I’ve seen a lot of movies and documentaries about the Holocaust or with themes related to the Holocaust and totalitarianism. Of the films I’ve seen, these are the thirteen that stayed with me. Please note that these movies have adult themes; they may not be suitable for children or teens.
- American History X (1998): Searing movie about neo-Nazis and the power of hate. Violent scenes for mature audiences only.
- Anne Frank: The Whole Story (2001): Excellent dramatization of Anne Frank’s life, to include the tragic end at Bergen-Belsen.
- For My Father (2008): A movie about Palestinians, Israelis, and suicide bombers, but also a movie about the difficulties of confronting and overcoming prejudice.
- Hotel Rwanda (2004): The genocide in Rwanda, and how one brave man made a difference.
- Judgment at Nuremberg (1961): Powerful indictment of Nazi war criminals after World War II.
- Katyn (2007): A reminder that the Nazis weren’t the only mass murderers in World War II.
- The Last Days (1998): Incredibly moving documentary that explores the fate of Hungarian Jews. Highly recommended.
- Life Is Beautiful (1997): It’s hard to believe that a comedy could be made about the Holocaust. But I think this movie works precisely because the main character is so resourceful and full of life.
- The Lives of Others (2006): Astonishing movie about life under a totalitarian regime (East Germany). A “must see” to understand how people can be controlled and cowed and coerced, but also how some find ways to resist.
- Lore (2012): Movie about a German teenager who has to survive in the chaos of 1945 as the Third Reich comes crashing down. Various small scenes show the hold that Hitler had over the German people, and the reluctance of many Germans to believe that the Holocaust occurred and that Hitler had ordered it.
- Sarah’s Key (2010): Heart-wrenching movie about the roundup of Jews in France, which reminds us that the Nazis had plenty of helpers and collaborators.
- Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005): Inspiring movie about Hans and Sophie Scholl and the White Rose movement in Nazi Germany. The Scholls were college students who took a courageous stand against the Nazis. Executed as traitors in 1943, they are now celebrated as heroes in Germany.
- The Wave (2008): Compelling movie about the allure of fascism and “the Fuhrer (leader) principle.” Highly recommended, especially if you want to know how Hitler got so many young people to follow him.