From Paths of Glory (1957) to the recent Spielberg hit War Horse (2011), the horrors of World War I have been approached from different attitudes.
But with two Academy Awards and the critics’ acclaim to its name, it’s hard to look past All Quiet on the Western Front as one of the most powerful films about the war.
Hailed by one influential movie website as “One of the most powerful anti-war statements put on film,” this 1930 adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel relates how a group of young German soldiers’ innocence, enthusiasm and patriotism are shattered by the horrors of the trenches.
These horrors are made to feel devastatingly real by director Lewis Milestone’s trailblazing use of sweeping crane shots to bring the mud and blood of the battlefield to life. It is a timeless masterpiece but what gives it extra power is that it was released only 12 years after the Armistice, especially as it is from the perspective of a German soldier.
Such is the respect with which All Quiet on the Western Front is held that in 1998 it appeared in the American Film Institute’s 100 best American films of the past century. Its influence can be seen in every World War I movie since.
Do you agree? Which movie do you think is better?