Of the various disagreeable issues related to warfare, the expertise of being a prisoner of warfare must rank among the many least fascinating, for apparent causes. Survivor testimonies from being in jail camps the place enemy combatants are the wardens/captors are at all times harrowing to learn, and although sure jail camps have probably been worse than others, none have circumstances one would ever wish to expertise for themselves.

Varied warfare films take care of being captured and imprisoned by an enemy power throughout warfare. Nearly all of these prisoner-of-war films revolve round World Struggle II, and infrequently different Twentieth-century conflicts, like World Struggle I and the Vietnam Struggle. Some give attention to survival, whereas others are centered round escape, and are typically primarily based on true occasions/individuals or, on the very least, impressed by real-world occasions. Among the greatest of those movies are ranked under, starting with the superb and ending with the best.

15 ‘Lacking in Motion’ (1984)

Director: Joseph Zito

Missing in Action - 1984
Picture by way of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Lacking in Motion is strictly what you’d anticipate an motion/warfare film starring Chuck Norris to be, for higher or worse. Norris performs a person who escaped from a prisoner of warfare camp again throughout the Vietnam Struggle, and, 10 years later, is requested to return there to rescue some U.S. troopers who’re nonetheless being held captive. Basically, it scratches the identical itch as a sequel to First Blood, besides it’s in all probability much more over-the-top (and, to be honest, was launched earlier).

Those that desire a considerate have a look at what it’s prefer to be held captive throughout wartime gained’t discover it with Lacking in Motion, however anybody after motion and Chuck Norris being Chuck Norris may discover it price a watch. Additionally, just like the Rambo collection, Lacking in Motion has its justifiable share of installments/sequels, with the collection ending up as a trilogy.

Lease on Apple TV

14 ‘Empire of the Solar’ (1987)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Christian Bale saluting in Empire of the Sun
Picture by way of Warner Bros. Footage

Most warfare films give attention to grownup characters, and thereby, it checks out that almost all of prisoner of warfare films additionally give attention to adults, particularly owing to the truth that (typically) troopers are of grownup age. However Empire of the Solar stands out on this regard, largely following Japan’s invasion of Shanghai and subsequent imprisonment of foreigners by means of the eyes of a kid (performed by a younger Christian Bale).

It is certainly one of many Steven Spielberg films to depict a real-life historic occasion, with the semi-autobiographical story right here (primarily based on the experiences of author J.G. Ballard) feeling genuine and even brutally sincere at occasions. It depicts an already harrowing and intense survival story that’s made to really feel all of the extra harsh as a result of it includes a youngster on the heart of all of it, which all provides as much as make Empire of the Solar a strong watch.

Empire of the Solar

Launch Date
December 11, 1987


Fundamental Style

Lease on Apple TV

13 ‘Land of Mine’ (2015)

Director: Martin Zandvliet

Land of Mine - 2015
Picture by way of Nordisk Movie

Land of Mine presents the daunting actuality that even as soon as a warfare is formally over, and the preventing is alleged to have ceased, the horrors of the state of affairs don’t instantly go away for everybody. Motion pictures like 1948’s Bicycle Thieves and another Italian Neorealist movies present the results of warfare’s aftermath on civilians, however Land of Mine opts to take a special method, following a bunch of younger German troopers shortly after their nation’s give up in Might 1945.

These troopers/prisoners are assigned an extremely harmful activity by Danish authorities: they’re to take away numerous mines from the shores of Denmark that had been planted there earlier within the warfare by German forces. Land of Mine is a crucial movie in displaying how the horrors of warfare proceed after wars are technically over, in addition to for being a particularly intense and harrowing expertise to look at, owing to all of the scenes of dangerous mine defusing.

