5 essential movies and shows about the battle of Iwo Jima
The Battle of Iwo Jima gave us the most iconic image of WWII and represents the moment when Allied victory over Japan became inevitable. The invasion of February 1945 was brutal and relentless, but the victory gave the United States a staging ground for the coming invasion of Japan.
Joe Rosenthal of The Associated Press took the iconic photo that now represents the entire war in the Pacific. Once we all accept that the image is in fact a re-enactment of the flag raising that took place several hours earlier, we can marvel at its positive emotional impact on a country that had been rocked by the attack. Japanese on Pearl Harbor.
Hollywood primarily let this photo depict the battle, but there are a handful of great productions that feature the Battle of Iwo Jima.
1. The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)
John Wayne won his first Oscar nomination for playing Marine Sgt. John Stryker, a tough guy hated by his men during training. Once he leads them into battle on Tarawa, his men begin to understand that Stryker was determined to teach them the skills they needed to survive and win the war.
Eventually, the unit lands on Iwo Jima and suffers heavy casualties in the battle. Wayne gives us one of his biggest scenes before the survivors witness the raising of the American flag.
“Sands of Iwo Jima” is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Epix. It is also available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.
2. The Pacific (2010)
HBO’s 10-episode series and producer Steven Spielberg “The Pacific” deserves just as much appreciation as “Band of Brothers”. Episode 8, titled “Iwo Jima”, is possibly the best of the whole series. Marine sergeant. John Basilone, who received the Medal of Honor for his role at Guadalcanal, is tired of traveling the United States as a hero selling war bonds.
Basilone returns to Marines training and ends up leading her men into battle at Iwo Jima. Jon Seda’s performance as Basilone is exceptional and pays the Marine the tribute he deserves.
“The Pacific” is available to stream on HBO Max. It is also available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.
3. Flags of our fathers (2006)
Clint Eastwood wrote and directed this film which focuses on the men who raised the flag in the iconic photograph taken after the battle. He based his screenplay on James Bradley’s book. Bradley has long believed his father was one of the men pictured, but evidence emerged in 2016 that this was not the case.
There are many Eastwood films about the aftermath of heroic moments and the impact that fame can have on an individual. “Flags of our fathers” falls squarely into this category. The men who survived the battle and are pictured in the photo have complicated post-war lives, and the director wants us to reflect on what they went through.
“Flags of Our Fathers” is available to stream on HBO Max. It is also available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.
4. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
Only Clint Eastwood could get away with it. When he decided to make “Flags of our Fathers”, the director also wanted to tell the story of Iwo Jima from the Japanese point of view and made this film back to back with his predecessor.
Surprisingly, this Japanese language film with subtitles was a bigger box office hit when it was released a few months after “Flags of Our Fathers”. It also received four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Japanese troops were in bad shape at this point in the war, and Eastwood shows how struggling they were when American forces landed on the island. This makes their resistance even more impressive, and the director wants audiences to recognize their bravery in defeat.
“Letters from Iwo Jima” is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.
5. On the Shores of Iwo Jima (1945)
This Oscar-nominated documentary short was primarily made during battle and was shot in Technicolor, a breathtaking new perspective on warfare for American audiences.
However, it was war and it’s hard to get all the footage you need in the middle of a firefight. The film includes shots recreating the Battle of Thousand Oaks, Calif., But you’d be hard pressed to pick them out in the finished film.
“To the Shores of Iwo Jima” is embedded above. If you want to watch on your TV, it also streams on Amazon Prime and Hoopla.
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