Please note that some of these films may be unsuitable for younger audiences.
#Anne Frank Parallel Stories (2019) Through her diary, Anne Frank’s story is retold alongisde those of five Holocaust survivors in this poignant docuentary fro Oscar winner Hellen Mirren. (Netflix)
1945 (2016, Hungarian) Ferenc Török’s recent film begins on a summer day in 1945, when an Orthodox Jew and his son get off a train in a tiny Hungarian village. This doesn’t bode well for the villagers, who are worried their community’s deported Jews will come back to reclaim the property and possessions stolen from them.Quiet, subtle, and fair, 1945 is a very different kind of film.
The Accountant of Auschwitz (2018) In 2015, 94-year-old former German SS officer Oskar Gröning, nicknamed “The Accountant of Auschwitz”, went on trial in his home country, charged with complicity in the murder of 300,000 Jews at Auschwitz in 1944. The Accountant of Auschwitz is a gripping look at the race against time to prosecute the last living Nazi war criminals before it’s too late. Gröning’s trial reflects not only one frail bookkeeper’s penitence, but the world’s responsibility to hold the worst of human horrors forever to public view. Bringing war criminals to justice, with no statute of limitations, asks fundamental moral questions with few simple answers.
Amen (2002) War drama about newly-commissioned Lieutenant Gerstein (Ulrich Tukur), who witnesses the chemical disinfectant he’s helped perfect being used to systematically murder interred Jews. The only sympathetic ear he is able to find is that of young Father Riccardo (Mathieu Kassovitz), a priest with deep ties to the Vatican. While Riccardo takes on the obstructive Vatican hierarchy, Gerstein must walk a tightrope between documenting and enabling the atrocities his fellow SS officers cold-bloodedly commit. As the two unlikely allies fight to reveal the truth to the Church and the world, they discover that the fates of a man of conscience committing treason for the sake of humanity and a man of God committing heresy to thwart genocide are ultimately the same. (Directed by Costa-Gavras.)
Angry Harvest (1975) In the winter of 1942-43, a Jewish family leaps from a train going through Silesia. They are separated in the woods, and Leon, a local peasant who’s now a farmer of some wealth, discovers a woman, Rosa, and hides her in his cellar. Leon’s a middle-aged Catholic bachelor, tormented by his sexual drive. He doesn’t tell Rosa he’s seen signs her husband is alive, and he begs her to love him. Rosa offers herself to Leon if he’ll help a local Jew in hiding who needs money. Leon pays, and love between Rosa and him does develop, but then Leon’s peasant subservience and his limited empathy lead to tragedy. At the war’s end, a ray of sunshine comes from an unexpected place.
Another Mother’s Son (2017) Based on the true story of Louisa Gould, the drama is set during World War II on the Nazi-occupied island of Jersey. Gould took in an escaped Russian POW and hid hi over the course of the war. A film which brings attention to the little-known story of the Channel Islands’ brutal occupation under the Nazis. ( Prime Video)
Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution (2005) Powerful six-part documentary series from the BBC, which presents an in-depth look at the story of Auschwitz and features interviews with former inmates, guards and re-enactments of historic events. From conception to reality, mass murder, experimentation and ultimately liberation and revenge, the series covers all aspects of this notorious Nazi camp, where more than one million Jews were sent to their deaths.
Au revoir les enfants (1987, French) Director Louis Malle recalls his experiences as a child forever impacted by a friendship that ends in a most horrific way. In 1943 France, upperclass boarding student Julien (Gaspard Manesse) meets, and initially detests, new student Jean (Raphael Fejto). However, the two eventually become good friends, and Julien discovers a secret: Jean is one of several Jewish children the priest running the school is hiding from Nazi police. What unfolds is a beautiful story of friendship that is ripped apart when the Gestapo is tipped off, and Julien unwittingly betrays his friend. The film ends with Malle’s voiceover: “More than 40 years have passed, but I’ll remember every second of that January morning until the day I die.”