Watch on Starz

12 ‘Rescue Daybreak’ (2006)

Director: Werner Herzog

Steve Zahn and Christian Bale in 'Rescue Dawn', wounded and unkempt
Picture by way of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Werner Herzog has advised the story of naval aviator Dieter Dengler twice in his filmmaking profession. The primary time was by means of a wonderful and intensely private 1997 documentary known as Little Dieter Must Fly, with the second time coming virtually a decade later. This time, it was a function movie known as Rescue Daybreak, starring Christian Bale within the lead function and presenting a extra cinematic/dramatic retelling of Dengler’s life.

Rescue Daybreak is especially targeted on Dengler’s experiences throughout the Vietnam Struggle, predominantly what occurred when his airplane was shot down. He was imprisoned and tortured for half a yr, after which mounted a daring escape try from the jail camp, in the end being on the run alone within the jungle for a number of weeks. Herzog’s must-see movie is a grueling and intense watch, however undoubtedly a compelling one which solidly retells an unbelievable true story.

Rescue Daybreak

Launch Date
September 9, 2006

Werner Herzog


Lease on Apple TV

11 ‘Stalag 17’ (1953)

Director: Billy Wilder

Robert Strauss, William Holden and Harvey Lembeck in Stalag 17
Picture by way of Paramount Footage

One among many nice films directed by Billy Wilder throughout the Fifties, Stalag 17 sees him bringing his humorousness to a style that doesn’t usually cross over with comedy: the prisoner of warfare film. It takes place throughout the finish of 1944, with its important characters being a bunch of American troopers being held captive in a big German prisoner camp.

Its premise and use of humor may make viewers consider the TV collection Hogan’s Heroes, and Stalag 17 may also scratch the same warfare/dramedy itch to M*A*S*H. Wilder’s film is extraordinarily properly written and makes use of its confined premise properly, balancing some comedy with the extra critical components inherent to the warfare style to nice impact, with Stalag 17 general feeling like a film of the ‘50s that’s held up fairly properly.

Watch on Tubi

10 ‘Tropic Thunder’ (2008)

Director: Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller in Tropic Thunder
Picture by way of DreamWorks Footage/Paramount Footage

Being much more broadly comedic than Stalag 17, Tropic Thunder is one thing of a warfare film with sure scenes that kind of happen in a jail camp… or a minimum of that’s what some characters assume. The movie has a singular premise that enables it to parody warfare and prisoner-of-war films, with actors making what they assume is a warfare film, but discovering themselves at risk from heavily-armed criminals.

It is all very foolish and pushes issues far in terms of its satire, however although Tropic Thunder might offend, nearly all of the humor is focused on the U.S. movie trade, its shallowness, and the lengths actors will go to for purported glory. It’s extra of a comedy than a conventional warfare movie, however takes the tropes related to the latter and deconstructs/does uncommon issues with them, making for one blast of a film.

9 ‘Jap Condors’ (1987)

Director: Sammo Hung

Eastern Condors - 1987
Picture by way of Golden Harvest

It’s laborious not to consider The Soiled Dozen when Jap Condors first will get underway, seeing as each films revolve round a bunch of prisoners being tasked with a extremely harmful mission that, if profitable, might see them getting diminished sentences or pardons. With Jap Condors, the mission takes place shortly after the Vietnam Struggle and entails the group having to destroy a stockpile of missiles that the U.S. Military left behind in Vietnam.

Having prisoners make up the primary solid of a warfare movie doesn’t routinely make Jap Condors a prisoner-of-war film, however they do get taken captive at one level, resulting in a daring and bombastic escape in order that their mission can proceed. Jap Condors additionally stands out due to how a lot over-the-top motion and thrilling martial arts sequences the movie accommodates, as one would anticipate from one thing directed by – and starring – Sammo Hung.

Purchase on Amazon

8 ‘A Man Escaped’ (1956)

Director: Robert Bresson

François Leterrier as Lieutenant Fontaine, looking sadly through prison bars in A Man Escaped
Picture by way of Gaumont Movie Firm

Jail escape films don’t get way more direct or satisfying than A Man Escaped, which is a basic French drama/warfare/thriller film that breaks the sort of movie all the way down to its naked necessities. The imprisoned French Resistance fighter who’s looking for freedom doesn’t have the luxurious of assembling a group to interrupt out alongside, and so the viewers watches as he painstakingly plans after which executes an formidable escape plan all on his personal.

