Wikipedia and IMDb to come up with a list of every movie that fit the description of “about the Holocaust.” Because the Holocaust was a global event, we included films made in countries other than the United States and Great Britain, and films made in languages other than English. We then used IMDb’s user rankings to rank our list of Holocaust films by highest rating. The 30 highest-rated Holocaust films as determined by IMDb users are listed below.
1. Schindler’s List
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rightly considered one of the 10 best films of all time, Schindler’s List took home a slew of Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, respectively. The heart-wrenching black-and-white saga recounts the true story of Oskar Schindler, a Polish industrialist who gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce as he witnesses their cruel persecution by the Nazis.
2. Life Is Beautiful
Director: Roberto Benigni
Life Is Beautiful — or La vita e bella in its original Italian — was written by, directed by, and stars the incomparable Roberto Benigni. This all-at-once heartwarming and heartbreaking film tells the story of Guido, a Jewish librarian who uses a mixture of humor and imagination to protect his son from the world around them when the two find themselves victims of the Holocaust. Life Is Beautiful won a number of prestigious international film awards, including Oscars for Best Actor and Best Foreign Language Film.
3. The Pianist
Director: Roman Polanski
Based on Wladyslaw Szpilman’s incredible memoir, The Pianist stars Adrien Brody as a Polish-Jewish musician who struggles to survive the destruction of his culture, his country, and the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. Brody received a Best Actor Oscar at the Academy Awards for his portrayal of Szpilman, while director Roman Polanski was also honored with the award for Best Director.
4. Inglourious Basterds
Director: Quentin Tarantino
While most of the films on our list of the best movies about the Holocaust are realistic looks at the World War II tragedy, Inglourious Basterds is an exception. Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-winning blockbuster is a fantastical look at what might (should?) have been, as it tells the story of a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers who plan to assassinate Hitler at a Nazi film premiere. Little do they know, the owner of the theater has some vengeful plans of her own.
5. War and Remembrance
War and Remembrance is a 1988 miniseries which follows two families — the Henries and the Jastrows — as they navigate the entry of America into World War II. The miniseries was nominated for a number of Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe awards, and even won the latter’s Best Miniseries of Motion Picture Made for Television trophy. War and Remembrance stars Robert Mitchum, Jane Seymour, Ian McShane, and Sharon Stone, to name but a few.
6. The Shop on Main Street
Directors: Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos
The winner of the 1966 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film was The Shop on Main Street, or Obchod na korze. Made only two decades after the end of the war, this film from Czechoslovakia is about a run-of-the-mill carpenter who is appointed by the Nazi invaders as “Aryan controller” of a Jewish widow’s store.
7. Au Revoir, Les Enfants
Director: Louis Malle
Director Louis Malle’s beautiful film, Au Revoir, Les Enfants, takes place at a French boarding school for boys. The school, run by priests, seems like a safe haven from the troubles of World War II, and that is exactly why a certain new student is placed there. Once there, the boy sparks a fierce friendship forged by a dangerous secret. Au Revoir, Les Enfants was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film.
8. Anne Frank: The Whole Story
While there have been many adaptations of Anne Frank’s diary over the years, IMDb rankings rank this 2001 television mini-series as the best of them all. Anne Frank: The Whole Story stars Hannah Taylor Gordon as the iconic Anne, and Sir Ben Kingsley as Anne’s father. The miniseries covers much more than the typical adaptation, beginning just before the official start of the war, and ending with Mr. Frank returning to Amsterdam as the sole survivor of his family.
9. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Director: Mark Herman
Based on the heartbreaking young adult novel by John Boyne, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas stars Asa Butterfield as Bruno, the young son of the commandant at a German concentration camp. When Bruno meets a Jewish boy in the camp, their friendship ends with shocking and unexpected consequences.
10. Black Book
Director: Paul Verhoeven
The Dutch-made Zwartboek, or Black Book as it is known internationally, is about a Jewish singer who infiltrates the Gestapo headquarters in Nazi-occupied Netherlands to spy for the Dutch resistance. Starring Carice van Houten and Sebastian Koch, Black Book was nominated for a slew of prestigious international awards, including a BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language.
Director: Frank Pierson
Starring a cast of brilliant actors, including Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci, Conspiracy reenacts the Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942. At this world-changing conference, a group of Nazi officials met to discuss how the so-called “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” could best be implemented. For his portrayal of Adolf Eichmann, Tucci was awarded a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
12. God on Trial
Director: Andy de Emmony
God on Trial is a thought-provoking television movie that premiered in 2008. Starring Joseph Muir, Josef Altin, and Dominic Cooper, God on Trial tells the story of a group of Jews who are awaiting their inevitable death in one of the worst concentration camps. Frustrated and lonely, they make a rabbinical court to decide whether God has betrayed the Holy Covenant and is therefore responsible for their suffering.
13. The Pawnbroker
Director: Sidney Lumet
The Pawnbroker is an existential classic directed by the legendary Sidney Lumet. The film stars Rod Steiger as Sol Nazerman, a Jewish pawnbroker and victim of Nazi persecution. Sol loses all faith in humanity, but realizes too late the tragedy of his actions. Steiger was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Nazerman, and won Best Foreign Actor at the BAFTA Awards.
14. The Reader
Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes star in this beautiful film based on the novel of the same name by Bernhard Schlink. The Reader takes place in post-World War II Germany, when young law student Michael Berg re-encounters the older woman with whom he had an affair a decade prior. The woman, Hanna, is now on trial for war crimes. The movie was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year at the Academy Awards, and Winslet was awarded the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Hanna.
