The 10 best war films on Netflix ranked and rated: Saving Private Ryan to Unbroken

We rank the best war movies available to stream now on Netflix UK, from Netflix Original war films like War Machine to classic Oscar-winning movies including The Pianist.

By Sophia Moir Published: 1 August 2022 - 4.02pm
Netflix Netflix war films Saving Private Ryan

Netflix may be home to all ten episodes of Greatest Events of WWII in Colour, but if you’re on the hunt for a feature film, there are plenty of war movies to stream on the service too.

From Netflix Original films such as War Machine and Munich: The Edge of War, to Oscar-winning movies like Schindler’s List and The Pianist, we rank and review the best war films currently available to watch on Netflix in the UK

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10. War Machine 

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 47%

IMDB score: 6.0

Cast: Brad Pitt, Emory Cohen, RJ Cyler, Topher Grace, Anthony Michael Hall, Anthony Hayes, John Magaro, Scoot McNairy, Will Poulter, Alan Ruck, Lakeith Stanfield, Josh Stewart, Meg Tilly, Tilda Swinton, Sir Ben Kingsley

Inspired by the book The Operators: The Wild & Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan by the late journalist Michael Hastings, War Machine recreates a US General’s rollercoaster rise and fall. At the heart of the film is Brad Pitt’s take on a successful, charismatic general who leapt in like a rock star to command NATO forces in Afghanistan, only to be taken down by a journalist’s no-holds-barred exposé. 

9. Unbroken

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 51%

IMDB score: 7.2

Cast: Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Finn Wittrock, Garrett Hedlund, John Magaro, Alex Russell 

Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand's enormously popular book of the same name, Angelina Jolie directs and produces Unbroken, an epic drama that follows the incredible true story of Olympian and war hero Louis 'Louie' Zamperini (O'Connell). Along with two other crewmen, Zamperini survived in a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash in World War II - only to be caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.  Unbroken brings to the big screen Zamperini's unbelievable and inspiring story about the resilient power of the human spirit.

8. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 64%

IMDB score: 7.7

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Vera Farmiga, Rupert Friend, David Hayman, Henry Kingsmill, Zac Mattoon-O'Brien, Jack Scanlon, David Thewlis 

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is based on the 2006 novel of the same name by John Boyne, and is set in World War II, relating the horror of a Nazi extermination camp through the eyes of two eight-year-old boys. When his family moves from their home in Berlin to a strange new house in Poland, Bruno (Butterfield) befriends Shmuel (Scanlon) who lives on the other side of the fence where everyone seems to be wearing striped pyjamas. Unaware of Shmuel's fate as a Jewish prisoner, or the role his own Nazi father plays in his imprisonment, Bruno embarks on a dangerous journey inside the camp's walls.

7. Black Hawk Down 

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 77%

IMDB score: 7.7

Cast: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, Jason Isaacs, Sam Shepard, Jeremy Piven, Tom Hardy

From acclaimed director Ridley Scott (The Martian), Black Hawk Down is the gripping true story about bravery, camaraderie and the complex reality of war. Based on the 1999 non-fiction book of the same name by journalist Mark Bowden, the war film follows the US military's 1993 raid in Mogadishu. An elite group of American soldiers are sent to Somalia on a critical mission to capture a violent warlord whose corrupt regime has led to the starvation of hundreds of thousands of Somalis. When the mission goes disastrously wrong, the men find themselves outnumbered and literally fighting for their lives.

6. Munich: The Edge of War

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 86%

IMDB score: 6.8

Cast: Jeremy Irons, George MacKay, Jannis Niewöhner

Based on the international bestselling novel by Robert Harris, Munich: The Edge of War is set in Autumn 1938, when Europe stands on the brink of war. Adolf Hitler is preparing to invade Czechoslovakia and Neville Chamberlain's government is desperately seeking a peaceful solution. With the pressure building, British civil servant Hugh Legat (Mackay) and German diplomat Paul von Hartmann (Niewöhner) travel to Munich for the emergency conference. As negotiations begin, the two old friends find themselves at the centre of a web of political subterfuge and in very real danger. With the whole world watching, can war be averted and, if so, at what cost?

5. First They Killed My Father 

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 88%

IMDB score: 7.1

Cast: Sreymoch Sareum, Kompheak Phoeung, Socheta Sveng, Mun Kimhak, Run Malina, Sreyneang Oun, Tep Rindaro 

Another film on the list directed by Angelina Jolie - critics have called it her best work as a director - First They Killed My Father is the film adaptation of Loung Ung’s memoir of the same name. Set in 1975, the film depicts seven-year-old Loung, who is trained as a child soldier while her siblings are sent to labour camps during the Khmer Rouge regime, following the fallout of the Vietnam War. 

4. Inglourious Basterds

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 89%

IMDB score: 8.3

Cast: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, Til Schweiger, Mélanie Laurent

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds is a high-octane World War II revenge fantasy film, following Pitt as Lieutenant Aldo Raine aka The Apache, the battle-hardened officer of an American commando unit known as the Basterds. As war rages in Europe, Raine’s squad is on a daring mission to take down the leaders of the Third Reich. The 2009 film was nominated for a whopping eight Oscars, with Christoph Waltz scooping the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of Hans Landa, an SS colonel in charge of tracking down Raine's group. 

3. Saving Private Ryan 

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 93%

IMDB score: 8.6

Cast: Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, Jeremy Davies, Vin Diesel

Directed by Steven Spielberg, epic war drama Saving Private Ryan is set during the Battle of Normandy - which began with the D-Day landings - during World War II. Captain John Miller (Hanks) takes his men behind enemy lines to find the missing Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have been killed in combat. Surrounded by the brutal realities of war, while searching for Ryan, each man embarks upon a personal journey and discovers their own strength to triumph over an uncertain future. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards following its 1998 release, and scooped five - including Best Director - but lost the Best Picture award to Shakespeare in Love.

2. The Pianist 

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 95%

IMDB score: 8.5

Cast: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Emilia Fox

Based on a true story, The Pianist tells the tale of brilliant Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman (Brody), a Jew, who manages to escape deportation. Forced to live in the heart of the Warsaw ghetto, he shares the humiliation and the struggles of the occupation whilst hiding in the ruins of the capital. The film scooped three Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Adrien Brody and Best Adapted Screenplay.

1. Schindler's List 

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 98%

IMDB score: 9.0

Cast: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagall

Based on a true story originally told by Thomas Keneally in his book Schindler's Ark, Schindler’s List follows businessman Oskar Schindler (Neeson) who arrives in Krakow in 1939, ready to make his fortune from World War II. After joining the Nazi party primarily for political expediency, he staffs his factory with Jewish workers for similarly pragmatic reasons. When the SS begins exterminating Jews in the Krakow ghetto, Schindler arranges to have his workers protected to keep his factory in operation, but soon realises that in doing so, he is also saving innocent lives. Another film on the list directed by Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List received 12 Academy Award nominations following its 1993 release, and won seven, including the prestigious Best Picture award. It has since been named one of the greatest films of all time.