This simplicity may make A Man Escaped sound somewhat boring on paper, however fortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the reality. It’s an oddly engrossing film, its deliberate pacing by no means feels gradual, and it has a persistent sense of quiet pressure all through that at all times retains issues participating. Prisoner of warfare films centering on a daring escape hardly ever handle to really feel a complete lot higher than this.

Watch on Criterion

7 ‘Bullet within the Head’ (1990)

Director: John Woo

bullet in the head john woo - 1990
Picture by way of Golden Princess Movie Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

For as nice as one thing like Face/Off is, John Woo is in the end a filmmaker who’s made most of his greatest stuff in Hong Kong, with Bullet within the Head being certainly one of his greatest, even when it’s not fairly as well-known as The Killer or Exhausting Boiled. It’s admittedly a grimmer movie than these two, nonetheless containing some trademark John Woo motion however feeling extra intense as a result of its storyline entails the Vietnam Struggle.

The primary characters of Bullet within the Head are criminals from Hong Kong who, due to their exploits, finally discover themselves captured by Vietcong forces. Issues shift from feeling like against the law film to being one about survival and escape, with the jail camp scenes feeling notably gritty and laborious to look at at occasions. Bullet within the Head may be explosive and interesting, however it is usually fairly bleak, and unafraid to get darkish and melancholic at factors all through its runtime.

Purchase on Amazon

6 ‘The Deer Hunter’ (1978)

Director: Michael Cimino

Robert De Niro as Michael in The Deer Hunter’ (1978)
Picture by way of Common Footage

When speaking about prisoner-of-war films, The Deer Hunter is a barely tough one for a few key causes. The primary is that this Finest Image-winning warfare film solely partly offers with the experiences of being a prisoner of warfare in Vietnam, contained inside the second of the movie’s three acts. Earlier components of the film concern the primary characters earlier than they go to battle in Vietnam, after which the ultimate act of the film offers with their life post-service.

The second cause the prisoner-of-war scenes in The Deer Hunter are tough to debate is as a result of they function prisoners compelled to play Russian roulette, the historic accuracy of which was questioned and prompted some controversy. The movie does discover time, owing to its epic size, to efficiently deal with the expertise of preventing in Vietnam earlier than, after, and through, however maybe studying a number of the particulars as metaphorical fairly than literal is the easiest way to method issues.

The Deer Hunter

Launch Date
December 8, 1978

Michael Cimino

183 minutes

5 ‘Grand Phantasm’ (1937)

Director: Jean Renoir

Erich von Stroheim and Pierre Fresnay in The Grand Illusion
Picture by way of Réalisation d’Artwork Cinématographique

Jean Renoir was arguably on the peak of his directing powers within the Nineteen Thirties, making movies that commentated on points of society in ways in which might be equal components humorous and unhappy. Grand Phantasm does lean extra on the intense aspect of issues, as a prisoner-of-war drama (and one set throughout World Struggle I, notably), although it does nonetheless unpack class variations by means of its narrative, with characters from a wide range of backgrounds turning into imprisoned collectively.

The French prisoners regularly plan an escape, though it constantly seems all of the extra unlikely to return to fruition, whereas a German officer finds himself surprisingly drawn to one of many prisoners he’s presupposed to be overseeing. Grand Phantasm is a fancy and at all times intriguing basic of French cinema, and undoubtedly one price trying out for individuals who wish to see a daring movie lay the inspiration for a lot of warfare/jail films to return.

Purchase on Amazon

4 ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’ (1983)

Director: Nagisa Ōshima

merry christmas mr lawaence
Picture by way of Shochiku Fuji

Telling a narrative a few conflict of cultures whereas being set virtually solely in a prisoner of warfare camp and partially qualifying as a Christmas film, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence actually does have all of it. And that’s earlier than even mentioning its shocking solid, with iconic British musician David Bowie enjoying one of many important prisoners, and acclaimed Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto enjoying the top of the camp (Sakamoto additionally composed the movie’s memorable rating).

