Entertainment

The Best War Movies of the 1940s 

Ranker Film
Updated July 8, 2019 808 votes 204 voters 7.2k views 33 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite war films that were released in the 1940s.

Much of the 1940s was spent putting efforts towards WWII. Even though many men and women were stationed abroad, the "war at home" efforts made by civilians were equally important. Many of the films produced during the decade were little more than propaganda, but some classics managed to sneak through. The best '40s war movies feature a few hilarious comedies and several tragic, heartfelt stories about the European and Pacific Theaters. 

One of Charlie Chaplin’s greatest films (and his first real talkie), The Great Dictator (1940) satirizes Hitler and fascism in a way that anticipates the rest of the decade. Another top war film of the '40s is Casablanca. Created just as America was entering the war, it tells the story of a group of refugees fleeing Europe via Casablanca, as well as the romantic tale of a couple (Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman) torn apart by the war, and brought back together because of it. 

Vote up the best war movies of the '40s, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.

1
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Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre

Released: 1942

Directed by: Michael Curtiz

Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz and based on Murray Burnett and Joan Alison's unproduced stage play Everybody Comes to Rick's. The film stars ...more

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Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie

Released: 1941

Directed by: Howard Hawks

Sergeant York is a 1941 biographical film about the life of Alvin York, one of the most-decorated American soldiers of WWI. It was directed by Howard Hawks and was the highest-grossing film of ...more

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#233 of 292 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry #25 of 379 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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Gregory Peck, Dean Jagger, Richard Anderson

Released: 1949

Directed by: Henry King

Twelve O'Clock High is a 1949 American film about aircrews in the United States Army's Eighth Air Force who flew daylight missions against Nazi Germany and occupied France during the early days ...more

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#61 of 379 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #26 of 221 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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Robert Mitchum, Spencer Tracy, Van Johnson

Released: 1944

Directed by: Mervyn LeRoy

Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo is a 1944 American war film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It is based on the true story of the Doolittle Raid, America's first retaliatory air strike against Japan ...more

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#19 of 221 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #55 of 88 The Best Airplane Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, Fredric March

Released: 1946

Directed by: William Wyler

The Best Years of Our Lives is a 1946 American drama film directed by William Wyler and starring Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, and Harold Russell. The ...more

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#83 of 379 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #41 of 221 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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Humphrey Bogart, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Lawford

Released: 1943

Directed by: Zoltan Korda

Sahara is a 1943 drama war film directed by Zoltán Korda. Humphrey Bogart stars as a U.S. tank commander in Libya during the Western Desert Campaign of World War II. The story is credited ...more

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#152 of 379 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #81 of 221 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time

7
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John Wayne, Donna Reed, Robert Montgomery

Released: 1945

Directed by: Robert Montgomery, John Ford

They Were Expendable is a 1945 American film directed by John Ford and starring Robert Montgomery and John Wayne and featuring Donna Reed. The film is based on the book by William L. White, ...more

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#57 of 80 The Most Patriotic Movies of All Time #30 of 99 The Best John Wayne Movies of All Time, Ranked

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John Wayne, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey

Released: 1949

Directed by: John Ford

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is a 1949 Technicolor Western film directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne. The academy award winning film was the second of Ford's Cavalry trilogy films. With a ...more

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9
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Ricardo Montalbán, James Arness, James Whitmore

Released: 1949

Directed by: William A. Wellman

Battleground is a 1949 American war film that follows a company in the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division as they cope with the Siege of Bastogne during the Battle of the ...more

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#64 of 221 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #60 of 70 The Best Oscar-Nominated Movies of the 1940slisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

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Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Joseph Cotten

Released: 1949

Directed by: Carol Reed

The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir, directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard. It is considered one of the greatest films of all ...more

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Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Billy Gilbert

Released: 1940

Directed by: Charlie Chaplin

The Great Dictator is a 1940 American satirical political comedy-drama film starring, written, produced, scored, and directed by Charlie Chaplin, following the tradition of many of his other ...more

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#199 of 1,009 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films #250 of 1,196 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time #60 of 221 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time

12
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Alfred Hitchcock, George Sanders, Joel McCrea

Released: 1940

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Foreign Correspondent is a 1940 American spy thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It tells the story of an American reporter who tries to expose enemy spies in Britain, a series of events ...more
13
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Robert Mitchum, Burgess Meredith, Wally Cassell