The Book Thief (2013) Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson star in this modern classic that has the feel of a movie made decades before its time. Based on the 2005 novel of the same name by Markus Zusak, the story centers around a young girl, Liesel, who finds joy in the throes of the Holocaust by stealing books and reading them to the Jewish refugee being sheltered by her adoptive parents. Its a bittersweet and touching story about adolescence in Nazi Germany, and a moving story of finding humanity in the worst of circumstances.
Conspiracy (2001) This HBO film is a slow gut-punch of a movie that depicts in eerie detail the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942, where senior Nazi officials met to discuss and decide upon the so-called “Final Solution to the Jewish Question.” The film, which is set almost entirely around a dining room table converted into a conference table stars Kenneth Branagh, Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth. As the film develops the attendees at the meeting slowly begin to understand that their various mandates in dealing with Jews in Europe have evolved from deportation and evacuation to annihilation. Several of the meeting’s attendees hold out, but are slowly either conjoled or intimidated into supporting the plan, which they learn is already in action as gas chambers and extermination camps are already being built to annihilate an estimated 11 million Jews, including Russian Jews.
The Counterfeiters (2007) The story of the Operation Bernhard, the largest counterfeiting operation in history, carried out by Germany during WWII.
Defiance (2008) Directed by Edward Zwick, Defiance tells the true-life story of the Bielski partisans, a group led by Belarusian Jewish brothers, who saved and recruited Jews in Belarus during the Second World War. The film stars Daniel Craig as Tuvia Bielski, Liev Schreiber as Zus Bielski, Jamie Bell as Asael Bielski, and George MacKay as Aron Bielski.
Denial (2016) Gripping courtroom drama based on the real-life trial in which American academic Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) was sued by British author David Irving (Timothy Spall) after she described him as a ‘Holocaust denier’. During the trial, Irving maintained no Jews were murdered by gassing at Auschwitz. It was a tension-filled case watched by the world’s media that ultimately vindicated Lipstadt and left Irving’s reputation in tatters as a falsifier of history. The stellar cast also includes Andrew Scott as solicitor Anthony Julius and Tom Wilkinson as barrister Richard Rampton.
The Devil’s Arithmetic (1999) Hannah Stern, played by Kirsten Dunst, is a young Jewish girl living in the United States in the late 20th century. On Passover eve, she is bored with the Seder and at one point complains she’s tired of remembering. When she opens the door for the prophet Elijah, she finds herself in Poland in 1942. Deported to a concentration camp and in the face of near-impossible odds, Hannah calls on all her inner resources – including hope and friendship – to survive. Based on a novel by Jane Yolen, the film was directed by Donna Deitch.
Enemies: A Love Story (1989) “Enemies: A Love Story” is a love quadrangle – one in which the four participants are Polish Holocaust survivors living in New York in 1949 trying to rebuild their lives. Based on the Isaac Bashevis Singer novel of the same name and directed by Paul Mazursky, the movie is elevated by the late Ron Silver’s brilliant lead performance. While it’s hard to imagine a Holocaust film being simultaneously funny, sexy, thought-provoking and tragic, this one actually pulls it off.
Escape from Sobibor (1987) German death camp in Sobibor, Poland, killed two hundred fifty thousand Jews. It had the most successful prisoner escape in World War II on October 14, 1943.
Europa Europa (1990, German) This drama was based on the true story of a young German Jew who survived the Holocaust by falling in with the Nazis. Solomon Perel (Marco Hofschneider) is the son of a Jewish shoe salesman coming of age in Germany during the rise of Adolf Hitler. In 1938, a group of Nazis attack Solomon’s family home; his sister is killed, and 13-year-old Solomon flees to Poland. Solomon winds up in an orphanage operated by Stalinist forces; when German forces storm Poland, Solomon’s fluent German allows him to join the Nazis as a translator, posing as Josef Peters, an ethnic German. In time, “Peters” is made a member of the elite Hitler Youth, but since Solomon is circumcised, he can be easily revealed as a Jew, and he lives in constant fear that his secret will be discovered. Solomon’s close calls include an attempted seduction by Robert Kellerman (André Wilms), a homosexual officer, and his relationship with Leni (Julie Delpy), a beautiful but violently antisemitic woman who wants to bear his child for the glory of the master race. Europa, Europa (shown in Europe as Hitlerjunge Salomon) also features the real Solomon Perel, who appears briefly as himself.