It is a unusual but hypnotic film, with a relentless battle enjoying out contained in the camp; one simply as emotionally devastating – albeit much less bodily explosive – than the battle that will be enjoying out on the battlefield throughout the Pacific theater of World Struggle II. It’s a tense and troubling movie, however nonetheless, it stays simple to advocate Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence to those that respect the warfare style however wish to see one thing they in all probability haven’t skilled earlier than.

Watch on Criterion

3 ‘Devils on the Doorstep’ (2000)

Director: Jiang Wen

Devils on the Doorstep - 2000

An extremely underrated warfare film that deserves much more consideration than it will get, Devils on the Doorstep takes a singular method to each the warfare style broadly and the prisoner-of-war sub-genre extra particularly. It’s set close to the top of the Second Sino-Japanese Struggle, which was a battle that began barely earlier than World Struggle II and continued all through, each being delivered to an finish in 1945.

Narratively, it revolves round a peasant in a small city in China being ordered to carry onto two Japanese troopers who’ve been taken captive, which, in essence, places a spin on the traditional thought of a prisoner-of-war film as a consequence of not going down in a conventional jail camp. Devils on the Doorstep can be surprisingly humorous and satirical for its first two acts, earlier than seamlessly leaping right into a extra devastating and harrowing last act that drives house a robust anti-war sentiment. In conveying the insanity of warfare, the movie is strikingly efficient general, each when it’s humorous and when it feels tragic.

Purchase on Amazon

2 ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ (1957)

Director: David Lean

Sir Alec Guinness as Colonel Nicholson, standing in front of a group of soldiers in The Bridge on the River Kwai
Picture by way of Columbia Footage

An journey/warfare film that gained Finest Image, all of the whereas additionally being an undeniably glorious epic, The Bridge on the River Kwai facilities on a bunch of British prisoners compelled to construct a bridge by their Japanese captors throughout the Second World Struggle. Regardless that the destruction of the bridge would profit the general Allied trigger, the British colonel in control of overseeing the development rejects such plans, owing to the shocking sense of pleasure he finds within the challenge.

Maybe The Bridge on the River Kwai is commenting on how the human thoughts and/or spirit must latch onto no matter it could possibly, to maintain the physique entering into tough circumstances. Or it might simply be a commentary on the mindlessness and pointlessness of warfare, in the end being one thing that results in everybody dropping. It’s additionally probably each; it’s formidable and efficiently chews all it bites off, justifiably incomes its standing as a basic within the course of.

The Bridge on the River Kwai

Launch Date
October 11, 1957

David Lean

William Holden , Alec Guinness , Jack Hawkins , Sessue Hayakawa , James Donald , Geoffrey Horne


1 ‘The Nice Escape’ (1963)

Director: John Sturges

Steve McQueen in The Great Escape
Picture by way of United Artists

The Nice Escape’s title is an ideal one, as a result of it’s all about an escape, and it’s an indisputably nice film. The movie is about throughout World Struggle II, and follows the day-to-day lives of quite a few prisoners at a jail camp that’s designed to be as tough to flee from as attainable. The Allied troopers however wish to give escaping a go, getting ready a fancy scheme to interrupt free and escape their German captors.

The Nice Escape is a film that runs for nearly three hours, however that runtime finally ends up flying by, owing to simply how fantastically the film is paced and the way suspenseful it manages to be. Struggle films don’t get significantly better than this, and neither do jail films, so it finally ends up merely being a incontrovertible fact that The Nice Escape stays the gold customary for easy methods to greatest craft a prisoner of warfare film.

The Nice Escape

Launch Date
June 20, 1963

John Sturges


NEXT: The Longest Struggle Motion pictures of All Time, Ranked by Runtime

Leave a Reply