Released: 1945

Directed by: William A. Wellman

The Story of G.I. Joe, also credited in prints as Ernie Pyle's Story of G.I. Joe, is a 1945 American war film directed by William Wellman, starring Burgess Meredith and Robert Mitchum. The film ...more
14
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Anthony Quinn, William Bendix, Richard Jaeckel

Released: 1943

Directed by: Lewis Seiler

Guadalcanal Diary is a 1943 World War II war film directed by Lewis Seiler, featuring Preston Foster, Lloyd Nolan, William Bendix, Richard Conte, Anthony Quinn and the film debut of Richard ...more

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The Way Ahead is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1940s
Donald Wilson added David Niven, William Hartnell, Trevor Howard

Released: 1944

Directed by: Carol Reed

The Way Ahead is a British Second World War drama released in 1944. It stars David Niven and Stanley Holloway and follows a group of civilians who are conscripted into the British Army to fight ...more
16
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Olivia de Havilland, Errol Flynn, Anthony Quinn

Released: 1941

Directed by: Raoul Walsh

This film is a 1941 American western film directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Written by Æneas MacKenzie and Wally Kline, the film is a highly ...more

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#111 of 396 The Best Western Movies Ever Made #13 of 50 The Best 1940s Western Movies

17
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Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock

Released: 1946

Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Notorious is a 1946 American spy thriller film directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains as three people whose lives become intimately ...more

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18
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Lloyd Bridges, Dana Andrews, John Ireland

Released: 1945

Directed by: Lewis Milestone

A Walk in the Sun is a World War II war film released in 1945, based on the novel by Harry Brown, who was a writer for Yank, the Army Weekly based in England. The book was serialized in Liberty ...more
19
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Errol Flynn, Claude Rains, Gilbert Roland

Released: 1940

Directed by: Michael Curtiz

The Sea Hawk is a 1940 American Warner Bros. feature film starring Errol Flynn as an English privateer who defends his nation's interests on the eve of the Spanish Armada. The film was the tenth ...more
20
The Fighting Seabees is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1940s
Donald Wilson added John Wayne, Susan Hayward, William Frawley

Released: 1944

Directed by: Edward Ludwig

The Fighting Seabees is a 1944 war film starring John Wayne and Susan Hayward. The picture portrays a heavily fictionalized account of the dilemma that led to the creation of the U.S. Navy's ...more

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#34 of 99 The Best John Wayne Movies of All Time, Ranked #70 of 304 The Best Military Movies Ever Made

21
In Which We Serve is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1940s
John Mills, Noël Coward, Leslie Howard

Released: 1942

Directed by: Noël Coward, David Lean

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial In Which We Serve is a 1942 British patriotic war film directed by Noël Coward and David Lean. It was made during the Second World War with the assistance of the Ministry of Information. ...more

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#211 of 379 The 50+ Best War Movies Ever Made, Ranked #98 of 221 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time #67 of 70 The Best Oscar-Nominated Movies of the 1940s

22
Task Force is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1940s
Donald Wilson added Gary Cooper, Jane Wyatt, Stanley Ridges

Released: 1949

Directed by: Delmer Daves

Task Force is a war film filmed in black-and-white with some Technicolor sequences about the development of U.S. aircraft carriers from the USS Langley to the USS Franklin. Although Robert ...more
23
Wing and a Prayer is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1940s
Donald Wilson added Don Ameche, Harry Morgan, Dana Andrews

Released: 1944

Directed by: Henry Hathaway

Wing and a Prayer is a black-and-white 1944 war film about the heroic crew of an American carrier in the desperate early days of World War II in the Pacific theater, directed by Henry Hathaway ...more
24
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Spencer Tracy, Walter Brennan, Robert Young

Released: 1940

Directed by: King Vidor

Northwest Passage is a 1940 film in Technicolor, starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Young, Walter Brennan, Ruth Hussey, and others. The picture is based on a novel by Kenneth Roberts titled ...more
25
Corvette K-225 is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best War Movies of the 1940s
Donald Wilson added Cliff Robertson, Randolph Scott, Barry Fitzgerald

Released: 1943

Directed by: Richard Rosson

Corvette K -225 is a 1943 film starring Randolph Scott and Ella Raines. It was released in the UK as The Nelson Touch. Tony Gaudio was nominated for the 1943 Academy Award for Best ...more