15. Sophie’s Choice
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Sophie’s Choice stars Meryl Streep as Sophie, a concentration camp survivor who has found a new reason to live thanks to Nathan, an American Jew who happens to be obsessed with the Holocaust. The film, based on the novel by William Styron, is considered one of Streep’s star-making roles. She even won the Best Actress Oscar at the Academy Awards for her portrayal of Sophie.
16. Europa, Europa
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Inspired by the true story of Solomon Perel, Europa, Europa is about a Jewish boy, separated from his parents and considered an orphan. He joins the Hitler Youth in an attempt to conceal his identity. The film was nominated for a number of international awards, and was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.
17. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
Director: Marc Rothemund
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days is another movie about the Holocaust that’s based on a true story. Sophie Scholl – Die Ietzten Tage, as it’s known in its original German recounts the final days of Sophie Scholl, one of the most famous members of the anti-Nazi movement, The White Rose. The film won a number of awards, including the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
18. The Counterfeiters
Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky
The German-made Die Fälscher, or The Counterfeiters, is the story of Operation Bernhard, executed by Germany during World War II and still considered the largest counterfeiting operation in history. The film is adapted from the book by Adolf Burger, and based on the true story.
19. Divided We Fall
Director: Jan Hrebejk
Divided We Fall, known as Musime si pomahat in its native Czech, takes place in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. It tells the story of a Czech couples who agree to hide a Jewish friend at great personal risk to themselves. The film won best picture awards at the Czech Critics Awards and the Czech Lions. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.
20. Sarah’s Key
Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Based on the bestselling novel by Tatiana de Rosnay, Sarah’s Key jumps back and forth between modern-day Paris, and Paris during the infamous Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup of 1942. A journalist finds her life becomes intertwined with a young girl whose family was torn apart by the mass deportation. The film was especially well received in France, where Kristin Scott Thomas was nominated for Best Actress awards at the César Awards, the Globes de Cristal Awards (won), and the Lumiere Awards (won), among others.
21. Son of Saul
Director: László Nemes
The Hungarian film Saul fia, or Son of Saul, takes place over two days in the life of Saul Auslander, an Auschwitz prisoner assigned to working in the crematorium. When Saul comes across the body of a boy he takes to be his son, Saul risks his own life to carry out the impossible: salvage the boy’s body and find a rabbi to bury him. Son of Saul was awarded a whopping 62 awards upon its release, including Best Foreign Language Film awards at both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Ida is a Polish film about a novice nun, Anna, who is preparing to take her vows. When she meets with Wanda, her only living relative, she discovers that she is actually Jewish, and that her family experienced unspeakable tragedy during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Anna sets off to discover the truth about her family and herself. Ida won a slew of awards, including the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
23. Everything is Illuminated
Director: Liev Schreiber
Elijah Wood stars in Everything is Illuminated, which was directed by actor Liev Schreiber and is based on the bestselling novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. The story is about Jonathan, a young Jewish American, who travels to Ukraine and teams up with an eccentric local to track down the woman who saved his grandfather during the Holocaust.
24. Music Box
Music Box stars Jessica Lange as a lawyer who takes on the task of defending her father against accusations of war crimes. But there is far more to her father’s case than she could ever have suspected. Lange was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her role, while director Costa-Gavras took home the award for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival.
25. The Murderers Are Among Us
Director: Wolfgang Staudte
Released less than one year after the official end of World War II, the film Die Mörder sing unter uns, or The Murderers Are Among Us, tells the story of Susanne, a concentration camp survivor who returns to her apartment in Berlin only to find it is now occupied by a former German soldier. When neither is willing to give up the apartment, the two decide to live together and eventually fall in love. All is well until the soldier discovers his cruel former commander, Ferdinand Brückner, is also living in Berlin.
26. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
Director: Vittorio De Sica
The Italian film Il giardino dei Finzi Contini, or The Garden of the Finzi-Continis in English, is the story of the Finzi-Contini family of Ferrara. They’re one of the wealthiest, most influential families in Mussolini’s Italy. They’re also Jewish. It is the late 1930s, and as the international political scene begins to close in around them, the family feels the pressure. Like so many of the movies on our list of the best films about the Holocaust, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis was awarded the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film upon its release.
Director: Edward Zwick
Starring Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Bell, to name a few, Defiance tells the story of the Jewish Bielski brothers. The brothers manage to escape Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe by heading into the Belarussian forest, where they join a group of Russian resistance fighters and begin to build a village where they can protect themselves and about 1,000 other Jewish innocents. Defiance was widely applauded by critics, and its original score was recognized at a number of international awards shows.
Director: Sean Mathias
Bent offers a perspective a little different than most films on our list. While most Holocaust movies focus on the Jewish victims, Bent offers viewers a glimpse of the turmoil faced by homosexuals. The film tells the story of Max, a gay man who is sent to Dachau. Though Max manages to convince the guards to give him the yellow star worn by Jewish prisoners, he falls in love with Horst, who wears his pink star with pride. Bent has an incredibly talented cast, including Mick Jagger, Clive Owen, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Jude Law.
Amen. is the second film on our list directed by Costa-Gavras. Starring Ulrich Tukur and Mathieu Kassovitz, Amen. recounts the story of SS officer Kurt Gerstein, who attempted to inform Pope Pius XII about the mass extermination of Jews in German concentration camps. The film’s screenplay won a prestigious César Award, while Costa-Gavras and Ulrich Tukur were nominated for myriad other international awards.
30. Naked Among Wolves
Director: Philipp Kadelbach
Naked Among Wolves is a German-produced film with the original title of Nackt unter Wölfen. Starring Florian Stetter and Peter Schneider, the film tells the story of a group of emaciated Buchenwald prisoners who, as they hear rumors of Allied armies advancing on the camp, risk their lives to protect a four-year old boy, Buchenwald’s youngest inmate. This film, produced in 2015, is a remake of a 1963 film of the same name.
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