The Final Solution: The Wannsee Conference (1984) At the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942, senior Nazi officials meet to determine the manner in which the so-called “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” can be best implemented.
Fugitive Pieces (2007) “Fugitive Pieces” is a drama directed by Jeremy Podeswa, adapted from the award-winning novel of the same name written by Anne Michaels. It tells the story of Jakob Beer, orphaned in Poland during World War II and saved by a Greek archaeologist. Starring Nina Dobrev and Stephen Dillane, the film premiered September 6, 2007, as the opening film of that year’s Toronto Film Festival. This beautifully portrayed quest for liberation from haunting memories and loss and for love and redemption spans three continents and three generations. Particularly moving is the portrayal of the bond established between the boy and his rescuer, who are very different kinds of refugees, and the historical metaphors that help ground them in the world of the living.
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970) The classic Italian drama based on the book by Giorgio Bassani, focuses on the intellectual Finzi-Contini family, Jewish aristocrats who live on an idyllic estate in Ferrara. Largely sheltered from the growing antisemitism in the country, everyone in the orbit of the family is eventually affected by the rise of Fascism.
God on Trial (1986) Awaiting their inevitable deaths at one of the worst concentration camps, a group of Jews make a rabbinical court to decide whether God has gone against the Holy Covenant and if He is the one guilty for their suffering.
The Grey Zone (2001) A Nazi doctor, along with the Sonderkommando, Jews who are forced to work in the crematoria of Auschwitz against their fellow Jews, find themselves in a moral grey zone.
Ida (2013, Polish) Winner of the 2015 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Polish filmmaker Paweł Pawlikowski’s masterpiece Ida ranks as one of the greatest Holocaust—or otherwise—films of all time. Ida, which takes place in 1962, is the story of Ida, an orphan raised by nuns, who learns that she is, in fact, a Jew. Together with her aunt, her only remaining relative, Ida searches for the truth about her past, leading her, in lush, gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, to realizations better left buried.
In Darkness (2012) Agnieszka Holland’s “In Darkness,” inspired by the real exploits of a Polish sewer worker and sometime burglar named Leopold Socha, who helped Jews during the Nazi occupation of Lvov (now Lviv, in Ukraine), provides the latest evidence that the Holocaust movie has become a genre in its own right. Even a true story can follow the familiar conventions of film narrative, and this tale of a righteous gentile selflessly assisting in the survival of a handful of persecuted Jews is no exception.
Jacob the Liar (1974) The screenplay for this wartime tragi-comedy was written by Jurek Becker, a Jewish survivor of the concentration camps and the Warsaw Ghetto. When he could not get the script produced, he transformed it into a worldwide best-selling novel. This movie was produced about ten years after the screenplay was originally written. The story concerns a ghetto character, Jacob (Vlastimil Brodsky) who tells the others huddled there that the Russians are winning the war against the Germans and are advancing on Warsaw. How does he know? He says he has a radio hidden away, which, if true, could earn him immediate execution. In fact, there is no such radio, and his prediction (for such it is) is years ahead of events. When the Germans begin executing residents and shipping the rest to concentration camps, his lie is shown for what it is. Indeed, his best friend commits suicide as soon as he learns the truth. However, for a little while, Jacob the Liar kept hope alive in a hopeless situation.
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) Retired American Judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy) oversees the trial of four Nazi judges for war crimes, and endeavors to understand how a peer, renowned Judge Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster), could have unfairly sentenced so many people, and how the German people could have ignored what was happening around them. The defendants argue that they were patriots, following the laws of their land as they were sworn to do. Friends and family of the judges’ victims offer heart-wrenching testimony on the injustices these men of law inflicted (Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift give superb performances). Released just 16 years after the end of the war and loosely based on a real tribunal, “Judgment” is a thought-provoking and sober commentary . Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, it won for screenplay and Best Actor for Maximilian Schell (who played the defense counsel).
