Top 5 Grossing World War II Movies
This Means War
Audiences are attracted to movies about World War II for a variety of reasons. There’s an innate drama in telling stories about war, and World War II is no exception. Also, the fact that Steven Spielberg has made more than one film on the topic definitely hasn’t hurt the genre. Not only is this a list of the highest grossing World War II movies, but it contains some of the most prestigious films the last quarter-century. The films on this list have garnered 14 Oscar wins and 21 additional nominations.
This list is from 1980 through June 2013.
Link to the Full List
- Box Office Mojo
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1. Saving Private Ryan
Saving Private Ryan opened in theaters on July 24, 1998, quickly earning $30 million. No doubt, the combination of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg helped the film generate more than $216 million. It also didn’t hurt that the Academy recognized the film with five Oscars including Cinematography, Editing, Sound Effects Editing, Sound, and Directing. It was also nominated for Best Actor, Makeup, Original Dramatic Score, Original Screenplay, Art Direction, and Picture of the Year. However, the film lost the Best Picture race to Shakespeare in Love.
2. Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, another film featuring Tom Sizemore from Saving Private Ryan, hit the ground running Memorial Day weekend 2001 by taking in just shy of $60 million. The Tiger Beat dream combination of Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett kept it afloat, leading it to earn over $198 million. Pearl Harbor won the 2002 Oscar for Sound Editing and was nominated for Visual Effects, Best Song (“There You’ll Be”), and Sound.
4. Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino’s fictionalized take on World War II, Inglourious Basterds, opened in theaters August 21, 2009 and easily picked up its first $38 million. Christoph Waltz won the Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards for his portrayal of Colonel Hans Landa. The film was honored with an additional 7 nominations for Best Director (Quentin Tarantino), Best Cinematography (Robert Richardson), Best Editing (Sally Menke), Best Sound (Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti, Mark Ulano), Best Sound Editing (Wylie Statesman), Best Original Screenplay (Quentin Tarantino), and Best Picture (Lawrence Bender). Such praises boosted the Basterds to top $120 million during its theatrical run.
3. Captain America: The First Avenger
While many may think of Captain America: The First Avenger as a superhero movie, this origin story primarily takes place during World War II, thus crossing genres. The film was released on July 22, 2011 to a staggering $65 million welcome. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely adapted the screenplay based on the comic books by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Joe Johnston directed the movie, which grossed more than $176 million dollars during its box office run. Chris Evans, as the title character, received a lot of attention to include an MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Hero, and two Teen Choice Awards for Choice Summer Movie Star: Male and Choice Movie: Fight with Hugo Weaving.
4. Schindler’s List
Schindler’s List is the most decorated film out of these five, with seven Academy Awards in Art Direction, Cinematography, Director, Editing, Original Score, Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture. Additionally, it was nominated for: Best Leading Actor (Liam Neeson), Supporting Actor (Ralph Fiennes), Costume Design, Makeup, and Sound. In spite of opening in a mere 25 theaters on December 15, 1993, Schindler’s List managed to earn $656,636 in its first weekend. With a wider release in 1,389 theaters, it increased its revenue to over $96 million. As a point of reference, every other film on this list was presented in at least 2,000 theaters.
Valkyrie was released on Christmas Day 2008. It quickly garnered over $21 million in its opening weekend. The story of Valkyrie is based on an actual assassination attempt on Adolf Hilter. The intriguing storyline and Tom Cruise’s star power may have had something to do with the film grossing $83 million overall.