The holocaust will forever be a scar on the human experience. The guilt and shame of such an undertaking still permeates the air in countries which saw it firsthand. It's a very heavy feeling, as well it should be. Even today, elderly Nazi monsters are being tracked down and brought to justice. It's easy to look at their white hair, bent frames and wrinkled skin and forget the awesome power some of them held. Their ability to control life and death in such a grotesque fashion.
People don't enjoy thoughts that involve the kind of horrors the Nazis subjected Jews, Gays, Gypsies, etc. to. But it's crucial we don't let those horrors slip too far into the backs of our minds, lest history eventually repeat itself, as it sometimes seems destined to do. I've put together a list of the five best holocaust films. There aren't many out there, but these are all top class. If you haven't seen them - see them soon. There are also quite a few miniseries that you may want to check out as well, such as Holocaust with Meryl Streep, which you will find in the column on the right.
Please note that there are many, many films, old and new that are worthy of your attention, and I have tried to include as many as I could find on this page. Those not directly featured are listed to the right and also in the columns at the bottom of the page, so please scroll down to see the rest of the Holocaust films. If you have something you would like to list, please feel free to email me. Otherwise, these are the best Holocaust films that I've seen so far.
The Pianist (2002)
Adrian Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, directed by Polanski. This is the true story of Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman. Set in Poland, it runs through a number of ridiculous edicts tossed out by the Nazis. It depicts the relocation of Jewish families into the ghettos. It shows the walls closing in a little more every day, until finally there is nothing left. Szpilman's survival was a miracle. The movie is hauntingly beautiful and the acting is phenomenal. Nominated for 7 Oscars and won 3.
Schindler's List (1993)
Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, directed by Spielberg. Another true story, based on the life of Oskar Schindler, a German who was born and raised in Moravia (part of modern-day Czech Republic). A shrewd businessman, he travels to Poland to take advantage of confiscated Jewish property and slave labor. In the process he becomes a very rich man - but he also develops a sense of compassion he never had before and in the end goes completely broke trying to save "his" 1200 Jews from the death camps. If you don't cry by the end of this movie something is wrong with you. Nominated for 12 Oscars, won 7.
Daniel Craig, Live Schreiber. Defiance is an unusual film about the Holocaust, given that it involves an unusual group of brothers who run off into the woods after the Nazis kill their family and neighbors -- and then wind up playing leaders to other Jews who wander into the woods as well. This is a true story and some of it is a bit difficult to watch, but it's "easier" to sit through than, say, Schindler's List. This film is full of love, loss, strength and hope -- one of the few modern Holocaust films worth watching and owning.
Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Rosemary Harris. This film is set in Hungary and shows us three generations of one Jewish family's existence. It shows their humble beginnings, their rise, and their ultimate fall when the Nazis came to power. Even a conversion to Christianity could not save them. Nominated for 3 Golden Globes. Also nominated for 4 EFAs and won 3. The films is quite long and very disturbing at times, but that's what you'd expect from a Holocaust film.
Life is Beautiful (1997)
Roberto Benigni (Italian film). This movie starts out as a playful comedy. It takes place in Italy, where Guido the Italian Jew is doing everything he can to get Dora to fall in love with him. Eventually he succeeds. They marry and have a child named Joshua. When the Germans come, Guido and Joshua are taken away, but Dora (who is not a Jew) is not forced to go. She insists, however, and accompanies her family to the camp. They are separated, of course, but Guido continues to keep his family's hopes up through his antics. Be advised the ending is a bit sad. Nominated for 7 Oscars, won 3.