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (2013) This fantastic 38-minute film won best short documentary at the 2014 Academy Awards. The film’s subject, Alice (who at the time of its release was the world’s oldest living holocaust survivor) was born on November 26, 1903 into an upper-class Jewish family steeped in literature and classical music. In 1943, however, Alice and her husband, their 6-year old son Raphael (Rafi), and Alice’s mother were loaded on the transport to Theresienstadt, a fortress town some 30 miles from Prague which was touted by Nazi propaganda as the model ghetto — “The Fuhrer’s gift to the Jews,” with its own orchestra, theater group and even soccer teams. Throughout the film, Alice, a concert pianist, describes how her optimism and music pushed her to survive the horrors of the holocaust. Alice died in London on February 23 at the age of 110 one week before the documentary won the Oscar.
Life Is Beautiful (1997) What begins as an idyllic love story between Jewish Italians Guido (Roberto Benigni, who also directed) and Dora (Nicoletta Braschi) turns into a nightmare when they and their son are sent to concentration camps. Guido’s love of life inspires him to comfort his son with games and humor to distract from the horrors of their situation and from their separation from his mother. The film has received criticism for its comedic elements in regards to the Holocaust; however, most have been won over with Benigni’s portrayal of paternal love and human dignity. It became one of the most successful non-English films of all time, winning numerous awards, including three from the Academy ( Best Foreign Language Film, Best Music,- Original Dramatic Score, and Best Actor for Benigni).
The Long Way Home (1997) At the end of World War II, Holocaust survivors are freed from Nazi internment camps. For many of them, the joy quickly turns to despair, as most have no families and nowhere to go. Because of quotas imposed by the British, thousands are unable to legally immigrate to Palestine. Many are put into displaced persons camps to await relocation. Meanwhile, the world powers work toward the creation of Israel as a homeland for all Jews. Morgan Freeman narrates this moving documentary.
Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story (1989) A biographical portrayal of Simon Wiesenthal, famous Nazi Hunter. From his imprisonment in a Nazi Concentration Camp, the film follows his liberation and his rise to become one of the leading Nazi hunters in the world, bringing such criminals to justice as Adolf Eichmann and Klaus Barbie.
Night and Fog (1956, French) Ten years after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, filmmaker Alain Resnais documented the abandoned grounds of Auschwitz and Majdanek in Night and Fog (Nuit et brouillard), one of the first cinematic reflections on the Holocaust. Juxtaposing the stillness of the abandoned camps’ empty buildings with haunting wartime footage, Resnais investigates humanity’s capacity for violence, and presents the devastating suggestion that such horrors could occur again.
Numbered (2012) Some thousands still survive of the roughly 400,000 people tattooed with serial numbers in Auschwitz and its sub-camps. The documentary “Numbered,” directed by Dana Doron and Uriel Sinai, explores the numbers’ meaning to their bearers, their families and communities. They are marks of shame for some, badges of honor for others – and for yet others? One woman relates how her family uses her father’s Auschwitz number in their lives – it’s the code for their house alarm, bank account and Internet. When her father passed away, she had his number tattooed on her ankle, with unforeseen results. A young man made a similar effort to preserve his family’s Holocaust legacy. “This is our connection,” he says, posing for a photo with his elderly grandfather – each man holding out an arm with the identical number etched onto it. “I don’t want it to fade.”
Operation Finale (2018) Thrilling drama from director Chris Weitz retelling the true-life story of Mossad agent Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) and his team, who covertly hunted down and captured Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), while hiding in Argentina. Operation Finale shows Eichmann’s subsequent arrest and trial in Israel in 1961, where he was ultimately executed for his crimes.
