The Timeline of World War II (Month by Month) Told With Scenes Made from Dozens of WWII Movies

We all learned a bit about the Sec­ond World War in school, or per­haps more than a bit. But for a great many of us, what we know of that peri­od of his­to­ry comes less from teach­ers and text­books than it does from movies. World War II as a cin­e­mat­ic genre has exist­ed since the ear­ly years of World War II itself, and at this point it has pro­duced so many films that not even the most avid his­tor­i­cal­ly-mind­ed cinephile could watch them all. Many such pic­tures, of course, take enor­mous lib­er­ties with their source mate­r­i­al. But if you con­cen­trate on just the most accu­rate parts of the most acclaimed movies about World War II, you can piece togeth­er a rea­son­ably truth­ful por­tray­al of its events.

Such is the premise, at any rate, of the video above, “Time­line of WW2 in Films.” Cre­at­ed by Youtu­ber Salokin, it arranges clips from dozens of films released over the past half-cen­tu­ry — Pat­ton, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Bat­tle of BritainDunkirk — in his­tor­i­cal order.

Open­ing with footage from Roman Polan­ski’s The Pianist refer­ring to the inva­sion of Poland in Sep­tem­ber 1939, it goes on to cov­er that year by draw­ing from the depic­tion of Sovi­et-Japan­ese bor­der con­flicts like the Bat­tles of Khalkhin Go and Nomon­han in Kang Je-gyu’s My Way, then from the depic­tion of the tit­u­lar fights on the Kare­lian Isth­mus in Pekka Parikka’s The Win­ter War.

As Kore­an and Finnish pro­duc­tions, respec­tive­ly, My Way and The Win­ter War offer per­spec­tives on World War II dif­fer­ent from the Amer­i­can one tak­en by Hol­ly­wood movies — Hol­ly­wood hav­ing once been the only motion-pic­ture indus­try with the resources to re-cre­ate the war in a con­vinc­ing man­ner. But the devel­op­ment of glob­al film pro­duc­tion in recent decades has also giv­en rise to wide­ly seen World War II movies from coun­tries like Aus­tralia, Ger­many, Den­mark, and Rus­sia, to name a few coun­tries whose films appear in this video. Not all of them agree per­fect­ly with his­to­ry as taught in the Unit­ed States, but then, Amer­i­can World War II movie enthu­si­asts have unre­solv­able con­flicts of their own: do you pre­fer Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan, for instance, or The Thin Red Line?

Relat­ed con­tent:

Inno­v­a­tive Film Visu­al­izes the Destruc­tion of World War II: Now Avail­able in 7 Lan­guages

Watch World War II Rage Across Europe in a 7 Minute Time-Lapse Film: Every Day From 1939 to 1945

Watch Footage of the Allies Rolling Through a Defeat­ed Ger­man Town in April, 1945: Restored & Col­orized with AI

Time Trav­el Back to Tokyo After World War II, and See the City in Remark­ably High-Qual­i­ty 1940s Video

Jean-Luc Godard’s Breath­less: How World War II Changed Cin­e­ma & Helped Cre­ate the French New Wave

Quentin Tarantino’s World War II Read­ing List

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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