The Pawnbroker (1964) On the strength of Rod Steiger’s earthshaking performance, this Sidney Lumet tour-de-force was the first American film to depict the horrors of the Holocaust as they manifested after the war was over—and still remains perhaps the greatest. Steiger is Sol Nazerman, a former university professor who survived the camps after losing his two children and wife. Years later, Nazerman owns and runs a pawn shop in Harlem, where he has become an abject misanthrope, emotionally numb and ruthlessly unsympathetic—until, finally, he snaps. In the annals of survivor depictions, nothing touches Steiger’s grandest achievement.
Phoenix (2014, German) German filmmaker Christian Petzold’s modern film noir is an undertaking of breathless beauty and duplicity. Starring Nina Hoss as Nelly, a survivor rendered unrecognizable after facial reconstruction surgery, Phoenix is the story of Nelly’s search for her husband, a lout who may have been the one who betrayed her to the Nazis. Petzold indulges in some of the genre’s well-trod tropes, but his attention to Nelly’s psychology, a survivor plopped back into a world that he would prefer to ignore than remember, is more than commendable. And the ending simply devastates.
The Pianist (2002) This powerful biographical drama directed by Roman Polanski is based on the Holocaust memoir of Polish-Jewish pianist and composer Władysław Szpilman (played by Adrien Brody). Nominated for seven Oscars, The Pianist picked up three for best director, best adapted screenplay (Ronald Harwood) and best actor, as well as the Palme d’Or at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.
Playing for Time (1980) Female prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp (Auschwitz) are spared from death in return for performing music for their captors. Based on the true story of Fanya Fenelon
Red Trees (2017) Award-winning director Marina Willer’s father was among 12 Jewish families to survive the Nazi occupation of Prague during the Second World War. In Red Trees, she traces the perilous journey taken by the family, as told through the voice of her father, Alfred (narrated by Tim Pigott-Smith), from war-torn Eastern Europe to the solace of South America. The visually-stunning film features footage shot by Academy Award nominee César Charlone (City of God).
The Resistance Banker (2018) Chosen as Netherland’s entry for next year’s Oscars, The Resistance Banker shows the audacious actions of Walraven van Hall and his brother, Gijsbert, members of a prominent banking family, who for three years bankrolled the Dutch resistance. Together, they stole $250million from Nazi-controlled coffers and borrowed an additional $250m from other bankers to carry out attacks, smuggle Allied pilots to safety and provide financial support to at least 8,000 Jews in hiding during the Second World War. The bravery of van Hall, who was recognised as a Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in 1978, is powerfully told.
Riphagen (2016) The story of Dries Riphagen, a Dutch gangster and Nazi collaborator who helped the Nazis round up Jews, stealing their treasures for hinself. He destroyed Resistance groups. (Netflix)
Secret Lives: Hidden Children and their Rescuers in World War II (2002) This superb, thought-provoking documentary by Aviva Slesin avoids much of the usual idealization surrounding Holocaust rescue. Based on interviews with Jewish children like herself who were saved by Christians, it reveals that even decades after the war, these survivors continue to harbor feelings of resentment toward parents who gave them away and feelings of guilt for severing ties with those who risked all to save them. In one particularly shattering scene, a survivor reunites with his rescuer after many years and discovers the closet where he hid for months still in its original place. In another, children of Dutch rescuers confess feeling angry at their parents for risking their lives to save those of other children not their own.
Schindler’s List (1993) One of the greatest Holocaust films of all time and recipient of seven Academy Awards, Steven Spielberg’s sweeping epic Schindler’s List follows the real-life story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German businessman who saved the lives of more than 1,000 mostly Polish Jews by employing them in his factories during the Second World War. The stellar cast includes Ralph Fiennes as sadistic SS officer Amon Goeth and Ben Kingsley as Schindler’s Jewish accountant.
Secret Diary of the Holocaust (2009) Documentary telling the tale of a 14-year old Polish girl–Rutka Laskier, who was murdered at Auschwitz in 1943 and whose diary was found under the flooroards of her hoe in 2005. (Prime Video).
Shoah (1985) Director Claude Lanzmann spent eleven years on this sprawling documentary about the Holocaust, conducting his own interviews and refusing to use a single frame of archival footage. Dividing Holocaust witnesses into three categories — survivors, bystanders and perpetrators — Lanzmann presents testimonies from survivors of the Chelmno concentration camp, an Auschwitz escapee and witnesses of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, as well as a chilling report of gas chambers from an SS officer at Treblinka.
Son of Saul (2015, Hungarian) Nothing will be the same after Son of Saul. Hungarian director László Nemes’ debut, the film is a day in the life of Saul Ausländer, a member of the Sonderkommando — a unit of Jews forced to aid in the killing of other Jews — at Auschwitz. Shot mostly over-the-shoulder, or in very-blurry close-up, the film depicts the mundane horrors of Ausländer’s work — salvaging valuables, removing corpses from the gas chambers and scrubbing the floors — with an unflinching chill. Even without the exceptional work of Géza Röhrig as Saul, a first-time actor and poet, this winner of the 2015 Best Foreign Language Film film would be formidable.
Sophie’s Choice (1982) In 1947 Brooklyn, Stingo (Peter MacNicol) shares many happy times with neighbors Sophie (Meryl Streep) and her manic lover Nathan (Kevin Kline), but struggles to understand why Sophie stays with Nathan despite his abuse and jealous rages. Sophie, a Polish immigrant, recounts the circumstances that landed her in Auschwitz, where she is forced to make a brutal decision and to do unthinkable things to protect her children. Possibly Streep’s greatest performance, she won her second Academy Award (her first as Best Actress) for her poignant betrayal of the haunted Sophie.
Sunshine (1999) The fate of a Hungarian Jewish family throughout the 20th century. Director: István Szabó | Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Rosemary Harris, Rachel Weisz, Jennifer Ehle.
Train of Life (1998, French) Released a year after Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, this French film approaches the Holocaust in much the same way: as a cocktail of slapstick and tragedy. Whereas Benigni’s film controversially suggests that optimism trumps Nazism, director Radu Mihaileanu’s Train of Life treats the fictional, hilarious tale of an entire shtetl ’s escape from Europe as exactly what it has to be: a complete, utter, devastating farce.
Two Women (1960) A war drama film directed by Vittorio De Sica from a screenplay by Cesare Zavattini and De Sica, based on the novel of the same name by Alberto Moravia. The film stars Sophia Loren, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Eleonora Brown and Raf Vallone. It tells the story of a woman trying to protect her young daughter from the horrors of war. The story is fictional, but based on actual events of 1944 in Rome and rural Lazio, during what Italians call the Marocchinate.Loren’s performance received critical acclaim, earning her an Academy Award for Best Actress, among other accolades.
The Wall (1982) A dramatic re-enactment of the Warsaw Ghetto Jewish uprising in April 1943 where 650 armed members of the Jewish Fighting Organization of Poland held off a 3,000 strong Nazi force in which only a handful of Jews survived. Tom Conti plays Dolek Berson, a Jewish smuggler who joins the resistance movement and is aided on the Aryan side of the wall by a former teacher named Regina Kowalski played by Rachel Roberts in her final role.
Who Will Write Our History (2018) In November 1940, days after the Nazis sealed 450,000 Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, a secret band of journalists, scholars and community leaders decides to fight back. Led by historian Emanuel Ringelblum and known by the code name Oyneg Shabes, this clandestine group vows to defeat Nazi lies and propaganda, not with guns or fists but with pen and paper.
The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017) This biopic recounts the efforts of Dr. Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh), the director to the Warsaw Zoo, and his wife Antonina (Jessica Chastain), to hide Jews during the German invasion, and then occupation, of Poland during WWII. As the couple risk their lives to hide refugees in the zoo’s many tunnels and cages, the Zabinskis must also hold Dr. Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl), a former zoo rival and now a member of the Nazi regime, at bay. The film depicts the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto, the horrors humanitarians like Jan were forced to not only witness but also to participate in and the devastation that the occupation left in its aftermath. The Zabinskis’ travails saved 300 Jews from certain death.